Viking, Mukdahan, Part 1

radomemuk2This is the first of my Viking posts. I first learned about Viking, Mukdahan, or any base in Muk via Joseph J Wilson Jr‎USARSUPTHAI FB Association afew months ago.
Over the years I have visited old bases in the area for a number of guys and groups, but this is the first I had heard of one near, or in central Mukdahan town, which back in the 60s was part of Naskhon Phanom Province.
I also got info from Thomas Widmer who was stationed at Phu Mu and lived for a bit in Muk.

The following I got from Joe as part of Mekong Express Mail Volume 1, Issue 2. The Thailand Laos Cambodia Brotherhood, Inc. Their wesite www.TLC-Brotherhood.org

I forget where I saw other information about the field being about 2 miles west of the river and other odds and sods.

As far as I have been able to verify to date there were 2 sites in or near Mukdahan town.
Viking RTA base which had the airstrip and a rado site up Phu Mano south of town where Americans were stationed. Go ahead and read all that is in this post and we’ll move on from here. I also have some info on places in town that were there back in the day and will get into that in the next post. Hoping for some more input here. Thanks guys.

“We were flying the squadron’s once-a-month look at Sector 16, which was almost over to Khe Sanh, in our O-1s, when Cricket announced about 1:30 that thunderstorms were forecast for NKP from 1 p.m. on. I asked Cricket to check on current weather. In a few minutes Cricket called back and said a thunderstorm was over the field. (Since we have a couple of weathermen, Dick and Terry, in the crowd, I will not make any comment about forecasting other than the NKP weatherman obviously was going to have that one nailed. We might have been a bit better off if that forecast had been nailed about three hours earlier.) We decided it was time to head for the Mekong, which was about an hour away in an O-1 Bird Dog. During that time thunderstorms built over the entire Mekong basin for as far as mattered to us. By the time we reached the river, we were down to about 300 feet. The winds at NKP were variable and gusty to more than 20 knots. NKP’s metal runway was very slick when wet. (On 14 June I hydroplaned off the side with two wheels, left main and tailwheel, on the new and improved metal runway.) If we had continued to NKP on that 15 April 1967 mission, we never would have stayed on the runway. The controllers told us an earlier flight of O-1s had diverted to Mukdahan. We did not have a clue where that was. However, I believe the radar site down there was Viking. We were told it was about 50 miles south and had a grass strip just west of the Mekong. My area map, which showed some of Thailand, Laos, North Vietnam and South Vietnam, was chopped off about 60 miles south of NKP. There was a little blue circle (I think it was blue) near the Mekong to represent an airfield, but that was not much help. I was running low on gas, so we started south. We contacted Viking for their weather. They had thunderstorms all over them. We turned back north. NKP’s winds were worse than before. We turned back south and decided there was no turning back from there. We were told to fly down the river until we saw buildings on the Laotian side. That would be Savannakhet. Once we got there, we were to turn west and look for a big green field beside a lake. Actually I think they had a couple of radar domes at the site, but I did not notice those until after I got on the ground. We were flying at about 200-300 feet. The flight lead flew his O-1 down the middle of the river, and I flew the left bank to make sure we did not miss Savannakhet. The rain was so heavy I could not make out objects on the Thai side of the river. There was hardly any color to anything beneath the clouds. And, I would remind you we were flying in aircraft with no real capability for flying in the weather. We were equipped with an ADF (Automatic Direction Finding) navigational radio that could point to a selected ground station. However, our ADFs tended to point to the closest thunderstorm, so there was no help there. And, we were not lost anyway. We knew where we were. We just did not quite know where we were going, and the radar site did not have an ADF anyway. Finally I saw some tin-roofed buildings, and we turned toward the Thailand side. I did not see much of anything besides the fuel gauge that was not very encouraging. I had already run one tank dry as normal procedure, so all I had left was what was in the tank that was showing nearly empty. Finally, the flight leader said he had the field in sight. We probably were not more than a half-mile or so from the river, but I cannot tell you much more about the field’s location. If you have something that shows the location of the radar site, that is pretty close for the coordinates of where we landed. The leader swooped down toward the lake and turned back to the northeast over this field that sloped up from the lake. I figured I would see what happened with his landing attempt He dropped a smoke grenade to get an idea what the wind direction was. At that point, I did not really care since I wanted to be down before I ran out of gas. I figured I would just fly my Bird Dog into the ground and handle whatever winds were there. I flew in low over the lake and came down as the ground came up somewhat to meet me. The landing was no problem. About then, I could see the radar domes and two O-1s parked up near them, so I put on some power to get out of the way of the leader’s O-1. I pulled up and some troops in ponchos that were whipping in the wind and rain helped get the bird tied down. We all got drenched. I ran into the closest building and the other two Nail FACs and local troops were waiting inside. The storms passed after an hour or two. We fueled up the four birds and headed back to NKP. After I got back to NKP I wrote up a letter thanking the troops for saving our birds. It was published a couple of weeks later in the NKP News and gave them some well-deserved credit for helping us out of a very dangerous situation.”

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click on photos to enlarge

The 2 photos add more to the confusion. They are both found in my “Viking” search.

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To the best of my knowledge and info the Southeast Corner of Viking is at 16°32’36.31″N 104°43’39.32″E You can go to whichever map you find easiest to work with, I used google earth to measure a 2000 foot runway.
t would be quite helpful is someone could help me orient the photo that shows the airstrip?

 

Below is some other comms from Joe and Thomas

Tom, here’s a reply to my email to a guy who goes by “scope dope” from his time at Mukdahan.
Joe, haven’t found any of my old documents yet, but from what I remember is that coming down from NKP on, I believe, Highway 212, we came by the Mukdahan School and then turned east toward town and the river. That road going east was on the north end of our landing strip. There was a water tower near that turn. As you were going east, the road to the entrance to the site turned right to the gate/security police checkpoint. The road going east headed toward the Thai Border Patrol checkpoint for the ferry going over to Savannakhet.. On the south end of the site and runway, there was a lake. Across the lake was a Thai prison compound of some type.
Hope this helps a little. – Scope Dope
Thomas Widmer I haven’t been back since 1974 but judging by the current maps I think it is. It jives with my recollection of the ferry landing/customs office being just upriver from the street named Songnang Satit on today’s maps. One block in from the river on that street is what I then (in 1973) called the main intersection of Mukdahan. At that intersection, if you turn south and parallel the river, it “tees” into Borrihan Alley. My old bungalow was right there on the far (south) side of Borrihan Alley. StreetView shows a bunch of small shops there now. If you go back towards the river on Borrihan Alley, at the end of the street Wat Si Mongkol Thai is on your left. Not in the cards for me to ever see Mukdahan again, but I think of it often and wish I could be there with you!

 

click for the Viking Mukdahan Album
Photos are geotagged

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One Response to “Viking, Mukdahan, Part 1”

  1. tom says:

    test comment from me

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