Chapter V:
The Bases
The port of Saigon and, to a lesser extent, the port of Cam Ranh Bay were the only harbors in South Vietnam capable of docking deep-draft oceangoing vessels before the force buildup in early 1965. There were shallow-draft port facilities at Nha Trang, Qui Nhon, and Da Nang, and there were numerous beaches along the coast over which cargo could be landed from ships lying offshore. But in 1965 only one berth in the old port of Saigon was permanently allotted to American forces, although from two to ten were used at various times. In January 1966 three berths were permanently assigned for United States military use in Saigon. Cam Ranh Bay had at that time only one deep-draft pier in operation which was insufficient for existing and projected cargo handling requirements.
From Washington a close watch was being kept on the operation of Vietnamese ports throughout 1965 and 1966. Ninety percent of all military supplies and equipment were destined to arrive in Vietnam by deep-draft vessels, and millions of tons of foodstuffs and nation-building equipment imported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Vietnamese government were at the same time competing for berth space at the port of Saigon. Until an effective Pacific theater movement agency was in operation to balance port reception capability with inbound shipping and until limits were placed on out-of-country cargo shippers, a tremendous backlog of vessels could be expected in Vietnamese waters or in nearby port facilities. At one time over 100 deep-draft vessels were awaiting discharge in Vietnamese waters or were in holding areas at Okinawa in the Ryukyus or Subic Bay in the Philippines. Many ships loaded with supplies had to wait several months for berthing and off-loading.
The Army lacked the shallow-draft shipping necessary to take advantage of shallow port facilities, but this was offset somewhat by landing cargo across undeveloped beaches; deep-draft vessels were unloaded into Army and Navy landing craft and civilian barges. Although supplies could be landed this way, it was not sufficiently

PICTURE - EARLY CONSTRUCTION at Cam Ranh Bay by the 497th Port Construction Company.
EARLY CONSTRUCTION at Cam Ranh Bay by the 497th Port Construction Company.
rapid and would certainly not work as supplies were increased. There never really were enough lighters or barges.
The 1st Logistical Command Engineer Section was responsible for initial construction planning for Army requirements in Vietnam, including the development of port facilities. This small section began the initial development of ports. Upon the arrival of the 18th Engineer Brigade and with the organization of a USARV Engineer Section, this responsibility was transferred to a new headquarters. Planning for the over-all development of ports within Vietnam became the responsibility of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, the MACV J-4.
Later in the summer of 1965, the USARV Engineer Section made studies of required construction to refine the original plans. The only organized Army port construction company, the 497th, arrived at Cam Ranh Bay late that summer from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to assist in the port construction program. The 497th helped develop requirements and plans for both long- and short-range port

facilities throughout Vietnam, exclusive of the I Corps area, whose development remained with the Navy.
The plan was to develop Saigon, Da Nang, and Cam Ranh Bay into major logistical bases and Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, Phan Rang, Chu Lai, Phu Bai, and Vung Tau into minor support bases. Because of the tactical and geographical isolation of these ports, all supplies had to come by sea. Port development involved more than the construction of additional piers. Barge off loading facilities, ramps for landing craft, and petroleum unloading facilities were all required.
To begin the port construction projects, a fleet of dredges was assembled under the flag of the Navy's Officer In Charge of Construction. The hydraulic dredge is without question the most useful piece of equipment afloat for harbor and channel projects, reclamation and landfill, and for providing the huge stockpiles of sand necessary for other construction projects. In 1966 the dredge fleet included two side-casting and three hopper dredges, the Davison and the Hyde from the Army Corps of Engineers civil works fleet, and eighteen pipeline cutterhead dredges. During the period November 1965 through May 1970, hydraulic dredges excavated 64.8 million cubic meters of canal, entrance channel, and river bottom material.
The scope of work, availability of funds, hydrographic surveys, soils explorations, length of maintenance and overhaul periods, and desired completion dates are as in the planning and executings of dredging operations as in any other engineering project; but familiar problems were compounded by a few others in Vietnam. For example, the monsoon season interrupted earthwork on land reclamation projects; civilian crews operating dredges had to be protected against enemy attack; safety measures were imperative for dredging in areas where the marine bottom was peppered with live explosives; and the extremely long supply line was encumbered with faulty requisition transmission, frustrating concepts, and an extreme shortage of needed replacement parts. Added to this was an ever-changing tactical situation which would not respect previously established readiness dates or work schedules.
Site acquisition was the first step in hydraulic fill operations. Maintenance dredging projects usually encountered little opposition, since both the military and civilians considered land reclamation beneficial. However, when improved land was required for a project, time-consuming negotiations followed. Requests for hydraulic fill projects had to be forwarded by the military to the Interior Ministerial Real Estate Committee, Ministry of Defense, Government of Vietnam. If approved, IMREC directed the appro-

