The Brown Water Navy in Vietnam


Robert H. Stoner, GMCM (SW)(Ret)

Part 4

 [Part 3 covered the MOBILE RIVERINE FORCE.  In Part 4 we will look at the Naval Support Activities.  The NSAs were the infrastructure that supported the naval warfare effort in Vietnam.  Whether the NSA was a shore installation or a floating barge complex, the support activities were the home base for all the logistics that kept the boats and aircraft operational.  For the most part, the role of the NSA personnel was unheralded.  Yet, without their efforts, the operations of the ships, boats, and aircraft of the Brown Water Navy could not have been sustained.  


The naval war in South Vietnam during the years 1964 to 1975 was very dynamic.  For the Americans aiding the South Vietnamese, the effort was several fold: (1) build and equip a capable Vietnamese Navy; (2) teach the new VNN how to fight; (3) how to keep itself supplied; and (4) how to keep itself operational. 


U.S. Naval Bases and Support Activities


South Vietnam was divided into four Corps areas: I Corps was in the North, II Corps was the central highlands, III was the area around the capital city of Saigon, and IV Corps extended from the Mekong River Delta to the tip of the Ca Mau Peninsula.  The number and scope of the naval bases and NSAs grew as American Navy presence expanded in Vietnam.


[Author’s Note: I want to thank the Mobile Riverine Force Association for their help in the tabulation of the various Naval Support Activities in the Republic of Vietnam.  The original information has been expanded and enhanced for understanding by dividing the activities into Corps Tactical Zones.  Also, maps have been added.]


Below: A map of Vietnam showing the four Corps Tactical Zones (CTZ) and the provincial boundaries.  Also shown are the large population centers.

U.S. Naval Bases and Support Activities of Vietnam
(Listed by Corps Tactical Zone)


U.S. Naval Support Activity, Chu Lai 1964-1971

This site, fifty-six miles southeast of Da Nang, became a major naval logistic base almost overnight.  In the latter months of 1964, U.S. naval leaders concluded that an additional air facility was required in the I CTZ to ease the current and projected over-crowding of units and aircraft at the Da Nang airfield.  Soon after construction of the proposed 8,000 foot jet-capable airfield was ordered, Pacific Fleet units moved ashore. In May 1965 Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, protected by Marine Forces, installed two pontoon causeway piers and an amphibious fuel line along the sea bottom, and Naval Construction Battalion 10 laid down aluminum matting for the runway and taxiways. By the end of the month, half of the airfield was completed, enabling the immediate operation of Marine Air Group 12 elements from Chu Lai.

Assuring adequate logistic support by sea to the air group, the growing Marine ground force, and some of the Navy’s Coastal Surveillance Force units were an absolutely essential but difficult task for the Naval Support Activity, Da Nang, Detachment Chu Lai. The Viet Cong interdicted the roads and rail lines in the vicinity of the coastal site, and air transport resources were limited.

Although relatively secure from enemy action, the sea line of communication was threatened by natural conditions. There was no harbor at Chu Lai.  Chu Lai was located at the mouth of the Truong River.  The unprotected coastal site was subjected to heavy seas especially during the winter monsoon period; both the causeway and the fuel line were damaged in 1965.  There were few facilities ashore, and deep powdery beach sand hindered both over-the-beach movement and construction.

While the establishment of permanent base facilities was underway, steps were taken to maintain support.  Landing craft transferred supplies from Da Nang, and LSTs delivered cargo, especially ammunition, from the naval depot at Subic Bay in the Philippines and from Sasebo, Japan.  By the fall of 1965, smaller LSMs were crossing the Truong River at high tide to offload at the temporary ramp.  The river finally opened to larger ships, including LSTs, fuel barges, and coastal freighters, when dredges cleared a 16-foot channel in the spring of 1966. The weather continued to hamper operations at Chu Lai, witnessed by the loss of the Mahnomen County (LST-912) in January 1967.  The ship broached off Chu Lai beach after being torn from her anchor by 18-foot waves and subsequently broke apart on the rocks.

The construction of permanent facilities continued to improve the logistics situation.  By 1967 portable fuel storage bladders were replaced by a rigid-wall tank farm that was connected to fuel lines laid along the sea bottom.  A hard topped road and ramp complex enabled sailors to offload as many as six LSTs simultaneously. Chu Lai soon became the second busiest port in the I CTZ after Da Nang.  By September 1969 the Naval Support Activity Da Nang, Detachment Chu Lai, handled over 86,000 tons of cargo each month in support of the First Marine Division and First Marine Air Wing elements. The Naval presence in Chu Lai diminished after June 1970, when logistics facilities were turned over to the Army, whose units were playing a greater operational role in the I Corps region. The coastal operating base was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in May 1971.

U.S. Naval Support Activity, Cua Viet 1967-1970

The furthest north of the Navy’s bases in Vietnam, Cua Viet was under mortar, rocket, and ground attack for most of the war by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).  Because of its location on the Cua Viet River that skirted the boundary of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the base was uniquely situated to provide fuel, ammunition, administration, supplies, and construction materials to Marine and Army combat forces.

In March 1967, the Da Nang NSA Detachment Cua Viet was established to augment the efforts of the nearby base at Dong Ha.  Together, Cua Viet and Dong Ha provided logistical support to American and allied units operating around the DMZ area.  Cua Viet acted as a trans-shipment point for supplies headed for Dong Ha.  The detachment’s work was made difficult not only by enemy fire but by the physical environment.  Winds and rains of the winter monsoons were particularly harsh at Cua Viet.  Outside the river mouth, shoals endangered ships making the 90 nautical mile trip from Da Nang.   Crossing the bar was made difficult by shifting sand bars (solved by continuous dredging) and enemy direct fire weapons.  In March 1967, the USS CAROLINE COUNTY (LST-1126) became the first major naval vessel to enter the river and tie up at Cua Viet.

The 61-man detachment at Cua Viet gradually improved living conditions at the base.  At first, the LST ramp consisted of one steel mat for off-load of supplies.  By the end of the year, a more permanent soil and cement hardened landing area was in place.  The detachment increased the efficiency of the ship-to-shore fuel line and the tank storage facility.  Tankers discharged fuel at Cua Viet that was then transferred to LCM-8 landing craft with fuel bladders for further transport to Dong Ha.  The Cua Viet detachment also operated a small boat repair facility and cargo staging area.

As the South Vietnamese began to take over a greater combat role in the war, U.S. forces were withdrawn from such forward areas as the DMZ.  Task Force CLEARWATER headquarters and a number of river patrol boats redeployed to Tan My in February 1970.   At the same time, NSA Da Nang, Detachment Cua Viet was disestablished and became an ATSB for limited support of naval units.  By the end of the year, all U.S. forces at Cua Viet had been withdrawn to Da Nang.


U.S. Naval Support Activity, Da Nang 1964-1973

At the height of the American involvement in Vietnam, the port of Da Nang, South Vietnam, was the Navy’s largest overseas shore command.  From this port city, over 200,000 U.S., Vietnamese, and allied forces fighting in the I Corps Tactical Zone were supplied with everything that they needed to combat the VC and NVA aggressors.

The U.S. Navy established the MST-1 detachment to train Vietnamese crews and maintain PTFs in February 1964.  The PTFs, under Vietnamese officers and crews, conducted over 1,000 raids against North Vietnam from March-April 1964 to January 1972.    Because of Da Nang’s strategic location on rail, air, and highway routes, development of its facilities into a large deepwater port was essential.  By the end of 1964, preparations were well underway to improve Da Nang’s base and port facilities.  The airfield was expanded and new runways were constructed, so were piers, fuel farms, warehouses, and ammunition magazines.  Marine ground security and helicopter units were stationed at the airfield.

When Marines deployed to Vietnam in large numbers beginning in March 1965, Da Nang became the focus of the growing War.  For the next four years, Da Nang hosted various Army Divisions, and two Marine Divisions of the III Marine Amphibious Force.  Together these forces, along with allied and South Vietnamese units, fought the VC and NVA enemy in the I Corps Tactical Zone.  The Navy provided logistics support to the Coastal Surveillance Forces that patrolled offshore to interdict the smuggling of arms and supplies by North Vietnam to the South by sea.  The PBRs of Task Force CLEARWATER fought to keep the rivers of I Corps open to allied logistics traffic.  The Da Nang base became home to the Seabee’s 13th Naval Construction Regiment, and – later – the 3rd Naval Construction Brigade and 32nd Naval Construction Regiment.

