These are eyewitness accounts of the Skyraider crash at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, just outside Davis Station, Oct 1966.

If you were there, send your comments to and they will be added here.

The Final Resting Place (plane removed) - Courtesy of Mike Callahan

A special thanks to Walter Chisholm, 175th RR Co., for the article about the crash and to James Callahan for the crash site photo.

After reading the comments on this page, be sure to go to "More crash site photos and comments"

Tino "Chui" Banuelos
7th RRU

There was a soccer field down the road from Davis Station and there were hundreds of "Buddhist Boy Scouts" gathered there. They had pitched tents and were there for a some kind of Scout Jamboree.
The Skyraiders were doing tricks right over the field. We could see the planes from Davis Station as they made long passes doing loops and flying upside down.
One went in very low and we never saw him come up. A large pillar of smoke shot up and we started running to the crash site. According to some who saw the plane hit, he was upside down at the time, hit the top of a cement guard tower, flipped over and perhaps steered himself away from the field full of kids.  The Skyraider's engine fell off as he bounced off a building, pancaked on another and then landed rightside up into a motorcycle or bicycle repair shop.
When we got there the flames were being doused by an Airforce Firefighting chopper. (One of those odd looking double rotor jobs). Some of the guys, Spec 5 Vann and Spec 5 Focht helped grab a couple of survivors from the buildings which were still burning. One guy was badly burned and still smoldering. He was an odd gray color sitting and rocking back and forth. He moaned and fell over and some of our guys grabbed him and put him on a stretcher.
It was a pretty chaotic scene. The M P's got there and started moving people back away from the site. I saw the pilot's leg sticking out of the cockpit and have always wondered what went through his mind during his last moments.

Walter Chisholm
Davis Station May '66 - '67
MOS 33C20

You asked about the Skyraider that crashed at Tan Son Nhut. Yes, I was in the EM club at Davis Station that afternoon. We heard the crash and ran over there, but the Air Police arrived about the same time we did and they wouldn't let us get close. The Vietnamese Boy Scouts were having a "jamboree" or something. President/General Ky, himself a pilot, arranged an airshow for the Scouts. They (Skyraiders) made a low pass and one of them struck a concrete machine gun guard post at an intersection on Tan Son Nhut. The plane bounced, careened and ricocheted across the rooftops of several buildings before finally coming to rest in the barber shop. The others landed hurriedly and came to the crash scene in a car. As I remember, the pilot and maybe 2 or 3 on the ground were killed.

Ralph Dole
Maintenance and medevac heliport, TSN

I was one of what I think were more than 5 Army injured on that day.  I was at one of the motorcycle repair shops when the crash happened.  The shop was adjacent to an Ice House and I was there getting a recently purchased motor bike ready to ship to the US.  As I sat there, I saw the sky raider do a low flyover near the main runway and then turn upward into what looked to be a stall.  The plane rolled over and came back towards the ground and ultimately going out of sight as he went below the horizon.  At that time, we all thought a crash was eminent until the warhorse came chugging along and finally above the horizon.

Once above the horizon, the pilot rocked the plane left and right and once he thought he had enough altitude, he completed a barrel roll and as he came out of that, he was becoming elevated but ultimately was still low enough below the horizon and he hit directly into or glanced off the water tower and exploded. 

I personally had turned to run away from the area and headed to the pools of water which surrounded the Ice House.  My last full memory item was pushing two Vietnamese soldiers into concertina wire that surrounded the ice house, run over them and dove into the water puddles.  The next thing I remember fully was waking up and finding myself in the 3rd Army General Hospital in downtown Saigon.

I spent three days there suffering burns on both arms to my biceps, back from waist to shoulders, all my hair was burnt off and two areas on my left leg.  I was wrapped in towels and a diaper and being soaked with Silver-Nitrate to maintain coolness and moisture.  I was ultimately evacuated to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX for treatment at what I consider one of the best burn wards in the world.

I was fortunate enough to be able to survive with 2ND degree burns once debridement was completed and only spent approximately 60 days there (including convalescent Leave) and was discharged back to active duty with only 1st and minor 2ND degree burns.

I chose to remain on Active Duty and ultimately retired in 1985 after 22 years 2 months of service.  I still carry the scar tissue on my arms to the degree I just look like I'm tanned up to mid-bicep. 

