Khe Sanh Combat Base



Khe Sanh Combat Base

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Situated close to the Laos border, the Khe Sanh Combat Base lies about 2 miles (3 km) away from Khe Sanh village, now known as Hoang Ho. It was initially developed as an airstrip by the Americans in 1962, and later enlarged and developed into a US Special Forces base charged with intercepting traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail (see p155). However, Khe Sanh is best known as the site of one of the most ferocious battles of the Vietnam War, and as the beginning of the end for the Americans in Vietnam. In 1968, the famous US General William Westmoreland started a massive build up at the base with a view to forcing the North Vietnamese Army into direct confrontation. Vietnam’s General Vo Nguyen Giap took the bait, but in a masterful doubleplay, used the siege, which lasted from January to April 1968, to distract attention from the Tet Offensive (see p49). Diversionary tactic or not, the heavy deployment of bombs and relentless gunfire resulted in a number of casualties. An estimated 207 American and 9,000 Vietnamese soldiers died, and several thousand civilians lost their lives. Although this battle was not, as President Johnson feared, another Dien Bien Phu (see p199), the Americans, though undefeated, were forced to withdraw from Khe Sanh. They took great pains to bury, remove, or destroy, rather    than abandon their military equipment where it could be used as propagandist evidence of their “defeat.” Today, Khe Sanh is on the tourist map, with guided tours available. The drive along Highway 9, past statues and plaques, is part of the Central Vietnam experience. Though nothing had been left behind,  American weaponry and vehi- cles were brought in from else- where in the south to fill the  small Museum here.

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