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engineering units to undertake by themselves. A civilian construction firm worked on the expansion of the main airfield at Da Nang, while the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, Captain Harold F. Liberty, USN, with four Seabee battalions built helicopter facilities at Marble Mountain and Ky Ha. The Marble Mountain facility construction was approved by CinCPac in July and by 25 August MAG-16 was operating from the base. The Seabees also built a 400-bed hospital just west of the Marble Mountain Air Facility, but construction there was temporarily disrupted by the VC attack on 28 October. At Chu Lai, Seabees, assisted by Major Kennedy's Marine Air Base Squadron 36 and Marine engineers, built a second helicopter air facility on the Ky Ha Peninsula. Colonel Johnson's MAG-36 flew its first missions from the new facility on 12 September.40

The experience of the Seabees, who were supported by Lieutenant Colonel Wilson's MABS-12 and Marine engineering units at the Chu Lai SATS field, was typical of the frustration that the construction units faced in South Vietnam. On 3 July, the Seabees finished the last portion of the 8,000-foot runway, but only a few weeks later the northern half of the runway had to be closed because of soil erosion under the matting. No sooner had this project been completed than the Marines discovered that heavy rains and sand erosion had caused the foundation of the southern half of the runway to crumble. The matting became wavy and disjointed, unsafe for jet operations.41 On 25 September, the Marines closed the southern portion of the runway and the Seabees applied a soft cement base mixed with sand under the AM-2 matting to try to attain stabilization.42 This work was completed on 10 November, but by that time the northern foundation was eroding again. The Seabees made nightly repairs, but by the end of year it was apparent that the northern half would have to be lifted once more and restabilized with the same cement-sand mixture used on the southern portion. This time the sand was packed without using any other material, and then a light layer of asphalt was applied over the sand. Before replacing the aluminum matting, a thin plastic membrane was installed to keep rain from settling in the soil and undermining the runway.43 These efforts proved successful, and the "tinfoil strip", as the runway became nicknamed, was still in use five years after it had been built. Not even the SATS planners at Quantico in 1955 had envisioned that a SATS field could be constructed in such soil conditions and then used in all types of weather for such an extended period.44

General Walt expressed his appreciation of the engineering effort in the following terms:

Never have the Marine Engineers and the Navy CB's been faced with more urgent and difficult problems, and never have they responded more positively and effectively than in the Vietnam I Corps area during 1965-66. Their support was magnificent and of the highest professional order. They worked as an integrated team with always the "can do" attitude.45

The entire Marine logistics and support effort was perhaps summed up best by General McCutcheon's description of the SATS field: "It worked, but it took some doing."46

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