Familiar Territory

The last reported deaths were on December 21st, 2004 when five people aged between 9 and 20 were killed in Binh Thuan when a war time American M-79 shell they were playing with exploded. The five were killed instantly in a field where they were tending to a herd of cows. Since the Vietnam war ended in 1975 nearly 40,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 people injured as a result of unexploded ordinance according to Vietnam Ministry of Public Security.

According to the U.S. Military, more than 15 million tonnes of bombs, mines, artillery shells and other munitions were used during the war. As much as 10 percent of that is estimated to have failed to explode.

Most of the explosions occur while people are farming or trying to salvage the metal for scrap, and the explosives are used by fishermen. After today, whilst cycling along I also see another element of danger for foreign adventurers. Those who hire reconditioned American and Russian jeeps from the war to go sand dune buggy adventuring. On seeing shifting sand dunes by the ton loads , hundreds of jeeps running amuck and possible exposed ordinance (a left over legacy from the war) maybe a recipe for disaster. Mui Nhe nice and peaceful place, but stick to windsurfing or kitesurfing and/or watch the movie "
Apocalypse Now " for surfing instructions in a war zone.

For myself, whilst pedalling along today my thoughts drift back to just over 45 years ago as I'm now getting into familiar territory. Directly West of here in Xuan Loc (Dong Nai Province) My SAS Patrol (in 1970) were inserted into a U.S.Miltary Base called Blackhorse Base or then simply Xuan Loc to search out the VC for the American units based there due to; they had not much luck in establishing their (VC and NVA) whereabouts in that particular area.

Blackhorse Base was established by the U.S. Armoured Cavalry Regiment (11th ACR) in 1966. Their camp was located 13 kms South West of Xuan Loc and 28kms North of the Australian Task Force at Nui Dat where my patrol was initially inserted from.

On arrival at Blackhorse Base (173 Airborne Division) and being further briefed our patrol was again inserted deeper into VC territory by a U.S.helicopter to RV with a small section of 5 to 6 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to again, be inserted into our area of operations (AO)

Now one would think that being inside a fully armoured APC you would feel somewhat safe, however, our instructions by the American Commander to my SAS patrol commander was; we had to sit on top of the APC (not inside) for the trip. To our amazement and horror the crew sat on top as well including the most important man, the driver who operated the APC tank by using extended steel rods attached to his controls inside the tank....Go figure that, was the thoughts that went through every patrol member's mind at the time.

The answer to our enquiry was, in very clear American slang from the APC tank commander; Guy!! In this area and beyond, we sit on top and take our chance and hope not to get hit by those Charlie snipers, Cause!! there's too many of those God Damm land mines along this route that will blow yours and our asses off instead!!!!

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