priate province chief to form a committee to evaluate real-estate costs and to determine what homes, graves, facilities, or other improvements would require relocation and to whom compensation would be paid. After the site was acquired, actual work could begin. To illustrate how dredging operations progressed in Vietnam, we can consider one project-at Dong Tam in IV Corps.
Dong Tam, a marshy area lying along the My Tho River, eight kilometers west of the town of My Tho and sixty-five kilometers southwest of Saigon, was selected as the site for a joint Army-Navy military complex. To develop the location into a base required excavating a rice paddy for development into a turning basin and dredging an entrance channel into the basin from the My Tho River. The over-all plan also called for dredging sand from the river, creating a landfill of one square mile and providing a stockpile for airfield, concrete, and road construction projects in the surrounding area. The 16-inch pipeline cutterhead, Cho Gao, first of five dredges assigned, started work on 4 August 1966. The basin and channel had a higher priority than the sand stockpile and were completed in April 1967. The shortage of sand at Dong Tam persisted.
Dredging at Dong Tam was not without combat losses. First, the Jamaica Bay, a 30-inch pipeline cutterhead dredge, was sunk by sappers on 9 January 1967. Two American crew members were drowned during the incident. Subsequently, the dredge was salvaged, but while under tow off the port of Vung Tau, she encountered heavy seas and sank. Attempts to raise her were unsuccessful and the dredge now lies on the bottom of the South China Sea off the coast of South Vietnam. Fortunately her sister dredge, the New Jersey, was also in the country and available as a replacement.
The Thu Bon 1, a 12-inch pipeline cutterhead dredge, was sunk by sappers on 28 July 1968 while working in the entrance channel. Following salvage, a survey team estimated that repair costs would reach at least 75 percent of the purchase price; therefore, the decision was made to scrap the dredge for parts. She was replaced by a similar 12-inch dredge, the Thu Bon 11. Thirteen months later, on 22 September 1969, the U.S. Navy-owned 27-inch pipeline cutterhead Sandpumper sucker up live ordnance from the bottom of the My Tho River and sank following detonation of the explosive. For a period of four months, attempts were made to raise her but, as in the case of the Thu Bon I, a cost survey revealed that salvage and repair were not economically feasible. A disposition board recommended that the dredge be stricken from the register of U.S. Navy vessels and turned over to military authorities for disposal. The

Sandpumper now rests in the My Tho River, posing no immediate threat to navigation and awaiting her ultimate fate.
Finally, on 22 November 1969, sappers sank the 30-inch pipeline cutterhead New Jersey. Harbor Clearance Unit One, a U.S. Navy team from the Subic Bay Naval Base, raised her on 30 December. Taken to Singapore in January 1970, she underwent overhaul and repairs in the Keppel Yards. In May 1970 she was towed back to Vietnam, refitted with the gear that had not been taken to Singapore, and put back in operation performing maintenance dredging at Qui Nhon.
An outstanding contribution in expediting the port construction program was made by using DeLong Floating Piers. These patented products of the DeLong Corporation are sectional and can be fabricated outside of the theater of operations in a variety of sizes and configurations, towed to a site, and quickly emplaced. These piers made it possible to develop additional deep-draft ports and berths at Qui Nhon, Vung Tau, Cam Ranh Bay, Vung Ro, and Da Nang in record time.
The first DeLong pier with all its equipment and spare parts was towed to Cam Ranh Bay from the east coast of the United
PICTURE - A DELONG PIER under construction at the Cam Ranh port facility.
A DELONG PIER under construction at the Cam Ranh port facility.

