As a young Army officer, the author was assigned to DaNang in 1970-1971. Like most Americans there, I had known very little about the area. This web page is an attempt to fill in some of those details today, both for the city itself and for the huge U.S. Air Force – Army – Marine – Navy complex that we built there.
The details are a bit sketchy now, almost 50 years later. But then, we never could decide even on simple things like how to spell the name, could we? Variously written as Danang, Da Nang, and DaNang, I have selected the latter spelling for this site, since that was the name used by most of us over in “DaNang East” when I was there.
AREA HISTORY: DaNang was “a wild area with sandy beaches with many lakes and marshes lying along the Han River” until the 17th century, when it first appeared on the map of Vietnam. Because of its large, safe harbor, it became the major port of central Vietnam during the 19th century.
French and other foreign vessels shelled the cty in 1847 and again in 1858. But it was not until the late 1880’s, after serving as a major French missionary and trading post for several decades, that the French colonists took control of the area, renaming the city “Tourane”. They invested in infrastructure, manufacturing, and commercial services, developing it in imitation of a western city.
Along with Saigon to the south and Haiphong to the north, this became one of the 3 most important trading sites in the country. Growth in area population has been variously stated at different sites. Most would seem to support estimates of 20,000 residents in 1940 and then growth to 50,000 in 1955 and more than doubling again to 110,000 in 1961.
The French military withdrew per the Geneva Accord of 1954, after which DaNang became a major military center for South Vietnam. During the period of government instability which followed, DaNang (along with Hue) was the scene of major Buddhist demonstrations and even of armed struggle between different South Vietnamese military factions, some as late as 1966.
AMERICAN WAR: The 3rd Marine Division was the first major U.S. ground force in Vietnam. When its advance units landed at Red Beach in DaNang in March 1965, its original mission was to protect the DaNang Air Base. As it moved from a defensive to an offensive role, however, it eventually relocated to northern I Corps, operating in the area just south of the DMZ.
That relocation did not diminish the military presence in DaNang, however. Far from it. As stated at the “U.S. Marines in Vietnam” 1970-1971 link shown below, by 1970 DaNang was home to “65 South Vietnamese and 45 United States military installations. These installations included ARVN I Corps Headquarters, the III MAF and later XXIV Corps Headquarters at Camp Horn, the 1st MAW and MAG-11 cantonments at Da Nang, and MAG-16’s field at Marble Mountain, as well as a variety of combat support and service support commands.”
Naval Support Activity DaNang, for example, grew to be the U.S. Navy’s largest overseas shore command. And many reports indicate that the DaNang Air Base was the busiest airport in the world in 1968, with more landings and takeoffs than even Chicago’s O’Hare. See the sections below for a listing of (and links to) major units in DaNang and for map coordinates for military locations in the area. Please feel free to e-mail now if you can add to the list of major units stationed here and/or identify links to web sites for them.
DaNang was the second largest city in South Vietnam during this era. As refugees swarmed into it from the embattled countryside, the population grew to 400,000 in the city itself and to approx. 1 million for the city and the surrounding area. As described at the “U.S. Marines in Vietnam” 1970-1971 link shown below, however, “Government and public services had not kept pace with growth. In 1969, the city had only six postmen and 380 telephones. It possessed neither a sewage system nor a newspaper. Only 10 percent of the population was served by the municipal electric system and seven percent by the water system. A U.S. Government report described Da Nang as “a miserable collection of unserviced huts, infused with temporary military infrastructure, surrounding a heavily overused and outdated city core’.”
All U.S. ground forces were gradually withdrawn and the defense of the area was turned over to ARVN troops by the end of 1972. DaNang was the third city to fall to the North Vietnamese Army during the final offensive of the war. It fell without bloodshed in March 1975, only a few days after the 10th anniversary of the Marines’ landing at Red Beach.
