U.S. Naval Support Activity Detachment Vung Tau (1965-1971)
Situated on a peninsula jutting out from the Republic of Vietnam into the South China Sea, Vung Tau was a natural site for the U.S. Naval facility developed during the Southeast Asian conflict. In addition, the resort town overlooked the entrance to the serpentine river approach to Saigon the nation’s capital and main port.
The American naval presence at Vung Tau dated from 1954, when Naval Brach Group 1 helped French authorities to construct and emergency tent camp for thousands of refugees evacuated from North Vietnam to the “Passage to Freedom” sealift operation Eleven years later
The navy established a there for surface and air units of the Coastal Surveillance Force, which patrolled the South Vietnamese littoral in search of infiltrating communist ships and craft. A coastal surveillance command center at Vung Tau coordinated the operations of fast patrol craft (PCF) and SP-2 Neptune aircraft patrol units. Inshore Undersea Warfare Group-1-Detachment 1
(IUWG-1-1) was stationed on the mountain top overlooking Vung Tau harbor and performed harbor patrols using their boats out of Cat Lo.
The site was also an interim staging area for the Navy’s forces deploying deeper into the Mekong Delta region south and west of Saigon. Beginning in January 1967, ships carrying the men and specialized landing craft soon to form the naval component of the joint Army-Navy Mobile Riverine Force, anchored off Vung Tau. USS Benewah APB-35, USS Colleton APB-36
barracks ships that would house the riverine infantry and the boats crews of Task Force 117. At the same time, the repair and maintenance ships Tutuila (ARG-4) and Askari (ARL-30), barracks ship (APL-26) and repair, berthing, and messing barge YRBM-17 arrived to provide the force with mobile support. Although the Mobile Riverine Force shifted to Dong Tam in June, after training and material preparations were completed, Vung Tau continued to serve its logistic needs.
Vung Tau also provided an operating base for the Navy’s helicopter and fixed wing assault units. In May 1967 Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron 3 established a headquarters at Vung Tau.
Initiating it’s combat operations in South Vietnam while the command center later moved to Binh Thuy Republic of Vietnam, (U.S. Naval Support Activity), deep into the Mekong Delta, detachments of the Seawolves squadron continued to use the air facilities at Vung Tau. And from April 1969 on, one half of the fixed wing Light Attack Squadron 4 flew from the nearby U.S. Army airfield.
Under the direction of Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Detachment Vung Tau, logistic support was provided the locally based air and coastal patrol units as well as the river units deployed forward. On a weekly basis, a LST usually stationed off Cape Vung Tau, delivered food, fuel, ammunition, and other supplies to the floating base of the Mobile Riverine Force operating near
Dong Tam. An Army-Navy liaison team used a small pier and warehouse to process and transship
Incoming cargo to the LST. Also normally anchored in the roadstead was the USS Tutuila and later USS Markab (AR-23), which provided depot-level repair and maintenance support to myriad river and coastal combat vessels, including LSTs. In addition to these units, harbor defense and harbor clearance units was based at Vung Tau. Two heavy lift craft and other vessels of the latter command, belonging to Service Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, were positioned offshore prepared to salvage vessels in distress from the many waterways of South Vietnam.
As the Navy’s installations at nearby Cat Lo and in the Mekong Delta completed their development and took on a greater logistic responsibilities, the facility diminished in importance. However, Vung Tau continued to serve as the maritime gateway to the southern regions of the Republic of Vietnam.