Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Victor "The Brute" Krulak, Expeditionary Airfields, Chu Lai, Vietnam and the USMC

Thanks to Robert for the link/history lesson!

Lt. Gen. Victor " Brute " Krulak Commanding General FMFPAC inspects VMA 225 at Chu Lai; Summer 1965. Gen. Krulak is being escorted by Lt. Col. Robert W. Baker CO VMA 225 and 1st Sgt Hugh Jack Feagin. " Brute" Krulak was rather short, but they didn't call him "Brute" for nothing. Gen Krulak was in charge of all Marines in the Pacific including Viet Nam. " Brute" Krulak was based out of Honolulu. Lucky guy, he gets to go back to Waikiki, and we get to stay at Chu Lai. Life is not always fair.

What continues to amaze is the fact that those of us that are supposed to be dipped in the history of the USMC and feel like we're part of the cadre to keep the flame alive still have so much to learn.

I'm guilty as charged.  Robert sent me a couple of links with regard to the F-35B expeditionary airfield capabilities.  The tragic thing?  We're not doing any better today than those that came before did decades ago in much more challenging conditions.  Check this out via USMC Official History: US Marines in Vietnam Landing and Buildup...
The proposal for the construction of the expeditionary field originated with General Krulak. Krulak had selected the Chu Lai site on an inspection tour the previous year and gave the future base its name. According to the FMFPac commander, a naval officer accompanying him on the trip remarked that the place looked good, but was not marked on the maps. Krulak replied that the name was "Chu Lai" but later explained: "In order to settle the matter immediately, I had simply given him the Mandarin Chinese characters for my name."3' In any event, Krulak suggested that the Chu Lai airfield be built according to a Marine Corps concept still in its early stages which employed metal runways and taxistrips. The program, called short airfield for tactical support (SATS), had been developed to meet Marine Corps requirements for the rapid construction of short expeditionary airfields, in effect shore-based carrier decks. Although the proposed field at Chu Lai would not qualify as "short," it would make use of SATS components including catapults and arresting gear.4 On 30 March 1965, Secretary McNamara tentatively approved the building of the SATS field at Chu Lai but the final decision, according to General Krulak, was not made until late April after the highlevel Honolulu Conference. At this conference, representatives from the U. S. Pacific Air Forces command had made a presentation stating that it would take about 11 months to build a concrete airfield. General Krulak then described the SATS concept after which, Krulak remembered: [Secretary of Defense] McNamara, in his characteristic bottom line manner, said "how long?'' I hesitated for a moment and then said, "25 days." Keith McCutcheon had to live with my estimate. 36
Yep.  Krulak pulled a number out of his ass and McCutcheon made it stick.  Absolutely amazing...and impressive.

But before I start a bro-mance for the Marine Corps greats that once roamed the land, we need to get back on task.  The old Corps was able to setup a freaking airbase in Vietnam in 25 days....meanwhile we're talking about being able to setup a landing pad in 17.

What's wrong with that picture?  Chew on that and check out the pic below of the Marine Air Field at Chu Lai

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