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Welcome to Chu Lai

February, 1970. We arrived at Da Nang late in the afternoon, too late to transit to our final destinations. Driven to a transit barracks, 2nd deck. I grabbed an upper rack next to a door to the outside. Not sure of what happened next, I kept my clothes on, but tied my boot laces together with my glasses inside. While all of us were trying to settle in, grab some shut-eye, we could hear sounds of artillery somewhere in the distance, coupled with occasional small arms fire. I had just begun to doze when I heard the sound of incoming 122 rockets. I hit the deck, grabbed my boots, and flew through the door, jumped to the stair landing midway down in one jump, and on the ground. While I was jumping down the stairs I saw at least three 122 rockets landed in a field directly behind the barracks. We crammed as many of us into bunkers, and waited for whatever happened. After what seemed like hours, somebody sounded “All Clear,” and we returned to where we had been when the rockets came in. I don’t think there were any casualties. Not many of us got any sleep that night, and we spent most of the rest of the night trying to figure what kind of defense we could mount if the VC came at us, as we did not have any rifles, pistols, ammo, grenades, or even knives.

Nothing happened during the rest of the night, and we were sure glad to see the sunrise. We were eventually taken to a chow hall, then broken up and dispersed into groups for further transfer to our ultimate destinations. I was sent back to Da Nang, where I was sent to a C-130 destined for a place called Chu Lai. After we landed there, I was directed to several admin groups, finally stopping at one for a MATCU (Marine Air Traffic Control Unit. I was told that I was assigned to one of 2 watch groups who worked 24 hour shifts, but I would have to stay at the hootch my section called home until tomorrow, as they were on their watch. I eventually hit the rack for some sleep. While listening to the sounds of jets and artillery and small arms fire, I just lay still trying to process all that I heard. Sometime later, a gecko lizard decided to loose his grip in the rafters above me. He landed square in my face. It was a good thing I was the only one in the hootch because the would ha seen me race from one end of the hootch to the other without touching the floor. I eventually calmed my racing heart back to a more normal rate. As I was trying to sleep, the “Incoming” siren sounded, and I heard several nearby explosions. The squadron guide who escorted me around earlier had pointed out a fighting hole I was supposed to take cover there and remain there until the “All Clear” was sounded, or until I was relieved. I grabbed my rifle and 782 gear that had been issued to me earlier after my arrival and prepared to defend huge POL tanks, all by myself. After loading my rifle and magazines with ammo, I settled in to wait. I spent the rest of the night alone in the fighting hole, hoping the POL tanks were not hit, and planning what I would do if they were. I never heard the “All Clear,” but figured all was OK as my watch crew arrived and went to their respective racks. After introducing myself to the Sgt. in charge, and sharing some important “Scoop,” he said, “By the way, welcome to Viet Nam.” I already felt like a veteran.

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Comments

Bill Swann, Cpl. 65 to70 - April 9, 2020

I got to Da Nang in July of 69 and was welcomed to Vietnam at the dog patch by screaming “residents” wanting apples (appo), orange (orn) and as always when I was in country the cry of cigarettes, as in you got cigret. While we were there we also recieved a love message of mortars and small rockets coming in over freedom Hill. Next morning we were flown down to Chu Lai. the story we were told was the the name was the initials were Chinese for Lt. Gen. krulak. Spent most of my time there in H&MS 13, but went out side the wire on more than one occasion. In May of ’70 the VC/NVA decided to use there surplus 122’s to to see how much they could blowup and kill. In two days they dropped about 200 of them on us. I spent the first day in an above ground bunker about 10 yards behind the Fuel Tanks and the jet fuel supply. They managed to miss them on both days but that did’nt help me much as they were close enough that my asshole was cutting button holes in my utilities. P.S. we were also rocketed in Da Nang on the way to 15th airport on the way out.

Greg M Caraveo,Sr - April 9, 2020

I arrived 12 days later than I wanted in Chu Lai. This was Tet of 1968, could not get out of Da Nang to much crap going on. Met the greatest bunch of Marines while stationed in Chu Lai. Was with Service Co. Some of the names of the guys were Morrel,Barron,Roger, Sgt Gibbons and Pete De La Cruz). Had our motors,rockets come in. I was TAD to hill 63 with the Army where I ran into a friend that Ihad gone to Boot Camp. Forgot to mention Dukes also. Spent many days on Convoys, Day Patrols,Night Patrols,etc.. Also time at the BUNKERS protecting our site.I do remember our Sgt Major (Guppie Gut) name given to him by us.Spent time with bridging Co at A Shau Valley, Do recall our 1st Lt (Buchannon) who was a cry baby. Many good memories and bad… My nick name given to me by my partners was “Little Buddie” as they were taller than me….LOL

J.J.Borgan MAG 12 - April 9, 2020

I think you meant May of 1965 not 1963. I was there .

