Dong Ha Things to Do

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Most Recent Things to Do in Dong Ha

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    Mine Action Visitor Center

    by LandmineCenter Written Jun 26, 2013
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    This is about a FREE service now available for wide audience who travel to Quang Tri Province and visit historic battle areas such as Quang Tri Citadel, La Van Church, Vinh Moc Tunnels, Khe Sanh Combat Base and the DMZ.

    At no charge to you, a newly opened Mine Action Visitor Center in Dong Ha Town will provide a fascinating look at history of war and its unexploded bombs and mine problem and current efforts in cleaning, assisting victims and educating local people.

    The Mine Action Visitor Center, located just 5 minutes off Highway 1A, displays exhibits and artifacts – including real and reconstructed bombs and mines -- and explains the immense wartime damage caused by U.S. bombing.

    The Visitor Center also shows the heroic challenges faced by the survivors of bombs and mines, some more than 7,000 people killed and injured in Quang Tri Province after the war ended.

    Described in detail is the dangerous work that goes on every day by the government and international NGOs to clean up Quang Tri Province, to make it safe for today’s young generation.

    Sponsored by a U.S.-based NGO, Project RENEW – Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War – the Visitor Center is a multi-dimensional experience. Images, exhibits, documents, photos and films tell the story of the devastation that occurred in Quang Tri Province, and the recovery that has been underway since the war ended in 1975. It offers the opportunity for Vietnamese and international visitors, in particular the younger generations born after the war, to learn about the consequences of war and efforts to address the tragic legacy of explosive remnants of war (ERW) that still remains.

    The Center is open from 80:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. seven days a week – but on Saturdays and Sundays please telephone ahead so staff will be on hand to greet you on time. No admission fee is charged. A snack bar, café and clean toilets with accessibility is available, as well as a comfortable video screening theater.

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    TUNNELS OF VINH MOC

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Inside the Vinh Moc tunnels
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    The village of Vinh Moc is just north of the Ben Hai River mouth along the South China Sea coast. The town was just north of the DMZ and was an important supply point for Con Co Island some 28 km offshore. Heavy American aerial and artillery bombardment starting in 1966 drove the locals underground. Following some 18 months of construction by hand, a combined military base-civilian refuge was opened in the 2.8 km of tunnels set out on three levels dropping down to some 26 meters below the ground surface. On the surface, trenches and bomb craters are still in evidence. One 'drilling bomb' scored a direct hit but luckily for tunnel inhabitants, the bomb did not explode. The resulting bomb hole was converted into an air shaft. A small museum near the tunnel entrance that visitors enter the complex through - there were 12 entrances overall - fills you in on some of the history and details of the tunnel. The ceiling of the tunnels gets as high as 2 meters, but most of the time they are not nearly that high. There are also lots of stairs that can get slippery.

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    BIEN LUONG BRIDGE

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Looking at the 1976 bridge
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    Highway 1 crosses the Ben Hai River 22 km north of Dong Ha. This was the old border between North and South Vietnam. An older bridge was painted half red - for the North - and half yellow - for the South, but this was destroyed in 1967. The small unused bridge was erected in 1975 as a symbol of reunification. It has been superseded by the present heavier duty bridge. Flagpoles were erected on either side of the river following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973. The flag on the north side remains while the southern flag has been removed in favor of a large monument memorializing the reunification. When we passed through, preparations were in full swing for the 35th Reunification Day - 30 April 2010.

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    CEMETERIES

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    One of the martyrs at Gio Linh
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    Military cemeteries can be found in most districts of Vietnam. With the death totals in the hundreds of thousands, there are sadly no shortage of graves. Only the dead of the NVA and the NLF (Viet Cong) are laid to rest in these cemeteries. Those soldiers who died as a part of the efforts of the Republic of Vietnam are buried in private family plots. This cemetery is located along Highway 1 across from the old French/American/ARVN artillery firebase at Gio Linh. That base overlooked the eastern end of the DMZ. There is an old M41 tank turret that can be found. Most of the dead within this cemetery remain unknown marked only with the epitaph "Liet Si" or martyr.

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    LA VANG

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Remains of original church at La Vang
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    From Quang Tri - 13 km south from Dong Ha on Highway 1 and around 60 km north of Hue - a local road signposted for 'La Vang' takes off to the west on the south side of the Quang Tri River and leads west for some 4 km to the ruins of the La Vang Catholic Church. The church was and is an important pilgrimage site for Vietnamese Catholics. Here, in 1798, persecuted Catholics had fled into the forest only to become ill. In answer to their prayers the Virgin Mary appeared to them and showed them herbs which they could boil up to become well again.

