The Building and Operation of Newport Terminal

During early 1967, ships were  anchored up to 45 days or longer waiting to be assigned berths (Command History, 1967, Vol. II).  Demurrage costs  ranged from  $3,000 to  $7,000 per  day.  By the  end of 1967,  ten ports would be  handling cargo thus reducing  ship berth time  from 20.4 days to 2.4 days (Heiser, 1974).  There  was also a shortage of tugboats to handle vessels, barges and  miscellaneous duties, but with the building of Newport, the Saigon command port crisis would be essentially over by late spring of 1967.
Photo Courtesy of U.S Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, VA.
Newport is  located on the Saigon  River three or  four miles north  of the Saigon  port and just  south of the main bridge for highway 1A  which had direct  route to Bien Hoa air base  and Long Binh field  depot and the main  ammunition depot.  The primary purpose of  Newport was to take over the handling of all U.S. military  cargo that was presently being handled at the Saigon  port.  Newport  would  become  part of the  Saigon area  port complex.   The components  of this  complex  included Saigon port,  Vung Tau where  ships lined up and  waited for pilots to  take them up the river to Newport, Camp Davis which was up  river for military  housing and the  Cat Lai complex  located seven miles  south east of Saigon. The complex handled over  sixty  percent  of ammunition  entering Vietnam  (Biggs,  King,  Criner,  1994).   That  included  several different  barge locations for the  loading and unloading of ammunition  from ships in stream,  but of these  several barge locations, only two were  used  exclusively for  ammunition and  they were  located at  Buu Long  and Cogido.  Therefore,  the above  mentioned would all be handled and operated as a single command.
Photo Courtesy of U.S Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, VA.
Construction  of Newport started  in 1966 and took  fifteen months to complete, costing the United States at least $50 million dollars   (Forken 1967).   The   facility   was  constructed   by  RMK - BRJ  (Raymond   International,   Morrison  - Knudson International,  Brown & Root and J. A. Jones)  on an area  of approximately  one hundred acres  of land that had once been part rice-paddy and a swampy, mangrove-covered area, which at high tide was covered by water (Diary of A Contract 1967).  Therefore, great quantities of  rock and sand were brought in by barge and truck for fill (Dunn 1972).  According to Richard Tregaskis,  author  of  Southeast  Asia:  Building  the  Bases,  to form  the  shallow-draft section  of the port, 1,144 piles were driven.  Some 500 of these piles averaged 135 feet deep. Newport is constructed  from two million cubic yards of fill, of which about 3,000 cubic meters of this was delivered by sampans.  18,000 cubic yards of concrete was required for the staging deck, 4,050 steel piles,  for a combined length  of 107 miles and 35 miles  of structural steel.   There would be four deep draft berths with a combined length of 2,400 feet, the eight transit sheds have a total floor space of 192,000 square feet (Tregaskis,  1975). One of these berths would be able to handle roll-on and roll-off ships.  Another draft would be able to handle container ships plus facilities to include two ramps for landing LST's, a wharf to handle up to seven barges, and a landing craft ramp.  There would  be warehouses  and open  storage behind  each pier.   The port  also featured  a 100-ton floating  crane anchored on a barge.  A large parking space for containers would also be available.

In April  of 1967 the first  deep draft vessel  would be  discharged at  Newport.  The first container ship to unload at Newport would not be until October, 1967 (Fuson 1994).   
Photo Courtesy of U.S Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, VA.
Newport  would be  commanded by the  71st Transportation Terminal Service Battalion.  According to the written history on the  71st Transportation Battalion,  which was normally  known as the "EXPEDITERS", arrived in Vietnam from Fort Story, Virginia  during  August,  1966.   The  battalion  had  attached  the  154th,  368th,  551st,  561st and  567th  Terminal Service Companies;   372nd  Terminal  Transfer  Company;   and  the  U.S.  Army  Harborcraft  Company  (Provisional).   The  base headquarters  and company  camp was located at  Long Binh known as  'CAMELOT' which was about 23 miles to the  north from Newport.   Camelot  base  camp  was  originally  built as a  tent encampment,  but by 1967, aluminum prefab 20' by 60' Adam huts were built to house troops.

