Cam Ranh Bay
The Cam Ranh Bay is a deep-water seaport in Vietnam in the province of Khanh Hoa. It is located at an inlet of the East Sea situated on the southeastern coast of Vietnam, between Phan Rang and Nha Trang, approximately 290 Kilometers / 180 Miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon. Cam Ranh is often considered one of the finest such seaports in the world. The continental shelf of Southeast Asia is relatively narrow at Cam Ranh Bay, bringing deep water close to land.
Historically, the bay has been significant from a military standpoint. The French used it as a naval base for their forces in Indochina. It was also used as a staging area for the Imperial Russian fleet under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky prior to the Battle of Tsushima in 1905, and by the Japanese navy in preparation for the invasion of Malaysia in 1942. In 1944 U.S. Naval Task Force 38 destroyed most Japanese facilities and it was abandoned.
In 1964 U. S. Navy seventh fleet reconnaissance aircraft, the seaplane tender Currituck (AV-7), and Mine Flotilla 1 units carried out hydrographic and beach surveys and explored sites for facilities ashore.
This preparatory worked proved fortuitous when a North Vietnamese trawler was discovered landing munitions and supplies at nearby Vung Ro Bay in February 1965; the incident led the United States to develop Cam Ranh as a major base.
The United States Air Force operated a large cargo/airlift facility called Cam Ranh Air Base and it was also used as a tactical fighter base. It was one of three aerial ports where United States military personnel entered or departed South Vietnam for their 12 month tour of duty.
The United States Navy operated a major port facility at Cam Ranh, and the United States Army had a major presence there as well. The Navy flew various aircraft from Cam Ranh and other bases, conducting aerial surveillance of South Vietnam’s coastal waters.
After the fall of Saigon and the unification of Vietnam, Cam Ranh Bay became an important cold war naval base for the Soviet Pacific Fleet.
In 1979, the Soviet government signed an agreement with Vietnam for a 25-year lease of the base. Cam Ranh Bay was the largest Soviet naval base outside the Soviet Union, allowing the Soviet Union to project increased power in the East Sea. The Russian government continued this arrangement in a 1993 agreement that allowed for the continued use of the base for signal intelligence, primarily on Chinese communications in the East Sea. By this time, most combat troops and naval vessels had been withdrawn, with only support personnel for the listening station remaining. As the original 25-year lease was nearing its end, Vietnam demanded $200 million in annual rent for the continued operation of the base. Russia balked at this, and decided to withdraw all personnel.
On May 2, 2002, the Russian flag was lowered for the last time. Currently, Vietnamese officials are considering turning the base into a civilian facility, similar to what the Philippine government did with the American Clark Air Base.
With the Russian withdrawal, the United States in recent years has been negotiating with the Vietnamese government to declare Cam Ranh Bay to be open to port calls by foreign warships, as it already has done with the ports of Haiphong in northern Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh City in the south.
Such an arrangement would not be exclusive to the United States but would allow warships from any nation to use the port.
On May 19, 2004, after major reconstruction, Cam Ranh Airport received its first commercial flight from Hanoi. Today, the facility operates as an interal airport, taking over all air traffic which previously headed to Nha Trang Airport.