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North Vietnam People's Air Force

Last modified: 2011-02-25 by ian macdonald
Keywords: vietnam | air force |
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North Vietnam People's Air Force "Best Unit" flag

Looking at some information on the Vietnam Military History Museum (Bảo tàng Lịch sử Quân sự Việt Nam) official website (, one can find the following image:

As the link mentions ( "It is the Best Unit” flag awarded to Company 1, Regiment 921 of the Vietnam People’s Air Force for their feat of arms in 1965."

I believe they refer to an action where the Regiment 921 Sao Do (Sao Đỏ) (translates as Red Star) of the VPAF (Vietnamese People's Air Force) (Không Quân Nhân Dân Việt Nam) was responsible for the first jet air-to-air engagement with U.S. aircraft, which was on April 3, 1965. The VPAF claimed the shooting down of one US Navy F-8 Crusader, which was not confirmed by US sources, although they acknowledged having encountered MiGs. Consequently, April 3rd became "North Vietnamese Air Force Day". On April 4 the VPAF (NVAF) scored the first confirmed victories to be acknowledged by both sides. The US fighter community was shocked when relatively slow, post-Korean era MiG-17 fighters shot down advanced F-105 Thunderchief fighters-bombers attacking the Thanh Hoa Bridge, known by locals as Ham Rong (Dragon's jaw). The two downed F-105s were carrying their normal heavy bomb load, and were not able to react to their attackers. In their first air combat, a small force of seemingly mismatched MiG-17s inflicted significant losses on much larger and more advanced American F-105 Thunderchief and F-8 Crusader fighters at a cost of 3 of their own, with an F-100 Super Sabre claiming the first probable American kill of the conflict. This would lead to significant changes in American tactics, training and fighter design, and a return to dogfighting in air combat doctrine. This took place during the Operation Rolling Thunder, an aerial bombardment campaign from 2 March 1965 to 1 November 1968. On the 45th anniversary of the Battle in 2010, Vietnam celebrated the downing of 47 U.S. aircraft. (Notice that the Air Force was an "Arm" of the Army at the time)

Sources: (full description of the April 3-4 engagements)

The first Fighter Regiment No. 921 (or 921st Fighter Regiment) "Sao Do" (Trung Đoàn Không Quân Tiêm Kích 921 "Sao Đỏ") was formed on February 3rd, 1964 by request of then Lt. Gen. Hoang Van Thai (North Vietnam’s Deputy Defence Minister), and put it under the command of Lt. Col. Dao Dinh Luyen.


It is also important to mention that this was not the first shootdown of the VPAF. The first shootdown took place February 16, 1964, when a T-28 "Trojan" (piloted by a Thai who had defected on Septmeber 1963) shot down a C-123 "Provider", of the VNAF (Viet Nam Air Force, Không Quân Việt Nam).

Source: (pages 8-9 "MiG-17 and MiG-19 Units of the Vietnam War", Published by Osprey Publishing, written by Dr. István Toperczer, retrieved through Google Books)

Esteban Rivera, 2 August 2010