States in a trip that took about two months. The men of the 497th Port Construction Company, who were to place the pier, were inexperienced in the construction of DeLongs and had to learn on the job. Advice and technical assistance were provided by representatives of the manufacturer.
The first pier was essentially a 90x300-foot barge supported by eighteen tubular steel caissons six feet in diameter and fifty feet long. The additional caisson sections were joined end to end to provide the required length. Collars attached to the pier caissons were driven into the harbor bottom, and pneumatic jacks, which were a part of the collars, were then used to jack the barge up on its legs to a usable height.
Before placing the pier, no test piles could be driven or test bores taken because the equipment was lacking. Test bore data was available for the adjacent pier, but the depth of refusal for the caissons could not be accurately predicted. Because of a mud layer beneath the sand bottom of the bay, three lengths of caisson 150 feet long were required at each location. Although two sections could be joined before erection, the third had to be welded on in place, a process that required twenty days. The first DeLong pier, completed in mid-December 1965, doubled the capacity of the Cam Ranh Bay port. This pier required forty-five days for construction by sixteen men. Engineers estimated that a timber-pile pier would have required at least six months' work by a construction platoon of forty men, plus supporting equipment and operators, as well as a large number of hard to get timber piles and construction timber. It was demonstrated that significant savings in time and material could be had with the DeLong pier compared to an equivalent timber-pile pier.
The two existing piers for deep-draft vessels still lacked in-transit storage areas, so a sheet-pile bulkhead was constructed between the causeways to each pier. The area behind the bulkhead was filled in using a 30-inch pipeline dredge and 96,000 cubic yards of material. The surface was then stabilized to provide a large cargo-handling area. (Map 5)
Work started on the third general cargo pier at Cam Ranh Bay in May 1966. This was a two-barge DeLong pier ninety feet wide by six hundred feet long. It was installed by the DeLong Corporation, which was under contract to the Army to install all the additional DeLong piers used in Vietnam, with engineer units providing connecting causeways, abutments, roads, and hardstands.
In September 1965, large-scale landing ship, tank (LST), operations began. LST's transported supplies from Saigon, Cam Ranh Bay, and Okinawa to the shallow ports of Qui Nhon, Vung Tau,

and Nha Trang. Consequently, the first job for the port construction company was to increase the traffic-handling capacity at these sites.
Sand on many Vietnamese beaches becomes almost impassable with heavy use and severely limits the loads that can be transported across the beach. Many methods of stabilizing sand were tried unsuccessfully, and wave action over the beaches washed away most expedients. However, late in 1965, large coral beds were found offshore at Cam Ranh Bay; these deposits were then blasted and excavated with draglines. The coral was crushed and hauled to the landing sites. The foreshore area between high and low tide marks was excavated to eighteen inches, and the crushed coral was placed

PICTURE - FIRST DELONG in use at Cam Ranh.
FIRST DELONG in use at Cam Ranh.
in layers and compacted with rollers, then the beach was graded to its original alignment. This process gave satisfactory results that lasted for several months with only minor repairs.
At Cam Ranh Bay the first expeditionary airfield was under construction by Raymond, Morrison-Knudsen, and the first jet fighter aircraft were scheduled to arrive on 1 November 1965. However, the fuel supply available was inadequate, so in early October work started on a 400-foot timber fuel jetty extending out to the five and a half fathom line. The floating pile-driving equipment of the port construction company was used to construct the jetty, and on 1 November fuel was being pumped from a tanker to the Cam Ranh Bay Air Base ten miles away. But marine wood borers, which are prevalent in Vietnamese waters, caused a goodly amount of damage to the jetty's untreated timbers within a very short time. Treated timbers were not available for bracing of either the POL jetty or the wharf; and lateral and longitudinal bracing had to be replaced quite often.
With the addition of the third and fourth DeLong piers, and more than 3,000 linear feet of bulkhead, the port facility formed a major part of the logistical area at Cam Ranh Bay, which became one of the largest in the Republic of Vietnam.
Soon after arriving in Cam Ranh Bay, the 1st Platoon of the 497th Engineer Company went to Qui Nhon where with elements of the 84th Engineer Battalion a considerable effort was being made to increase the capacity of port facilities. A "Navy cube" floating

