Chu Lai is a sea port, urban and industrial area in Núi Thành district, Quảng Nam province, Vietnam. The city is served by Chu Lai International Airport. It is also the site of the Chu Lai Open Economic Zone (Vietnamese: Với Khu Kinh Tế Mở Chu Lai).
A settlement did not exist before the construction of the US military base commencing with a landing on May 12 1965. The name "Chu Lai" was not marked on local maps. It is recorded in several sources that General Victor H. Krulak, who had been in China in the 1930s, dubbed it Chu Lai after the Chinese characters for his own name.
Chu Lai was a United States Marine Corps base from 1965 - 1971 during the Vietnam War. Roughly 56 miles (90 km) southeast of Đà Nẵng, the base had an air field to supplement the major base at Đà Nẵng. It was not named for any local geographic feature, but rather was the Chinese name of Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, commanding general of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.
Đà Nẵng's Air Base was the first major airfield used by the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Shortly after conventional ground forces began arriving in country in 1965, it became necessary to open a second airfield because of the heavy traffic into and out of Đà Nẵng. Charles R. Gibson was selected to be the head engineer of the base. He and his crew broke ground in December and the base was officially operational as of 1 June 1965, when three A4-C Skyhawks from VMA-225 landed. It was involved in Operation Starlite on 18 August 1965, when the Marines made a pre-emptive strike on gathering Viet Cong (VC) forces who were preparing to attack the base. By mid-October 1965, the base was home to more than 80 A-4 Skyhawks from Marine Aircraft Group 12. Marine Aircraft Group 13 was based at Chu Lai from September 1966 until September 1970, with three F-4 Phantom squadrons. In April 1967, VMA(AW)533 A6-A Intruder All-Weather Attack aircraft arrived to provide air support for Marines in the I Corps, and to deliver ordinance on targets in North Vietnam under all weather conditions. The Marines departed Chu Lai on 13 October 1970, turning control over to the United States Army.
Chu Lai was also home to the Americal Division from approximately 1967 until 1971. Aside from the runway and several concrete revetments for fighter aircraft nothing remains of the U.S. Military presence. The nearby heliport, once home to several U.S. Army aviation units, including F/8th Cavalry (BlueGhost) has been reclaimed by sand dunes. Future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach spent a year in Chu Lai as a supply officer for the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1967.
Since 2001, Kia Motors has manufactured automobiles at its Chu Lai Plant as part of a joint ventured with Truong Hai Automobile Co. The site covers 320 hectares (790 acres), and Truong Hai was the first private company in Vietnam to manufacture automobiles, and the first to achieve an annual output of 5,000 automobiles. The facility expanded in 2003 on 38 hectares (94 acres) in Tam Hiep Industrial Park with an investment of VND1,900 billion. In 2007, Truong Hai Automobile Co. Ltd became Truong Hai Automobile Joint Stock Company (Thaco), with automobiles marketed as Thaco-Kia.
- James R. Kelley Casting Alpha: Amtracs in Vietnam 2002 Page 10 "Chu Lai didn't exist on a Vietnamese map nor was Chu Lai a word in the Vietnamese language. The closest village or hamlet to Chu Lai was An Tan. It was suggested that Chu Lai was named for Lt. General Victor H. Krulak, but no one seemed to know for sure and no one seemed to care. Someone even said that Chu Lai meant Krulak in Chinese, but I never discovered the truth. It was just one of those things that was not high on my list of priorities."
- Dr George a Baker III The Making of a Marine-Scholar - 2012 "Because the site was not marked on maps, Krulak dubbed it “Chu Lai” the Chinese characters for “little man,” or as reported elsewhere the Chinese characters of his name. The Marines planned to build an eight thousand foot runway and all ..."
- Simon Dunstan - 1st Marine Division in Vietnam -2008 Page 111 "The site chosen was had no name on the map so General Krulak christened the area Chu Lai, this being the characterization of Krulak's name in Mandarin, as he knew from his time in China during the 1930s."
- Coram, Robert (November 2010). Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine (1st ed.). Little, Brown & Co, Hachette Book Group. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-316-75846-8.
- 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.
- "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, including all documented USMC operations and activities in Vietnam by unit or command which can be reviewed, printed, copied or downloaded. Site includes 291 page unit index. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
- "Chu Lai Marine Aviation". Military.com. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
- Roger Staubach interview with Sports Illustrated referencing his service in Chu Lai during the Vietnam War
- "Truong Hai Auto: A Powerful Economic Group". Vietnam Business Forum, 12 November 2008.
- "Kia-branded trucks roll out from central region". Vietnam.net, 17 November 2004.
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