1st MIBARS In Vietnam!


Welcome to Rocket City!


South Vietnam's Northernmost Major Seaport

DaNang

Republic of South Vietnam

Home To "B" Detachment, 1st MIBARS

Photo: A Vietnamese Picture Post Card From December 1966

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: The Catholic Cathedral In the City of DaNang

Photo Credit: Gene Pianka, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation, 1967-1968

Known also as "Rocket City" for  the Viet Cong's periodic artillery attacks on DaNang Main Airbase and the Marble Mountain Air Facility, the City of DaNang, then a part of Quang Nam Province, was the center of military operations for the I Corps Tactical Zone.  In later years, for television fans, it was the closest big city to an in-country military Rest and Recuperation (R&R) Center -- China Beach.  Above:  A Vietnamese Christmas card mailed back home to the United States in December, 1966, showing the City of DaNang from above the Song Han River.  In the Champa language, "Da Nang" is translated as "big river."  The pink steeple of the DaNang Cathedral is visible near the center of the photograph.  The arrow from the "My House" notation at top center points to Quang Trung Street.  Left:  The Catholic cathedral in DaNang -- a landmark in the city.


"B" Detachment's Wartime Post

A modern day street map of the City of DaNang annotated with locations frequented by B Detachment personnel in 1966

Photo: A aerial view of the City of DaNang, marking the DaNang Cathedral and showing streets bordering the Song Han River and its opening to DaNang Harbor

Photo Credit: MIV

Above: Aerial view of downtown DaNang, looking north toward DaNang Harbor, in early 1967.  

Above: This commercial map of current-day DaNang, provided and partially labeled by Don Skinner, shows the wartime locations of facilities utilized by "B" Detachment personnel in 1966, 1967 and 1968.  These include:

 

1)  The I Corps Advisory Officers' Mess.

2)  The enlisted mess facility.

3) The officers' villa on Quang Trung Street.

4)  The enlisted quarters at the Palace Hotel on Bach Dang Street.

5)  DaNang Main Air Base.

6)  The road to the main Post Exchange, west of the air base, at Freedom Hill.

7)  The bridge crossing the Han River to Marble Mountain Air Base.

8)  The I Corps Compound, with the black square representing "B" Detachment's operations area. 

For reference purposes, the DaNang Cathedral is identified by an "A" in both the map above and the photograph at right above. 

Photo: Far aerial view of the City of DaNang from the Marble Mountain side of the Song Han River, showing the river bridge.  Also marked are the locations of the I Corps Compound in the distance and the central portion of the DaNang Main Airbase

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  A view of the city of DaNang from the landing pattern at Marble Mountain Air Facility showing the bridge over the Song Han River in 1967.  The crossing actually encompassed two spans, the one to the right having been partially destroyed near mid-river.  The circle at "A" in the center denotes the point marked "7" on the map at left above -- the location of the I Corps Compound at the western approach to the bridge.  The white smoke column rising in the background is at or near the south end of DaNang Main Air Base, the circle marked "B," roughly the area marked "5" on the map, showing the tall hangars on the Navy/Marine Corps side of the field.  They are barely visible as the five small boxes lined up within the circle.


Street Scene

Photo: Near aerial view of the street grid in an outlying area of the City of DaNang showing clustered homes and unpaved streets

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  Aerial photograph showing the roof tops and dirt streets that comprised much of the city of DaNang in 1967


On the Town
Taxxxxxi!

"When we would go to town, we would usually go together and split the cost for a ride in a Vespa.  This was a motor scooter-driven taxi that had a compartment on the back like a small bus. It would hold six GI's comfortably. Another means of transportation was on a cyclo, which was like a rickshaw with a man riding a bicycle.  You could not get more than two people in it.  Then other than walking there was catching a ride on the back of a Honda or Yamaha motor cycle that were ridden by who we called “cowboys.”  This was illegal and if you were caught, you got punished. Most of the cowboys were renegade Vietnamese who were draft dodgers and lots of times were even the Viet Cong.  There was no cultural or appearance difference between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese so [just by looking] you never really knew . . . the enemy.  Many times GI's were killed or wounded by someone who looked innocent."

Rex Sands, "D" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1968-1969

Photo: Public conveyance of a type used for transportation in the cities of South Vietnam.  This one, built by Lambretta, an Italian motor scooter manufacturer, consisted of a motor scooter with a passenger compartment attached to its rear.  The conveyance could accommodate six riders in two inward-facing benches

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Top:  A Lambretta commercial conveyance, similar, no doubt, to the Vespa and loaded with six passengers, provides transportation to residents on the streets of DaNang in 1967.  There were no military passengers, however, since the City of DaNang was off limits to military personnel on foot.  With respect to the Vietnamese "cowboys," i.e., motor-scooter and motorcycle riders, these indigenous residents were clearly knowledgeable of American western movies and tales of the Hell's Angels.  The term cowboy apparently evoked images of independent, fast-moving and hell-raising renegades.  The word "cowboy" was a bit harder to deal with, however, sometimes coming across as "corbough" when pronounced by a Vietnamese.  Regardless, Vietnamese cowboys were said to be much involved in street crime and were a threat to military personnel.  Above, Bottom:  Three "B" Detachment troopers pose on the I Corps Compound in 1967.  At center is PFC Frank Thomas Billiteri (1946-2010].