pier, 42 feet wide by 192 feet long, was built and connected to the shore with a 200-foot rock-filled causeway in February 1966. These cube piers consisting of 5x7x7-foot cubes of steel fastened together with angle irons and cables were used extensively in Vietnam. They could be towed for short distances and emplaced where needed, requiring very little on-site construction time.
Inasmuch as Qui Nhon was a shallow-draft port, ramps for landing craft were needed. However, no suitable land was available. The first step, therefore, was the extension of the Qui Nhon Peninsula with approximately 45,000 cubic yards of fill to create a usable area measuring 620 feet by 360 feet. A sheet-pile cofferdam was built to exclude water from the work site, and select fill was placed and faced with riprap, or a lose stone foundation, on a slope of five to one. This extension to the peninsula provided an excellent place for LCU's (landing craft, utility) and LCM's (landing craft, mechanized) to unload and also increased the in-transit storage area by more than 100 percent. (Map 6)
In February 1966 Qui Nhon was changed from a support area to a logistical base, which required increased storage capacity. Ton-

nage requirements were calculated, and the design for the port was developed. Phase I included eight barge unloading points, four deep-draft berths provided by DeLong piers, and two permanent LST ramps. In June 1966 the 937th Engineer Group began building a four-lane port access road 1.5 miles across the bay to bypass the congested city of Qui Nhon. The subbase of the access road was hydraulic fill. The approach channel, some two miles in length, and the turning basin were dredged. A total of 4,000,000 cubic yards of material was moved. A submarine pipeline for the transfer of petroleum from tankers to tank farms was installed. Two 4-inch lines near the landing craft ramps and one 4-inch line on the seaward side of Qui Nhon were also put in but were accessible only to small tankers. For stabilizing the tankers while unloading, a system of anchorage and breasting dolphins was rigged at the sea end of the pipelines.
With the increased movement of troops into the Saigon area, .the deep-draft facilities there proved completely inadequate. However, a plan was already under way to construct a new port on the Saigon River upstream from the city. The location was chosen by Captain Maury Werth, U.S. Navy, who was a special assistant to the MACV J-4. This site, called Newport, was in a sparsely populated area adjacent to a main highway connecting Saigon with the newly developing Long Binh area some twenty miles from Saigon. This massive project financed by the Army was constructed by RMK-BRJ.
To meet the immediate need for additional port facilities in the Saigon area, the 18th Engineer Brigade built six cargo barge unloading points near the Long Binh Depot. The ammunition unloading points were constructed on the Dong Nai River at Cogido, and two piers were constructed for docking.
The 536th Port Construction Detachment, consisting of a construction platoon and construction support elements, operated in Vung Tau during the spring of 1966. This detachment developed temporary LST facilities, timber-pile piers, sheet-pile bulkheads, and DeLong pier abutments.
Improvements in the flow of cargo not only had a military impact but also aided the Vietnamese people, since a steady flow of consumer goods helped to combat the inflation which threatened to ruin the Vietnamese economy. To a very great extent, the success in providing logistical support to American forces in South Vietnam was a direct result of port expansion.
The capacity of permanent port facilities in South Vietnam increased many times over, with the construction of new facilities at Newport, Saigon, Vung Tau, Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nhon, Da

