Chu Lai

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Chu Lai is a coastal area in Vietnam that was a key logistics base in the Vietnam War. Prior to its wartime use, it had no Vietnamese name, but the name applied by MG Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine commander in the area, a Chinese version of his surname, has continued under the present government. [1]

Wartime use

As the Marines expanded their presence from the major base at Da Nang, Krulak selected the area around Dung Quat Bay for a supplementary logistics base. "When told by his staff that the area had no name associated with it on the maps of the day, he immediately decided that it would be called Chu Lai. Rank has its privileges. "[1]

Chu Lai supported both the Marine Air Units at Da Nang, as well as the U.S. Army's Americal Division; that division was headquartered there from 1967 to 1971. While it was not a deepwater port, it accepted landing craft and small vessels that took cargo from ships at the seaports Da Nang, Qui Nhon and Cam Ranh Bay.

The base also supported Swift boat, or armed river patrol boat, operations.

Soon after its creation, a Viet Cong attack was planned against it; Operation STARLIGHT, the first Marine offensive of the war, preempted that attack.

Current status

Under the government of Vietnam, and its doi moi economic reforms, Chu Lai remains the center of what is now called the Dung Quat Economic Zone, which has two major development areas, Chu Lai itself and Dung Quat, located, respectively, in Quang Nam and Quang Ngai provinces. Quang Ngai has been one of the poorest areas in Vietnam, due, in part, to both typhoons and seasonal droughts.

Economic development began in 1995, with a government decision to build the first oil refinery in Vietnam, at Dung Quat. At first, the Dung Quat Industrial Zone was created for the refinery. Given most Vietnamese oil reserves are off the southern coast, while Quang Ngai is central, industry analysts questioned placing a refinery at Dung Quat. Originally scheduled for completion in 2001, the date has moved to 2009, causing a number of investors to withdraw. Nevertheless, the project is now receiving Prime Ministerial attention, and may be on schedule. [2]

Chu Lai's economic zone went into operation in 2002, and is prospering, with an international airport complementing the port at Dung Quat. Projects in the area include a Taiwanese funded Tycoon Steel mill and a Korean funded heavy machinery project, Although the two economic zones are less than 30 minutes from each other, no one has worried that their interests will conflict due to different structure and targeted industry development. While Chu Lai Open Economic Zone already went into operation in 2002, having attracted US$ 1.5 billion in investment, Dung Quat is now starting to prosper, with a ship building venture (Vinasin), capable of building large ships. It now has 500-600 workers, but is expected to create 10,000 jobs.

Interestingly, with heavy industry going into the area, an ecotourism resort is also under development in the Zone.