As  a  matter  of note,  regarding the  immensity  of Long Binh complex,  the  Long Binh  post included  depot  facilities that provided 1,869,000 square feet  of black-topped hardstand and 1,458,000 square feet of covered storage.  By comparison, the depot facilities at the Fishmarket in Saigon had a  total of only 670,000 square feet of covered storage space as late as March, 1967  (according  to  Joseph M. Heiser,  Jr.  who  stated in  his writing  Logistic Support,  Vietnam Studies on  The  Logistics Environment in Vietnam).

Newport operated with two twelve hour shifts. Stevedoers and administrative troop personnel were transported by truck from Camp  Camelot  at Long  Binh  to  Newport.   During  the  second  night  of the  Tet Offensive  of 1968, the 71st engaged the Vietcong  (third  battalion of the  273 VC Regiment)  as they  were trying  to take  control  of the  Newport Bridge (Bien Hoa highway bridge),  but with assistance   of the infantry, helicopter gun ships  and armored vehicles,  the Vietcong were repelled and unsuccessful in their mission.

The  71st earned  two Meritorious Unit Commendations  while serving in Vietnam. They were  for periods  1968-1969 and the year  1972  (Lineage and Honors).   The  71st  Transportation  Battalion  departed  Vietnam  on  August  20,  1972.  The 71st supported  variou s operations,  including Operation Oregon  and the  retrograde  program  and was also  involved with civic action at Hamlet An Hoa Houng.
As  defined by  the U.S. Army  Transportation  School in  1966,  the mission  of a terminal  service battalion  such as the 71st Transportation Battalion  is to provide  command and  administrative supervision  to terminal service companies who handle the  load  of  cargo on  vessels,  discharge  cargo  from  vessels  and clear  it from  shipside,  transfer cargo from one mode of transport  to another  and prepare  the necessary  documentation  to account  for and  record movement  of this cargo.  Each terminal  service  company,  also  known as  stevedore companies,  would  number  from 250 to 325 men.   By 1967,  the total strength of  the 71st stood  as follows:  39 officers, 3 warrant officers and 1,661 enlisted men, but by October of 1969, the 71st headquarters  attachment  and  its  three  terminal  service companies  had an  authorized strength  of 1,045  men  but  actual assignment totaled 644.

The  71st Transportation Terminal Service Battalion  reported  to the  4th  Transportation  Command,  Saigon.   The  4th TC arrived in South Vietnam  on August 12, 1965.  It was given the mission of assisting Headquarters Support Activity Saigon in U.S. port operations.   In early 1966, the 4th's new mission was to  operate the Saigon Port Complex, a sub-port at Vung Tau and  various  ammunition  distribution  sites.   In  1967  the  command  was  officially  assigned  to  the  U.S.  Army  Support Command, Saigon which included overseeing the operation at Newport.
Photo Courtesy of U.S Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, VA.
Photo Courtesy of U.S Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, VA.
Tonnage  figures  were  kept  on  a  daily  basis,  recapping  statistical  information  on  ships, barges, landing ship tanks, etc. Nightly, these reports were driven to Saigon port and presented to the 4th Transportation Command for compilation with the rest  of  the  Saigon  Port  Complex  figures.   Although  it  is  difficult  to  know  total tonnage  of cargo handled by Newport involving  unloading  of  ships,  barges,  landing  ship  tanks,  landing  craft and  roll  on/off  during its  term  of operation in Vietnam,  some statistics can be  offered with this writing.  For instance, between October, 1968 to June, 1969, 1,034,340 tons of cargo was unloaded (Commanders Monthly Review, 4th T.C., June 1969).

If this  figure would  be annualized,  it would  come to  an average  of 1,379,124 tons  of cargo handled for that twelve month period.  According to  Richard Tregaskis who wrote Southeast Asia: Building the Bases, the port had the capability to handle 150,000 tons per month which, annualized, would come to 1,800,000 tons for a twelve month period.

Primarily,  United  States  military  cargo  was  unloaded  and loaded  at Newport  which  included  military  vehicles, general military cargo, repair parts, food products, etc.  Except for vehicles, the mentioned cargo was packed in conex containers and later ocean containers.

Photo Courtesy of U.S Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, VA.
Back to Home Page and Unit Histories
This information was submitted by Thomas F. Le Moine, (Hq. Det. 71st Trans. Bn. 67-68) from his research paper, Newport Terminal A Historical Overview Of A U.S. Army Port Facility Operated By The 71ST Transportation Battalion.
(Terminal Services)
Back To Photo Page One
Back To Table Of Contents
Full Speed Ahead