Nang, and other installations. Port development throughout the coastal region of South Vietnam gave the republic permanent access to the sea, thus promoting development of a stabilized economy and the emergence of Vietnam as an Asian trading center. (Map 7)
As the building of improved ports and docking facilities continued, a network of air bases was under construction which further

absorbed the engineers' attention. The differences in high-performance aircraft used by the French and Vietnamese, as opposed to the American military machine, forecasted the development of jet air bases in Vietnam that would be an engineering undertaking of enormous magnitude.
When Navy Mobile Construction Battalion Ten landed with the Fourth Marine Regimental Landing Team at Chu Lai to construct an all-weather expeditionary airfield, it found the site covered with shifting wind-blown dunes of quartzite sand. The use of pneumatic-tired equipment was severely restricted, and the amount of earthwork required to level the site presented a serious problem, since speed was essential.
At Chu Lai, Navy Mobile Construction Battalion Ten was able to provide a continuously operational jet airfield while conducting extensive experimental work for the future use of AM-2 aluminum matting (the successor to World War II pierced steel planking) runway designs. The original operational strip, 3,500 feet long, was laid on a laterite base 10 inches thick. Confined to a small beachhead area, the Seabees and marines had little choice of material, and the available laterite proved to be of a very poor quality. Although it was originally planned to use plastic membrane seal between the laterite and the matting, the plastic material was not available in time for the first section of runway. This 3,500-foot section, equipped with arresting gear, was laid without a seal under it. It was started on 7 May 1965 and completed in twenty-one days. By 3 July the Seabees and marines had constructed an entire 8,000foot runway, an 8,000x36-foot taxiway, and an operational parking apron of 28,400 square yards. This airfield, however, eventually experienced base failure, and the laterite was replaced with soil cement.
The second major aluminum mat airfield in Vietnam, constructed by RMK-BRJ, was at the Air Force base at Cam Ranh Bay. A runway 10,000 feet long by 102 feet wide was constructed on an all-sand subgrade. Because of the experience at Chu Lai, particular attention was paid to the base under the matting. Extensive soil stabilization work, beginning on 22 August 1965, included flooding the sand with sea water and rolling to stabilize it so that the sand could support earthmoving and compaction equipment. Following compaction and grading, the base was sealed with bituminous material. Laying of matting began late in September, and the runway was completed on 16 October. With completion of the runway, a parallel taxiway, high-speed turnoffs, and 60,000 square yards of operational apron, all in AM-2 plank, the scheduled operational date of 1 November was met.

Another AM-2 runway, identical in size to the one at Cam Ranh, was constructed at Phan Rang. It was started in September 1965 by the 62d Engineer Construction Battalion. Once again, the quality of the base was first improved. At this field a graded fill material was placed beneath the matting, and for the first time flexible plastic membrane was used as a seal. The first aircraft landed on the runway on 20 February 1966. The entire 10,000x102 foot runway was completed on 15 March, along with sufficient taxiways and aprons to provide an operational jet airfield. Later base failures, however, caused extensive reworking on the original airfield.
Believing that the Navy contractor would be unable to meet occupancy dates for some of their projects in Vietnam, the Air Force in February 1966 requested authority from the Secretary of Defense to make a separate contract with a U.S. firm for construction of an air base. Air Force officers detailed the scope of work but did not identify the site at meetings with potential contractors. The agreement they proposed to use was a "turnkey" contract whereby the contractor assumed responsibility for shipping and logistic requirements as well as for design and construction.
General Westmoreland and Admiral Sharp both opposed the introduction of another cost reimbursable construction contractor into Vietnam, arguing first that the air base was unnecessary and second that the proposed turnkey arrangement would bring one more construction organization into the country to compete for port facilities, storage, transportation, and other logistic support. The Secretary of the Navy supported General Westmoreland by pointing out to the Secretary of Defense that any scheme for increasing contract construction in Vietnam should take advantage of the existing capability of RMK-BRJ. On 12 March 1966 General Westmoreland reiterated his reasons for nonconcurrence with the Air Force proposal, and the following day Admiral Sharp endorsed General Westmoreland's position.
On 21 April, after being directed to reconsider the situation by the joint Chiefs, General Westmoreland concluded that an additional airfield could be used. The preferred site was at Hue, but because this site was unavailable he recommended to Admiral Sharp that work start at Tuy Hoa.
On 27 April the Joint Chiefs of Staff consented to agree on Tuy Hoa, only if the Hue site was completely out of the question. They agreed to help surmount State Department objections to the Hue project but, in the interests of speed, urged that preliminary work be pushed at both locations. Responding to this message on 6 May, General Westmoreland mentioned Chu Lai as an acceptable alter-

