Open main menu

Chu Lai Air Base was a military airport in Chu Lai, Vietnam, operated by the United States Marine Corps between 1965 and 1970. It was located near Tam Kỳ city, the largest city in Quảng Nam Province. Abandoned after the end of the Vietnam War, it was reopened as Chu Lai International Airport in 2005.

Chu Lai Air Base
Chu Lai SATS airfield c1965.jpg
LocationChu Lai
Coordinates15°24′22″N 108°42′20″E / 15.40611°N 108.70556°E / 15.40611; 108.70556
Direction Length Surface
m ft
3,048 10,000 Concrete


On 8 March 1965, the U.S. 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade landed at Da Nang to protect the Danang Air Base from possible communist attack.

A VMA-121 A-4E making an arrested landing at Chu Lai, March 1967
Two VMA-211 A4-Es refuel at Chu Lai, 12 July 1967

On 6 May units from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 2nd Division and 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines secured the Chu Lai area. On 7 May, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (United States) (3rd MEB), composed of the 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, elements of Marine Aircraft Group 12 (MAG-12) and Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 10 landed at Chu Lai to establish a jet-capable airfield and base area.[1]

At first, only a "short airfield for tactical support (SATS)" was installed. The SATS consisted of a 1,200 m runway with an aluminum surface of interlocking lightweight metal alloy planking, a catapult and a carrier deck-type arresting gear. It also included a tactical airfield fuel dispensing system.

The base of soft sand at Chu Lai caused much difficulty with the installation of the SATS, but the first landing of an A-4 Skyhawk was made on 1 June 1965, by Colonel John D. Noble, Commanding Officer of MAG-12 from Marine All- Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 (VMA-225) landed. On the same day, the first combat mission was flown, led by Lieutenant Colonel R. W. Baker, CO of VMA-225. The aircraft took off using jet-assisted takeoff rockets on the partially completed runway as the Seabees continued lengthening the runway. It was involved in Operation Starlite on 18 August 1965, when the Marines made a pre-emptive strike on gathering Viet Cong forces who were preparing to attack the base.[2][3]

By mid-October 1965, the base was home to more than 80 A-4 Skyhawks from MAG-12.

On the night of 27 October 1965 the Viet Cong penetrated the air base destroying 2 A-4s and severely damaging a further six. The Marines killed 15 of the attacking 20-man sapper squad.[1]:125

In September 1966, a new 10,000 ft runway, with taxiways, was completed, just west of the SATS strip.[4] With the opening of the new runway, Marine Aircraft Group 13 with three F-4 Phantom squadrons arrived at Chu Lai[5] and remained until September 1970.

In April 1967, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 (VMA(AW)-533), equipped with the A-6A Intruder all-weather attack aircraft, arrived to provide air support for Marines in I Corps, and to deliver ordinance on targets in North Vietnam under all weather conditions.[6]

On the morning of 31 January 1968 as part of the Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong attacked the base with rockets and mortars triggering an explosion in the bomb dump. MAGs 12 and 13 suffered three aircraft destroyed and 23 damaged.[7]

The last Marine sorties were flown from Chu Lai by aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) on 11 September 1970.[8]

The Marines departed Chu Lai on 13 October 1970, turning control over to the United States Army.[9]

External linksEdit


  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. ^ a b Shulimson, Jack (1978). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Landing and the Buildup. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. pp. 29–35. ISBN 978-1494287559.
  2. ^ Cardella, Master Sgt. Sal (20 August 2010). "This Week in Marine Corps History: Marines continue to live by 'first to fight' motto". Quantico Sentry. MCB Quantico. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Battle of Chu Lai". The official archives, records, documents, and files of the United States Marine Corps' participation in the Vietnam War from 1960 to 1975. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Shulimson, Jack (1982). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: An Expanding War 1966. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. p. 261. ISBN 978-1494285159.
  6. ^ Telfer, Gary (1984). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. p. 203. ISBN 978-1494285449.
  7. ^ Shulimson, Jack (1997). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1968 The Defining Year. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. p. 155. ISBN 0-16-049125-8.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Chu Lai Marine Aviation". Retrieved 6 January 2011.