Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam: Controversial military campaign in American history

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam

Vietnam War was America’s most controversial and costly military campaign. It was also a war that defined a generation, and even a decade.

This operation required large war structures to be built on enemy territory. Some of these were war machines while others were smaller, but equally important. Some were destroyed or vacated during wartime, while others were abandoned after the end of peace.

Many of these once great military centers are now abandoned and being reclaimed slowly by the jungle.

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
USAF Vietnam Tuy Hoa Air Base main gate – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0
Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
Marble Mountain Air Facility – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0

Khe Sanh Combat Base

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
Khe Sanh Combat Base looking Northeast, 1968 – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0

Khe Sanh Combat Base was a US Marine Corps outpost and tactical center located south of the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone. The fighting began there in late April 1967, with so-called “hill fights,” and later grew into the infamous 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh. The base was under siege from numerous dug-in enemy artillery positions in neutral Laos.

On April 1st, 1968, the United States attempted to break the siege with ‘Operation Pegasus.’ In this massive operation, all three brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division took part, along with a Marine armor trust.

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
Nature takes back the airstrip – Author: L’homme venteux – CC BY-SA 3.0

Due to the base’s high vulnerability and risk of a full frontal attack, the US military bases abandoned it on July 5, 1968. Tourists can now visit Khe Sanh Combat Base, which includes a small museum with historical photographs and weapons. The majority of it, however, has become overgrown with wild coffee and banana plants.

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
The Museum at Khe Sanh Combat Base – Author: L’homme venteux – CC BY-SA 3.0

Bien Hoa Air Base

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
US military bases\ Bien Hoa Air Base – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0

Bien Hoa Air Base is a military airfield in South-Central Vietnam, about 16 miles (25 kilometers) south of Saigon, near the city of Biên Ha. From 1961 to 1973, the US Army used it as a major base, stationing Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine units, making it an all-around, multi-functional military force base.

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Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
Aerial view of the bomb incident that caused numerous second-hand explosions.

Because of the base’s importance and effectiveness, it was naturally a target for many attacks. It was also the site of some poignant and serious accidents and incidents; on May 16th, 1965, a bomb’s detonator was triggered while it was being fitted. As a result, a blast ignited weapon stores on the base, causing an even larger explosion. Twenty-seven men were killed, and another hundred were seriously injured. In addition, the massive inferno completely destroyed over 40 planes.

aircraft on ramp at bien hoa ab wreckage afterwards
The aftermath of the explosion.

Another mishap occurred on December 13th, 1968, when two planes collided in mid-air. They were both on a nighttime combat mission and attempted to land on the runway at the same time. The collision destroyed both planes beyond repair and killed the crews on both.

Nha Trang Air Base

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
Aerial Photo of Nha Trang Air Base South Vietnam – June 1968

Nha Trang Air Base is a US military bases Vietnamese military airfield located 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) northwest of Nha Trang in Khánh Ha Province. It was built in 1949 by the Colonial French government of Indochina to serve as a training facility for Vietnamese pilots. The base was taken over by the US Air Force in the late 1960s.

It served as a tactical and special operations base, providing close and direct air support to ground forces during offensive and defensive operations. Many operations were carried out from this unit, including interdiction, combat airlift, aerial resupply, visual and photographic reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency operations, psychological warfare (including leaflet dropping and aerial broadcasting), plus forward air control operations and escort, search and rescue, escort for convoy and defoliation operations, flare drops, civic actions, and humanitarian actions.

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
Nha Trang Air Base 1963-64 – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0

US military bases used by the until April 1975, when it was taken over by the Vietnamese People’s Army and used as a military air base. It was later used as a civil airport, but it is now closed and abandoned. All civil air traffic is now being routed through the new Cam Ranh Airport.

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
 man trying to board an overloaded evacuation plane is stopped by an American official at Nha Trang Air Base in South Vietnam – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0

Phan Rang Air Base

Phan Rang Air Base is located in Ninh Thun Province, 5.2 miles (8.4 kilometers) north-northwest of Phan Rang – Tháp Chàm. During the Second World War, the Imperial Japanese Army built this airfield, which was used by the French Air Force during the First Indochina War before being abandoned in 1954.

phanrangab jun68
Aerial photograph of Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam.

In 1965, the US Air Forces rebuilt the airfield so that it could be used in South Vietnam’s II Corps Tactical Zone. This is by far the longest-surviving air base, having been used and then abandoned by four different armies. Even today, the Vietnamese Air Force uses it in part.

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
614th Tactical Fighter Squadron 3 ship F-100D formation.

Marble Mountain Air Facility

Hands down, the Marble Mountain Air Facility has the best scenery of any US military base in Vietnam. It is also known as the Da Nang East Airfield, and it was built primarily as a helicopter base for the Marine Corps. It was built in August 1965 and served as a base for the Marines and Special Forces until May 1971.

Abandoned US military bases in Vietnam
Marble Mountains, Da Nang 1969 – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0

It was overrun by the Vietcong in March 1975 and soon abandoned to decay and rust. In 2000, the Vietnamese government designed and built a highway that cut the base in half. Following that, businesses began to develop commercial buildings on the site, and today it is an odd mix of old, dilapidated military hangars and new, modern properties being built on the old military base land.

640px marble mountain air facility april 1998
Marble Mountain Air Facility in April 1998 – Author: Mztourist – CC BY-SA 4.0

While the Vietnam War is long over, the psychological and physical scars remain. The continuous wars, invasions, and conflicts that have occurred and continue to occur throughout the world demonstrate that nothing has been learned or accomplished in terms of the advancement of compassionate minds and hearts among many of us human beings.

The money-making, gun-wielding, bullet-drenched machine that bathes in the blood of innocent people is far from over, and no one can predict where its next target will be.

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Da Nang – Marble Mountain Air Facility – Author: manhhai – CC by 2.0


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