George Wyniarsky - April 9, 2020

In reply to Jack Parris.
Jack-Semper Fi ! I also landed same date-but with H&SCo. 2/4!! First night slept on white sandy beach-next morning loaded up on top of Amtrac & went across Hiway 1(??). That hill (1stsgt named it Nellie’s T-T) don’t know its #. Good to hear from someone who was there @ same time. take care. They called me “Ski” (George W.)

Jack Parris - April 9, 2020

We made a beach landing at Chu Lai 7May 65 from KBay Delta co. 1st. battalion 4th. Marines My question is what are these things called barracks and tents ? We were lucky if we had a shelter half !! Just saying ?

John Goodwin (Sgt. 63-66) - April 9, 2020

Landed at Chu Lai 7 May 65 as a unit of the 3d MAF. We left one tropical paradise (KBay Hawaii) for another (South Vietnam). Snark ! My 10 1/2 months at Chu Lai were extremely “educational”. When we landed there was nothing but a sleepy beach on a cove which was named by the 3d MAF Commanding Officer while in transit. It had no name on the Vietnamese maps and ‘Chu’ and ‘Lai’ were the Chinese characters of the CO’s name. (scuttlebut). During my time at Chu Lai there were lots of notables like we fired 3117 assorted arty rounds in the first 30 days, we “relocated” the locals and destroyed their places, we reconfigured the landscape, we built an airstrip and saw the first F4’s (super secret . don’t take pictures) and probably the topper was a TOT (time on target) where every gun in the outfit fires on the same target … wow … exhilarating. It was the top of a mountain overlooking the entire Chu Lai area. A plane spraying “something” followed in a few days and it turned what was left of the mountain top brown. We got a little on us as it flew over our area on the way. Gee, I wonder what that was. Moved us up to Hue Phu Bai for the last two weeks of my tour and they put me on post at the front gate with less than a week left. I sort of resented that and as an indication of my indignation I peed in the middle of Route 1 at daybreak. Finally a hello to any of my fellow Marines from 3/12 Headquarters Battery. I hope you are OK.

Will Clifford - April 9, 2020

Incoming rockets at Danang; in 1965-66 only thing to worry about adjacent to the Danang airffield was mortar attacks from “Dogpatch,” When I arrived in July 1967 had the same experience cited in the lead posting, only there were no bunkers or sandbags, only pyramid tents. Got to watch the firetrucks race to the flight lines from our “positions” of laying on the tarmac runway. To the best of my memory the planes were lined up ala Pearl Harbor; later revetments were put in place, same thing for the bulk fuel bladders. I was destined as fate would have it, to be a REMF at Camp Books, about seven miles out of Danang; the NVA rocketeers were the concienceous sort and didn’t let us feel left out. Of interest was the event of a B52 crash landing at Danang airfield very early in July, 1967… it ran out of runway. And the sounds of the gunships at sea, a very comforting sound, you couldn’t mistake it. The incoming rockets sounded like fright trains or screaming jets, played havoc with the pucker factor.

Le Roy Bejster - April 9, 2020

Landed in CHI-LAI on MAY 13TH 1963 we did even have tents to live in. I lived under a bush. Then went to out post#1 right off HY 1. at the time I was a AR man and a PFC.

Charlie O’Connell - April 9, 2020

I arrived in Danang fall of ’65 (?) (MAG 11, H&MS 11) just out side (hill 327) Dog Patch. At first we were issued M14s and 2 magazines of ammo. In short order we had to turn in our ammo and just had our weapons. Told to draw ammo if and when “needed”! Can’t remember for sure, but don’t think we took empty weapons to the EM club or for heavens sake to China Beach. I don’t mean to make light of all the shit work the grunts did, as I was very lucky to get to do what I did patching bullet holes not making them!!! (Oh yes, and burning the shiters for a month. Hot, sweaty, dirty, smelly job, but——————.) Charlie O’Connell ’63/’67 Plt 240

Sgt. Eric Tipton - April 9, 2020

Had a funny incident with “rocket attacks” while at Chu Lai. (5/68-6/69) Sirens went off and we scrambled for our bunker. When things settled down we could hear odd double booms. We spent well over an hour in the bunker that night before getting the all clear. It turned out to be a battle ship (the New Jersey I think) off the coast that was firing at the hills beyond the base but we hadn’t gotten the word. It was really weird to hear the sound of the shells fired from the ship, then a few seconds later their impact in the hills and not know what was going on. Just another sleepless night in Nam.

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