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: with ready access to the South China Sea, the river approaches to Saigon, and the Mekong Delta, Cat Lo was strategically placed; and facilities at the Vietnamese Navy base were immediately available to U.S. units.
Three distinct operational forces were based at Cat Lo: components of the Coastal Surveillance Force; the Saigon minesweeping force; and the River Patrol Force. Beginning in late 1965, naval units began scouring the coast for communist seaborne infiltrators, and soon afterward minesweeping craft initiated their escort and patrol mission on the narrow waterways leading to Saigon, the country’s main port. Cat Lo also acted as a staging and logistics base for the move deep into the Mekong Delta of the navy’s river force. From March to June 1966, the Belle grove (LSD-2) and the Tortuga (LSD-26) brought the first River Patrol Boats (PBRs) into Vietnam with the deployment to Cat Lo of River Division 53 and River Division 54 elements. Once the more ideally placed 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 Danang 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 logistic 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. First YD-220 and then YD-174, both floating cranes, were stationed at Cat Lo to prepare newly arrived PBRs for in country operations and to overhaul the coastal patrol’s “Swift” boats (PCFs).
The naval facility at Cat Lo gradually diminished in importance as minesweeping activities were concentrated at Nha Be south of Saigon, and as bases deeper into the delta were used by the river patrol units. As part of the process of Vietnamization, Cat Lo resources were turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in April 1971..
Note of interest:
Cat Lo base is still in the same area today and is being used as a naval base for the Communist Government of Vietnam….Cat Lo is only one of a handful of Naval bases still in use where we once had naval units.