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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.

JT

 

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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31 thoughts on “Chu Lai Combat Base”

  1. Looking for any information pertaining to Sgt. Richard Craig Bram of Mag 12, VMA 225. Chu Lai July of 1965.

  2. I just googled your site and what it is about. Really enjoying the memories. I was Navy HM3/Mar 8404 “Doc” arriving in Nov 66 and assigned to 1st Hosp Co and outlying medical groups. It was just getting started with mostly tents and some Quonset reinforced huts for surgery. Had Marine units supporting us and Seabees working on permanent structures and huts. An Army Hosp. was across the hills/valley on the beach, along with Seabees and Swift boat group. Went on alot of MedCap travels along with supply trips to outlying Marine Aide Stations and ferrying wounded out to Hospital Ship. Would like to connect with any former troops from this area(Nov66-Dec67. Watched Seabees construct huge Amphitheater next to us with good shows late in 67. Don Durflinger

  3. I was with Company B 26th Combat Engineers, just off Hwy 1 across from the Marine airbase from Sept 1 1968 to Nov 3 1969 (extended 2 months for early out). Took awhile to get used to the Jets taking off and landing through the nights..

  4. Was there with H&S Btry, 2nd LAAM Bn. sept ’65 (debarked from LST 824, Henry County) Left in Sept 66. Was one of the life guards at the beach for several months. They built us a nice lifeguard tower but somehow I wasn’t too confident that a Marine in a tower with binoculars would be considered harmless to Charlie. Stood at the bottom.

  5. I have many photos from this area. They were taken by my father, Lt. David G. Butterfield in 1965-66, including some great ones of Bob Hope, etc. in the USO Show and of Robert Mitchum’s visit and a few of those stationed there at that time. Also, some of the local people and landscape. Are you interested in posting them here? I’d like to have them posted somewhere so I can share the link with others. These are photos that were never seen previously.

  6. John Harris says:
    Drafted out of High School. After Ft.Jackson basic, I graduated from the Corps of Engineers school at Ft. Belvoir, Va. and sent to Ft. Carson and attached to a Ordinance staging company for assignment to USAPAC (VN) and then to the Bien Hoa ammo dump. This was not good. I did convoy work hauling artillery shells in a 5 ton dragon wagon and night guard at the ammo dump among other jobs.. but I wanted to do heavy Engineer work for which I was trained.
    After 5 months of trying not to die I volunteered for my MOS as a heavy equipment engineer job in Chu Lai and graced with a brand new Allis Chalmer HD 16 dozer. The Marines loved it to. They had very poor equipment.
    Thank God. I liked Chu Lai and was grateful for my assignment and the men I worked with. When my 12 months were over I was approached by my superior with orders to Ft. Dix and at that point I was also offered to extend for 38 more days at Chu Lai and would receive a 90 day ‘early out’. What a deal. I stayed in Chu Lai.

  7. I WAS THERE IN 71 WITH B CO. 123RD AVIATION BN, 23RD INF DIV…..HOT MISERABLE AND NOTHING BUT SAND…

  8. Was in Chu Lai 65 -66 USMC . WE WERE THE FIRST ONES IN AND COVERED FOR THE CB’s. What a great bunch of guy’s

  9. Army, Chu Lai 1967 – 1968, 588 Maint. Co. Good friends were- Billy Merrill, Jimmy Clark, Jeff Butterworth, and can’t forget “Snag” Thompson! Hope you are all well!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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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