Secundino BaldonadoTechnical Sergeant
405TH ORG MAINT SQDN, 405TH TFW, 13TH AF
United States Air Force
01 July 1927 - 16 May 1965
Jarales, New Mexico
Panel 01E Line 117
The database page for Secundino Baldonado
My husband Secundino (Dean) Baldonado was killed in Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Viet Nam. He was killed as a result of a series of explosions of B-57's. The B-57's were preparing for combat missions. Some of them had already taken off and others were preparing to be launched when one of them blew up which caused a chain reaction. It was my understanding that my husband had been pulling men out and the last time he went in to get someone he was caught in an explosion.
From his wife,
I was there that day. I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. We landed in Vietnam on 5 May 65 and were establishing a perimeter around the airbase. There were eleven B-57 Canberra bombers lined up on the runway getting ready for a 0930 flight up north. Each aircraft had a 750 lb bomb on each side next to the fuselage and five 500 lb bombs going down each wing. Then each one had napalm, 50 caliber, and 20mm rounds on board. So that would be 22 750 lb bombs, 110 500 lb bombs, plus all of the other ordnance. When it went off the napalm went first and made a huge fire. Then there was a big explosion, which at the time we thought were the bombs going off. Remember we had not been in-country very long. We started running down the PSP toward the fire after the first explosion because we knew a lot of guys must have been caught in it. Then the big explosion went off. I was blown up into the air and landed on my back. Everything went black for a while and when I came to, I felt a deep pain in my chest. I thought I had been hit, but it was the air coming back into my lungs. I rolled over on my stomach and faced toward the runway. At one point I saw a big piece of metal skipping down the PSP toward me. I didn't know what to do so I just laid there and watched it. It hit in front of me and went over my head. When I was still on my back looking up in the air I remember thinking it reminded me of a cartoon when something blows up and you see all kinds of debris in the air. Later we helped clean up. It was a bad scene. Everything was black on the ground and what was left of the bunkers. I never found out what had happened to cause the explosion.
From an anonymous soldier.
I can never forget that day. In the morning I watched a chopper take off from Vinh Long and get shot down as soon as it crossed the river. Seven men died. Later I hopped an Army "Beaver" aircraft for Tan Son Nhut, and we took ground fire from 12.7mm AAA early. We climbed to over 5,000 feet and as we neared Saigon, I saw a series of massive explosions at Bien Hoa. When we landed, an Airman told us four men had been killed from the explosions at Bien Hoa. It was decades later that I learned that none of the seven killed at Vinh Long were American, but that the death toll at Bien Hoa was so terribly high.
Edward L. Keith
A Note from The Virtual WallIn the fall of 1964 twenty 20 B-57Bs of the 8th and 13th Tactical Bomb Squadrons were deployed to the Bien Hoa air base near Saigon, marking the first deployment of jet combat aircraft to Vietnam. The initial deployment got off on the wrong foot. The first two B-57Bs to land collided with each other on the ground and blocked the runway at Bien Hoa, forcing the rest of the flight to divert to Tan Son Nhut Airport on the other side of Saigon. One of the B-57Bs dived into the ground during approach at Tan Son Nhut and was destroyed, killing both crew members.
During the next few weeks, more B-57Bs were moved from Clark AFB to Bien Hoa to make good these losses. Initially, the B-57Bs were restricted to unarmed reconnaissance missions, but actual combat was not delayed very long.
On November 1, 1964, Viet Cong squads shelled the airfield at Bien Hoa with mortars, destroying five of the B-57s parked there and damaging 15 others. On 19 Feb 1965, the B-57Bs were released for armed combat operations with the first mission taking place the same day. The B-57Bs hit North Vietnamese territory for the first time on March 2, some 25 miles north of the DMZ.
On May 16, 1965, while waiting to take off on a mission, a B-57B exploded on the ground at Bien Hoa, setting off a whole chain of secondary explosions. The resulting conflagration destroyed ten B-57s, eleven VNAF A-1H Skyraiders, and a US Navy F-8 Crusader and caused numerous casualties among air and ground crewmen - at least 26 men died in the explosions and fires..
The point-of-contact for this memorial is|
Grace K. Baldonado
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 28 May 2001
Last updated 11/17/2007