Da Nang reached its peak in 1969.   At that time the command controlled 250 ships, landing craft, lighters, tugs, barges, floating cranes that made it the largest concentration of such vessels in all of Southeast Asia.  The command had 450 officers, 10,000 sailors, and had a civilian work force of 11,000 Vietnamese and civilian contractors.  There were three deep-draft ship piers for ocean-going ships, while LSTs used the Tien Sha, Bridge, Museum, and Ferry cargo facilities.  The port controlled 900,000 square feet of supply depot space, 2.7 million square feet of open-air storage space, and 500,000 cubic feet of refrigerated storage space.  The port handled 320,000 tons of cargo each month and the two tank farms reached a capacity of 50 million gallons that year.

In May 1969, the Americans began the turnover of assets to the South Vietnamese government.  The NSA was charged with assisting the Vietnamese with this effort.   A training program was established to replace the various American and contractor jobs with Vietnamese who could do these tasks.   The 13th Naval Construction Regiment relocated to Okinawa in December 1969.  December 1969 also saw the transfer of landing craft, barges, and lighters to the Vietnamese Navy.  In May 1970, the Naval Hospital was turned over to Army control.  The naval command continued training Vietnamese counterparts as the Army assumed overall logistics control in the I CTZ in June 1970.   In November 1971, the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment furled its colors.  NSA Da Nang was disestablished in April 1972.  On 29 March 1973, the last American units at Da Nang – several fleet air detachments and the Naval Communications Station – were redeployed or disestablished in place.  The Navy’s nine-year stay in Da Nang came to an end.

 U.S. Naval Support Activity, Dong Ha 1967-1970

Located several miles south of the DMZ, Dong Ha was exposed to more North Vietnamese attacks than any other naval activity.  The site, on the south bank of the Cua Viet River, was within range of NVA rockets, artillery, and mortars.  Sappers often tested the perimeter defenses of the base.  During August and September 1967 alone, enemy fire destroyed thirteen 10,000-gallon fuel storage bladders and an ammunition dump.  In addition, enemy swimmers and water mines inflicted damage to craft tied up to the piers and craft transiting the river.  Because of Dong Ha’s strategic river position and Republic of Vietnam’s major north-south highway Route 1, the risks were considered justified.  Logistics support for American and allied forces fighting near the DMZ was absolutely essential.

In late 1966, LCU and YFU landing craft brought building materials, fuel, ammunition, and supplies 90 nautical miles from Da Nang to the mouth of the Cua Viet River and to a site 8 miles up river at Dong Ha.  However, these landing craft proved no match for the northeast monsoon.  The difficulty of crossing the bar at the river’s mouth made further development a necessity.  The NSA Da Nang created detachments at Dong Ha and Cua Viet.  A dredge was brought in to keep the Cua Viet River mouth free of sand bars so that the larger landing craft could get in to Cua Viet.  The LSMs and LSTs would come to Cua Viet where their cargo would be off-loaded to LCM-8 landing craft for the short but dangerous trip to Dong Ha.

For the remainder of 1967, the 35-man NSA Detachment at Dong Ha brought in artillery guns, construction materials, airfield building supplies, and equipment for the base at Quang Tri.  By November 1967, the detachment was handling 72,500 tons of supplies of all kinds a month.  Seabees built two landing sites for the LCMs, LCUs, and barges.  This capability was a boon for Army and Marine units during the 1968 Tet Offensive.  Dong Ha’s logistic capabilities provided the needed margin of victory for these units.  In February 1970, the Dong Ha detachment was disestablished and the facilities were turned over to the South Vietnamese in November in 1970.

U.S. Naval Patrol Boat Base, Hoi An 1968-1971

Hoi An was coastal city located at the mouth of the Cua Dai River south of Da Nang, South Vietnam.  Hoi An was well-placed to support patrols inland by the PBR units based there.  The base was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in 1971

U.S. Naval Support Activity, Hue-Tan My-Phu Bai 1965-1970

From a modest beginning, the Navy's facilities in the area of Hue, Vietnam's old imperial city and third largest population center in the republic of Vietnam, developed into a major combat and logistics complex.  This followed the deployment after 1967, of large Marine, Army, and South Vietnamese forces.
The Marine presence near Hue, primarily at Phu Bai, was limited in the early stages of deployment.  The Navy worked to provide responsive logistics support. Naval leaders recognized that the most direct line of communication to the South China Sea, the Hue River and a six mile-long road, had the best potential.  Alternate road, rail, and air approaches from Da Nang were subject to frequent enemy attack or were unable to accommodate the many tons of supplies needed.  Tan My, at the mouth of the Hue River and end of the six-mile road, was well-placed to support the growth of Allied forces north of Hue.
From 1965 to 1967 steps were taken to improve logistics facilities at Hue and Tan My and the line of communication between. An old boat ramp at the Hue city park was refurbished and an adjoining cargo staging area enlarged. The ramp was manned by a detachment of Naval Support Activity, Da Nang.

Utility landing craft (LCU) carrying supplies and – later -- fuel regularly plied the twelve miles of river between the Hue and the Col Co (Colonial Company) ramp at Tan My.  On occasion, fleet amphibious cargo ships (AKA) anchored off the coast and shuttled craft directly upriver to Hue.
The road between Hue and Tan My was unimproved and wound its way through rice paddies and non-secure villages before crossing a causeway to Col Co ramp. The roadway frequently was inundated during the winter monsoon deluge during this period.  Navy Seabee units resurfaced and widened the road in key spots. It soon became the preferred approach to Phu Bai, where another detachment of the Da Nang Support activity was established.
The Col Co ramp at Tan My, previously operated by a private company to service Vietnamese sampans and junks, was gradually improved to accommodate the simultaneous berthing and off-loading of four LSTs. Before the construction of a pipeline for Hue, the facility was used to transfer fuel from suitably equipped landing craft to tanker trucks. The vessels shuttled between Col Co and nearby Thuan An, where a fuel storage tank farm and floating offshore discharge line were installed in April 1966.  Subsequently a more permanent sea bottom-laid fuel line connected tankers with the storage tanks.  This facility was operated by a 38-man detachment of Naval Support Activity, Da Nang.  Other naval units stationed in Tan My lagoon included a contingent of the Coastal Surveillance Force and a refrigerated converted lighter that maintained cold provisions for the force in the region.
The Navy's units in the Hue area were especially taxed to maintain logistics support for allied forces during the enemy Tet Offensive of 1968. The ramp and cargo staging facilities in the city were under constant attack by rockets, mortars, and ground forces from 31 January 1968 to 3 February 1968 and at times thereafter.  The fuel storage tanks there were set ablaze.  For a time the unit at the ramp was forced to seek protection at the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) compound.  At the same time the vessels at Tan My had to put out to sea to avoid Viet Cong fire.  Later, the same vessels transported civilian refugees to Da Nang.   River cargo operations were halted for ten days, but despite the loss of eighteen men and two LCUs and damage to 44 other craft, naval units continued to deliver vital supplies and ammunition to the American combat troops fighting to recapture Hue.
The severity of the enemy's Tet Campaign demanded a great reinforcement of the allied command in the I CTZ.  Naval combat and support forces were increased.  Early in 1968, units were deployed there from stations further south in the Mekong Delta region.  These were PBR, minesweeping, and patrol air cushion vehicle (PACV) units that comprised Task Force CLEARWATER.  The task force was charged with securing the two major waterways of the I CTZ: the Cau Viet River and the Hue River.  The PBR element of the Hue River Security Group, and Task Force CLEARWATER headquarters, were located in Tan My lagoon on Mobile Base 1.  Mobile Base 1 was a floating base that consisted of large connected pontoons.  Huts for berthing, messing, repair, and command and control functions were built on these pontoons.  Other units and the Naval Support Activity, Da Nang Detachment were stationed ashore.
As security on the river was improved during 1969 and 1970, Vietnamese Navy units gradually relieved the America naval force as part of the Vietnamization process.  During this time, logistics responsibility in the Hue area was relinquished to the Vietnamese.  In the spring of 1970 Naval Support Activity, Da Nang, withdrew Mobile Base 1 and disestablished the detachments at Phu Bai and Tan My.

U.S. Naval Support Activity Detachment, Sa Huynh 1967-1970

Sa Huynh was a remote American base 100 miles south of Da Nang.  The site was located on an island at the boundary of the I CTZ.  The island was chosen in 1967 as the least of several undesirable sites from which to support Army operations in the Duc Pho region.  

The drawbacks of the base were many.  A channel through the surrounding lagoon required constant dredging to be kept open to civilian-manned LSTs.  An amphibious fuel line and pontoon causeway proved inadequate to the fury of the winter monsoon and was swept away.  In August 1968, naval leaders established the Naval Support Activity, Da Nang, Detachment Sa Huynh, to get the base in better condition.  LCU ramps, fuel storage bladders, and various base facilities were constructed on the island.  By September 1969, the base was handling 3,000 tons of supplies for Army troops fighting inland.  The Sa Huynh facility was turned over to the Vietnamese in February 1970.