- U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Landing and the Buildup, 1965
- Anti-Ky Struggle Movement seizes Da Nang, March-May 1966
- Defending Da Nang (Tet offensive, January – February 1968)
- U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Tet Offensive at Da Nang
- U.S. Marines in Vietnam: Continuing Operational Problems, 1970-1971
- Da Nang Falls, March 1975 from New York Times
DA NANG TODAY: As shown above in the photo from the hotels.com site, DaNang has blossomed! After a difficult period of readjustment, DaNang is once again a major growth center. Many successful construction projects have been completed, including new bridges over the Han River and several deluxe tourist resorts, from the old Marble Mountain Air Facility on up to what we had called Monkey Mountain.
With an international airport, a redeveloped Tien Sa seaport, the new Lien Chieu seaport (north of Nam O bridge), and a local population over 1.4 million, DaNang is poised to become a major Asian commercial center in the 21st century. Two major industrial zones are under development, to take advantage of DaNang’s excellent transportation facilities.
In an ironic marketing twist, the Communist authorities have approved use of the name “China Beach” to identify the coastal region along the South China Sea, because of the worldwide recognition factor involved with the beaches there, which were once favored as American G.I. recreation centers.
- Danang City government site (in English)
- Why invest in Danang
- Business Opportunities in Da Nang
- My Khe Beach, the most beautiful beach in Vietnam
- 10 Best Hotels in Da Nang
- Vets With A Mission
- Vietnam War Tourism
- Back to China Beach
- Danang Average Monthly Temperature / Rainfall
MAPS: Click on the image above to see a larger version of an annotated map of DaNang, showing points of interest from an Army logistics point of view in July 1970.
There were many maps prepared by the Army Map Service (and later the Defense Mapping Agency) which included the DaNang area. The maps have been declassified today and many can still be purchased by the general public. See our How to Buy Maps of Vietnam page for details. Many of these maps may also be viewed online, including the following:
- 1:250,000 Scale:
- 1:50,000 Scale:
- Series L7015, Sheet 6641 – Index to complete map at 7th Marines’ site
- East central section of 6641 III – Nam O Bridge, Red Beach, and Deep Water Pier
- Southeast section of 6641 III – Division Ridge, Air Base, City, and part of DaNang East
- Portions of Maps 6641 III and 6641 II – Spliced together at J.A. Mercer’s site, including Monkey Mtn, China Beach, and Marble Mtn Air Facility (not shown at links above)
- Close-up of spliced maps – Including Danang East from Camp Horn to Marble Mtn Air Facility
- 1:12,500 Scale:
PHOTOS: Many of my own photos have been misplaced somewhere along the way, in almost 50 years of moves. Thankfully, though, others have held on to theirs and, even better, posted them online for all to see. Some of the larger or better collections of photos of the DaNang area, both yesterday and today, include the following:
- Military Memories Photo Gallery from wardogs.com
- Danang Pictures Index from 366th TFW Gunfighters
- j’s RVN photos from jamercer.com
- Driving Highway One: Danang – a ThingsAsian Photo Essay
- DaNang Area from USMC/Combat Helicopter Assoc
- Marble Mountain Air Facility from USMC/Combat Helicopter Assoc
VIDEOS: Through the magic of modern science, many videos are also becoming available online. Here’s a sampling of those related to DaNang:
- Da Nang Air Base, 1965-70 (0:59)
- Marines at Marble Mountain, 1966-67 (2:46)
- 366th TFW – DaNang 1967-68 (7:54)
- DaNang Air Base 68-69 (7:31)
- China Beach, 2005 (1:47)
- Danang Today, 2007 (6:05)
- Danang Traffic Circle, 2007 (1:46)
- Danang City, 2008 (5:00)
- 7 MUST-SEES in DaNang, 2017 (12:32)
- 72 Hours in Da Nang, 2019 (12:32)
MAJOR UNITS (1970): The year 1970 was a major transition point in the history of U.S. involvement in DaNang. As the Marines redeployed, the Navy presence was also curtailed. And as the Army took command responsibility for I Corps, the local command structure was altered and even whole units were relocated.
