North Vietnamese Caves On The Plain Of Jars, from Laos’ Secret War.

North Vietnamese Caves On The Plain Of Jars, from Laos’ Secret War.

Above Photo: A view over the Plain of Jars from the track leading to Phou Kheng Mountain.

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The South Vietnamese Army on the Plain of Jars in 1970, ready to assault Phou Keng mountain in the distance, then held by the North Vietnamese Army. (© unknown)

I picked the worst time of the day to visit a recently-opened war site up a mountain overlooking the Plain of jars. It’s called called Phou Keng, and by the time I’d arrived it was early in the afternoon, baking hot, and I had 1,000 steep steps to climb, with no shade from the sun, and the walk along the track approaching the mountain was blisteringly hot.

In the above black and white photograph you can see the South Vietnamese Army (SVA) hunkered down in a field, and just above the (standing) commander’s left elbow, you can see a thin limestone path, leading up to the mountain. The below photograph is the same track today.

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The track leading to Phou Kheng. (See above photo)

At the bottom of the mountain I stopped to explore a quarry which had produced the jars on the Plain of Jars, still a considerable distance away. Many had been left in situ by the craftsmen who’d been sculpting them when rock had shattered as they worked.

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An ancient, broken jar left in situ in the quarry at the base of Phou Kheng, Plain of jars

A little way up the path, the broken jars were replaced by much bigger holes in the mountain, the result of B-52 strikes aimed at dislodging the NVA during the Secret War in Laos. I was warned not to stray too far off the path, “just in case…”

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B-52 bomb craters in Vietnam.

As I got to the top, the number of bomb craters increased and the bare rock showed signs of having been blasted in the many bombardments the mountain had been subjected to.

Still, that steep, tiring climb made me even more impressed with what the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had managed to do at the top, under constant bombardment from artillery and from the air, when US-backed  forces constantly tussled with them for control of the strategically-located mountain.

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NVA bomb shelter made from reinforced concrete with blast doors at the top of Phou Kheng

Whilst the mountain changed hands many time during the war, finally, once the NVA had dug in, they’d proved impossible to dislodge, and I was amazed at the work that must have gone on to building long tunnels through bare rock, many of them reinforced with concrete and iron, and protected by blast doors to withstand B-52 strikes.

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Reinforced concrete – built to withstand B-52 bombs.

Other long tunnels ran through the mountain between anti-aircraft and artillery firing positions, which overlooked the Plain of jars.

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A tunnel cut through bare rock at the top of Phou Kheng. It allowed anti-aircraft guns could be operated on both sides of the mountain and the cave could provide some shelter when US planes attacked.

As I got to the very top, I could see what all the fighting was about. The views were stunning, and, in wartime, strategically important if you wanted to harass your enemy on the Plain below by taking pot shots at him with a veritable arsenal of well-dug-in, long-range weaponry.

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The view from the top of Phou Kheng, over the Plain of jars.

Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.

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See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. 

And for POWs left behind in Laos:

© Peter Alan Lloyd

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews 

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2 Comments

  1. noel

    Hi,
    How easy is it to get to these sites a s a tourist

    Reply

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