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Last updated: Friday, April 30, 2010

Vietnam War - Camp Evans

Camp Evans Today

According to the March 1998 edition of Army Magazine, Camp Evans is now farmland and not a trace of it remains.

Life in Camp Evans reveals somber outlook in Vietnam

By Paul Kearns
Coos Bay

I had been assigned to Company B of the 227 Assault Helicopter Battalion. Bravo Company was what was known as a “lift” company. Its mission was to transport people and supplies in what were known in Vietnam as “slicks.” A slick was a Bell UH-1 helicopter manned by two pilots. Each pilot had his own set of controls in which he could fly the helicopter. Sitting in the rear, behind the pilots and facing out toward the sides sat two door gunners who manned M60 light machine guns. The area between the pilots and door gunners was the cargo compartment. It was in the cargo compartment that our passengers sat and cargoes were carried. It had no rocket launchers or other armament mounted on its sides. It was from its relatively uncluttered appearance that the name slick was derived. It is the image of slicks with infantry standing on its landing skids that is so often associated with the war in Vietnam.

Bravo Company was staged at a large “fire base” named Camp Evans. The term ‘fire base’ referred to an encampment, often surrounded by barbed wire and fortifications manned by infantry. The larger fire bases often contained some sort of air strip for fixed wing aircraft. Artillery units protected the fire base from within and served to provide artillery support for troops working in the surrounding area. The larger fire bases also included so-called rear or support units for the troops operating in the field. Evans was the base of operations for numerous helicopter units. These units were staged about what was called the “flight line.” It was there that the flight and support crews lived. After a day or night of flying, the helicopters were parked in a sandbag protected revetments on the flight line. Here the maintenance crews serviced the helicopters.

Camp Evans was a staging base. It had a runway within its perimeter, people and supplies were constantly being transported into and out of its center via Air Force aircraft and of course army helicopters. Air traffic was very heavy and at times the weather was less than ideal. I remember seeing a midair collision between an Air force transport and Army Chinook helicopter within sight of Evans. The Chinook was climbing rapidly and flew into the Air Force transport. After the collision the Chinook immediately began spinning. It continued to do so as it fell to earth and exploded. The transport continued to fly for a few seconds as though it would be able to continue flying, but suddenly its nose dropped into a vertical attitude and it plunged to earth and exploded. More than 30 people died.

Camp Evans was located on a coastal plane. Laos was beyond the mountains to the west. The DMZ, which separated North from South Vietnam, was just a short flight to the north. Highway 1, what the French called the “Street Without Joy,” ran north-south just a few miles to the east between Evans and the South China Sea.

It is a testimony to my ignorance at the time that when I went to fight Ho Chi Minh’s army in Vietnam. I had little, if any, knowledge of what had happened to the French who had tried to win a war there only a decade or so prior to America’s involvement in Vietnam. Without the benefit of world class aviation support, such as America used in Vietnam, the French suffered horribly in what was then called French Indo China. Many tens of thousands of Frenchmen died in that war and are buried in Vietnam. They died in places such as Dien Bien Phu and on the Street Without Joy. I have since read that the French buried their fallen soldiers in an upright position, facing France. We Americans chose to collect our fallen and return them home for burial. The body bags of Americans, killed in Vietnam, returning home fanned the fires of America’s growing anti-war mood.

Arriving at Camp Evans, I felt as if I had been transported into an American Civil War era encampment. Everywhere I looked I saw tents, the roads were muddy and the people looked somber. This similarity ended; however, with the presence of many helicopters flying this way and that, projecting the whop, whop, whop sound so often associated with Vietnam. Dust or mud and unpleasant smells abounded. The air was hot and humid and infested with flies.

Upon my arrival I hopped a ride in a jeep that delivered me to the company area of B Co. 227 Assault Helicopter Battalion. As was the case elsewhere at Evans, not a building was to be seen, only tents, bunkers and sandbags. I reported to operations where I was greeted with less than exuberance. I was soon sitting by myself on a cot, in a hot tent, my equipment piled nearby. This was my new home. I had truly arrived in Vietnam. I could go home in 362 more days.


Combat Assault leaving Camp Evans, July 1970



         A LEGISLATIVE COMMEMORATION,  Honoring the memory of Lance Corporal Paul Evans of Sioux Falls for whom Camp Evans in Vietnam was named.

     WHEREAS,  Marine Lance Corporal Paul Evans of Sioux Falls was killed in Vietnam on December 22, 1966, while serving as an infantryman with the 26th Marine Regiment in Quang Tri Province at age 21. L/Cpl Evans grew up in Sioux Falls and attended Augustana College. He was a member of Augustana's football team and a talented artist. He left behind his parents and his sister, Jane Evans Nielson, of Pierre; and

WHEREAS,  Camp Evans, located midway between Quang Tri City and Hue on Highway 1, was expanded a number of times and continued under Marine control until 1968 when it became the headquarters for the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division for a time. It continued to expand and became one of the most important U.S. combat bases in I Corps, housing major units of the 101st Airborne Division, the 18th Evacuation Hospital, the 158th Assault Helicopter Company, as well as numerous other aviation, artillery, transportation, communications, and supply units. Camp Evans was in continuous operation for nearly six years; and Camp Evans, named for a Sioux Falls Marine, colors the Vietnam memories to this day of thousands of U.S. soldiers who passed through it:

Camp Evans, RVN

Picture (below) of Camp Evans 1970-71


The Rock Pile (below)

"The Rock Pile"




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