U.S. Naval Intermediate Support Base, Thuan An 1971

Situated on an island near Tan My in the Republic of Vietnam, the naval installation at Thuan An provided logistics support to American and Vietnamese naval forces.

When American forces withdrew from the Hue area in early 1971 as part of the decreasing U.S. involvement, the logistics tasks of the Hue, Phu Bai, and Tan My bases were concentrated at the newly constructed Thuan An intermediate support base. The Navy’s Seabees prepared facilities for the provision of fuel, maintenance, administrative, financial, and other support services for river and coastal patrol boats in northern I Corps Tactical Zone.  In September 1971, the Vietnamese Navy relieved American naval forces at Thuan An.


U.S. Naval Base, Cam Ranh Bay 1965-1971

The naval base at Cam Ranh Bay, in the Republic of Vietnam, served as the nerve center of the Navy’s MARKET TIME anti-infiltration operations during the war.  With one the largest natural harbors in the Far East and centrally placed on the 1,500-mile coast of South Vietnam, Cam Ranh Bay was long seen as a strategic site.

In the early 1960s American naval leaders evaluated the bay as a possible fleet anchorage and seaplane base from which to support the South Vietnamese nation.  During 1964 seventh fleet reconnaissance aircraft, seaplane tender Currituck (AV-7) and Mine Flotilla 1 units carried out hydrographic and beach surveys and explored sites for facilities ashore.

This preparatory work proved fortuitous when a North Vietnamese trawler was discovered landing ammunition and supplies at near by Vung Ro Bay in February 1965; the incident led U.S. naval leaders to develop Cam Ranh as a major base to support the Coastal Surveillance Force.  During the following years, the Navy deployed the fast patrol craft (PCF), and patrol gunboat (PG) units. 

The site became the center of coastal air patrol operations with the establishment in April 1967 of the U.S. Naval Air Facility, Cam Ranh Bay, and the basing there of SP-2 Neptune and P-3 Orion patrol aircraft. In the summer of 1967, Commander Coastal Surveillance Force and his staff moved their headquarters from Saigon to Cam Ranh Bay and set up operational command post to control MARKET TIME effort. Countrywide coordination also was enhanced with establishment of the Naval Communications Station.

In the beginning the shore facilities at Cam Ranh Bay were extremely limited, requiring interim measures to support assigned naval forces. Army depots provided common supplies, while Seventh Fleet light cargo ships USS MARK (AKL-12) and USS BRULE (AKL-28) delivered Navy-peculiar items from Subic Bay in the Philippines. Until mid-1966 when shore installations were prepared to take over the task, messing and quartering of personnel were handled by APL-55, anchored in the harbor.  Also, a pontoon dock was installed to permit the repair of the coastal patrol vessels.  Gradually the Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Cam Ranh Bay, improved the provision of maintenance and repair, supply, finance, communications, transportation, postal service, recreation, and security support.

With the concentration at Cam Ranh Bay of MARKET TIME headquarters and forces during the summer of 1967, the demand for base support became extraordinary.  Accordingly, the Naval Support Activity Saigon, Detachment Cam Ranh Bay, was re-designated the Naval Support Facility, Cam Ranh Bay, a more autonomous and self-sufficient status.  A greater allocation of resources and support forces to the shore installation resulted in an improved ability to cope with the buildup of combat units.  In time, the Cam Ranh Bay facility accomplished major vessel repair and dispensed a greater variety of supply items to the MARKET TIME anti-infiltration task force.  In addition, the naval contingent at the Joint Service Ammunition Depot issued ammunition to the coastal surveillance, river patrol and mobile riverine forces as well as to the Seventh Fleet’s gunfire support destroyers and landing ships.  Seabee Maintenance Unit 302 provided public works assistance to the many dispersed Naval Support Activity, Saigon detachments.

As a vital logistics complex, Cam Ranh Bay continued to function long after the Navy’s combat forces withdrew from South Vietnam as part of the Vietnamization program.  Between January and April 1972 the Naval Air Facility and the Naval Communications Station turned over their installations to the Vietnamese Navy and were disestablished. The headquarters and naval operations center for the Commander, Coastal Surveillance Force redeployed to Saigon, thus ending the Navy’s seven-year operation at Cam Ranh Bay.

U.S. Naval Operating Station, Nha Trang 1965-1971

Located 30 miles north of Cam Rahn Bay in South Vietnam, Nha Trang served as an operating station for naval units during the Vietnam War. Between 1965 and 1967 the Navy established there a 20 man-coastal surveillance center to coordinate anti-infiltration patrol operations by Americans and Vietnamese units and a 120-man harbor security unit to protect vessels delivering supplies to the Army’s port complex. The Navy’s base facilities were turned over to the Vietnamese when U.S. forces turned over responsibility for the war in 1970 and 1971.

U.S. Naval Support Activity, Qui Nhon 1965-1971

Located on the central coast of Vietnam, Qui Nhon provided an operating base and logistics center for the Navy’s Coastal Surveillance Force.  With easy access to coastal waters and the shipping lanes of the South China Sea, the port was well-placed to support the MARKET TIME anti-infiltration operations.

Beginning in the second half of 1965, PCF units deployed to Qui Nhon to initiate patrols. Subsequently, naval leaders established a coastal command center to coordinate the efforts of U.S. and South Vietnamese elements and American patrol aircraft. On several occasions other naval units staged from the base.  One such example was the inland foray by PBRs in April 1968.





U.S. Naval Advanced Tactical Support Base (ATSB), Ben Keo 1969-1971

Located on the Vam Co Dong River, this village was the location of an Advanced Tactical Support Base (ATSB).  PBR units were deployed there as part of Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT to interdict the movement of enemy troops and supplies across the Cambodian border.

Seabees brought in materials from the I Corps Tactical Zone and constructed the installation during 1969 and 1970. The Seabees built a defensive perimeter, fuel and ammunition storage facilities, personnel accommodations, and a helicopter pad.

The complete facility was transferred to the Vietnamese Navy when the U.S. naval forces were withdrawn from the forward area in April 1971.

U.S. Naval Intermediate Support Base, Cat Lai 1965-1971

This Vietnamese town, on the Dong Nai River east of Saigon, was developed into a naval logistics center.  Designated an intermediate support base, Cat Lai supplied American and Vietnamese river force operating bases in the III CTZ with maintenance, financial, repair, material, and administration support.  After Training Vietnamese Navy personnel to carry out these logistics responsibilities, the U.S. Navy withdrew its advisors and disestablished the base in September 1971.

U.S. Naval Combat and Logistics Base, Cat Lo 1965-1971

Cat Lo, on the northern shore of South Vietnam’s Cape Vung Tau, served as a naval base and logistics base during the Vietnam War. U.S. Naval leaders chose the site for several reasons: ready access to the South China Sea, ready access to the river approaches to Saigon, and ready access to the Mekong Delta.  Cat Lo was strategically placed and the facilities of the existing Vietnamese Navy base were immediately available to U.S. units.

Three distinct operational forces were based at Cat Lo: (1) components of the Coastal Surveillance Force; (2) the Saigon River minesweeping force; and (3) a River Patrol Force.  Beginning in late 1965, naval units began scouring the coast for communist seaborne infiltrators, and soon afterwards minesweeping craft initiated their escort and patrol mission on the narrow waterways leading to Saigon, the country’s main port.  Cat Lo acted as a staging and logistics base for the move deep into the Mekong Delta by the Navy’s River Patrol Force. 

From March to June 1966, the USS BELLE GROVE (LSD-2) and the USS TORTUGA (LSD-26) brought the first PBRs into Vietnam with the deployment to Cat Lo of River Division 53 and River Division 54 elements.  Once the base at Nha Be became operational in mid year, the PBR unit relocated there, but other river forces remained, such as Patrol Air Cushion Vehicle (PACV) Division (107).  Until redeployment to the Da Nang area in June 1968, the experimental PACVs were tested in swamp, river, and coastal environment around Cat Lo.

To maintain the various combat forces, Naval Support Activity, Saigon established a detachment at Cat Lo that provided berthing, messing, supply, repair, transportation, communications, and other logistics support.  Although Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 installed a pontoon pier and built a ramp for the PACVs, additional measures were required to support the American units before shore facilities were established.  Floating cranes, YD-220 and YD-174, were stationed at Cat Lo to prepare newly arrived PBRs for in-country operations and to overhaul PCF or "Swift" boats.

