4 Replies Latest reply on Nov 18, 2020 3:04 PM by William Stevenson Branched from an earlier discussion.

    Seeking investigation by Air Force of suspected sabotage

    William Stevenson Adventurer

      I am seeking any record that may exist of an investigation by the USAF Office of Special Investigations (OSI) of the suspected sabotage of Military Airlift Command (MAC ) C-130E Hercules #63-7785 on the night of 16-17 June 1966. 


      The aircraft, flown by a crew of eight from the Navy's Naval Air Transport Wing, Pacific's squadron VR-7 based at NAS Moffett Field, CA, along with six USAF passengers based at Cam Ranh Air Base, South Vietnam, took off from Cam Ranh AB at 2:20 am local bound for Kadena AB, Okinawa.  It exploded in mid-air offshore Cape Varella, SVN and was observed by two Navy ships as it crashed into the sea twenty minutes after takeoff, with loss of all fourteen airmen aboard.  An accident investigation board report (AIBR) prepared by the aircraft's owner, the Twenty-Second Air Force based at Travis AFB CA, determined that the most likely cause of the crash was enemy action, either sabotage or ground fire.  I am enclosing below extracts from that AIBR that relate to the possibility of sabotage.


      I am not aware of any record of whether the accident board requested OSI to investigate the possibility of sabotage.  Here is what the AIBR said about the sabotage possibility:  SEA = Southeast Asia. CONUS = continental U.S.


      The below inserted information suggests that placement by a communist agent of an explosive device in the aircraft's cargo, if it occurred, would have been via Vietnamese contract labor at one of three possible air bases:  Cam Ranh (where some of the cargo was assembled and all of the cargo was loaded onto 63-7785), or possibly Nha Trang or Phan Rang, where some of the cargo (damaged helicopter blades) was assembled in wooden boxes and trans-shipped to Cam Ranh.


      Last, ground operations at Cam Ranh AB were under the responsibility of the USAF's 14th Aerial Port Squadron.


      Grateful for anything you can find that bears on the question of this possible sabotage investigation.


        • Re: Seeking investigation by Air Force of suspected sabotage
          Elliot Schneider Ranger

          Hello William,


          I was told by OSI the age of this particular event that you would need to file a FOIA request to obtain any documents that may have been related to this particular event. Also they said that you could try contacting the 22nd AF and speak with their PA Public Affairs office for guidance as well. Hope your research is going well.




          Hope this helps,


          Elliot Schneider

          1 person found this helpful
            • Re: Seeking investigation by Air Force of suspected sabotage
              William Stevenson Adventurer

              Thank you Ellliot.  Have a clean final draft; holding off until I hear back from AF-OSI.  I have the 22nd AF's Command Histories, no mention there. Made an FOIA request to AF-OSI; one each for 37785 and 80718 (October 1969), for latter of which an OSI investigation of sabotage was requested by the owning AF Wing.


              One other piece of evidence I'm hoping to find, is the following.


              I am seeking to find aerial reconnaissance photos of the Hon Gom Peninsula (HGP) in northeastern Khanh Hoa Province, Republic of Vietnam (aka South Vietnam) taken in 1965-67 period. 


              Here is a current 2-mile scale satellite photo showing HGP on the central coast of southern Vietnam (since April 1975); my area of aerial photo interest is HGP's southern extremity above Mui Ganh cape, where the bottom blue pin is; the second blue pin above the Mui Ganh pin is the mountain peak whose aerial photos I am seeking:



              That specific mountain peak above Mui Ganh cape, has the current coordinates:

              Peak above Mui Ganh cape:

              12°34'29.9"N 109°26'00.6"E


              Here is a copy of the 1:50000-scale 1965 military terrain map showing the crossing of the mountain peak under 37785's flight path, labelled on the map as "Ap Khai Luong Cu": the above coordinates are at its peak, marked below by the "x 291", 291 being the elevation in meters = 955 ft.  Mui [cape] Ganh is the southern extremity "toe" of the Hon Gom Peninsula to the right of the lower C-130 icon:

              It is possible that the aerial photos of that area might be labelled as "Mui Ganh Peninsula", because in 1965-66, that term as used within the U.S. military was applied to the entire HGP, and not just that tiny toe of a cape at its southern extremity.


