Cam Ranh Bay Historical Notes

The original research and chronology on this page was compiled by Tom Beauvais and Andrew Hartsook of the 518th Personnel Services Co. U.S. Army Support Command, Cam Ranh Bay, in February, 1972.  I sincerely appreciate their willingness to share it with me and to allow me to post it.  I know I found it interesting and I think many others who spent a significant chunk of their lives at Cam Ranh Bay will also.

Cam Ranh Bay Chronology

Early 1800's French Marquis De Barthelmy settled on the peninsula. (The town of Nha Trang was established in 1793.)
1800's ?? French establish penal colony on Binh Ba Island.
April, 14, 1905 Russian Imperial Baltic Fleet (50 ships) anchored in Cam Ranh Harbor on way to ill-fated battle of Tsushima Straits where they were defeated.
1932 Japan occupied Cam Ranh Bay
1939 French return to Cam Ranh Bay and constructed small military installation on Binh Ba Island along with 6-inch and 8-inch coastal guns.
July, 1941 Japan gained control of naval base at Cam Ranh Bay (had occupied Indo-China and also controlled Saigon). Probably when pillboxes were built.
194? After fall of Singapore and prior to invading Indonesia, the Japanese Western Force made up of the 2nd Division from Japan and the 230th Infantry Regiment which had invaded Hong Kong assembled in 56 troop carriers in Cam Ranh Bay before moving south to Indonesia.
1941 American naval and air forces "visited the harbor" in a series of recon missions over the Manila-Cam Ranh route.
Nov 30, Dec 4, 1941 "U.S. Navy Catalinas flying over the Manila-Cam Ranh route spotted 21 Japanese transports and other ships in the Cam Ranh Harbor. This was brought out in testimony by Vice-Admiral Wilkinson before the Congressional Pearl Harbor Investigating Committee.
Jan 25, 1944 In Operation MATTERHORN, the XX Bomber Command (dropping mines and bombing ships in harbors) made Cam Ranh Bay a new target. On that day 6 B-29's of the 462nd Group, XX Bomber Command, released several hundred armed mines into the harbor.
March 29, 1944 Sixteen B-29's "re-seeded" the mine field in Cam Ranh Bay harbor.
Dec 10, 1944 XX Bomber Command sent B-29's on recon mission to Cam Ranh Bay after reports of hostile fleet movements in the harbor.
Dec 13, 1944 Five Japanese destroyer escorts abandoned their base in Manila and withdrew quickly to Cam Ranh to escape American air attacks.
Dec 24, 1944 Japanese Southwestern Fleet's strike force sationed in Cam Ranh Bay was ordered to bombard the beachhead and air base at Mindoro in the Philippines. The strike force commanded by Rear Admiral Kimura consisted of the destroyer KASUMI, heavy cruiser ASHIGRA, light cruiser OYODO, and five other destoryers. The strike force left Cam Ranh harbor undetected.
Dec 25, 1944 American submarines operating in the South China Sea discovered the Japanese force and alerted the air force.
Dec 26, 1944 American air forces attacked the strike force off Mindoro. The Americans sunk one destroyer and damaged all the others.
Dec 27, 1944 The remaining Japanese ships escaped to Cam Ranh Bay.
Jan 1, 1945 Japanese had only escort vessels in Cam Ranh harbor.
Jan 11, 1945 The U.S. Navy, under the command of Admiral William Halsey had decided to make an attack on the harbor not knowing the Japanese had vacated the harbor before Jan 11th. This operation consisted of two groups of Naval Task Force 38 operating in the South China Sea spearheaded by the aircraft carriers Independence, Enterprise, and six destroyers.
Jan 12, 1945 The U.S. Naval strike force 50 miles from Cam Ranh harbor. They discovered later that the Japanese had left and the U.S. ships turned back. However Navy fighter aircraft managed to destroy 20 Japanese seaplanes in the harbor. This was the last significant action to take place at Cam Ranh Bay in WWII.
1951 Chiang Kai-Shek sent 30,000 troops to Vietnam including 6,000 that were based at Cam Ranh. Apparently the French placed the 6,000 men in detention
1952 6,000 Chinese troops left Cam Ranh and were returned to the Republic of China.
1954-1956 Cam Ranh Bay used as principal evacuation area for the French Army.
July, 1956 Last French troops sailed from Cam Ranh harbor ending 100 years of colonial rule.



Binh Ba Island Historical Notes

In the center of the Cam Ranh Bay Entrance photo can be seen Binh Ba Island with the village of Binh Ba in the low section connecting the two small hills. In the right center is the large peak which overlooks Tiger Lake. The U.S. Navy's Logistical Supply Base was located at the north end of the Binh Ba island chain. On a historic note, the Russian Imperial Baltic fleet consisting of about 50 ships, commanded by Admiral Zinovy Rozhdestvensky arrived in Cam Ranh Bay harbor about April 14, 1905 and then was forced to leave per the French neutrality regulations on April 22, 1905.

The island was once used as a penal colony for criminals and political prisoners. When the French began construction of their small military installation in 1939, they found human remains bearing chains and nameplates. Have not been able to find any thing more about the penal colony. That might take some digging.

In 1939 the French began construction of military facilities, the beginning of a naval base. The facilities included barracks for enlisted men, officers, and dependents. The summit of the island, the one in the center to the right contained several 8-inch and 6-inch gun batteries with a range of 8 miles .Underground tunnels connected the gun batteries and lookout towers. Inside the tunnels were rail tracks used to carry the heavy coastal artillery shells.

Revised: 09 August 1999