Visiting Vietnam War Battlefields: Bullets and War Relics From the Siege of Plei Mei.
Above Photo: At the site of Plei Mei Camp, Gia Lai, Vietnam.
On my recent trip, I wanted to see some Vietnam War sights and sites, and to re-explore the area where my novel and screenplay for BACK is set, very close to the Vietnamese-Laotian border and the tri-border jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
I took a local guide from Pleiku, in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam, and our first stop was a remote Special Forces camp, called Plei Mei, where a major siege and intense fighting had taken place during the Vietnam War. (See the link to my first article about the siege of Plei Mei at the end of this article).
There wasn’t much to show we’d arrived. Just a small monument and sign which the guide translated for me, recounting the North Vietnamese side of the battle and the siege.
After he’d read it, he began walking back to the car.
“Where are you going?” I asked. “Where’s the site of the camp?”
He pointed to an incline covered in tall grass. “There’s nothing to see up there. It’s just red dirt and pepper plantations,” he replied.
Never one to be put off by a hike through dangerous UXO-littered grassland to discover a long-forgotten Vietnam War site, I headed up the hill in hot sunshine, before coming out onto a flat, red-dirt area which was the site of the former military camp.
The camp is now encroached with pepper and cashew plantations, but I walked around what was left of it, examining many objects in the rich red earth.
I found war remnants, sandbags, bullet heads, bullet casings, pieces of uniform, shrapnel, M-60 bullet holders, parts of claymore mines, medicine bottles, fuses, batteries, the remains of a rocket launcher and the foil from C-Rations.
The guide told me his father had fought here with the Americans, as an indigenous fighter and had been wounded during the siege. After the war his father, now on the losing South Vietnamese side, had been imprisoned in Hanoi and forced to fill in B-52 bomb craters.
Because plantations are slowly encroaching over the site, I was glad we’d found it and been able to photograph it for posterity.
Vietnam needs to do more to save its Vietnam War sites from being completely lost to future generations, especially when, like here, they are part of the narrative of their military success.
I looked out across the vastness of the landscape and thought what a nightmare it must have been fighting up there. A lonely, desolate spot, surrounded by wonderful scenery, but literally a death trap back then.
See the trailer for 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.
For POWs and MIAs left behind in Laos, see:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
BACK Parts 1 and 2:
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