native to Hue and concurred in proceeding with the Tuy Hoa site using the turnkey concept, as well as with a parallel runway at Chu Lai using the Navy's contractor.
On 7 May 1966 Admiral Sharp approved the Tuy Hoa proposal but imposed certain conditions. The Air Force's turnkey contractor would be responsible for building the complete Tuy Hoa complex -air base, port, and breakwaters-as well as for relocating roads and trackage. He would mobilize his own equipment, manpower, materials, and dredges, using only such local resources as were surplus to other service requirements. He would also be responsible for his own sea lift, unloading, beaching, and barging. In late May the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave the project their blessing, and on the 27th of that month the Deputy Secretary of Defense authorized the Air Force to negotiate a turnkey contract for the Tuy Hoa air base.
At Tuy Hoa, an 8-inch soil cement base was planned under the AM-2 aluminum mat. The airfield facilities included a 150x9,000foot runway, a parallel taxiway 75 feet wide, and some 165,000 square yards of apron, with lighting, markers, and barriers. A control tower, operations buildings, and a communication facility were included. At first, a mobile tower and portable navigational aids were to be used. Fuel was handled through a 300,000-gallon "bladder system" until welded steel tanks were ready.
In all, five major jet air bases were constructed in Vietnam to supplement the three already in existence, and over 100 widely dispersed fields were built for intratheater transport aircraft. The major air bases afforded the necessary facilities for tactical aircraft and aircraft arriving from outside Vietnam, while the smaller fields allowed dispersal of logistics in support of forces operating in the field. The newly developed aluminum matting and older steel planking allowed construction at the most remote sites and permitted air delivery by heavier fixed-wing aircraft.
By mid-1966 the plan was to have every point in South Vietnam within twenty-five kilometers of an airfield. (See Map 8.) The few existing outlying airfields had been constructed mainly by the French. These strips were paved with a surface treatment from one half to one inch thick and could not withstand the heavy volume of traffic required during tactical operations. In some of these operations up to 100 tons of supplies and 200 aircraft sorties were required daily.
The very nature of the war scattered small troop detachments to outlying locations. These detachments were supplied by air, primarily by CV-2 Caribou aircraft which were capable of landing on 1,000-foot hastily constructed airfields. Most of the early forward airfields were constructed with expedient surfacing materials such as

PICTURE - TWO CARIBOUS debark troops on unimproved runway.
TWO CARIBOUS debark troops on unimproved runway.
laterite and crushed rock, which later proved to be inadequate. These surfaces had been used because a suitable matting was unavailable at the time of construction. M8A1 matting later was used extensively for forward airfields, although it required considerable maintenance when used by heavily loaded aircraft.
Forward airfield construction was rough and crude. Yet, experience indicated that the construction of each airfield should be preceded by as detailed a reconnaissance as time and circumstances would permit. In almost all instances the reconnaissance was made by helicopter. Landing permitted cone penetrometer soil-bearing tests and clearing and grading estimates. Time on the ground was usually limited to a few minutes because of possible enemy attack. With the ground survey completed, aircraft instruments were used to determine the runway azimuth and to estimate runway length.
Division operational plans and areas were often based on the availability of an airstrip that could be used by supporting fixed wing aircraft and which was at or near the tactical operations area. Completion time was critical. Consequently, the reconnaissance was extremely important and accurate work estimates were essential.
Heliports varied in size from the brigade base camps of airmobile divisions to the isolated rearming and refueling facilities scattered about which have become common to the airmobile con-