The naval facility at Cat Lo diminished in importance as minesweeping activities were concentrated at Nha Be south of Saigon, and as the river patrol units used bases deeper into the Delta. Cat Lo resources were turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in April 1971.

U.S. Naval Advanced Base, Go Dau Ha 1969-1971

Located close to the Cambodian border on the Vam Co Dong River, Naval ATSB Go Dau Ha provided U.S. forces with an advanced base of operations.  PBR units staged there as well as the boats of the River Assault Groups (RAG) in the effort to hinder communist infiltration that threatened nearby Tay Ninh and Saigon, further southwest.

Acquiring sufficient land at Go Dau Ha began as a problem, but during 1969 the Army’s engineers created a landfill and metal reinforced base area on the riverbank.  Soon afterward, Seabee units built sleeping and messing facilities, fuel and ammunition storage, defensive works, and a helicopter pad.

Go Dau Ha was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in April 1971.

U.S. Naval ATSB, Hiep Hoa 1969

Located on the Vam Co Dong River northwest of Saigon, Heip Hoa served as an ATSB for American naval forces.  PBR units patrolled the sector of river around the site as part of the Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT anti-infiltration campaign.  The river forces disrupted the constant flow of communist men and munitions into the capital region.

During 1969, Seabees and construction materials were transported from Da Nang to Heip Hoa for development of the shore facility.  While the river sailors used a partially destroyed, abandoned sugar mill for sleeping quarters, the Seabees began construction of better quarters, base defense, fuel and ammunition storage, and a helicopter pad. However, the lack of troops for protection from ground attack forced the evacuation of the naval force to nearby Tra Cu later in 1969.


U.S. Naval Operating Base, Long Binh 1969-1970

This vast Army command and logistics complex northeast of Saigon in Vietnam also served as a naval operating base during 1969-1970.  River patrol units carried out anti-infiltration duties on the waterways of the area from this facility on the Dong Nai River.  Vietnamese Navy units relieved their American counterparts there in November 1970.

U.S. Naval Support Activity, Nha Be 1966-1972

Nha Be, seven miles south of Saigon, was a major combat and logistics base.  As naval leaders concluded early, the site was strategically placed at the junction of the Long Tau and Soi Rap, the main rivers between the port of Saigon and the South China Sea.  Nha Be was also positioned near waterways traversing the Viet Cong-infested Rung Sat Special Zone (RSSZ) and the eastern Mekong Delta region.  Nha Be was ideally located for support of river patrol and minesweeping operations.  In addition, the Vietnamese Navy’s River Assault Group compound there was suitable for a small American force.

In March 1966 a detachment of Mine Squadron 11, employing 57-foot minesweeping boats (MSBs) and converted landing craft, became the first U.S. naval unit to deploy at Nha Be.  During the next five years the U.S. minesweeping force patrolled the water approaches to Saigon, escorted commercial and military vessels, and worked to keep the ship channels free of enemy mines.  While vessels were damaged or sunk, the absolutely vital water line of communication never was severed by Viet Cong action.

Also in March 1966, the first units of the navy’s River Patrol Force tied up at Nha Be and soon afterwards began operations against the Viet Cong waterborne traffic in the Rung Sat and the Mekong Delta. Eventually, the base was able to support 40 PBRs engaged in Operation GAME WARDEN. Other components were Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 1 and Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3.  Detachments of these units flew from helicopter pads at nearby Cruickshank Airfield.  Both surface and air units at Nha Be took part in Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT.  GIANT SLINGSHOT sought to interdict communist men and supplies infiltrating from Cambodia on the Vam Co Dong and Vam Co Tay Rivers during 1969-71.

The support base at Nha Be developed into a major logistics complex. In the beginning, the sailors had to rely on Army depots in Saigon for supply items common to both services and were quartered in tents at the Vietnamese installation.  However once the Naval Support Activity Saigon Detachment Nha Be, was established, conditions improved.  A pier for the PBRs was fashioned with Army pontoons and YRBM-16, a large converted lighter, was stationed at the site.  YRBM-16 made berthing, repair, spare parts, and supplies available for the PBR units. An Army crane was used for hull repair of the MSBs. These and other measures were taken to provide interim support.

Twenty acres of nearby swampland were filled with dredged soil, and by December 1966, work was begun on permanent base facilities.  These facilities included depot-level repair, administrative, communications, storage, maintenance, quartering, and messing buildings, four 1,000-barrel fuel storage tanks, and a boat pier. Although securing potable water and shoring up the landfill presented problems, Nha Be became a key naval support complex in the Saigon area. 

By late 1968, 84 craft and the recently deployed headquarters of Naval Support Activity Saigon were based there. The facility continued to serve the Navy’s needs until its turnover to Vietnamese Navy and the disestablishment of Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Nha Be, in April 1972.

U.S. ATSB, Phu Cuong 1969-1970

Situated at the foot of a major bridge crossing the Saigon River, the naval ATSB at Phu Cuong provided a relatively secure staging area for PBR units operating against communist infiltrators to the northwest of the capital city.

Initially the Army provided the naval contingent with logistics support, but once Phu Cuong was designated as an ATSB, supplies flowed from the Naval Support Activity, Saigon’s depot at nearby Newport.

As Americans forces withdrew from the war in Vietnam the Phu Cuong facility was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy.

U.S. Naval Forces Vietnam Headquarters and NSA, Saigon 1950-1973

In August 1950, eight officers and men arrived in Saigon to staff the Navy section of the newly created Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG), Indochina.  The Navy section’s job was to administer American military aid given to the French in their fight against the communist-led Viet Minh insurgency.  Between 1950 and 1954, hundreds of ships and craft, including the light carrier USS BELLEAU WOOD (CVL-24), amphibious ships and craft, riverine craft, yard craft, barges, and floating cranes were provided to the French Expeditionary Forces in its unsuccessful fight against the Viet Minh forces.

Under the terms of the Geneva Agreement on Indochina, Vietnamese living in areas controlled by the communist Viet Minh (North Vietnam) could be evacuated by sea to the non-communist South Vietnam.  During late 1954 and 1955, the Navy presence in Saigon increased to handle the large numbers of refugees from the north.   Seventy-four Navy ships and 39 Military Sea Transportation Service civilian-crewed vessels transported over 310,000 passengers, 60,000 tons of cargo, and 8,000 vehicles mostly to the port of Saigon.

As the French withdrew from Indochina, the Navy section of MAAG worked to develop the fledgling South Vietnamese Navy.  Between 1955 and 1961, American advisors made progress in both men and equipment.  By the end of 1961, the 63-man naval advisory team had created a 4,500-man Vietnamese Navy with 119 ships, landing craft, and boats.  There was also a paramilitary junk force for coastal patrol.  The advisors also provided assistance to the Saigon Naval Shipyard, the largest facility of its kind in Southeast Asia.

In November 1961, a team headed by GEN Maxwell D. Taylor, chief military advisor to President John F. Kennedy, recommended that the Navy’s role in the counter insurgency struggle change from the advisory to the combat support role.  The resulting growth in the number of U.S. support units deployed to South Vietnam called for a buildup of logistics resources.  Because the Navy had been the lead service assigned to logistics support for SEA, it was directed to assume the task of supporting both Army and Air Force commands in-country.

The Navy’s Headquarters Support Activity, Saigon (HSAS), was established in July 1962.  HSAS provided U.S. military services in the capital of Saigon with supply, fiscal, public works, medical and dental, transportation, commissary and exchange, special services, security, and general administrative support.   Commanding Officer, HSAS, directed activity operations from the ex-French Cofat [Compagnie de Fabrication du Tabac] factory building on Hung Vuong Street, but other offices, warehouses, and personnel quarters were spread around the city.   From this decentralized complex, HSAS personnel carried out activities such as the management of both officer and enlisted quarters, messes, rest and recuperation (R&R) flights to other Asian cities, USO shows, and Armed Forces Radio services.    The command ran the 72-bed Saigon Station Hospital on Tran Hung Dao Street and a dental clinic.  Naval chaplains attached to HSAS attended to the spiritual needs of Armed Forces personnel.  The HSAS transported mail, commissary and exchange items to far-flung U.S. bases in-country and along the coast.

Though it was in the minority, other naval units formed part of the growing Saigon military community.  A subordinate command of the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks (BuDocks), the Officer-in-Charge of Construction, established his office on Tu Do Street.  The OIC of Construction and his staff oversaw the building of airfields, warehouses, and other facilities by civilian contractors.  The Navy established the headquarters of Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Pacific Fleet Detachment, Vietnam.  This office coordinated Seabee units that were heavily involved building naval and Army Special Forces camps and doing civil actions projects.  Another 7th Fleet detachment flew reconnaissance missions over Vietnam and conducted coastal surveillance from the nearby Tan Son Nhut airfield during 1962 and 1963.