I do not remember my unit at the time but I worked as an Avionics Repairman at the Helipad near Ice House and at the time of the incident, I was finally off duty for a change.  Go Figure.

I am now fully retired and continually remember more of that grave day.

USA 1SG Retired

Ray Hammons
7th RRU

I remember. It was slightly overcast and a few spotty clouds. The air was heavy with moisture. There were two A1E's, I believe and they were doing acrobatics over Tan Son Nhut for the scouts.  The one plane either lost control or got heavy with moisture on his wings, he did a roll and couldn't come up in time. I understand that he broke off to his left to keep from hitting the scouts and took out a concrete building instead, down by the first aid station. He bounced off of that and started down the row of Ba Mui Ba stands and RVN quarters. He came to rest next to the Ba Mui Ba stands where we used to get chinese soup.
There was a Vietnamese and an American in the plane. By the time we got there from Davis, it was too late. The people inside were dead, and it was a bit chaotic. Years ago I had pictures of the smoke and such, but I have no idea where they are now.
That was kind of a downer day. To this day when I go to an air show, or watch planes doing rolls and such I cringe at the thought.

Dick Henson
7th RRU

I was also at Davis Station at the time. In fact, I had just left the front gate headed for those Ba Moi Ba stands near Camp Alpha when the crash occurred. The planes had already made one or two passes (including barrel rolls) over the Scout encampment. If memory serves, the plane that crashed was making a very low level pass, belly up, when his tail hooked the guard tower roof. I think I still have some pictures of the smoke, etc afterwards, albeit from a distance. Although I had a camera with me, I didn't have any interest in pictures of the planes as they were performing, so I wasn't in position when the crash occurred. I tried to get close to the site, but was unable to. In fact, as I was heading that way, I ran across an Air Force combat controller I knew who had just had his camera confiscated long enough to have the film removed and exposed to the sun by the VNAF police, under orders, he was told, of General Ky. I decided discretion was truly the better part of valor and diverted back to the girls at the Ba Moi Ba stand. I'll see if I can find the pictures -- they were 35mm slides, and I have no idea what condition they are in. I think it occurred in September of '66, but I'm not sure. I know it was before November, because that's when I moved up-country.

Your Friend and fellow ASA'r
Jerry King aka Spyone
7th RRU

Yes, I remember this event. It was an Air Show being put on for the Boy Scouts. I was headed to the EM/NCO club at Davis Station when all of a sudden we saw a plane coming real low over the buildings and then it disappeared and there was a ball of fire and black smoke. We all ran over to see what had happened. When I got there they were taking the body of the pilot out of the plane. Standing only a few feet from me was Nguyen Cao Key himself, looking quite dapper in his flight suit and brilliant scarf. There was a lot going on, but I really don't remember anything about any of our guys pulling out any injured personnel or anything like that. But that was 32 years ago.

Jorge Lopez
90th Replacement Co./58th Transportation

I had just come out of the TSN NCO/EM club about a block away from where the incident happened. I was walking in the direction of the field where the Boy Scouts were having their Jamboree when I noticed a flight of 4 Skyraiders approaching from the east and the ead plane rolled over and held the inverted flight while the other 3 planes did the same. They held that formation for a few moments and then the lead plane rolled himself upright and was then followed by the rest of the flight; one plane at a time. The last plane decided to pull a backward loop and stalled the plane. I saw the plane dropping and just missing the water tower and the 1st Aviation Brigade's HQ building. He started to get some lift just before hitting the ground but ran into the concrete machine gun bunker that was part of the 1st Aviation's compound.  He was very close to hitting the ground but the lift he got was enough to carry him above the first few homes that were across the street. It is then that he began to break apart and hit the top of a house which caused him to tumble and finally he crashed by the bicycle shop. A large mushroom fireball followed the crash and I was already running toward the crash scene. The plane's fuselage was sitting upright with the canopy intact but it was also engulfed in flames. I could not see any activity in either one of the plane's seats.  I was the first person on the scene and I could hear the screams coming from the many homes that were burning from the crash. What did not help matters is that he crashed within the approach path for the Army Heliport.  As a result, a Huey stopped to gawk and was hovering at about 100 feet and fanning the mess out of the flames.  An Army major appeared and started to gesture to the pilot to leave and the crew chief and gunners were standing on the skids of the chopper looking down at the wreck.  When the major signaled for them to leave, they gestured back as if asking; what do you want? The major next chambered his pistol and fired two rounds into the air and the pilot got the message and moved off. By now the flames were really going and the ammo that was in one of the wings started to explode. Prior to this and just upon arriving, I heard a piercing yell coming from one of the houses and it was a small girl running toward me; her body smoldering from being burned.  I turned to help her and as I turned I heard a crash behind me which proved to be a building that had collapsed. Coming out of that building was a man whose whole body had been burned and exhibited large breaks in the skin similar to when a sausage breaks open while cooking in the oven. His entire body was black and no clothing was left on him. He was walking toward me as if he wanted me to help him. I started to walk toward him to help when an ambulance arrived and the medic placed a towel around the man's waist to cover him; as if that was going to make a difference. He guided the man onto the ambulance and when the man took a step into to the ambulance, the towel came off, taking with it the man's skin. The major who had directed the Huey to leave next turned to me and motioned for me to leave. He did not have to order me to leave because I was already set to run when some of the ammo in one of the wings started to explode.