Because of those changes, it is likely that any large American unit that was ever stationed in DaNang was probably there for at least part of 1970 (with the exception of the 3rd Marine Division, which had already redeployed by then). Units departing the area during the year are shown below with “( – month )” following their names. Likewise, those arriving are denoted as “( month – )”. Location changes are shown as “[from] xxx to yyy”.
Links are included to web sites which are either from those units or about them. Please e-mail now to let us know of other links which should be added here.
|US||Air Force||366th Tactical Fighter Wing||DaNang Air Base|
|Army||XXIV Corps (Mar – )||Camp Horn|
|. 37th Signal Battalion||DaNang Air Base|
|. 45th Engineer Group||.|
|. 95th Evac Hospital||.|
|. DaNang Support Command||SupCom HQ to China Beach|
|. . 5th Trans Terminal Cmd (Jun – )||Camp Baxter|
|. . 80th General Support Group||SupCom HQ|
|. . U.S. Army Depot DaNang (Jul – )||Covered Storage|
|Marines||III Marine Amphibious Force||Camp Horn to Camp Haskins|
|. 1st Marine Division||Camp Reasoner|
|. . 1st Marine Aircraft Wing||DaNang Air Base|
|. . . MAG-11 — Fixed Wing||DaNang Air Base|
|. . . MAG-16 — Helicopter||Marble Mtn Air Facility|
|. . 1st Marine Regiment||Hill 55 to Camp Perdue|
|. . 5th Marine Regiment||An Hoa to Hill 37 to LZ Baldy|
|. . 7th Marine Regiment ( – Oct)||LZ Baldy|
|. . 11th Marine Regiment — Artillery||.|
|. . 26th Marine Regiment ( – Mar)||.|
|. Force Logistics Command||Camp Books|
|Navy||Naval Support Activity, DaNang ( – Jun)||DaNang City|
|. Depot ( – Jun)||Covered Storage|
|. Hospital ( – May)||NSA Hospital|
|. Port ( – Jun)||Deep Water Piers|
|Naval Support Facility, DaNang (Jul – )||Camp Tien Sha|
|RVN||ARVN||I Corps Tactical Zone ( – Jun)||DaNang City|
|. 1st Armored Brigade||.|
|. 1st Ranger Group||.|
|. Quang Da Special Zone||DaNang City|
|. . 51st Regiment||.|
|Military Region I (Jul – )||DaNang City|
|. Quang Da Special Zone||Hill 34|
|. . 1st Armored Brigade||.|
|. . 1st Ranger Group||.|
|. . 51st Regiment||Hill 55|
|. . 258th Marine Brigade||.|
|VNAF||41st Wing||DaNang Air Base|
|ROK||ROKMC||2nd Marine Brigade||Hoi An|
MILITARY LOCATIONS: At one point, DaNang was home to at least 45 U.S. military installations and to an even larger number of ARVN sites. Those are not all shown below, but many of the more significant ones are noted, including the branch(es) of service located there.
Map coordinates are shown for those sites which have been precisely identified on the 1:50,000 scale maps of the era. Please e-mail now to let us know of coordinates for other sites. Also, of course, you can see the excellent Map Reading 101 for a refresher on how to read the coordinates.
|Bridge Ramp||Navy to Army||RMK Bridge|
|Camp Books||Marines||Red Beach|
|Camp Haskins||Navy to Marines||Red Beach|
|Camp Horn||Marines to Army||BT041789|
|Camp Perdue||Marines||Division Ridge|
|Camp Tien Sha||Navy||BT063822|
|China Beach Facilities||Navy/Marines to Army||BT059775|
|Covered Storage||Navy to Army||BT050783|
|DaNang Air Base||Air Force, Marines & VNAF||BT004748|
|Deep Water Piers||Navy to Army||BT026838|
|Freedom Hill Facilities||Marines to Army||AT985745|
|Hai Van Pass||.||AT937915|
|Hill 55||Marines to ARVN||AT970620|
|Lang Co Bridge||.||AT886956|
|Marble Mtn Air Facility||Marines & Army||BT065738|
|Nam O Bridge||.||AT927843|
|Tien Sha Ramp||Navy to Army||E of Dp Wtr Pr|