cept. While little preparation was required for a one-time landing zone in the forward areas, both the west and dry seasons in Vietnam posed significant problems in construction and maintenance of areas with a high density of helicopter traffic.
As with any piece of equipment, helicopter maintenance problems received command interest only after the abrasive effect of heavy dust was realized. Dust suppression was an obvious necessity for the safety of pilots during takeoffs and landings, and the damage dust caused to turbine blades was as effective as combat action, if not as dramatic, in downing aircraft. The use of matting or planking was effective in providing dust control, but unfortunately it was seldom feasible at hasty facilities constructed for helicopter operations. Periodic ground spraying with .diesel fuel provided a relatively easy means of dust surpression for short periods of time, and usually some type of a trailer- or truck-mounted distributor could be manufactured for continued use by the using unit. Soil binders were effective for several weeks but were easily disturbed by vehicular traffic on the pad and could not withstand the monsoon season. The construction of a hardstand of asphaltic compounds or concrete offered a permanent solution and was considerably more economical in the long run than various types of portable matting.
The monsoon season also created many problems for heliports, which were often located in flat low-lying areas characterized by poor drainage. Considerable attention was required to ensure that all existing facilities would be usable, even after the very heavy monsoon rains. Both erosion and standing ,water had to be controlled or eliminated, and control of vehicular traffic through the heliport had to be regulated. Vehicles constituted a source of erosion and a safety hazard to approaching and departing aircraft, yet they were normally essential for aircraft maintenance and reprovisioning.
Much of the construction required to support aviation units was not included in early planning. Each aircraft in Vietnam eventually required a protective revetment. One of highest priorities in Vietnam , during 1968 was the construction of protective structures for tactical aircraft. Known as the Hardened Shelter Program, the task of erecting these structures was assigned to Air Force Prime BEEF teams (base emergency engineering forces). The shelters eventually found most efficient in terms of unit cost (for fighter aircraft) were 72 feet long, 48 feet wide, and 24 feet high corrugated steel arch structures, which were covered with concrete for protection against rocket and mortar fire.
In the development of protective structures, particularly for helicopters, various designs were tested with the primary purpose of using materials indigenous to or readily obtainable in Southeast


Asia and of utilizing the manpower, skills, and equipment usually available to military field commanders. Vertical, sloping, and cantilever revetment walls were evaluated for their ability to protect against conventional weapons attacks. Construction procedures, requirements, and costs were studied, and basic weapons effects data pertinent to future protective structures were obtained.
Revetments did not provide complete protection for aircraft, but they did stop or deflect fragments. Only a cocoon-type enclosure, which in itself was able to resist both blast pressure and fragments, would completely protect an aircraft; but the cost of these structures, as well as the space occupied and the operational limitations imposed, made cocoons impractical as a solution for rotary-wing aircraft. Since some protection could be achieved with revetments alone, they were generally used. Protection against blast pressure, which might cause detonation of fuel and armament, had to be achieved by adequate spacing of aircraft. Considerable efforts were made to determine the most effective revetment. Earth-filled timber bins, cement-stabilized earth blocks, plain or cement-stabilized sandbags, sulphur and fiberglass coated cement blocks, soil-cement, and earth-filled fiberglass resin cylinders were the most suitable materials for revetment construction. Corrugated asbestos material with earth fill was effective against small arms fire; however, this brittle material was easily damaged by heavy weapons fire. Steel sheet piling without earth fill proved to be very ineffective in stopping small arms fire and fragments, but it had other drawbacks.
Seldom did economy or available construction materials permit much latitude in the selection of revetment types; the commander usually had to base his decision on erection time, equipment requirements, and the degree of protection desired. By the nature of their mission, aviation units have to relocate frequently, and each move required additional revetment construction. In Vietnam experience showed that approximately one-third of the units relocated annually. This mobility necessitated the use of prefabricated revetments which could easily be assembled, disassembled, and moved with the redeploying aviation units.
Use of M8A1 or other types of matting was considered justified to protect the enormously expensive aircraft, but investigation revealed that adequate protection was available with lower cost materials-particularly for rotary-wing aircraft. Corrugated sheet metal on 2 X 4 A-frames filled with earth proved to be effective, easy to construct, and relatively economical.
The use of precast concrete revetments was initiated in 1970. By this time precast yards were already manufacturing bridge decking, and the yards were easily converted to revetment fabrication.