              Hope you can find any aerial photos of the MAC C-130 flight path area in the above image.


            • Re: Seeking investigation by Air Force of suspected sabotage
              Sylvia Naylor Scout

              Dear Mr. Stevenson,


              Thank you for posting your inquiry on History Hub!


              We searched the National Archives Catalog and located 8 series in the Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations (Record Group 342) and 7 series in the Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force (Air Staff) (Record Group 341) that pertain to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations during the 1960s. For access to these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at archives2reference@nara.gov.


              RDT2 also has custody of microfilm copies of operational records relating to U.S. Air Force units. We searched the Air Force History index to the microfilm and located 23 files for Cam Ranh, 18 files for Nha Trang, and 20 files for Phan Rang.  Please read the brief Abstract to determine which records you are interested in and click on the specific PDF icon. In the PDF listing, the IRISREF is the microfilm reel number and note the FRAME and FRAMELST numbers for the location on the reel. If the reel number begins with A, B or C, please contact RDT2.


              If the reel number begins with D - Z, the microfilm is still security classified and RDT2 will not be able to make the reel available to you. The original paper copy from which the film was created is still in the custody of the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) and has been declassified. To obtain copies of these records, please follow the instructions on this page.


              In addition, U. S. Air Force and Navy aerial reconnaissance photographs from Vietnam may be in the custody of the National Archives at College Park - Cartographic (RDSC). Please contact the RDSC via email at carto@nara.gov for further information.


              Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT2 & RDSC. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


              Lastly, Air Force accident reports dated after 1955 are in the custody of the Air Force Safety Center Public Affairs, 9700 G Avenue SE, Kirtland Air Force Base, NM 87117-5670. The website is www.safety.af.mil.


              We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

                • Re: Seeking investigation by Air Force of suspected sabotage
                  William Stevenson Adventurer

                  Sylvia, this is hugely helpful and very encouraging.  I shall indeed pursue on all fronts.


                  I just want to bring to your attention a needed clarification re:


                  "Lastly, Air Force accident reports dated after 1955 are in the custody of the Air Force Safety Center Public Affairs, 9700 G Avenue SE, Kirtland Air Force Base, NM 87117-5670. The website is www.safety.af.mil."


                  For crashes prior to 1955, and also later ones in the case of AIBRs (below),  this statementyis true only for what the USAF and its regs defines as accidental mishaps, a defined term in the AF regs that includes viz all crashes other than those resulting from enemy action, which are exempted from safety investigations;  such accidental mishap investigations are undertaken by AFSEC or by the safety units deployed within operational commands.  These safety investigations are conducted under their own distinct set of regulations, and the safety investigation reports are exempted from disclosure under FOIA regulations.


                  By contrast, all crashes/accidents/losses resulting from enemy action are defined as combat losses.  AFSEC is not responsible for them and keeps no reports for investigations of combat losses.  Rather, they fall under the responsibility of the operational command that owns and has operational responsibility for the aircraft.  These are called accident investigations, and are conducted by crash-specific Boards that are appointed within the command and in accordance with specific regulations.  The accident investigation board reports (AIBRs) are intended to be released to the public, and they are archived within the relevant command.


                  Looking back to the Vietnam War era, accident investigation board reports (AIBRs) on aircraft combat losses such as MAC NATWP C-130E 63-7785 (1966) and AF 463rd TFW C-130B 58-0718 (1969) were done by the respective operational commands (subsequently disestablished), and were located in their respective command histories archived, in the first case, at NHNC and the second, AFHRA.


                  Bottom-line:  go to AFSEC for safety reports on accidental mishaps; go to NHHC (Navy) or AFHRA (Air Force) for AIBRs on combat losses, and suggest that they search the respecive command histories (squadron and Wing) for them, where their main report findings might be attached as annexes.