In December 1963, the Vietnam conflict entered a more critical phase after the fall of President Diem.  Additional American forces were required to stem the increased communist tide.  American leaders established the Military Assistance Advisory Command, Vietnam, in May 1964.  MACV replaced MAAG and the former MAAG personnel were absorbed by MACV.  The old Navy section of MAAG became the Naval Advisory Group, Vietnam, and by the end of 1964 there were 235 naval personnel in the 4,900-man MACV command to attend to the needs of the growing Vietnamese Navy. 

During the twelve months of 1964, HSAS supplied over 100 local and field exchanges, maintained 186,000 square feet of warehouse space, 200,000 cubic feet of refrigerated storage, and 127,000 square feet of outside storage.  It also continued to provide messing, berthing, medical and dental, administrative, and personnel services during this time. 

At the end of 1964, American leaders anticipated a major build-up of U.S. and allied forces within the Republic of Vietnam.  Pacific military leaders gradually transferred HSAS responsibilities to deploying Army logistics commands.  However, HSAS continued to function with increased responsibilities during 1965.  Each month, the port facilities in Saigon handled 330,000 tons of cargo from 96 ships, transported 40,000 tons of cargo to other destinations within Vietnam, acquired 2.73 million cubic feet of warehouse storage, maintained 54 bachelor officers and enlisted quarters, the real estate division was managing 318 construction contracts, and the 109 medical personnel of the Saigon Station Hospital treated thousands of patients.  In May 1966, the resources of HSAS were turned over to the Army and HSAS was disestablished.

The influx of large American and allied combat forces into Vietnam from 1965 to 1968 caused the naval establishment in Saigon to undergo dramatic expansion.  In early 1965, a headquarters and operations center was established at the NAG for the Commander, Coastal Surveillance Force.  These activities became part of Task Force 115 and were named Operation MARKET TIME.  MARKET TIME units did country-wide air and sea patrols of the Vietnamese coastline to prevent North Vietnamese smuggling of arms and supplies to communist units fighting in South Vietnam.  Squadrons of SP-2 Neptune maritime aircraft flew from Tan Son Nhut airfield in support of MARKET TIME activities.  Helicopter Combat Support Squadron ONE detachments operated from the Tan Son Nhut facility.  MARKET TIME activities were subsequently moved to Cam Ranh Bay.

Operations to prevent the mining of the Long Tau shipping channel became a high priority.  The Long Tau was the main shipping channel that all supplies had to transit to reach the port of Saigon from the South China Sea.  The first minesweeping units were converted landing craft operating from Saigon Naval Shipyard.  Later, dedicated units from Mine Squadron 11 operated from Nha Be.  On 18 December 1965, the headquarters for the River Patrol Force, Task Force 116, code name Operation GAME WARDEN were initially established in Saigon.  The River Patrol Force headquarters were subsequently moved to Can Tho.  Operation GAME WARDEN patrols sought to interdict communist arms and supplies on the inland rivers and canals of Vietnam.

By 1966, the diverse nature of the naval commitment to Vietnam resulted in a major reorganization.  All of the Navy’s headquarters, advisory, coastal surveillance, helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft, mine warfare, river patrol, and harbor defense units were brought under one command on 1 April 1966.  This was Commander, Naval Forces, Vietnam (ComNavForV) with headquarters in Saigon.  ComNavForV assumed responsibility for coordination with the Saigon-based Military Sea Transportation Service office, with the OIC of Construction, and with the Commander, Coast Guard Activities, Vietnam.

Although HSAS was replaced by the Army’s own logistics commands for general support, naval units in the southern part of Vietnam continued to need Navy-specific support.  On the same day that HSAS was disestablished, 17 May 1966, these duties were assumed by the Naval Support Activity, Saigon.  NSA Saigon became responsible for all naval activities within the II, III, and IV Corps Tactical Zones.  NSA Da Nang was responsible for all activities within the I Corps Tactical Zone. 

To improve logistics flow to naval units in the field, NSA Saigon established subordinate detachments at An Thoi, Cam Ranh Bay, Cat Lo, Nha Be, Qui Nhon, Can Tho-Binh Thuy, Dong Tam, Sa Dec, Vinh Long, Vung Tau, and Ben Luc.  These sites were chosen because of their proximity to the waterways on which the combat units operated and their accessibility to support ships and craft.  Another important criterion for port selection was the presence of Vietnamese Naval installations that could provide base facilities and defenses for American naval tenants.

NSA Saigon had assigned or operational control of many vessels including dedicated fleet repair and maintenance ships, amphibious ships and craft, and a great variety of barges for berthing, messing, fuel and water supply, and repair.  NSA Saigon also ran an air transportation service, called “Air Cofat” that operated various helicopters and fixed-wing transport aircraft.

On 30 April 1972, the Commander, Naval Construction Battalions closed down and the staff relocated to the United States.  In June 1972, the NSA Saigon turned over its assets and responsibilities to the Vietnamese and was disestablished.  The Naval Support Facility at Newport carried out a similar transfer.  The ComNavForV headquarters turned over its responsibilities to the Vietnamese on 29 April 1973, and brought an end to the combat phase of U.S. Navy activities in Vietnam.  After March 1973, the only naval personnel remaining in Vietnam belonged to the naval section of the Defense Attaché Office of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.  For the next two years, this section oversaw the dwindling U.S. military assistance to South Vietnam.  By April 1975 all U.S. personnel were withdrawn from South Vietnam shortly before the country fell to the communist invaders from North Vietnam.  The Navy’s 25 year experience in Vietnam had come to an end.

U.S. Naval Support Activity Detachment, Vung Tau 1966-1971

Situated on a peninsula jutting from South Vietnam into the South China Sea, Vung Tau was a natural site for the U.S. Naval facility developed there.  An added bonus was the resort town of Vung Tau overlooked the entrance to the serpentine river approach to Saigon -- the nation’s capital and main port.

American naval presence at Vung Tau dated from 1954, when Naval Brach Group 1 helped French authorities construct an emergency tent camp for thousands of refugees evacuated from North Vietnam as part of the "Passage to Freedom" sealift operation.

Eleven years later, the Navy established both surface and air units of the Coastal Surveillance Force there.  These units patrolled the South Vietnamese coastline in search of infiltrating communist ships and craft.  A coastal surveillance command center at Vung Tau coordinated the operations of PCFs and SP-2 Neptune aircraft patrol units. Inshore Undersea Warfare Group-1-Detachment 1 (IUWG-1-1) was stationed on the mountaintop overlooking Vung Tau harbor and performed harbor patrols using their boats out of Cat Lo.

The Vung Tau site was also an interim staging area for the Navy’s forces deploying deeper into the Mekong Delta region south and west of Saigon.  Beginning in January 1967, ships carrying the men and specialized landing craft that would form the naval component of the joint Army-Navy Task Force 117 (Mobile Riverine Force), anchored off Vung Tau.

USS BENEWAH (APB-35) and USS COLLETON (APB-36) were self-propelled barracks ships that would house the Army infantry and the Navy boat crews of Task Force 117.  At the same time, the repair and maintenance ships Tutuila (ARG-4) and Askari (ARL-30), non-self propelled barracks ship (APL-26), and repair, berthing, and messing barge YRBM-17 arrived to provide the force with mobile support. The Mobile Riverine Force shifted to Dong Tam in June 1967, after training and material preparations were completed, but Vung Tau continued to serve its logistics needs.

Vung Tau also provided an operating base for the Navy’s helicopter and fixed wing assault units. In May 1967 Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3 established a headquarters at Vung Tau.

HAL-3 began its combat operations in South Vietnam from Vung Tau.  Later, the HAL-3 command center moved to NSA Binh Thuy, deep in the Mekong Delta.  Nevertheless, detachments of the Seawolves squadron continued to use the air facilities at Vung Tau.  From April 1969 onwards, half of the fixed-wing Light Attack Squadron 4 (VAL-4) flew from the nearby U.S. Army airfield at Vung Tau.  [The other half of VAL-4 flew from Binh Thuy.]

Under the direction of Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Vung Tau, logistics support was provided the locally based air and coastal patrol units as well as the river units deployed forward.  On a weekly basis, an LST usually stationed off Cape Vung Tau, delivered food, fuel, ammunition, and other supplies to the floating base of the Mobile Riverine Force operating near Dong Tam.  An Army-Navy liaison team used a small pier and warehouse to process and transfer incoming cargo to the LST.  Also anchored in the roadstead were the repair ships USS TUTUILA (ARG-4) and – later -- USS MARKAB (AR-23).  These ships provided depot-level repair and maintenance support to many river and coastal combat vessels, including the LSTs.  In addition to these units, harbor defense and harbor clearance units were based at Vung Tau.  Two heavy lift craft and other vessels of the HCU-1 command, belonging to Service Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, were positioned offshore prepared to salvage vessels in distress from the many waterways of South Vietnam.