    A church was built on the site eventually but it was destroyed last in the heavy fighting here in 1972, though the statue of Mary and baby Jesus remained untouched. A chapel of sorts has been rebuilt linking up with the old church tower. A large monument on the south side of the church represents the original apparition. To the north is a new large pilgrimage center purchased through Viet Kieu (émigré Vietnamese) money.

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    KHE SANH COMBAT BASE

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Museum at Khe Sanh
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    Some 63 km west from Dong Ha along Highway 9 high in the Truong Son Mountains lies the little village of Khe Sanh. Lying 2 km north from the village and the large monument found on the highway is the former American combat base. The 75 day siege which started 21 January 1968 is probably the best known battle of the American experience in Vietnam. Some 6,000 American Marines and a few hundred ARVN Rangers were besieged by up to 40,000 NVA troops. NVA artillery, mostly based to the west in Laotian mountains, blasted away at the American base with hundreds of shells hitting each day. In response, the most intense air barrage of the war was unleashed with over 100,000 tons of bombs being dropped during the fighting. Some ten thousand NVA soldiers would die as opposed to around 500 American deaths. Eventually with the failure of the Tet Offensive, NVA forces would gradually drift away and American forces re-opened Highway 9 in early April. Medium-scale fighting would continue for another three months until American forces finally decided to withdraw . They would return in late 1970 to help support the ARVN incursion into Laos in January 1971.

    Today, there is a small museum you can visit on the edge of the old airfield - the airfield is in the process of being restored as it seems like there might be more in store for the future here. Coffee trees surround the area. Outside of the museum, some former American detritus can be examined - a rusted M41 tank, a UH-1 Huey helicopter, a Chinook helicopter, an array of artillery shells along with an old sandbagged bunker. I had the privilege of visiting the site with former American Marines who were able to share some of their experiences here bringing another view to the slant given in the museum - complete with its awkwardly doctored photographs.

    From all that went on here I like the quote in the Lonely Planet ascribed to some Marine officer who said, "When you're at Khe Sanh, you're not really anywhere. You could lose it and you really haven't lost a damn thing."

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    DAKRONG BRIDGE

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Dakrong Bridge leading south off Hwy 9
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    This suspension bridge carries Highway 14 south from Highway 9 following one of the main routes of the Ho Chi Minh trail that extended south up the Kakrong Valley into the A Shau Valley. Originally, the bridge had been built with Cuban help in 1976, but was rebuilt in subsequent years after that one collapsed.
    Following to the west of the Dakrong Bridge, Highway 9 begins its steep climb out of the Dakrong Valley up to the plateau of Khe Sanh. It is easy to see why it was so easy to ambush slow moving convoys along the steep roads. The scenery from a non-military viewpoint is spectacular with mountains, gorges and the occasional rustic houses of the local Bru Van-Kieu.

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    VANDEGRIFT COMBAT BASE

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Foundations and airstrip at Vandegrift
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    Further west from the Rockpile just before the little village of Ca Lau was the site of another artillery firebase that also featured a short-length airstrip. The base and airstrip were developed along the last level stretch of valley before Highway 9 begins its climb up into the mountains around Khe Sanh. When the land connection to Khe Sanh was cut in late January 1968 and the siege began, Vandegrift - also known as LZ Stud - was the most forward supply center. Following the siege, Vandegrift was abandoned along with Khe Sanh in late 1968 with salvaged materials going into the redevelopment of the firebase at Camp Carroll. Vandegrift would be reoccupied in late 1970 for use in supporting the ARVN incursion into Laos in early 1971. The base would be overrun during the Easter Offensive of 1972. Very little remains today besides the foundations of a few buildings and the grass covered airstrip munched upon by the cattle of the local Bru Van-Kieu people.

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    ROCKPILE

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    View to the Rockpile from Hwy 9
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    A 230 meter high karst formation known locally as Tho Khe Tri some 26 km west of Dong Ha just off Highway 9 was the site of an important US Marine observation post. The site was manned in 1966 and supplied by helicopter. A large area could be seen from the top of the Rockpile and the observation post was responsible for directing artillery fire at suspected NVA positions. The post came under NVA mortar fire in attempt to drive the Marines out. To protect the post and other firebases that were being developed along the DMZ, a series of Marine operations were launched - Operation Prairie - during the last months of 1966 into early 1967. The cost would be some 1,384 Marine casualties including Captain James Carroll. An artillery base would be established at the base of the Rockpile which included 175 mm guns. The base was eventually abandoned and nothing but the mountain remains today.