Tests indicated these revetments were particularly effective and that they offered the advantage of long life and portability. From late 1970 on, the precast concrete revetment was adopted for exclusive use.
With construction in .full swing, the size of bases continued to increase. The U.S. Navy complex at Da Nang in I Corps supported a powerful combined force. As of early 1968 more than two-thirds of the Navy's strength in Vietnam, or 22,000 men, were in I Corps, and the majority of them were in Da Nang. The Air Force had most of its 7,000 men in I Corps also stationed there. The port supplied the logistic support for the 1st and 3d Marine Divisions and several Marine support agencies. In all there were 81,000 marines being supported from the Da Nang complex in early 1968. As Army units moved north into I Corps in support of U.S., Korean, and Vietnamese forces, there would be seventy-three infantry battalions operating in these five provinces. The major: facilities at Da Nang included:
1. The deepwater port.
2. The Naval Support Facility depot.
3. Jet airfields at Da Nang and Chu Lai.
4. A C-130 airfield at Hue.
5. Shallow LST ports at Chu Lai and Hue.
In late 1966 the Qui Nhon complex in II Corps supported combat operations of 15,100 combat troops (including 6,300 ROK) and 25,000 combat support troops (including 10,800 ROK) as well as service support elements numbering 22,100. Combat figures included some 550 Navy personnel engaged in coastal patrol and harbor defense. These men were part of the MARKET TIME operations. Cantonments were arranged so that all functional elements (combat, combat support and service) were grouped together. Major logistical and support facilities included:
1. Deepwater port with four berths at Qui Nhon.
2. Depot at Qui Nhon.
3. Jet airfields at Phu Cat and Tuy Hoa.
4. Five C-130 capable airfields at Kontum, Pleiku, Che Reo, Qui Nhon, and An Khe.
5. MARKET TIME facilities at Qui Nhon.
In late 1966 the Cam Ranh Bay complex in II Corps supported the operations of 8,000 combat troops (including 2;400 ROK) and 11,100 combat support troops (including 2,000 ROK), as well as 17,000 service support troops on a direct basis, and in addition provided general support backup for the entire theater. These

figures included 2,450 naval personnel supporting MARKET TIME, harbor defense, and the Naval Air Facility. The major logistical and support facilities included:
1. Deepwater port with ten berths at Cam Ranh.
2. Depot at Cam Ranh.
3. LST ports at Nha Trang, Phan Rang and Tuy Hoa.
4. Jet airfields at Cam Ranh Bay and Phan Rang.
5. Six other airstrips of which five were C-130 capable (Ninh Hoa: C-123 only).
6. MARKET TIME facilities.
In late 1966 the Saigon complex for III and IV Corps Tactical Zones supported 39,700 combat troops (1,400 allies) and 18,300 (5,200 allies) combat support troops, as well as 42,800 service support troops. Operations included MARKET TIME and GAME WARDEN. The major logistical and support facilities included:
1. Deepwater ports at Saigon (including Newport).
2. Depot at Saigon.
3. LST ports at Vung Tau and Can Tho.
4. Jet airfields at Tan Son Nhut and Bien Hoa.
5. Eight other airstrips of which five were C-130 capable.
6. MARKET TIME and GAME WARDEN facilities.
With the location of each major port of entry established on the concept of a series of logistical islands, each with easy access to the sea, the construction of more extensive base complexes proceeded apace. With no connecting roads and reliance on sea transportation for bulk supply, each island was a self-supporting unit capable of sustaining combat units in its immediate area of operations.
Until 1968 the I Corps Tactical Zone was under Navy and Marine Corps jurisdiction for the most part, with only a small Army contingent on hand. In the other three tactical zones in South Vietnam, the area support commands in Saigon, Qui Nhon, and Cam Ranh Bay operated under Army command, the Navy maintaining smaller facilities for the support of naval combat and patrol operations but obtaining items of common supply from Army stocks. After the spring of 1968 the Army moved in force into the I Corps Tactical Zone, basing its support operations at the already functioning base at Da Nang.
As the troop commitment to Vietnam increased, the numbers of individual supply depots of the logistical island type multiplied; each of the area commands became the hub of a network of smaller depots, and the demand for construction at their lesser "subarea"

commands progressed accordingly. From a mail-order supply operation supporting some 25,000 American troops in 1965, the system expanded into a complicated and functioning, though sometimes less than efficient, machine supporting over a half million troops in three years' time.

page created 15 December 2001


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