"DONG HA - DMZ REVISITED" Dong Ha by mtncorg

Dong Ha Travel Guide: 16 reviews and 58 photos

With the destruction of Quang Tri in the heavy fighting of 1972, Dong Ha was made the capital of Quang Tri province and it seems to have prospered as a result. Not only is it the capital, but it is an important transshipment port for products going to and from Laos via Highway 9. I am told that there was very little to the town beyond it being the junction of Highways 1 and 9 back in the late 1960's. There was a large command and supply center built here by the US Marine Corps in 1968. The base was manned latter by the US Army and finally by the South Vietnam Army (ARVN). Little remains today of the once huge base. While there is not much to see in Dong Ha, the town makes a fine base for those who are interested in visiting the old battlefields along the former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

The northern provinces of South Vietnam had been in a state of political turmoil in the mid-1960's and it was in this region - first in the area of Da Nang and then north from there - that US Marines deployed in an effort to stop the movement of North Vietnamese (NVA) units coming across the DMZ. Operation Hastings - first of many other operations - was launched on 11 July 1965 using some 8,000 Marines and 3,000 ARVN troops against an estimated enemy of 12,500. The NVA was forced to withdraw beyond the DMZ, but now the battle was on. Both sides increased their numbers and in support of the Marines, the US Army introduced several batteries of heavy artillery which were placed in a series of firebases including Con Thien and Gio Linh.

Early in 1967, as the level of combat rose, permission was given for artillery to fire into and north of the DMZ. Following damaging attacks on ARVN troops around La Vang - near Quang Tri - in April, three brigades of US Army troops were sent to the southern area of I Corps - I Corps was the US/ARVN military region comprising of the five northernmost provinces of South Vietnam from Quang Tri south - and more Marines came north to match the NVA build up. This was when the bases at Dong Ha, and at Camp Carroll and the Rockpile were all developed. The western anchor of the defensive line was the Khe Sanh Combat Base high in the Truong Son Mountains just north off Highway 9 - 65 km west of Dong Ha and only 15 from the Laotian border.

In April 1967, Marines pushed NVA units off a series of hills just north of Khe Sanh in a series of sharp bloody engagements known as the "Hill Fights". Following these battles, the area quieted and the NVA shifted its attention further east to the firebase at Con Thien. Repeated attacks from May through September were rebuffed with NVA artillery strikes being countered by heavy counterbattery fire, air strikes and off-shore naval gunfire. As 1967, the NVA returned in strength to the hills around Khe Sanh. The Marines increased their strength to some 6,000 with the addition of a few hundred South Vietnamese Rangers while the NVA had some tens of thousands facing them - two divisions in the immediate area and two more nearby.

Starting on 21 January 1968, a siege of the base began which lasted some 75 days. Continuous harassing artillery fire and small-scale assaults never lead to an expected large-scale attempt to overrun the base. Some 500 Americans and an estimated 10,000 NVA soldiers died here during the battle which officially ended with the re-opening of Highway 9 on 7 April, though the fighting would smoulder on into the future. Many feel the whole Khe Sanh operation was an effort to draw American attention and troops away from other areas in South Vietnam in preparation for the Tet Offensive. The fear of a repeat of the French disaster at Dien Bien Phu was ever-present, but American strength and resolve made NVA success impossible. Defeat for the NVA here and in the Tet Offensive overall forced North Vietnam back into a waiting game that would eventually frustrate American efforts and lead to the 1975 reunification.

To tour Khe Sanh and the remains of other firebases along the southern edge of the old DMZ, you should really use a local tour guide or join on with tour groups originating from Hue - 72 km south of Dong Ha. There are a couple of buses which go to Lao Bao for those who just want to go up to Khe Sanh - the old combat base is about a mile north of the bus stop.

  • Last visit to Dong Ha: Apr 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (12)

Comments (1)

  • Greggor58's Profile Photo
    Nov 4, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    Ive read a little here and there about the actions that occurred here..the Rockpile,Camp Carroll,Khe Sanh.I didn't make the time to investigate around here,I was moving north.Say hi to Mi and Hai for me if you make it to Phu Quoc!


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