U.S. Naval Support Activity Nha Be (1966-1972)
The U.S. naval establishment at Nha Be, seven miles south of Saigon, was a major combat and logistic base during the Southeast Asian Conflict. 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. In addition Nha Be lay astride waterways traversing the Viet Cong – infiltrated Rung Sat special zone and the eastern Mekong Delta region. To support river patrol and minesweeping operations, Nha Be was ideally located, In addition, the Vietnamese Navy’s River Assault Group compound there initially was suitable for a small American force.
In March 1966 a detachment of Mine Squadron 11, employing 57-foot minesweeping boats (MSB’s) 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 afterward began operations against the Viet Cong waterborne logistic traffic in the Rung Sat and in the Mekong Delta. Eventually, the base was able to support forty river patrol boats (PBRs) engaged in this operation, designated Game Warden. Other components of the force were Helicopter Support Squadron 1 and Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3, detachments of which flew from helicopter pads at nearby Cruickshank Airfield both the surface and air units of the River Patrol Force based at Nha Be took part In operation Giant Slingshot, which 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 logistic complex. Initially the river 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, making berthing, repair, spare parts, and supplies available. An Army crane was used for hull repair of the MSBs. These and other measures were taken to provide interim support.
Meanwhile 20 acres of nearby swampland were filled with dredged soil, and by December 1966 work was begun on permanent base facilities, which 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 eighty four craft and the recently deployed headquarters of Naval Support Activity Saigon were based there. The facility continued to serve the Navy’s needs until it’s turnover to Vietnamese Navy and the disestablishment of Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Nha Be, in April 1972…AL Moore
Christmas Menu 1967 courtesy of Member Skip Burns