As the Navy’s installations at nearby Cat Lo and in the Mekong Delta completed their development and took on greater logistics responsibilities, the Vung Tau facility diminished in importance. However, Vung Tau continued to serve as the maritime gateway to the southern regions of South Vietnam.

U.S. ATSB, Tra Cu 1968-1971

Tra Cu was a small Vietnamese town located on the Vam Co Dong River and was the location of a Navy ATSB.  The base formed part of Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT.  Its job was to interdict the flow of weapons and supplies from Cambodia to the Saigon area.  A section of PBRs patrolled various points along the Vam Co Dong and Vam Co Tay Rivers.

From December 1968 through the year 1969, Seabees brought from the I CTZ developed the base at Tra Cu building defensive works, ammunition bunkers, a tactical command center, helicopter pad, huts to house base personnel, and a mess hall.  The site also hosted a 50,000-gallon fuel farm for the boats and helicopters.  These additional facilities were required when a detachment of PBRs deployed to Tra Cu when enemy ground threats against the base at Hiep Hoa.

The base at Tra Cu was turned over to the Vietnamese in April 1971.


U.S. Naval Support Activity, An Thoi 1966-1971

Of all the Navy’s bases in South Vietnam, An Thoi, on the southern tip of Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand, was the most isolated. Almost 1,000 miles from Subic Bay, it severely taxed the Seventh Fleet’s mobile logistics support force during the Vietnam War.  Naval leaders recognized early the strategic value of the site: from there the naval forces could readily interdict sea infiltration of communist men and supplies from Cambodia.  Another favorable consideration was the availability to American units of real estate near the Vietnamese Navy’s existing compound.

In the summer of 1965, An Thoi was selected as a Coastal Surveillance Force combat and logistic base. Due to the U.S. Navy’s shortage of suitable vessels, the U.S. Coast Guard was called on to begin patrol operations in that area. Coast Guard Division 11, with nine 82-foot Point-class cutters (WPBs), began MARKET TIME coastal patrol operations from An Thoi in July 1965.   The WPBs were joined by U.S. naval forces using PCFs and a gunboat of the Royal Thai Navy.   In addition, a coastal surveillance command center was established to control operations in the sector.

While the Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment An Thoi, worked to improve berthing, messing, supply, repair, transportation, security, and other support for the combat units, the 7th Fleet provided additional assistance.  Repair ships USS KRISHNA (ARL-38) and USS TUTUILA (ARG-4) and non-self propelled barracks ships APL-21 and APL-55 were deployed to the site at various times from 1965 to 1969. Although new base facilities and a contractor-built 3,500-foot airstrip eased logistics problems, An Thoi continued to require much fleet support.

By May 1971, the An Thoi Logistics Support Base was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy.  An Thoi furnished major overhaul services for river and coastal combat craft and supplied a number of smaller U.S. bases in the Gulf of Thailand region.

U.S. Naval Support Base, Ben Luc 1968-1971

Located close to the junction of the Vam Co Tay and Vam Co Dong rivers, Ben Luc served as the main support base for the Navy’s GIANT SLINGSHOT operations during the Vietnam War.  The main objective of this operation was to interdict communist infiltration from the nearby "Parrot’s Beak" border area of Cambodia using river patrol, riverine assault, and helicopter units.

In December of 1968, American naval forces deployed to forward staging positions along both rivers.  At Ben Keo, Go Dau Hau, Hiep Hoa, and Tra Cu on the Vam Co Dong, and at Moc Hoa, Tan An, and Thuyen Nhon on the Vam Co Tay, Seabees were brought in from the Da Nang area to set up advanced base defenses, fuel and ammunition storage, a helicopter pad, sleeping and messing facilities, and other essentials. Facilities at Ben Luc were prepared for the intermediate level repair of the PBRs and for supply of supporting ATSBs. Due to its location in relation to the two key waterways and to Route 4, the main road to Saigon, Ben Luc was well-suited for its role.

The base site chosen on the bank nearest to Saigon -- in case the Viet Cong destroyed the bridge -- was less than ideal.  When the Navy’s survey team arrived at Ben Luc they found the site underwater and river material inadequate for landfill use.  To obtain funds for expensive truck-transported fill, Navy leaders designated Ben Luc a combined U.S.-Vietnamese naval base, thereby enabling the effort to tap into available Vietnamization program allocations.

Other problems hindered the base development effort.  Fears that the French had laid a minefield in the area prompted a time-consuming search by an EOD team. The dredge "Western Eagle" was damaged by a Viet Cong rockets and -- on another occasion -- a crane-bearing barge tipped over, dropping machinery into the river.  Finally, an LST from Da Nang transporting material required for construction of the installation was unable to off-load its cargo because the facilities at Ben Luc were too crude. The ship was diverted to Newport Pier near Saigon and the resources were transferred to trucks for delivery to the site.

At the time base facilities were under construction, the Navy took interim measures to provide logistics support to the patrol forces up river.  YR-9, a floating workshop with spaces that were ideal for an operations and communications center, was grounded at the site.  In addition, the USS HARNETT COUNTY (LST-821) temporarily anchored in the river to provide berthing for the PBR crews.

The intermediate support base was commissioned in July 1969 as Naval Support Activity Saigon, Detachment Ben Luc.  By September of 1969, 812 men worked at the installation and as many as 70 vessels were tied-up or anchored in the river.

The Vietnamese Navy relieved U.S. forces of operational control for GIANT SLINGSHOT in May 1970.  In April 1971, the turnover process was completed when Ben Luc and the ATSBs on both rivers were turned over to the Republic of Vietnam.

U.S. Naval Support Activity, Can Tho and Binh Thuy 1966-1971

Can Tho, situated in the center of South Vietnam’s vital Mekong Delta was the hub of American naval operations in the region. The site was chosen because of its location on the Bassac River.  Can Tho was ideal as a base for operations against Viet Cong supply traffic on surrounding waterways.   Its other attractive feature was the city’s accessibility to logistics vessels deployed in the South China Sea.  An existing Vietnamese Navy installation could partially accommodate the first increment of the American PBR units scheduled to deploy there.   Can Tho was the largest city west of Saigon, and key Vietnamese naval and military command headquarters were located there.

In May 1966, a ten-boat section of River Division 51 deployed to Can Tho to start the GAME WARDEN operations in the area.  Although the Vietnamese River Assault Group base possessed a marine railway and a number of storage buildings, the logistics support for the Americans was austere in the beginning.  Quarters were a special problem, and necessitated the acquisition of facilities in the city.   When the Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Can Tho, was established in August 1966, conditions improved.  Seabees installed portable fuel bladders and connected a number of pontoons to form a small pier for the PBR unit.  In October, YRBM-9 [a repair, berthing, and messing barge] arrived at Can Tho, easing support problems enough to allow the deployment from Saigon of Commander River Patrol Force and his staff.

At the same time the Naval Support Activity oversaw the deployment of a major base complex at nearby Binh Thuy, and by mid-summer 1967 this facility was prepared to receive tenants.

In July 1967, the headquarters of the River Patrol Force was moved to Binh Thuy, and shortly afterward the Naval Support Activity Saigon, detachment Can Tho, was redesignated Detachment Binh Thuy. Another headquarters took shape in the area when the Deputy ComNavForV, was charged in late 1968 with implementing Operation SEALORDS [Southeast Asia Land, Ocean, River, and Delta Strategy].  SEALORDS sought to interdict the infiltration of communist troops and supplies from Cambodia.

To enhance support from Binh Thuy of naval combat units throughout the Delta, a great effort was made during 1968 to improve the airstrip at Can Tho and to complete a 1,500 foot airstrip, hangers, aircraft repair shops, and berthing and messing facilities at Binh Thuy.  As a result, in 1969 major components of Helicopter Attack (light) Squadron 3, the “Seawolves”, and Light Attack Squadron 4, the "Black Ponies" the Navy’s only combat air support units based in South Vietnam, were established there.

As SEALORDS operations got underway, steps were taken, under the Vietnamization program, to diminish the Navy’s role in the Delta and to enhance that of the Vietnamese Navy.  Between 1969 and 1972 American naval personnel trained their Vietnamese counterparts; turned over river craft, equipment, and installations to them; and conducted the U.S. withdrawal.  The turnover of the Bin Thuy Logistics Support Base and the disestablishment of the Naval Air Squadron and the Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Binh Thuy, in April 1972, concluded the major U.S. naval presence in the Can Tho-Binh Thuy area.

