January of 1968, the eyes of the world were focused on this tiny
airstrip located in the middle of nowhere. Though Khe Sanh's
strategic value is subject to question, it gained stature as the
most famous battles of the Vietnam war when nearly 7,000 U.S. troops
became surrounded by more than 40,000 NVA regulars. The defenders,
mostly Marines, were kept under siege for 77 days and visions of
Dien Bien Phu haunted the President Johnson and his staff.
Vietnamese never attacked the base but they bombarded it daily with
their big guns hidden in the hills across the Laotion boarder. Heavy
cloud cover and bad weather made it nearly impossible to give Khe
Sanh the air support or supply that it needed, leaving the defenders
constantly under the threat of being overrun. The enemy could be
seen digging their way closer to the base with each passing day.
the base was never attacked, there was ferocious fighting in the
hills that surrounded Khe Sanh. In March, when the Marines began to
expand their patrols into the hills, they found that most of the
enemy had vanished. The enemy had withdrawn his troops and went
around Khe Sanh to launch the Tet Offensive of '68.
Today, there is not much left of Khe Sanh. What the American engineers and bombers did not destroy, the Vietnamese have carted away. Nothing grows on the big red scar that was once the airstrip and there are thousands of small holes where scavengers have tried to find souvenirs to sell to the tourists. The rockets, artillery rounds and such that I saw there in 1995 have all been hauled away. Within the past three years, the Vietnamese have built a museum on the site and are constucting some pretty lame 'bunkers' to lure tourism to the site.