Situated several blocks from the center of Ban
Me Thuot, in the central highlands of Vietnam, Pyramid shared a barb wire
enclosed compound with the
US Army 155th Aviation
Helicopter Company (call sign Stagecoach and Falcon, I believe), a gaggle of FAC's
from the 19th TASS (call sign Baron), and a TACAN (Channel
45). Known at the time simply as Ban Me Thuot City Field to distinguish if from
the paved runway at Ban Me Thuot East field, City field was a 2,000'
laterite dirt runway. The combination of helicopter and small
aircraft prop wash made for some serious maintenance challenges especially
before the concrete radar towers were built and the majority of the
electronic equipment was moved into a "cleaner" environment.
My history with Pyramid began in early September
of 1965 when I arrived from the 5th Tac Control Group at Clark AB. At that
time, the site was "owned and operated" by the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF)
with the assistance of 8 USAF MACV advisors. All the advisors were gone
with several weeks of our arrival. In all, 6 officers and 50 airmen were
assigned to the detachment in its first year of full blown USAF occupancy.
The following section was taken almost verbatim from the 619th TCS Training
Manual found at the Air University Library, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. For more
text click on
Aerial recon photo of Pyramid on
July 4th 1965. Ops building is the "Quonset hut"
directly above the words "SONICS". French coffee
plantation is at the very top of the picture. From the
The radar site consists of an operations building, communications
and electronics building, supply shelter, communications building, radar
tower, radio ,towers, power production plant, motor pool, orderly room,
air conditioned club Officers, NCO's and Airmen, and an air conditioned
dining facility. There also several air conditioned billets for all ranks.
The VNAF also have their orderly room and enlisted barracks on the site.
The USAF and VNAF work close coordination in all areas. The operations
staff consists of an Operations Officer, Operations NCOIC, Training
Standardization Evaluation Officer an operations clerk. The operations
staff sets the policy and coordinates associated and adjacent units,
monitors the academic and proficiency training vides overall supervision
to the three (3) operating crews. An element CRP is the Air Traffic
Regulation Center. The Chief Controller is responsible to the CRP
operations Officer and is responsible to the Senior Director on duty.
Detachment 9, 619th Tactical Control Squadron (Call Sign Pyramid) is
a USAF/VNAF site located on Camp Coryell (U.S. Army, Home of the
155th Helicopter Assault Company) adjacent to the city of Ban Me Thuot, in
the west central highlands of South Vietnam. Ban Me Thuot is the largest
city in the Darlac Province. Its population is estimated at
Personnel who are newly assigned to Detachment 9 normally
arrive at Cam Ranh Bay and are processed at the CBPO on that Base. Normally two (2) days and is necessary to process and travel to Ban Me
Thuot. Transportation will be by air and Travel arrangements can be made at the
passenger terminal. Most aircraft servicing the Ban Me Thuot area will
land at East Field. Personnel at the passenger terminal at East Field will
assist you in telephoning a request for further transportation to
Detachment 9. East Field is approximately five (5) miles to the southeast
of Detachment 9. Upon your arrival you will be assigned quarters and the
detachment First Sergeant will supervise the remainder of your processing.
Camp facilities include a small Base Exchange where all essential
items are normally available. The MACV Annex also hosts a small Post
Exchange. Each sells soft drinks by the case, beer by the case and hard
liquor. Free movies are nightly events. The detachment hosts its own club
and-mail service is four (4) to seven (7) days. Banking facilities should
be arranged at Cam Ranh Bay. Bank accounts on the Base are encouraged and
personnel are encouraged to have their checks sent to that account. Camp
Coryell also hosts a chapel and field dispensary, (Dental work most be
taken care of at Cam Ranh Bay Dental Clinic). Laundry facilities are
available through domestic hire of maid service.
The city of Ban Me Thuot is built up to the perimeter of Camp
Coryell. Distance of travel from the radar site within Camp Coryell is approximately
one (1) miles to center of city. The population of the city of Ban Me
Thuot is predominately Vietnamese while the rural area is predominately
Montangard. Depending upon the threat, Americans may visit the city daring
authorized hours which are subject to change almost hourly
There are several small tailor shops in town as well as small shops
which sell the typical Vietnamese and Montangard handicrafts. Most are
expensive and much better bargains can be made while on R&R at the
R&R centers throughout Asia.
There are several small bars and restaurants in the town; none have
the official approval of military officials. It is recommended that you
neither eat nor drink in any of these establishments.
The climate in this area is unlike that of the delta regions of
South Vietnam. While the summer days may be hot and dusty, the evenings
are cool. During the rainy seasons a field jacket will be very comfortable
and rain gear will also add to your comfort.
The Very Early Days
Shortly after I started this site, I received the following email
from retired Major Dan Lindsey.
Subject: Bao Dai and Dalat
Date: Tue, 30 Dec 1997 11:07:57 EST
Enjoyed your new page,--received via the AEWA.
Some history: Many years ago my father was stationed in Indochina--he arrived there in May
1950, and was the second USAF officer assigned to Vietnam (then, Indochina). He was the
assistant air attaché. He told me stories of their being (his wife, my mother, was with
him) up in Dalat
along with Emperor Bao Dai going tiger hunting together with the Montangard tribesmen
beating the brush to shake them out. I can't recall whether they also camped at Ban Me
Thuot. We still have some home movies of the hunts along with some still photos. They're
at the family home in Santa Barbara. I'll show the pictures of the bungalow to my
mom, and see if they are familiar to her!
Maj, USAF, Ret.
The bungalow was a set of wooden structures on the southeastern side
of Ban Me Thuot and was, for a time, the residence for the MACV Advisory
Team to the 23rd ARVN Division and the USAF FAC's.
For a while at least, the Bungalow was famous for it's Friday night
steak night meals. People would fly in from all over II Corps on
some pretext or another to spend Friday night and eat our great
chow. There were two large cooking pits outside the Open Mess on
the north side of the building and every Friday, the meal was all the
steak you could eat, cook it yourself. The mess had a guy selling
wine and beer and there were generally some kind of potatoes, and great
French bread from a local bakery. The mess sergeant also kept a
garden and we almost always had fresh salads. The story on the
steaks was that because we were all on rations (COLA) and had a great
mess sergeant the mess association got the steaks from the Navy commissary
in Saigon. The party ended in the spring of '65 when MACV got a
new colonel who was ex-82nd airborne. The mess sergeant was stolen
to work at the general's hotel in Saigon and we started eating C's
again. Man, it was great while it lasted. It was the one
really bright spot in the whole tour.
We were told that the buildings, which were modeled after the local
Montangard long houses, were a hunting lodge for Bao Dai, the last emperor
of Vietnam. Local legend also had Teddy Roosevelt staying there on
a tiger hunting trip near the beginning of the 20th century. The
tiger hunting tale was certainly plausible in that tigers still
inhabited the local area.
Sidebars on tigers: One tale, that was always preceded by
"no shit", was that an old rogue tiger still lived in the
area. Too old to hunt most prey, the tiger supposedly found eating
Vietcong fairly easy to do since they were the only ones camping out in
the forest. Also, the
Montangard long houses were built about 7-8 feet off the ground and all
had a single 10'-12' notched log for entering and leaving the
dwelling. The log was pulled in at night, thus, supposedly
preventing tigers from dragging them off in the night.
I was never sure how much of these things were to be believed. We
were AF technicians (almost REMF's) and were considered fair game
Unfortunately, I heard that the Bungalow burned down
in the late 60's from a cook's fire. At one time, I even had
some pictures of it burning down, but have misplaced them.
First Hand Narratives