          U.S. Naval Combat Base, Chau Doc 1969-1971

Chau Doc on the Bassac River was the site of a naval combat base during the Vietnam War.  American and Vietnamese river forces staged from the base while patrolling the rivers and canals along the Cambodia border as part of Operation SEALORDS anti-infiltration strategy of 1969-1970.

U.S. Naval Logistics Installation, Cho Moi 1969-1971

Cho Moi, a village on the Mekong River, was the site of a naval logistic installation during the Vietnam War.

U.S. naval leaders chose Cho Moi for the role of interdicting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese infiltration into the Mekong Delta from Cambodia.  The Cho Moi intermediate support base provided U.S. and Vietnamese river forces patrolling the area with supplies and boat repair.

Once the Vietnamese Navy was prepared to handle this task, U.S. naval forces withdrew and the base was disestablished in 1971.

 U.S. Naval Support Activity, Dong Tam 1966-1971

Dong Tam, on the My Tho branch of the Mekong River, was the home for a unique joint-services formation, the Mobile Riverine Force. Composed of a brigade of the Army’s Ninth Infantry Division and the Navy’s Riverine Assault Force, the 5,000-man unit was created to launch swift, wide-ranging offensive operations against the Viet Cong by using the many waterways in the region.  To retain flexibility, logistics support resources were concentrated on river-based ships, smaller craft and pontoon barges that deployed with the combat units.

However, recognition that supplemental shore facilities were needed prompted the search for a suitable site.  Anticipating operations against the Viet Cong in the southern and western approaches to Saigon, Army and Navy leaders sought a base site that was centrally located and on a major river in the region.  The My Tho area possessed some assets, but there was a scarcity of unoccupied land on which to locate a base.  About 5 miles west of the city, at Dong Tam, there were several hundred acres of abandoned rice paddy that could be developed to support a base.

In August 1966, dredges began filling a 1-square mile area with river sand and at the same time excavating a boat turning basin.  This work was dangerous; three of the five dredges used at Dong Tam from 1966 to 1969 were damaged or sunk by Viet Cong swimmers.  Another vessel was sunk when it dredged up live ordnance that exploded.

Regardless of the risk, by January 1967 the site was ready to receive construction forces.  Seabees moved ashore and began work on berthing, messing, administrative, and recreational facilities with pre- stocked materials transported from Saigon by the USS BRULE (AKL-28), USS MARK (AKL-12) and YFR-889.  Navy Seabees installed a pier using six pontoons.

In January 1967 the Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Dong Tam, was established to provide the naval component of the Mobile Riverine Force with fuel, ammunition, and supplies.  Maintenance and repair of river craft were also responsibilities.  While the detachment worked to build up the logistics base, interim measures were taken to support the assault force.  A 12,000 gallon fuel barge, eight mechanized landing craft (LCM-3), a repair, berthing and messing barge -- YRBM-17, a non-self propelled barracks ship -- APL-26, and floating crane YD-220 were dispatched to the site in the first half of 1967.

With the base prepared, River Assault Squadron 9 elements of the Navy’s assault force deployed to Dong Tam in March and April 1967. Each squadron consisted of various converted landing craft, including two command craft (CCB) five monitors, twenty-six armored troop carriers (ATC), sixteen assault patrol boats (ASPB), and one refueler. Mobile support for the entire Mobile Riverine Force was by two self-propelled barracks ships (APBs) BENEWAH (APB-35), USS COLLETON (APB-36), two tank landing ships (LST) two tugs (YTB) and a non-self propelled barracks barge (APL-26) and landing craft repair ship USS ASKARI (ARL-30), and a repair barge (YFNB).

By the end of 1967 the base at Dong Tam was able to provide boat-berthing, dry dock, maintenance and repair, supply, communications, sleeping and messing facilities for one river assault squadron. The Army compound accommodated an infantry   battalion and an artillery battalion.  These units periodically rotated with their counterparts afloat.  In addition, a detachment a detachment of the Navy’s Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3 was based at Dong Tam for support of the MRF.

During 1968 the responsive logistic support provided by the detachment at Dong Tam, as well as the support contingent afloat,
enabled the Mobile Riverine Force to surprise and destroy widely separated enemy units. During the Tet Offensive of 1968, the MRF saved My Tho, Can Tho, and Vinh Long from complete enemy destruction.

Although the Mobile Riverine Force was disbanded in August 1969, Dong Tam continued to serve the Navy in Vietnam. As a logistical Support Base, it provided river craft with major overhauls and stocked large amounts of supply items for smaller installations in the area.  In September 1971, once the Vietnamese Navy was prepared to take on the responsibility for support of river operations in the region, the U.S. Navy turned over its facilities at Dong Tam.

 U.S. Naval ATSB, Ha Tien 1968-1970

The American Naval Base at Ha Tien, on the South Vietnam-Cambodia border served as an ATSB for PBR units engaged in anti-infiltration operations along the Vinh Te Canal.  The Ha Tien facility was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in December 1970 after two years of operation.

 U.S./VNN Forces Operating Base, Kien An 1969-1970

Situated on the Cai Lon River in the Mekong Delta, Kien An served as operating base for the U.S. and Vietnamese river.  Developed during 1969, the base was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in December 1970.

 U.S. Naval Intermediate Support Base, Long Phu 1967-1971

Long Phu, located at the mouth of the Bassac River in the Mekong Delta, served as a logistic facility for American and Vietnamese river and coastal units.  As an intermediate support base, Long Phu provided smaller operating bases in the region with fuel, maintenance, administration, and supplies.  The installation was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in September 1971.

U.S. ATSB, Long Xuyen 1967-1971

The austere facility at Long Xuyen, served as an ATSB for U.S. Naval Forces.  From August 1966 to April 1967, the 20 PBRs of River Division 53 patrolled a segment of the Hau Giang River as part of Operation GAME WARDEN.  The unit was provided with boat repair, supply, and other logistic support by a detachment of Naval Support Activity, Saigon.

U. S. naval leaders chose the Long Xuyen site because it was accessible by water and air (with a 3,000-foot airstrip) and because a South Vietnamese Navy River Assault Group base already existed there.  It was hoped that co-location of American and Vietnamese forces would foster allied cooperation and lessen the need for the construction of new facilities.  Steps were taken in 1967 to improve this forward base, including the installation of a pontoon pier and a fuel storage bladder, the extension of an existing boat ramp, and deployment of a fuel oil barge.  U.S. naval forces shifted to Tan Chau on the Cambodia border in 1969 and the Long Xuyen facility was disestablished when the enemy presence in the area diminished.

Later in the war, the Navy developed an intermediate support base at Long Xuyen that provided supplies and repairs in the river units operating along the Cambodian border.  The Facility was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in September 1971.

U.S. ATSB, Moc Hoa 1968-1971

Located on the Vam Co Tay River north of Vietnam’s Plain of Reeds, Moc Hoa served as an ATSB. Moc Hoa sat astride an infiltration route from Cambodia that had been used by the VC. The U.S. Navy established the staging base there for the PBR units that patrolled this sector of the Vam Co Tay in Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT.

In 1969 the Navy’s Seabees deployed to the site from the Da Nang area and soon provided the river force with a suitable base.  The Seabees installed sleeping and messing facilities, fuel and ammunition storage, helicopter pad, defensive bunkers, and an operation center.

The Advanced Tactical Support Base at Moc Hoa was transferred to South Vietnam in April 1971.

U.S. Naval Support Activity, My Tho 1966-1969

This strategically placed city in the republic of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region was the home for several PBR.  Naval leaders chose to develop a base at My Tho because it was at the junction of Route 4 -- the only relatively good road traversing the Delta and it was on the My Tho River branch of the Mekong. This river was important for the Navy’s conduct of the GAME WARDEN interdiction operation, and it provided easy access for logistics ships deployed in the South China Sea.


Another factor in My Tho’s selection was its proximity to Kien Hoa Province, the birthplace of the Viet Cong National Liberation Front and long a communist stronghold. The subsequent enemy mortar and rocket attacks on the U.S. naval Installations attested to the validity of this assessment. Finally, the location of American naval units at the Vietnamese Navy River Assault Group base – it was hoped -- would foster allied cooperation and make use of existing facilities.

