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Chu Lai is a sea port, urban and industrial area in Núi Thành District, Quảng Nam Province, Vietnam. The city is served by Chu Lai International Airport. It is also the site of the Chu Lai Open Economic Zone (Vietnamese: Với Khu Kinh Tế Mở Chu Lai).
A settlement did not exist before the construction of the US military base commencing with a landing on May 12 1965. The name "Chu Lai" was not marked on local maps. It is recorded in several sources that General Victor H. Krulak, who had been in China in the 1930s, dubbed it Chu Lai after the Chinese characters for his own name.
Chu Lai was a United States Marine Corps base from 1965-71 during the Vietnam War. Roughly 56 miles (90 km) southeast of Đà Nẵng, the base had an air field to supplement the major base at Đà Nẵng. It was not named for any local geographic feature, but rather was the Chinese name of Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, commanding general of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.
Da Nang Air Base was the first major airfield used by the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Shortly after conventional ground forces began arriving in country in 1965, it became necessary to open a second airfield because of the heavy traffic into and out of Đà Nẵng. Charles R. Gibson was selected to be the head engineer of the base. He and his crew broke ground in December and the base was officially operational as of 1 June 1965, when three A4-C Skyhawks from VMA-225 landed. It was involved in Operation Starlite on 18 August 1965, when the Marines made a pre-emptive strike on gathering Viet Cong (VC) forces who were preparing to attack the base. By mid-October 1965, the base was home to more than 80 A-4 Skyhawks from Marine Aircraft Group 12. Marine Aircraft Group 13 was based at Chu Lai from September 1966 until September 1970, with three F-4 Phantom squadrons. In April 1967, VMA(AW)533 A6-A Intruder All-Weather Attack aircraft arrived to provide air support for Marines in the I Corps, and to deliver ordinance on targets in North Vietnam under all weather conditions. The Marines departed Chu Lai on 13 October 1970, turning control over to the United States Army.
Chu Lai was also 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 U.S. Military presence. The nearby heliport, once home to several U.S. Army aviation units, including F/8th Cavalry (BlueGhost) has been reclaimed by sand dunes.
Since 2001, Kia Motors has manufactured automobiles at its Chu Lai Plant as part of a joint ventured with Truong Hai Automobile Co. The site covers 320 hectares (790 acres), and Truong Hai was the first private company in Vietnam to manufacture automobiles, and the first to achieve an annual output of 5,000 automobiles. The facility expanded in 2003 on 38 hectares (94 acres) in Tam Hiep Industrial Park with an investment of VND1,900 billion. In 2007, Truong Hai Automobile Co. Ltd became Truong Hai Automobile Joint Stock Company (Thaco), with automobiles marketed as Thaco-Kia.
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