Direct West from here and slightly North approx. 200 kms by car or 6 days by buffalo is the start of the infamous A Shau Valley. Leading further up the valley is (as posted earlier) Khe Sahn and for those who don't know of; Hill 937 “Hamburger Hill" another war epic based on a real battle.
The battle of the AShau Valley ( Vietnamese spelling Tran A Sau ) was waged in early 1966 during the Vietnam War between the North Vietnamese Army ( NVA ) the forces of the United States and South Vietnam Forces. The battle began on March 3rd and lasted until March 10th with the fall of the U.S Army's Special Forces Camp of the same name.
The A Shau Special Forces camp was located in the A Shau valley about 50 Kms South West of Hue in Thua Thien Province. The valley was strategically important to the NVA as a major infiltration route because it was adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Laos.
Defending the camp was 10 US Green Berets Special Forces ( SF ) soldiers from the 5th SF Group and 210 South Vietnamese Civilian ( irregular ) Defence Group supported by Air Commando units equipped with vintage A-1 Sky Raiders and AC-47 Spooky gunships.
The camp was routinely harassed by Viet Cong formations leading up to the battle. Throughout February and March 1966 platoon size troops were sent out to conduct reconnaissance in the surrounding area. On March 5th, two NVA defectors turned up at the camp. Under interrogation, they indicated that four battalions of the North Vietnamese Army 325th Division were planning to attack the camp.
Based on that information, night patrols were dispatched to confirm the enemy positions but no sightings were reported, but Air Commandos conducting reconnaissance flights reported large build-up of NVA Forces along with anti-aircraft emplacements. As a result, air assaults were ordered against the enemy positions.
On March 7th, the A Shau camp was reinforced with seven U.S Special Forces personnel, nine interpreters, and a MIKE Force company in anticipation of the North Vietnamese Attack.
On March 8 the camp was placed on general alert and the camp's defenders had taken up their positions. During the night an enemy attack was launched but thrown back. Because of poor weather conditions that would hinder tactical air and resupply the North Vietnamese decided to continue more forcibly. The second attack began during early morning hours of March 9 with mortar bombardment damaging communications and reducing defensive positions to rubble. At 13.00 hours ( 3.00 pm ) an AC-D47 ' Spooky 70' from the 4th Air Commando Squadron circling the camp, fired on attacking NVA formations, but was shot down and crashed about 5 kilometres North of the camp. All 6 crewmen survived, but were attacked by NVA troops. Three crewmen were killed but the other three were eventually rescued by a USAF HH-43.
Between 16.30 hrs (4.30 pm) and 17.00 hrs (5.00 pm) supplies of ammunition were air dropped into the camp but most often landed outside the camp and could not be retrieved. At the same time helicopters were called in to evacuate the wounded. However, reinforcements from Hue and Phu Bai could not be deployed because of the bad weather, so the camp's defenders repaired their defensive wall and dug in for the night.
On the morning of March 10, the NVA launched another attack with mortar and recoilless rifle fire. At 05:00 hrs an assault team penetrated the East wall of the camp, where hand-to-hand combat took place for three hours. By 08:00 hrs the defenders had withdrawn to the camp's North wall. Throughout the day US Marines and VNAF bombers strafed NVA positions around the camp, but as fighting continued the situation deteriorated with ammunition supplies running short. As a result, a decision was made to evacuate all personnel.
At 17:00 hrs all communication equipment was destroyed. The survivors carried out their evacuation orders and destroyed all abandoned weapons and withdrew further to the North wall. Panic-stricken Vietnamese mobbed the evacuation helicopters and overwhelmed U.S Special Forces troops as they abandoned the camp. Only 172 of 368 Nung and Vietnamese irregulars were flown out. The others were listed as missing in action (MIA), although many of these turned up later. The evacuation further complicated by heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire and two H-34s aircraft were lost.
American control ceased when eventually heavily overrun by NVA forces. According to Sgt.Major Bennie G Adkins only 122 out of 417 irregular forces survived, with many of them wounded. Adkins was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions in defence of the camp by President Barack Obama in September 2014.
Barrie a Korean and Vietnam vet close friend of Truck lives in Thailand and has caught up with a few of the ex-diggers from Australia on Anzac Day in Thailand (recently)
Barrie flew 300 combat missions as a combat chopper pilot in Vietnam, many being in the A Shau valley in the early 60s and flew for COL.Hal Moore in the La Drang Valley. For those that have seen COL. Moore's story portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie " We Were Soldiers" will understand the almighty and dangerous task Barrie and other chopper pilots had whilst flying mission in those areas.
Xin Chao va tam biet