In June 1966 a ten-boat section of River Division 53 began patrol operations from the My Tho base, which hardly warranted that description.  Repair, spare parts, and ammunition were stored in tents or rudimentary shelters.  Personnel were quartered away from the waterfront in leased buildings, including the less than sumptuous two-story Victory Hotel.  To alleviate these problems construction began in November on new structures at a nearby Site.  Although the base was fully operational by March 1967, with establishment of the Naval Support Activity Saigon, Detachment My Tho, additional construction provided helicopter facilities at the existing 1,600 foot airstrip, a 1,000 barrel fuel tank farm, and a mine defense net upriver. The My Tho base was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in November 1969.

U.S. ATSB, Nam Can 1969-1971

One of the most remote of all the Navy’s bases in Vietnam was Nam Can. It was situated on the north bank of the Cau Lon River on the Ca Mau Peninsula. Establishment of a shore facility at Nam Can resulted from a strategic decision to penetrate recognized Viet Cong strongholds in order to disrupt enemy supply lines and hinder waterborne movement.  Reasserting the sovereignty of the South Vietnamese government over this area was another prime consideration.  Consequently, in June 1969, naval harbor craft towed the first of thirteen pontoons that were to comprise a floating base complex to a mooring point off the deserted Vietnamese town of Nam Can.

Operations from this mobile facility, named SEA FLOAT, soon improved security in the surrounding area, prompting plans to develop an installation ashore on the site of the destroyed town.  Designated SOLID ANCHOR, the base was designed to protect and support U.S. and South Vietnamese naval forces engaged in river and coastal operations.

Construction problems were legion.  Building material had to be shipped in from distant areas -- especially Saigon which was 150 miles from the site.  Because local dredged fill was unsuitable, even sand was barged in.  In addition, the heavy equipment of Seabee Battalion ONE repeatedly became mired in the extremely porous ground.  Equally difficult were the on-going rocket and mortar attacks as well as the task of clearing the surrounding scrub and bush away from the perimeter.  Defoliation operations helped keep the enemy from getting close to the base.  Nonetheless, during 1970-71 the Nam Can Intermediate Support Base became fully functional and provided the allied combat units on the Cau Mau Peninsula with vital assistance.

The Vietnamese Navy assumed the SOLID ANCHOR mission in April 1971 and ended the last major American combat operation in Vietnam. In September of 1971, U.S. naval personnel turned over control of the shore facility to their Vietnamese counterparts.

U.S. ATSB, Phuoc Xuyen 1969-1971

Phuoc Xuyen, on the south bank of the Grand Canal, about 15 miles west of Thuyen Nhon, was the site of one of the Navy’s Advanced Tactical Support Bases.  PBR units taking part in Operation SEALORDS, the interdiction of communist arms and supplies from Cambodia, received basic supplies of fuel, food, and ammunition from the facility. The ATSB was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in April 1971.

 U.S. Naval Intermediate Support Base, Rach Soi 1969-1971

This town, on the western coast of South Vietnam near Rach Gia, was the site of a naval logistic base.  U.S. naval leaders selected Rach Soi during 1969 as a base from which to support a new strategy called Operation SEALORDS.  SEALORDS sought to interdict the flow of communist supplies and troops from Cambodia.  Located at the western end of two major canals, which American and Vietnamese river forces patrolled as a key part of the overall plan, Rach Soi was well placed to provide the area’s river patrol boat (PBR) operating bases with supplies and boat repair.

In June 1971, the intermediate base at Rach Soi was disestablished and the base continued to support the Vietnamese Navy.  

U.S. Naval Support Activity Detachment, Sa Dec 1966-1971

Located on the south bank of the Mekong River in the center of the Mekong Delta, Sa Dec was the site of a forward combat base during the Vietnam War.  A ten-boat section of River Division 52 first deployed there during the summer of 1966 as part of Operation GAME WARDEN.

Naval leaders chose Sa Dec as a staging area because the city lay astride the key waterway of the area and was accessible to logistics support vessels steaming up-river from the South China Sea. In addition, a Vietnamese Army compound there contained adequate facilities, including a boat yard and a small marine railway for the intermediate-level repair of river patrol craft.

A detachment of Naval Support Activity, Saigon provided the combat unit with logistics support and oversaw base development, including the installation of a pontoon pier, fuel storage bladder, and a boat ramp. The naval facility at Sa Dec was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in April 1971.

U.S. ATSB, Song Ong Doc 1969-1971

Located on the west coast of South Vietnam, the ATSB at Song Ong Doc served for a short time during the Vietnam War as an operational base for the U.S. and Vietnamese river forces.  During late 1969 and 1970, allied naval units patrolled the area’s numerous waterways as part of the SEALORDS strategy to interdict the Viet Cong supply lines and troop movements.  

On the night of October 20, 1970, the ATSB at BREEZY COVE (Song Ong Doc) was totally destroyed by mortars, recoilless rifles, and a company-sized ground attack.  Naval leaders decided to rebuild the base using old SEA FLOAT barges and salvaged SOD barges.  The barges were used to build a base at the town of Song Ong Doc, several miles up river from the former base at the river mouth.  In June 1971, the barges were moved to Ca Mau.  As part of the Vietnamization program, the Song Ong Doc facility was completely turned over to the Vietnamese in 1971.

U.S. ATSB, Tan An 1968-1969

The Navy established an ATSB at this site on South Vietnam’s Vam Co Tay River for a short time during the Vietnam War.  Initially, naval leaders planned to support anti-infiltration river patrols on the river northwest of Saigon from a repair, berthing, and messing barge – YRBM - stationed at Tan An. However when the vessel was deployed to another location down river, the shore facilities proved inadequate to support the PBR unit based there.  As a result, in March 1969 the naval force re-established its base of operations on Mobile Support Base II, which consisted of connected pontoons moored in the river.         

U.S. Naval River Patrol Base, Tan Chau 1969-1970

Tan Chau was the site of a naval operating base located on the Cuu Long River of the upper Mekong on the South Vietnamese-Cambodian border. Tan Chau provided PBR units with a relatively secure haven from which to patrol the waterways of the region. The facility served as a key staging base during the Operation SEALORDS anti-infiltration campaign of 1969-1970. The Tan Chau installation was turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in December 1970.

U.S. ATSB, Thuyen Nhon 1969-1971

As part of Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT anti-infiltration operations, the Navy established an ATSB at Thuyen Nhon on the Vam Co Tay River. PBR units staged there while acting to cut the flow of communist men and supplies into South Vietnam from the near by "Parrot’s Beak" section of Cambodia.

During 1969 and 1970 Seabees, using materials brought in from Da Nang constructed an operation center, defensive bunkers, ammunition and fuel storage facilities, a helicopter pad, sleeping quarters, and a mess hall.

The Vietnamese Navy relieved U.S. Naval Forces at Thuyen Nhon in April 1971.

U.S. Naval Facility, Vinh Long 1966-1971

This Vietnam city, in the eastern sector of the Mekong Delta was the site of a U.S. naval facility.  Vinh Long was selected for a number of reasons: U.S. naval leaders intended to interdict communist waterborne movement with units patrolling the major rivers in Operation GAME WARDEN; the city was located on the wide Co Chien River; it was accessible to U.S. logistics support vessels in the South China Sea; and facilities at the Vietnamese River Assault Group base were ready to accommodate an American river force.
Beginning in August 1966 PBR units deployed to Vinh Long.  From there they operated against the Viet Cong supply network.  The following year (1967), the PBR forces were joined by a detachment of HAL-3, the Seawolves.
At the beginning, base support was crude. Spare parts and supplies were dispensed from small shacks, and boat repairs were performed using a boat ramp, an engine lifting rig, and a small crane.  Quarters for the men were established in the city in two crowded villas six kilometers from the PBR base.
Conditions gradually improved as the navy devoted resources to the base development.  Seabees installed a pier with Army supplied pontoons and a portable fuel storage bladder.  Initial Progress in the creation of support facilities suffered a set back when Viet Cong forces overran the base during the Tet Offensive of 1968.  The tactical operations center was destroyed along with its communications equipment, along with the spare parts buildings.  Vinh Long personnel were forced to evacuate to the USS GARRETT COUNTY (LST-786).
Naval leaders acted quickly to provide mobile support. YR-9, a converted large covered lighter, was based at Vinh Long to handle maintenance and repair tasks, and APL-46, a messing and berthing barge, dropped anchor off the river city in October 1968.  At that time the 20-boat PBR force, a detachment of SEALs, and the Naval Support Activity, Saigon Detachment Vinh Long moved afloat.  Following the relief, in January 1969, of YR-9 and APL-46 by YRBM-20, a vessel that performed all the functions of the two former craft, the U.S. naval contingent was completely mobile.  On 1 February 1969, the Naval Support Activity, Saigon Detachment Vinh Long, was disestablished. However, the facility continued to serve as an intermediate support base until September 1971, when the Vietnamese Navy assumed control.


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