Visiting Vietnam War Battlefields: Ben Het Special Forces Camp Today.

Visiting Vietnam War Battlefields: Ben Het Special Forces Camp Today.

Above Photo: Some of the war remains still littering the ground at Ben Het.

I recently posted an article about the Vietnam War siege and tank battle at remote Ben Het, a Special Forces camp close to the Cambodian and Vietnamese borders in the tri-border area of Vietnam. (See the link at end of this article).

The view from Ben Het today, looking towards Charlie Hill and Cambodia.

The view from Ben Het today, looking towards Cambodia and Laos (to the right).

I recently visited Ben Het as part of my BACK-related Vietnam War sites and sights trip, with special emphasis on the tri-border area, where the novel is also set.

a map of the base, with my route marked in red.

A map of the base, with my route marked in red.

I picked up an excellent couple of guides in Kontum, and having downed some very strong ‘medicinal’ Ginseng rice wine as a good luck toast for the trip (er, at 9am) we set off.

We arrived at Ben Het mid-afternoon, driving onto the old base along the edge of the Vietnam War airfield (see map) which was now full of logging vehicles illegally importing timber from Laos, through bent customs checkpoints, with the help of conniving officials and politicians on both sides of the border. Our guide advised me to be careful photographing the logged trees.

Another view of the logging camp at the airstrip.

A view of the logging camp at the old airstrip.

We drove up a steep hill, stopped the car and I looked around.

The view was so beautiful and everything was so peaceful. Birds called, insects answered and orchards and farms dotted the landscape right up to the mountains.

Ben Het now.

Ben Het now.

Ben Het then.

Ben Het then. © Corbis

There were plenty of still-denuded hilltops where the jungle and bush had been sprayed with defoliant during the war, to deprive the encircling North Vietnamese Army (NVA) of cover. Even today nothing can grow, except grass.

Ben Het now.

Ben Het now.

Incoming.

Ben Het then. Incoming. (© Corbis)

I had to keep reminding myself what a nightmare it must have been having to defend this remote outpost, under constant attack by the NVA during the war.

Some of the cartridges and fuses littering the site from the Vietnam War.

Some of the cartridges and fuses littering the site from the Vietnam War.

We walked around the base of the hill, finding still-ignitable gunpowder from bullets, mortars and 105mm artillery. Our guide lit some and it burned fiercely.

The fuses (gunpowder) ignites.

The fuses (gunpowder) ignites.

We also found utensils, M-60 bullets, lots of fabric, twisted metal, barbed wire and many sandbags on the ground, which marked the site of the camp’s former defences.

Us soldiers fire a mortar at Ben Het during the Vietnam War.

Us soldiers fire a mortar inside Ben Het during the Vietnam War. (© Corbis)

I then walked up to the top of the hill where the Ben Het HQ had been. From here I had clear views of the distant Cambodian border, the tri-border area and Laos. Charlie Hill, the site of a bitter Vietnam War battle loomed ominously in the distance.

The hill during the Vietnam War.

The hill during the Vietnam War. (© unknown)

The same hill today.

The same hill today.

Wandering around the overgrown hill, I found scorched concrete, sandbags and other war material.

Scorched remains at the top of the hill.

Scorched remains at the top of the hill.

Remains of the contents of a Claymore Mine

Remains of the contents of a Claymore Mine

It was a beautiful and poignant spot, although we had to be constantly careful about the risk of UXO hidden in the undergrowth.

To compare what you can see of the site of the camp today, with how it was during the war I’ve added a few more photos:

An air strike just outside the camp's perimeter during the Vietnam War.

An air strike just outside the camp’s perimeter during the Vietnam War.

Indigenous people inside Ben Het during the Vietnam War siege.

Indigenous people inside Ben Het during the Vietnam War siege. (© Corbis)

Ben Het today.

Ben Het today.

Approximate location of ben Het Special Forces Camp.

Approximate location of ben Het Special Forces Camp.

See also: http://peteralanlloyd.com/visiting-vietnam-war-battlefields-ben-het-special-forces-camp-vietnam/

And my visit to Plei Mei is here: http://peteralanlloyd.com/visiting-vietnam-war-battlefields-bullets-and-war-relics-from-the-siege-of-plei-mei/

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. 

For POWs left behind in Laos, see:

© Peter Alan Lloyd

BACK Parts 1 and 2:

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Front cover of BACK Part 1.

Front cover of BACK Part 1.

Front cover of BACK Part 2.

Front cover of BACK Part 2.

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