Khe Sanh Combat Base

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Khe Sanh base, 1968
Diagram of base.

Khe Sanh Combat Base was a United States Marine Corps outpost in South Vietnam (MGRS 48QXD850418) used during the Vietnam War. The airstrip was built in September 1962. Fighting began there in late April 1967 with the hill fights, which later expanded into the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh. U.S. commanders hoped that the North Vietnamese Army would attempt to repeat their famous victory at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which would permit the U.S. to wield enormous air power.

On April 1, 1968, the U.S. Army's First Air Cavalry Division launched Operation Pegasus to break the siege of the Marine combat base---the second largest battle of the war. All three brigades from the First Cav participated in this vast airmobile operation, along with a Marine armor thrust. B-52s alone dropped more than 75,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnamese soldiers from the 304th and 325th Divisions encroaching the combat base in trenches. As these two elite enemy divisions, with history at Dien Bien Phu and the Ia Drang Valley, depleted, President Johnson ordered an air and naval bombing halt to most of North Vietnam as a gesture of peace.[1]

The defense of Khe Sanh commanded international attention and was considered the climactic phase of the Tet Offensive. On July 5, 1968, the combat base was abandoned, the U.S. Army citing the vulnerability of the base to dug-in enemy artillery positions in neutral Laos and the arrival of significant airmobile forces in I Corps (1st Air Cavalry and 101st Airborne Divisions). However, the closure permitted the 3rd Marine Division to construct mobile firebase operations along the DMZ.

In 1971, Khe Sanh was reactivated by the U.S. Army (Operation Dewey Canyon II) to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese incursion into Laos. It was abandoned again in early April of 1971.[2][3]In March 1973, American intelligence reported that North Vietnamese troops had rebuilt the airstrip at Khe Sanh and were using it for courier flights into the South.

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Tourism[edit]

Khe Sanh Combat Base can be visited daily as part of tours starting in Huế. Most of the base is now overgrown by wilderness or coffee and banana plants. In a small museum on base historical pictures and weapons are shown. Additionally, abandoned helicopters, restored bunkers, and portions of the airstrip are visible.

Nature claws back the airstrip

Fiction[edit]

The computer game ARMA 2 features a fictional Wasp class LHD named Khe Sanh which serves as platform for the USMC's attack on the island of Utes and Chernarus. The first person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops features a level (titled SOG) where the player (fictional CIA operative Alex Mason) fights to defend Khe Sanh from the North Vietnamese Army.

The Electronic Arts/DICE game, Battlefield Vietnam (2004) features a level where the Khe Sanh base is the main base for US troops. The level incorporates other historical sites like Khe Sanh Village, Lang Vei, the junction of National Route 9 and Ho Chi Minh Highway, and the bridge over the Rao Quan River, though all of the interceding distances are compressed to work within the game's playable area.

Coordinates: 16°39′16″N 106°43′51″E / 16.65444°N 106.73083°E / 16.65444; 106.73083