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.