How Chu Lai Was Named
As U.S. participation in Vietnam increased it became
apparent that the air base facilities in DaNang would become over-taxed
and that an alternate site was needed to accommodate the Marines that
would be coming into the country. A commander’s conference was called
to work out recommendations. After some discussion Chu Lai was chosen
as the site. The participants of the meeting were not overly concerned
that the site they had selected could not be immediately located on maps
of the area.
The plan for the Chu Lai facility was sound, except for
the fact that not even the local Vietnamese knew where it was. The
reason was really quite simple.
General Victor H “Brute” Krulak commander of FMF Pacific
had previously predicted the need for such a facility and on one of his
earlier visits to Vietnam had scouted out a location for the airfield.
Some 57 miles southeast of DaNang on the flat coastal plain area
bordering Quang Tin and Quang Ngai provinces he found the ideal spot.
Big enough for an airfield, serviced by a major road and close to the
coast, it could easily be reached by air, land and sea. Told the area
had no official name, General Krulak used his prerogative and christened
the area Chu Lai, the Mandarin Chinese letters for his own name! The
name remains to this day.
The base became the first Headquarters for the 1st
Marine Division in-country and N0EFD, the division’s first MARS station
initially operated from Chu Lai.