Chu Lai

Once a quiet, beautiful and secluded beach, Chu Lai today is the site of the Chu Lai International Airport. One of many medium sized airports around the country, serving both domestic and international passengers.

Fifty years ago this was one of the largest U.S. bases in the country, covering the southern I Corps and northern II Corps with air support as well as having large medical facilities to receive wounded for advanced treatments. Over the years the base hosted large units from the U.S. Marine Corps, ARVN units and Army units from the Americal Division.

It all started in the early summer of 1965 when ”Seabees” from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion arrived to start construct a small runway and a base to establish the first presence in the area. Over time, they added to the facilities with both a full size runway, a large helicopter pad as well as a helicopter base.

Please click on pictures for slide show

Thousands of troops from most kinds of available units were stationed here making it not only a fully functional combat base, but a small city.

The base covered a huge area, several kilometers from north to south and about two kilometers wide. Over the years, Bob Hope with guests such as Connie Stevens and Ann-Margaret came to entertain the troops on several occassions through USO arranged shows. We were happy to find the USO area at our visit where these shows took place, very little remains but the foundations of some of the bleachers are still around.

We have also found the helicopter pad with the white ”H” still painted on the ground as well as the medevac helicopters’ red cross. As a passenger arriving at or taking off from the airport one will also see the old hangars.

Visiting the base isn’t done entirely without problems. The People’s Army has facilities all around the area and it is an international airport, making access limited. However, it is possible to get around from the south and up on the east side without trespassing, making it possible to visit parts of the old base. It is also possible to enter from the main road QL1 north of the base towards the Ky ha peninsula.

Overall, this is a well worth visit for the history traveler. Large parts of the base, perhaps half, is outside the army and airport areas making it possible to move around relatively freely discovering the base.

Caution should be exercised though as live ordnance is still found around the base area. As always, our recommendation is to stick to well traveled trails and roads.



How to get there

Chu Lai is located along the main road QL1 around 110 kilometers south of Da Nang and less than 80 kilometers south of Hoi an. It makes for a nice day trip in combination with visiting other war sites or Cham temples along the road.


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15 thoughts on “Chu Lai Combat Base”

  1. I was at Chu Lai 68-69 MAG 12 MABS 12 MOS 3371. I went by “Dallas” back then. I mailed a box home that has letters and stuff and my photo album. It never made it. It always makes me sick, knowing it’s gone after all of these years.

  2. My dad was there from 67-69 with the Marines. I got his zippo dated 1967 and a nice engraving. He passed from agent orange exposure caused parkinsons in 2010. I have been trying to 10 years to find anyone who remembers him. He never talkad about Nam so we have very little info other than pictures and a couple lockers full of stuff he brought home. I have his uniform. He was a Sgt. My mom said he used to wake up fighting and screaming from nightmares. This went on for years till they divorced in 75. My dad was always distant but Ive learned why. My heart goes out to all Vietnam vets and the Hell they were put thru.

    1. I was in Chu Lai sep 68 – 69. Worked at Ke Ha tower and Admin pad. Hundreds maybe thousands came to admin pad for transportation to surrounding LZ’s Quin Yon, Duc pho, Danang..Bob Hope show came in in Dec 68 with Ann Margaret.

  3. I was in the USN assigned to “Operation Market Time” aboard Swift Boats in Chu Lai from September to December 1968. Great Base and plenty of action in the patrol areas. PCF-12 and PCF-75.

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