Visit to a Quiet Khe Sanh

The following article, “Khe Sanh Quiet: But Signs There”, was written by Lt. Ken Strater. It was published in the “The Screaming Eagle”, Pacific Vol. III, No. 4, February 2, 1970.

KHE SANH – Cavalrymen of Troop C, 2nd Sqdrn. (Ambl.) 17th Cav. sat in the tall elephant grass around the plateau watching, waiting for the enemy to move from his hiding place.

The plateau, about 30 miles west of Quang Tri, resembled a grain field in the Midwest of America. The grass was tall, and the warm sun shone while a gentle breeze blew across the flat land.

It was quiet at Khe Sanh while the Cavalry was there. There were no animal sounds; not even a bird chirping. But, the land was not sterile. Numerous animal tracks and the corpse of a wild boar were found by the Screaming Eagles.

“If it weren’t for the war, this would be a nice looking place,” commented Sft. Terry O’Connor, Torrington, Conn., as he pushed through the dead scrub brush. “There are a lot of places at home like this. I suppose there really isn’t much difference at all, when you stop and think about it.”

Looking for signs of NVA

The cavalrymen’s mission was to move through the plateau area and report signs of NVA activity. It wasn’t a difficult task. The signs were everywhere.

NVA fighting positions, a trench line, expended canisters for rocket launchers and debris from the Marines’ assault were all in evidence. These signs were about two years old. One had to look more closely to find the more recent signs of enemy activity.

Light Observation Helicopters from the Cav. troop spotted the footprints of an enemy squad, and escape tunnel in the brush, and other fresh indications of the enemy’s presence.

A bunker was discovered with a supply of canned foods which and apparently been brought to the area about a month before the 101st soldiers arrived. The supplies were destroyed by Cobra gunships, who were covering for the ground troops during the reconnaissance mission.

Spec. 4 Ralph Cotto, Bridgeport, Conn., a point man, remarked, “It’s a lot easier to move out here than in most of Vietnam. A unit can move a long way here in a short time.” Cotto added, “There just doesn’t seem to be anyone out here but us.”

It’s Armor Country

The commander of the troopers on the ground, Capt. Mark Emory, Haverford, Pa., offered his opinion. “I thought this would be a big place, but there much to it. This would be excellent armor country, but it would play havoc with the infantry. It’s too open. There’s no place to hide; they’d see you coming a mile away.”

As Capt. Emory spoke, the men prepared to be extracted from the plateau. It had been an interesting day for them in an historic place. When the ships lifted the men out for the trip back to base camp, one soldier remarked, “All the time, I was thinking back to all the pictures I’d seen in magazines and on TV, showing this place when the battle was being fought. It seemed strange today. It was so quiet.”