Chapter Seven

Nha Be was a small base about 5 to 10 miles south of Saigon (it seemed more like 10 to me but I suppose it all depends on where Saigon ends and it’s suburbs begin). I’m not going into it’s history, Kent Hawley has an excellent website that, along with photos and accounts, breaks down the history of the base from it’s construction through the time period I was stationed there and on beyond that. Please take the time to explore his website sometime (you have to be connected to the Internet for this link to work):

http://brownwater-navy.com/vietnam/Nha_Be.htm

I’ve often referred to Nha Be as a “middleman” supply base but its main function was actually as a support base for our forces that patrolled the rivers of the Mekong Delta. I had trouble finding a map with enough detail to be useful but not so much as to overwhelm; in the end I had to “borrow” one from the Internet and edit it a bit. I also had to properly rename Saigon, which resulted in wiping out some of the colored area that designates the size of the city. ;-)

NSA Nha Be was located on the Song (river) Nha Be. The Song Nha Be is a tidal river, meaning its water levels change with the tides – often to a great extent. Facilities at Nha Be included a boat repair facility, a medium sized chopper pad (when I was there), docking facilities for several river based squadrons (PBR’s, ASPBR’s, Mine Sweepers, etc.) and the supply division that I was assigned to. Since my specialty was supply, I’m not familiar with what the various boat squadrons did and it would be foolish of me to try to explain them. There was also a Navy Seal team based there but we tended to stay clear of those guys (the rumor was that they kept huge snakes in their living quarters), so I don’t know much about them.

The work I did at Cold Storage in Da Nang was a part of the “supply” functions a Storekeeper performs, but the Supply Division at Nha Be was actually closer to what I had been trained for. It consisted of two large warehouses, originally right on the docks next to the river. Our job was to provide all of the materials necessary to keep the base and the boats running, from repair parts to fans, water coolers and toilet paper. We also supported several outlying bases, including one called Sea Float, which I shall talk more about later.

Below are a couple general photos I did of the base shortly after I arrived, taken from the upper deck of a barracks ship that was tied up at the dock. I’ve been unable to find an aerial shot of the base from the time period I was there, so these will have to do. The first photo shows the main dock, with our two warehouses in the middle. The door of the main warehouse is open and our truck is parked in front of it. The rest of the buildings are part of the boat repair facilities. As a point of reference, the main channel of the Song Nha Be is to the right.

The next photo is taken in a direction to the left of the photo above. In the foreground are various items, including wheels of cable or wire. Just beyond that mess is our mini-tank farm – the large tanks where the base’s fuel supply was stored. Beyond that some of the barracks can be seen. You can’t see them from here very well, but our new warehouse was under construction near the end of the line of buildings on the left edge of this photo. Behind those was the chopper pad. If you refer back to the map, you’ll notice that the Song Nha Be splits up at this point, the west branch of the river is to the left in this photo.

For some reason, ships coming up river to Saigon used the narrow channel to the right; I don’t know why they didn’t use the wider channel to the left.

Approaching Nha Be by land was done via a highway (of sorts) that ran south out of Saigon. Heading south, once you cleared the suburbs of Saigon you were in rice paddy country. Part way to Nha Be you passed through a small town. At the time I had no idea what that town was called but I’ve found out since then that it was the actual town of Nha Be. The “town” outside the base, or what I had always thought was the town of Nha Be, was actually just what it looked like – a group of homes and small shops which had grown up because of the base. From now on I’ll just refer to it as “the strip”. To get onto our base, you had to drive the length of the strip, pass through a Vietnamese military base of some sort, and then enter our main gate.

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