George R. Torres A2C
USAF Base Supply

I had some free time off before my next work (evening) assignment 1800 to 0600 at base supply, when I and two other airmen went to the local Ba mui Ba stand to pick-up some GI fatigue pants I had tailored.  Returning back to my unit I observed a large crowd gathered, mostly young students where Premier Ky was in attendance.   It was then I noticed an aircraft coming towards my direction from the left, it had just performed a roll maneuver, and was inverted in flight approximately 100 feet or less in altitude, when I saw the plane dip down towards the ground,  I told my two airman companions they'd better "hit the deck", the plane was going to crash.   My fellow airmen had other thoughts (survival I think) and went further down the road, but I chose to stay put, falling to the ground along side the roadway, covering my head to avoid any flying shrapnel. The plane crashed into a wooden structure (house) located across the street from me, striking it from the rear.  Once I knew there was no debris coming my way, I went across the street, to the burning building, where I first encountered a young male child just outside the burning building who was bleeding from several lacerations, and his body red hot from the extreme heat coming from the flames.  I carried the child a safe distance from the inferno.  I went inside the burning building, and noticed two/three ladies crouched down in the interior.  At this point other U.S. Army troops were on the scene.  I then proceeded further into the structure to see if anyone else was present, when I heard what I thought was a child crying.  The military police also were present getting everyone (including me) out of the engulfed structure.  Before leaving the site I told the MP'S that  I heard a baby crying to be alert.  It was then the infant was located under a beam and debris I was standing on.  The baby was rescued, and taken to waiting medical personnel.  I then left the scene, catching up with my two fellow airmen who I had been with earlier, returning to my daily routine.

I returned to my unit, told my sergeant of the incident, and he allowed me and my two buddies a couple hours "R&R" before my shift change.  We went to the enlisted club, and had a few drinks to calm down.  Then I returned to my duty station and worked through the night getting off duty at 0600 hours the next day.  Retelling the story many years later (1982) to some fellow Deputy U.S. Marshals, one of the men that I was speaking to (DUSM Payton Fairfax), said he knew of the story himself, as “he was one of the soldiers" (US Army Military Police) who was trying to get me out of the burning building.  Payton Fairfax was promoted to Supervisory Deputy, and died of natural causes several years later.  Thank you for capturing this information.  Now I feel I have got closure from the memory of long ago.  The angels were doing their duty "Big Time" that day; October 1, 1966.  There were many heroes that day whose names are unknown, but without fanfare acted out in a manner that was common, ('Uncommon Valor").  Without a doubt my fellow brothers acted "Above the call of Duty".  I salute each and every one of the men and women, past and present who without regard to self have put others first.  "No greater love does one have, than to lay his life down for another".  I feel fortunate to have served with such Americans.  Written April 24, 2012, 0130 Hrs.

George R. Torres
Retired Deputy U.S. Marshal W/D/TX.

More crash site photos and comments

TSN/Davis Station Mortar Attack, 1966

Tet 1968

Chui's "Memories"

Chui's In-Country Website

"Chui" is a member of the