Hoi An to Chu Lai: 9 March 2013

After arriving at Da Nang Airport, we took a van to Hoi An and stayed at the Hoi An Beach Resort Hotel. In the morning this is the route we took as we traveled south from Hoi An to Chu Lai. The 98 miles route was tracked with a GPS receiver, and the tracked route is superimposed on a Google Map.

Prior to joining the group for our vehicular trip to Chu Lai, I took a little 4.5 mile walk after the delicious buffet breakfast served at the Hoi An Beach Resort Hotel. This is the walking route as tracked by the GPS receiver. We spent 2 nights in Hoi An.

But first, prior to my morning walk, Jere Hagen and I went to the beach adjacent to the hotel to admire both the beach and the South China Sea. Jere and I first met when we were stationed at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama from November, 1967 to January, 1968. We were ordered to Redstone Arsenal in order to become 55F20's, which is military speak for "Guided Missile Propellant and Explosive Specialist." After the 55F20 class concluded, Jere was given orders to go to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and I was held over at Redstone Arsenal. 'Held over' is a term to indicate that the Army did not yet have an assignment for me. While I was being held over for approximately 2 months, I became an Army photographer at Redstone Arsenal. I took pictures of award ceremonies and other official Army occasions that were deemed picture worthy. In February 1968, I received orders to go to Korea in March 1968. I spent 13 months in Korea, and returned to the States in April 1969, at which time I was released from active military duty at Fort Lewis, Washington.
I was surprised, and pleased, to receive an email message from Jere in 2002, thanks to the Internet. Jere was doing some research on Medal of Honor recipients, and he happened upon Vietnam Medal of Honor web page. We have since communicated via email a number of times per year. During September, 2012, Jere emailed me and mentioned that he and his wife would be in the San Francisco Bay area in late October 2012 in order to visit relatives. He suggested that we get together. What a great idea! So, after 45 years we met again. During our meeting, which coincidentally happened to take place at a Vietnamese restaurant, Jere mentioned that he had signed up for a tour of Vietnam. I was intrigued, and I asked him who was putting on the trip. After gathering additional information, I decided to join Jere on the trip to Vietnam. So, 45 years after meeting at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, here we are in Vietnam hanging out on a beach on the South China Sea!

This is a picture of Jere and me while we were stationed at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. The picture was probably taken during either December, 1967 or January, 1968. Jere is on the left, and I am on the right. We are standing adjacent to the tail assembly of a German rocket captured by the US Army at the end of WWII.

The leader of the Vietnam tour was Colonel John H. Dewing, US Army, Retired. The trip was, in my opinion, an overwhelming success thanks to John's hard work and dedication. John enlisted in the Army in Anchorage, Alaska during September, 1967. He was subsequently sent to Vietnam with the 864th Engineer Battalion (Construction) and was stationed at Nha Trang, where he worked as a surveyor. In August, 1969 he joined the Army's Officer Candidate School, graduating in February, 1970 as a Second Lieutenant. After going to Fort Sherman, Panama to attend jungle warfare school, he was deployed to Vietnam during September/October, 1970. At that time he was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry (the Old Guard), 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division (later the 23rd Infantry Division). He saw combat, received the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart amongst other Army medals and citations. As the US government reduced the number of active military personnel in the mid 1970s, the Army released John from its ranks. John subsequently joined the Army Reserve, and also became a civilian Army employee. While in the Army Reserve, he attained the rank of O-6, a full bird Colonel. He has since retired from both the Army Reserve and as civilian employed by the Army.
The 2013 tour of Vietnam is the 6th tour of Vietnam John has led; he enjoys both leading the tour and being in Vietnam. If you are interested in taking a tour of Vietnam, I suggest you give serious thought to signing up for a tour of Vietnam led by Colonel John H. Dewing.

This picture was taken on my morning walk.

On my morning walk.

On my morning walk.

On my morning walk.

At the outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

At the outdoor Hoi An marketplace. Here are two lovely, fashionable young women.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

The outdoor Hoi An marketplace.

On the streets of Hoi An.

On the streets of Hoi An.

An alleyway in Hoi An.

On the streets of Hoi An.

On the streets of Hoi An.

We are traveling south on Route One, heading to Chu Lai. There are two people on the motor scooter.

