Khe Sanh and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, DMZ - review by Rusty Compass
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Khe Sanh and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, DMZ

| 23 Aug 2012
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Khe Sanh and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, DMZ
Route 9

Our rating
23 Aug 2012

The Rockpile, Khe Sanh, the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Ben Hai River are place names deeply embedded in the memories those old enough to have experienced the Vietnam War first hand or from afar. These days, the sites have few reminders of their wartime importance.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

There is little of significance from the Vietnam War to be found at these major points of historical interest. Like most old battlegrounds and historic sites - the value in a visit Khe Sanh and the DMZ is about evocation from a guide or some other source. Since information at the sites is also largely non-existent, a good guide is a must!

The Rockpile

The Rockpile was a US observation post in the DMZ that was constructed on top of a remote rock formation, parts of which now appear to be used for quarrying.

Khe Sanh

The outline of the Khe Sanh airstrip in red soil is the only original remnant of the large US Marine presence that gathered here in 1967 and 1968 in what became a major battle of the war - the strategic significance of which is disputed.

The battle ended inconclusively as the Tet Offensive took centre stage. The marines abandoned and destroyed the base in July 1968.

An effort is presently under way to recreate sections of the Khe Sanh base. US aircraft and tanks have also been brought in during the past decade (with little regard for authenticity) to add some life to the scene. Very little has been done to inform visitors about what actually happened here.

Some of the museum guides do a great job of filling in for the lack of historical information at the site.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh trail was the supply line from North Vietnam that kept the Communist insurgency alive in the south throughout the war. It was a maze of routes through dense jungle rather than a single trail.

Despite intense bombing and superior US firepower, efforts to destroy the supply lines failed. Sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail crossed Route 9, which is the road that leads to Khe Sanh. There are a few remnants of the original French road and a bridge as well.

Hien Luong Bridge Ben Hai River

The Ben Hai River was the dividing line at the 17th parallel between North and South Vietnam. The bridge across the river was damaged and closed in the war. There is now a new bridge at the site with the repaired 1950s bridge still open for foot traffic. There are also a number of monuments remembering the fallen communist fighters and the reunification of the country.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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