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    CON THIEN

    by mtncorg Updated May 5, 2010

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    The old French bunker at Con Thien
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    Highway 15 runs north from Highway 9 at the village of Cam Lo osm 10 km west of Dong Ha. Another 10 km north takes you past an unmarked dirt path that veers off into rubber plantations on the east side of the road. A 1.5 km walk takes you through the trees to the site of a forlorn French bunker that along iwth another such outpost at Gio Linh on Highway 1 constituted some of the main French defenses along this stretch of the "Street without Joy" - the portion of Highway 1 that ran through central Vietnam.
    The 158 meter high hill is locally known as Nui Con Thien or the Hill of Angels. US Marines and Army further developed the hilltop - great views in all directions and very close to the former DMZ - into an artillery firebase. The NVA attacked Con Thien with heavy artillery for months before assaulting it on the ground in September of 1967. The attackers were met with heavy bombing and counter artillery fire crushing the NVA in place. Following the repulse, the NVA turned their attention further to the west at Khe Sanh. The Marines turned the base over to the ARVN in 1969. Eventually, the base was overrun by the NVA during the first part of their Easter Offensive in 1972.

    The French bunker can still be seen, but the American firebase - sited further to the east - is gone. Soon, the French bunker will be dwarfed by the rubber trees that are planted all around it.

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    CAMP CARROLL

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Monument remembers surrender and defection
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    James J Carroll was a captain in the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Marines. He died leading his men in action on 5 October 1966 from a friendly fire incident. The region around the DMZ had become a hotpoint for the war in Vietnam in 1966 as the NVA moved in with large numbers to safeguard their supply lines in the west and to threaten the politically unstable northern provinces of South Vietnam. US Marines were sent north to counter the NVA build up. Artillery firebases were developed to support the Marines and the firebase here was one of the most important.

    Named in honor of the Marine captain, Camp Carroll boasted some 16 guns - the largest being US Army 175 mm beasts. The total number of guns throughout the firebases was some 80 guns and they could bring accurate fire along the entire border from Laos to the South China Sea. The guns of Carroll were important factors in repelling the NVA attacks upon the firebase at Con Thien and in helping out the besieged Marines at Khe Sanh. The 175 mm guns were mounted upon a tracked chassis and could fire a 150 pound shell every two minutes at ranges up to 20 miles - Khe Sanh was only 13 miles away. The guns lasted for about 300 rounds after which the tubes were retired to serves as speed bumps within the camp confines. The NVA attacked Camp Carroll on a few occasions with artillery and rocket fire though nothing like their efforts at Con Thien and Khe Sanh. In the aftermath of the failure of the Tet Offensive, the NVA reduced its activity around the DMZ and Camp Carroll's importance diminished, as well. US Marines began to pull out of the area in late 1968 and a new Camp Carroll was rebuilt for the ARVN from materials salvaged from the dismantling of the firebase at Vandegrift Combat Base further to the west. Camp Carroll became the western border for awhile.

    In early 1971, a repeat of the Cambodian interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh trail was launched only this time into Laos and with ARVN troops - with American air and artillery support. Some of the guns of Carroll were airlifted to the re-occupied base of Khe Sanh where they fired in support of the incursion. By the end of 1971, US forces had been withdrawn and Camp Carroll became the center of the 3rd ARVN division's defenses along the DMZ with some 1,800 men - one regiment and fice artillery battalions. The NVA launched its largest to-date offensive of the war on 30 March 1972 - the Easter Offensive. More than 200 130 mm shells slammed into Carroll in the first hour alone. ARVN gunners were not used to being under fire and the accurate NVA fire kept them from manning their guns. By 2 April, eight of the ARVN firebases along the DMZ had fallen and Carroll came under ground attack from an entire NVA division. Camp commander LTC Pham Van Dinh - a South Vietnamese hero for his actions in Hue during the Tet Offensive - surrendered the fort on that day. Dinh's career and actions are ably recounted in Andrew Wiest's book "Vietnam's Forgotten Army". Dinh would go on to become a colonel in the NVA. Camp Carroll would be blown apart by B 52 strikes though not before many of its guns had been removed.

    Today, little remains. A large crumbling monument remembers Dinh's surrender and defection. There is a little dirt road across from the monument heading off into farm fields to the east. You walk up the slight hill onto a plateau and this is where the base once was. Only bits and pieces of sandbags remain among the plowed farm fields.

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    DONG HA LOGISTICAL BASE

    by mtncorg Written May 5, 2010

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    Former aircraft revetment and monument
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    Little remains of once was a vast supply and command center for the US/ARVN I Corps based along the southern edge of the DMZ. With the help of a local guide, we found one remaining concrete reinforced revetment that had probably been used by helicopter units. The revetment is totally surrounded by houses today - local woodworkers work inside. A monument is placed outside a breach in the concrete - a result of the successful NVA assault here in 1972. The revetment is similar in construction to the ones still in use at Da Nang, Hue - formerly the Phu Bai Airfield, and at Ton Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City. All the rest of the former base has been swallowed up in the new development of Dong Ha.

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