~ 720th Military Police Battalion Vietnam History Project ~
The Newport Bridge
This Page Last Updated   10 April 2018
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Participating Commands
II Field
Popular Forces
National Police
18th MP
89th MP
720th MP

     Official details on the timeline for the construction of the original bridge are hard to come by. What has been verified is that the plans for and construction of the Saigon River (Newport Bridge) on Highway-316, redesignated as Highway-1A, began in 1955 and was completed by 1962.

     There was often a certain degree of confusion by American GI’s between the numerical designations of Highway QL-1 and 1A during the early years of the war. Highway QL-1 was the original and historical main highway from Saigon to Hanoi since the mid 1800’s. Highway-316 was the original Saigon (Gia Dinh Province), to Bien Hoa (Bien Hoa Province) inter provincial route.

     During the First Indochina War (1946-1954), the fighting between the Viet Minh (North Vietnamese Communist Forces) and French Colonial Forces practically destroyed the railroad and highway system in South Vietnam. More than 60% of the 11,800 miles of roadways received damage in varying degrees, and most of the major bridges were destroyed or severely damaged. U.S. nonmilitary assistance provided to South Vietnam under the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) considered highway restoration important and coordinated approximately 40% of the funds set aside for transportation to be used on main and rural highway restoration. Coordinated projects between Vietnamese engineers and American contractors began the panning and construction. The planning also included bridge construction and rural ferry repairs and replacements .
     In 1957 the contractors built and improved to modern standards over 180 miles of main highways, to include Highway-1A, formerly known as Highway-316. The new 21-mile long 4-lane section of Highway-1A also known as the Saigon-Bien Hoa Highway was considered their “showcase” of American highway engineering. The 21-mile section also included the construction of two new modern concrete and steel bridges that spanned the Dong Nai River (Dong Nai Bridge) and the Saigon River (Saigon Bridge also known later as the Newport Bridge).

          The two bridges on Highway-1A, the Dong Nai, gateway to the Long Binh Post storage and supply depots, and the Newport, gateway to the future U.S. Army Newport Military Terminal Complex and docks, were both critical to the Allied logistical supply link for III and IV Corps Tactical Zone during the buildup and throughout the war.

     The Dong Nai Bridge was in the traditional corridor of enemy infiltration from the Cambodian sanctuaries to Bien Hoa. However, with all of the Allied combat arms bases that surrounded it, it became the more secure of the two.

     The Newport Bridge and its deep-water port complex situated rurally outside the confines of the capital city with its back against the Saigon River and guarded only by a small MACV-Popular Forces compound and its U.S. Transportation and Logistical companies at the terminal, was also within the traditional corridor of enemy infiltration from the Cambodian sanctuaries and a much shorter and more direct route of travel, making it the least secure of the two. As a result, the disruption of their service or their destruction became a more important tactical mission of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army’s overall strategy in the south.
     View of the Newport Bridge (northwest) from a dock in the U.S. Army Newport Terminal Complex, Saigon River in Gia Dinh Provence of III Corps Tactical Zone, Vietnam in 1967. Courtesy of SP/4 Donald W. Parsells, A Company, 720th MP Battalion, & 560th MP Company, 188th MP Company, 92nd MP Battalion, 89th MP Group, 18th MP Brigade, October 1966-October 1967.

     The bridge security was provided by a MACV-Popular Forces security outpost on the south end staffed by local platoon of South Vietnamese Regional Forces-Popular Forces who had to count on rapid response and assistance from other combat arms elements within the area.

     As the war buildup continued through the mid 1960's new daytime convoy stops and destinations were added to the list including Operation OVERTAKE, the transport of high-end Special Services Post Exchange cargo from the docks across the bridge to Long Binh Post and Bien Hoa Air Force Base. During Overtake the MP escorts of the civilian contracted vehicles was primarily to prevent organized criminal theft.

     In 1967, to enhance their mission Battalion established a daytime joint ARVN Military Police and National Police checkpoint at the north end of the bridge. The checkpoint was staffed by two teams of U.S. Military Policemen, Vietnamese Military Police (Quan Canh) and Vietnamese National Police (Canh Sat).

     They checked U.S. military vehicles and Vietnamese civilian and military vehicles. Their primary function was to interdict weapons, undocumented civilians, unauthorized military personnel and black market contraband.

     The daytime convoy escorts were later expanded to include night convoys of both civilian and military transports.

5 February 1968, 0100 hours The 273d Viet Cong Main Force Regiment of the 9th North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Division, already battered from an unsuccessful Tet New Years Offensive attack on Thu Duc the previous day, attempted to blow up the Newport Bridge. Unaware of the impending attack, gun jeeps of A Company, 720th MP Battalion assigned to Operation OVERTAKE Night escorts were situated on the south side of the bridge awaiting orders to depart, and became a deciding factor in its defense that the Viet Cong had not planned for.  The Battle For The Newport Bridge, February 1968 Battalion Timeline page.

     Throughout the following months of 1968 known as the Mini-Tet Offensive and continuing into 1969 and 1970 several more attacks of the bridge, it's Popular Forces outpost and the Port Terminal Complex were carried out. All were tactically unsuccessful.

Miscellaneous Photographs
A "?" following the photo number denotes further identifications are needed, and an Email Link is provided.
Personnel & Facilities
 1967- Joint U.S., ARVN MP and Vietnamese National Police checkpoint at the bridge.
 5 February 1968 U.S. Army video (without audio) of damaged Newport Bridge.
 1968- Dead Main Force VC soldiers at the entrance to the bridge during the Tet Offensive.
 1968- Dead Main Force VC soldiers on the bridge during the Tet Offensive.
 1968- ARVN Popular Forces and Marines guarding the bridge during the Tet Offensive.
 1968- ARVN armored elements guarding the bridge during the Tet Offensive.
 1968- Repairs to the Newport Bridge.
 1969- Newport Bridge.
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