And So It Went . . . 

". . .  two snuffies (marine infantrymen) . . . spotted a hole . . . enlarged it with [a] K-Bar [combat knife] and sure enough it opened into a tunnel.  It turned out to be one of the many entrances to a cave that was the Quang Da Special Zone headquarters [of the Viet Cong] for the Hue-Danang-Chu Lai area.  . . . a big, big cavern . . . that could sleep two hundred troops.  . . . But the big find was in these five-pound cans that GI coffee used to come in.  They contained the dossiers and personal records of all the Viet Cong double agents in the Quang Da Special Zone.  It turned out the mayor of Danang was a double agent [emphasis added].  So, this was my proudest moment.  From what I heard, it was the biggest intelligence find they had in I Corps during the war."

GEN Bernard Trainor, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired, as quoted in Christian G. Appy, Patriots: the Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides, Viking Penguin, 2003


A Novelist Revisits DaNang In 2009

". . . [The] city of Danang has not let us down. What I recall as a city that had possibilities is indeed, finally and slowly, turning into a South China Sea destination. . . . What I see here in Danang is on the good side. . . . [The] city is indeed going in the right direction, in my opinion. I see where city planners have torn down entire sections of the old city and rebuilt it with wide streets for traffic, followed by sound looking building infrastructure. . . . [T]his is communism tossed aside by city planners with a burning to survive. We stopped at Marble Mountain on the way to China Beach . . . and if you are looking for a beautiful piece of sculptured marble, this might be the place. It won’t be cheap, but the one shop my driver stopped at has huge pieces waiting to be shipped back to your backyard garden. . . . [I see evidence of] the building frenzy going on at China beach. Now, the Vietnamese do not like that China Beach name, as it brings back a piece of history they do not like. My guide asked me, ‘Where did you Americans come up that that name, this is not China?’" This morning, I come from the city of Hoi An by car via the beach highway, a divided 4-lane highway almost all the way to the Furama Resort on China Beach. The resort is a little south of the downtown area of Danang. I recall taking a ride out here to the beach during the war, and it was nothing but beautiful beach as far as you could see. Later today, I took a taxi ride to the north edge of town, to the Danang Bay where I recalled a few MACV advisory buildings were located. The streets on the drive were well maintained and wide with 2-3 lanes. The old MACV area I recall looked to be near a huge bridge construction, where a mini Golden Gate is nearing completing. The bridge crosses over to Monkey Mountain, and the advisory area I recalled has been leveled for the new bridge. . . . [Monkey] Mountain looks a lot bigger than I recall, but is still in the center of much activity with little building upon the hillsides. It looks much as it did back in our time. …

Well, this old Army grunt toasted, first a beer LaRue, and a second beer, a Tiger beer to [the] courageous U.S. Marines who made this home back in 1965. The beaches today are busy, and built up from Hoi An to Danang, I only hope they do not over-build. . . . [A]t the Furama, where rooms are a bit steep, so also are the beer prices and almost everything else, including Internet time. It is too Americanized, and most prices on the menu are in USDs [United States dollars], not VNDs [Vietnamese dong] . . . . The old chopper airfield is still in plain view from the Furama. I took a picture of the rounded hangars and airfield sitting next to the beach. The airfield has not yet been replaced, but the Monkey Mountain area, I understand, is controlled by the Vietnamese military and thus the reason not much building shows on the south side. . . . [I took a photograph] directly south of the Furama and across the main road to Hoi An. You can see the American landing strip if you look at the break in the trees. You can barely see old hangars off to the left . . ."

Darrell S. Mudd, April 27, 2009, author of the novel Cold War Burning and veteran of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.  He describes his visit to Vietnam to do research for his book on his blog, blogs.hdnews.net/vietnam/.


DaNang In 1967 and 2010

Photo: DaNang Harbor from the air in 1967

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: DaNang Harbor taken by a returning B Detachment veteran in 2010

Photo Credit:  Jim Wilson, "B" Detachment, 1969-1970, "C" Detachment, 1970, Imagery Interpretation Section.

Above, Left:  A photograph of DaNang Harbor in 1967, partially obscured by a light cloud layer, showing merchant ships at anchor awaiting clearance to proceed to the docks to offload military and civilian cargo.  Above, Right:  DaNang Harbor, in 2010, pictured from Monkey Mountain, with the skyline of the city of DaNang in the background.  This picture, if memory serves correctly, would have been taken from a position to the left of the 1967 photo, parallel to the large ship in the center, from the north of DaNang in a southerly direction.


Surfing the Internet today for DaNang produces a mixed bag of results -- advertisements for hotels and travel agents, trip reports by tourists, and artifacts of the Cham Museum.  Street scenes and YouTube postings showing motorbikes, automobiles and ongoing construction projects suggest an active city and contemporary lifestyle.  But except for scenic pictures of the Marble Mountains, Monkey Mountain and the view along the coast of the South China Sea from Hai Van Pass, little will be familiar to a curious old soldier.  Search terms such as "Han River" and "Han River Bridge," combined with "DaNang," may produce  photographs of a modern "cable-stayed, swing bridge" over the river and the structure's immediate environs.  The old steel-and-board bridge that was so familiar to "B" Detachment personnel during the Vietnam War appears gone and so too, perhaps, the I Corps Compound.


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