Day 8: Camp Carol, Rock Pile, Phong Na, Vinh Moc Tunnels


Good morning Vietnam! I’m getting ready to leave the lake house this morning. I’ll be sad to say “goodbye” to such a beautiful spot, but it will be good to start working my way South.


The sounds here are incredible. The whistling of birds—there is one particularly loud one that sings in this high “ee-ee-eeee.” Not sure if it is a bird even.


You can hear the insects all around you. Just this constant static noise of bugs. The heat is oppressive. After sweating for hours everything seems to blur. It is like the world is out of focus. Your clothes stick to your body, droplets trickle down your face. The small of your back, your neck… then the salt begins to cake on to your skin layer by sticky layer with the bugs everywhere. (Bugs who do not give the right of way to people by the way). You start to wonder whether it is sweat or insects on you. You reach up to rub away a trickle and it’s just sweat. You start to relax until “ow!” the trickle of sweat bites you. It is enough to drive a sensitive mind to neurosis.



Oh my goodness! What a day I’ve had! I’ve learned so much about the war. Let me see if I can recall all of it…


I’ll start with “Rock Pile” and Camp Carroll. Camp Carroll was named after an American pilot who was shot down and killed. It was established by the ARVN under the supervision of an American “advisor.”


The story goes that at the end of the war, when camp Carroll was overrun, there were two ARVN Lieutenants stationed there. One surrendered and lived his life in disgrace, the other did not and was later relocated to the U.S. where he was a hero. These two men were good friends and grew up together. What a sad story for the man who surrendered. We saw the MACV building here in Hue. That sent chills up my spine I can tell you.

Looking out from Camp Carroll over the mountains was a deeply moving experience. Here it was that American troops and South Vietnamese fought a losing battle for 20 years!


Camp Carroll was an FSB (Fire Support Base). Other bases might be FFB (Forward Fire Base) or a SB (Support Base).


These bases on the top of the mountain were mainly for communication towers. An FSB would take the message for fire support and get the needed firepower on the correct location to support marines and SF in the area.


I’ve also been learning about the Battle of Khe Sanh. It is considered the American Dien Bien Phu.


The American commander didn’t do a terrible job with the planning I’m told. But they didn’t understand the terrain. It was the foggy season—which the VC knew because they had the support of the ethnic minorities in the region. So American air power fell useless due to the blinding fog.


Another major problem of course was the South’s treatment of the rural people. Unlike Ho Chi Minh, who I believe had a genuine love of his people and was a hero and legitimized leader after the war with the French, Ngo Dinh Diem was all about himself.


Interesting thought-

The Green Berets motto is “liberate the oppressed.” Alex was in Vietnam to do just that, but the mission ultimately failed thanks to poor leadership. However, Deborah participated in the liberation of Kuwait, with was a resounding success.


Also-

I think it is importin to point out that while Alex “died in Vietnam” from Agent Orange exposure, his name is not on the wall. I think he should physically die while on their trip back to Vietnam.


When going back to Vietnam in the early ‘90s a veteran would need to be escorted by a government official to see the places they wanted to see. Alex would know where he wanted to go, would contact the government, and then would fly to Vietnam after they had permission. I should look into this more.