The 480th TFS began operations from DaNang AB in February of 1966 as part of the 2nd Air Division, attached to the 6252nd Tactical Fighter Wing. In April 1966 the 480th and the 6252nd TFW became part of Seventh Air Force, and soon after joined the 480th joined the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing. On 1 October 1966 the 366th TFW was relocated from Phan Rang AB to DaNang AB and the 480th TFS, already stationed there, rejoined the 366 TFW.
The mission of the 366th TFW at Da Nang was to support Operation Rolling Thunder – the tactical bombing of enemy targets in North Vietnam by destroying any North Vietnamese Aircraft that would attack the F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers carrying out tactical bombing missions.
On a typical mission over the North, the F-4Cs from the 366th would carry four AIM-7D/E Sparrows, four AIM-9B/D Sidewinders, and a load of eight 750-pound bombs for bombing operations. At first, the bombs were dropped from medium or high-altitudes, but as SAMs became more dangerous, a shift was made to lower altitudes. Unfortunately, this technique also exposed the aircraft to small-arms fire from the ground.
While at Da Nang, aircrews complained that they were missing many opportunities to shoot down enemy MiGs because the F-4C lacked an internal cannon and its missiles were ineffective at short ranges. So, wing maintainers mounted an external 20-millimeter SUU-16/A Gatling gun pod on the F-4Cs, and in less than a month the wing’s aircrews had scored four MiG kills. The gun pod innovation and the MiG kills that followed earned the 366 TFW the nickname it carries today, the “Gunfighters.” During this period, the wing earned a Presidential Unit Citation for shooting down eleven enemy aircraft in a three-month period. By May 1968 the 366 TFW had upgraded to the F-4D.
From Feb 1966 to October 1971, the 480th flew a variety of combat missions in Southeast Asia, including air defense, direct air support, forward air control, interdiction, armed reconnaissance, combat air patrol, and escort for reconnaissance, bombardment, and rescue aircraft. The squadron deployed to Korat, Thailand from 12-24 May 1966.
When the 366 TFW at Da Nang was re-equipped with F-4Es, the 480 TFS and its F-4Ds were transferred to Phu Cat on 15 April 1969.
At Phu Cat, the 480th was first assigned to the 37 TFW which flew F-100s. The 480 TFS was joined by the 389 TFS, also from Da Nang, on 25 June 1969, as the drawdown of F-100 squadrons at Phu Cat continued. Both squadrons were assigned to the 12 TFW on 31 March 1970 when the 12 TFW was moved from Cam Ranh Bay to Phu Cat without personnel or equipment. When the 12 TFW began transferring Phu Cat AB to the South Vietnamese AF in late 1971, the 480 TFS was inactivated on 17 November 1971 and its aircraft transferred to other fighter units in Southeast Asia.
LtCol Leland W. Dawson, 24 Jun 1966.
LtCol George H. Sylvester, 8 Oct 1966.
LtCol Robert B. Tanguy, 26 Dec 1966.
LtCol John W. Armstrong, circa Jun 1967.
LtCol Robert F. Brockman, 10 Nov 1967.
LtCol Donald R. D’Amico, 28 May 1968.
LtCol Edwin J. Scarff, 30 Oct 1968.
LtCol David W. Shoup, 1 Apr 1969.
LtCol Jack E. Shepard, 4 Dec 1969.
LtCol Kenneth D. Burns, 4 Mar 1970.
LtCol Robert B. Kendall, 23 Apr 1970.
LtCol William C. Thomas, 12 Oct 1970.
LtCol John S. Garrett, 17 Feb 1971.
LtCol Charles J. Cunningham Jr., 17 Jun – 17 Nov 1971.
The 480th earned many awards in Southeast Asia, including two Presidential Unit Citations (23 Apr – 1 Aug 1967; 8 Feb – 8 Apr 1971), five Outstanding Unit Awards with Combat “V” Device (5 Feb 1966 – 31 Mar 1967; 1 Apr 1967 – 31 Mar 1968; 1 Apr 1968 – 31 Jul 1969; 1 Apr 1969 – 31 Mar 1970; 1 Apr 1970 – 21 Oct 1971), and two Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Crosses with Palm (31 Mar 1970 – 10 Nov 1971; 1 Apr 1966 – 17 Nov 1971).
The squadron also earned Campaign Streamers for Vietnam Air; Vietnam Air Offensive; VN Air Off, Phase II; VN Air Off, Phase III; Vietnam Air/Ground; VN Air Off, Phase IV; TET 69/Counteroffensive; Southwest Monsoon; Commando Hunt V; Commando Hunt VI; and Commando Hunt VIII.