The Origin of Chu Lai, 1965
by Gene Wilson, Catkiller Historian
Just another piece of trivia, but did you know that Chu Lai is not Vietnamese and, like the US Marine Air Facility at Marble Mountain in early 1966, was not even on a map until after the US Marines arrived in I Corps? However, Chu Lai came into existence in 1965 and it is interesting how it got its name. In his book, Vietnam Military Lore, Legends, Shadows and Heroes, MSG Ray Bows, USA Retired, has this story:
“Although few things were named in Vietnam for living serviceman, there is a known story of one location named for a living Marine in Vietnam. Chu Lai, in Quang Tin Province, was not even a town when the US Marines constructed a major base there. When then MG Victor H. Krulak selected the site for an airfield, a naval officer accompanying him remarked that the site was not marked on the maps. Krulak replied that the name was Chu Lai, giving the officer his (own) name in Mandarin Chinese characters—thus General Victor Krulak named Chu Lai for himself.”
LTG Walt, the III Marine Amphibious Force commander, may or may not have had any idea of this, but what was done—was done. The mission at that time was to select the site and construct an airfield and base and a harbor to supplement the very busy major airfield and port in Da Nang. Many of our Marine AOs who flew with our platoon at Quang Ngai were picked up and/or dropped off at Chu Lai. The Chu Lai facilities are maintained by the Vietnamese government at the International Airport and the port in Dung Quat Bay under that name today.