Page 040

Page 40(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)  

only following his instructions. The Seabee commander also told Goode that the message from Saigon indicated that a representative of the civilian construction firm would ' 'be on hand to advise on the specific locations to avoid interference with work on, and operations from, the permanent runway,' which the civilian firm was to construct. This representative never showed up.16

To avoid further delays and to settle the question of the location of the SATS field once and for all, Lieutenant Colonel Goode attempted to contact General Carl on board the Estes, only to leam that the general had come ashore. Goode finally located General Carl at the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines CP. With Carl and members of the 3d MAB staff, Commander Bannister and Lieutenant Colonels Goode and Wilson returned to the proposed runway site. According to Carl's Chief of Staff, Colonel Nickerson, 'It was spontaneously determined by all that the intended location was not correct . . . . '17 General Carl directed that a resurvey be made on the basis of the recommendations that he and the original survey group had made in April. The original site was on a plateau, just inland from a tree line and above the flood waterline, paralleling the sandy berm north of the landing beach. Only a shift of 500 yards to the north was necessary to avoid a low area just south of the mid-point of the runway. According to Goode, 'This caused no inconvenience because it was just moved to a point that was to be graded for the overrun in any event. '18

USMC Photo

Navy Seabees with their heavy equipment prepare to start on the building o/the Chu Lai SATS field. The area to the right will be leveled for the emplacement of the aluminum matting of the runway.

USMC Photo A184233

Seabees lay down aluminum for the SATS field. Two full crews were required for each 12-hour work shift to relieve each other at 30-minute intervals because of the heat and humidity.

Following the selection of the SATS site, Lieutenant Colonel Wilson's MABS-12 Marines and Commander Bannister's Seabee construction crews launched an intense struggle against time and nature. The initial planning envisioned an operational airfield by 28 May, 21 days after the landing. The Marines had relocated the 400 civilians who lived on or near the airfield site so that the construction could begin. Heat and humidity quickly sapped the strength of the work crews. Temperatures often climbed over the 100 degree mark and the humidity was not much less. The heavy earth moving equipment could be operated only by alternating crews every 30 minutes. During each 12-hour work shift, at least two full crews were necessary for each piece of machinery, but the work continued on a 24-hour basis.

Sand played havoc with the operation. It worked its way into everything; bearings, brake linings, and clutches were quickly ruined. At times more than half of the tractors and dump trucks were deadlined. Some of the frustrations encountered by the work crews were reflected in an informal log maintained by Lieutenant Colonel Goode:

9 May . . . My general impression of the entire day was that there was much wheel spinning, disorganization, and little work accomplished, all compounded by the fact that three of the C.B. TD-24 tractors went out of com-
Page 40(1965: The Landing and the Buildup)