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 logistic complex. This followed the deployment there, especially after 1967, of large Marine, Army, and South Vietnamese forces.
Even though the Marine presence near Hue, primarily at Phu Bai, was limited in the early stages of deployment, the Navy worked to provide responsive logistic support. Naval leaders recognized that the most direct line of communication to the South China Sea, by way of the Hue river and a six mile-long road, had the best potential. Alternate road, rail, and air approaches from Danang were subject to frequent enemy interdiction or were unable to accommodate the many tons of supplies needed. In addition, Tan My, at the mouth of the Hue River and terminus of the short road, was well placed to support the growth of Allied forces north of Hue.
From 1965 to 1967 steps were taken to improve logistic 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, Danang.
Utility landing craft (LCU) carrying supplies and later fuel regularly plied the twelve miles of river between the city 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 the city and Tan My was unimproved and wound its way through rice paddies and insecure villages before crossing a causeway to Col Co ramp. The roadway frequently was inundated during the monsoon deluge during this period, however, Seabee units resurfaced and widened the road in key spots. It soon became the preferred approach to Phu Bai, where another detachment of the Danang Support activity was established.
The Col Co ramp at Tan My, previously operated by a private concern to service Vietnamese sampans and junks, was gradually improved to accommodate the simultaneous berthing and offloading of four LST’s. and 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 bottom-laid line connected tankers with the storage tanks. This facility was operated by a thirty-eight man detachment of Naval Support Activity, Danang. 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 logistic 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 3 February 1968 and periodically thereafter. The fuel storage tank there were set ablaze. For a time the unit at the ramp was forced to seek protection at the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, compound. At the same time the vessels at Tan My had to be put out to sea to avoid Viet Cong fire. Later, they transported civilian refugees to Danang. River cargo operations were halted for ten days, but despite the loss of eighteen men and two LCUs the damage to forty-four 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 Corps Tactical Zone. And a commensurate increase in naval combat and support forces. Early in 1968, units of the Navy’s River Patrol Forces were deployed there from stations further south in the Mekong Delta region. These river patrol boats (PBR), minesweeping, and patrol air cushion vehicles (PACV) units comprised Task Force Clearwater, which was charged with securing the two major waterways of the I Corps Tactical Zone, The Cau Viet and Hue Rivers, The PBR element of the Hue river Security Group, at various times the task force headquarters, were located in Tan My lagoon on Mobile base 1, a floating base consisting of large connecting pontoons that served berthing, messing, repair, and command-control functions. The other units and the Naval Support Activity, Danang, detachment usually were stationed ashore.
As security on the river was improved during 1969 and 1970, the America naval force was gradually relieved by Vietnamese Navy units as part of the Vietnamization process . at the same time, logistic responsibility in the Hue area was relinquished. Consequently in the spring of 1970 Naval Support Activity, Danang, withdrew Mobile Base I and disestablished the detachments at Phu Bai and Tan My. ABM