On the road to Chu Lai. The red hammer and sickle flag is the flag of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

On the road to Chu Lai. During my two weeks in Vietnam, I saw this sign in numerous locations throughout the country. I wan't exactly sure what it was advocating. After returning home I did some research and I am now fairly sure what the sign signifies. 3.2 means '3 February.' I did a search and it turns out that the Communist Party of Vietnam was founded 83 years ago on 3 February 1930.

After traveling south on Route One for about 50 miles, we turned east on to this road. It is the road to the site of the Marine, and later Army, Chu Lai military base and airfield. It's a strange road as compared to the other roads I saw in Vietnam: It is unusually wide, it has a center median, and there are closely spaced light posts in the central median. In addition, the road was devoid of any activity or signs of humanity. No cars, motor scooters, houses, people... nothing.

Until we passed a man standing on the side of the road. After we passed him, John Dewing, our tour leader told the driver to stop the vehicle. The man was Al Feser, someone with whom John had been in telephone contact. John was expecting to see Al waiting for our group by the side of the road. Al got on the bus, took a seat, grabbed the microphone and started to speak. After he spoke no more that 10 words, I felt like I knew him for years. He has a rich, deep New York accent, and it is always good to hear New Yorkese being spoken.

John first met Al in late 1967, at Army basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. After Al got out of the Army he became a policeman in Hicksville, Long Island, New York. He retired from the police department and it seems that he now travels from the US to Vietnam numerous times each year. He mentioned that he and a buddy recently took a 5,000 mile motor scooter trip throughout all of Vietnam, and he also talked about his plan to convert a few buildings in Chu Lai to a resort.

Al Feser talking New Yorkese!

Chu Lai was a United States Marine Corps base from 1965 to1971. Roughly 56 miles southeast of Da Nang, the base had an air field to supplement the military air base at Da Nang. Chu Lai was not named for any local geographic feature, but rather it was the Chinese name of Marine Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, commanding general of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.
Da Nang's Air Base was the first major airfield used by the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Shortly after Marine ground forces began arriving in Vietnam in 1965, it became necessary to open a second airfield because of the heavy traffic into and out of Da Nang. The Chu Lai base was officially operational on 1 June 1965, when three A4-C Skyhawks landed. Chu Lai Air Base was involved in Operation Starlite on 18 August 1965, when the Marines made a pre-emptive strike on gathering Viet Cong forces which were preparing to attack the base. By mid October 1965, the base was home to more than 80 A-4 Skyhawks. The Marines departed Chu Lai on 13 October 1970, turning control over to the United States Army's Americal Division.
Chu Lai was 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 US Military presence. The nearby heliport, once home to several U.S. Army aviation units, including F/8th Cavalry has been reclaimed by sand dunes.

During the Vietnam war, extensive use was made of aircraft revetments on airbases in Vietnam, in order to protect aircraft from Viet Cong guerrilla raids, or rocket attacks; by ensuing that a strike by a rocket could only take out a single aircraft. These concrete aircraft revetments located at the site of the Chu Lai Air Field, are some of the last remaining remnants of the American presence at Chu Lai. Al Feser mentioned that since the airstrip was unusually short, the Marines installed an aircraft carrier type catapult on the airstrip, in order to assist planes to become airborne within a shorter than normal distance.

From Friday evening, 8 March through Friday morning, 15 March, Mr. Nu was our bus driver and Mr. Quan was our Vietnamese guide. They are neighbors who live in Da Nang. Mr Quan went to Da Nang University to learn English. He has been a tour guide for approximately 10 years.
Please note that the bus is made in Korea. It appeared to me that the majority of motor vehicles in Vietnam are made in Korea.

The South China Sea at Chu Lai.

Buildings adjacent to the beach in Chu Lai.

Three people who greeted me as I was taking some pictures of the beach area.

The site of some of the many American military structures at the Chu Lai military base. Nothing remains of the structures; What once was, is no more.

This is a Vietnamese military base. It is located on a part of the former American military base.

We left Chu Lai and are now traveling north on National Route One. Our destination is the village of Hoi An.

Heading north on Route One to the Hoi An Beach Resort Hotel.

Vietnam March 2013 Trip Home Page: Go Here

Vietnam War Medal of Honor Citations: Go Here

Photos from Korea and Japan: 1968 and 1969: Go Here

My Return to Korea: October 2003: Go Here

My Digital Photo Collection: Go Here

Web Site Home Page: Go Here

Neil Mishalov neil@mishalov.com

Copyright © Neil Mishalov; posted April 29 2013