Deep in to the cloud covered mountains bordering Laos the legendary Ashau Valley, where so many hard fought battles took place, sits. Places like Camp Ashau in the southern end of the valley, Hamburger Hill and Base area 611 are forever etched in to the memories of those who fought there. During the early years of the war, US troops established three special forces camps to cover the southern and center parts of the valley. Camp Ashau, Ta Bat and Aluoi Airfield. Where the site of Ta Bat is inundated large parts fo the year, Camp Ashau is a great visit and it is also possible to walk down the old runway at Aluoi Airfield.
Ashau Valley was one of the most important infiltration routes for the PAVN from the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos. US and South Vietnamese troops, over the years, launched numerous combat operations in to the valley in order to try to prevent PAVN forces from infiltrating down towards the coastal areas of Da Nang and Hue. Reconnaissance troops climbed the hill sides, desperately trying to stay out of the way of enemy troops and at the same time gather as much information as possible.
The mountains sides were riddled with anti-aircraft installations in order to keep the US choppers and bombers out. Hillsides and tops were riddled with bunkers, fields hospitals and Together with the fact that at any given time Hanoi kept thousands of troops in the valley, this could have been one of the most fortified places in the country during the war.
Thanks to its unique geography and location, the Ashau valley was ideal for PAVN’s purposes staging and infiltration. This is also the reason US launched operations such as Delaware, Apache Snow and Dewey Canyon with the purposes of driving PAVN out of the valley and destroying its logistics and communications centers. In support of these operations US forces established numerous fireballs and radio relay stations. Most of those sites were located on the eastern ridge tops and are not really accessible today.
The valley stretches some 45 kilometers from south east to north west with the Laotian border just beyond the western ridges. The valley floor is around one and a half kilometer wide with the narrowest part being only a few hundred meters wide just north of Aluoi. While driving through the valley, seeing the craters from countless bombs that were dropped, imagining the airlifts coming in to the valley with hundreds of combat ready soldiers, tracers from anti aircraft guns painting the sky trying to take down the inbound choppers, it is impossible not to send a thought to the fighting men on both sides and the sacrifices they made.
Today the valley is a sleepy backwater with a few villages scattered across the valley and Aluoi which has grown in to a small town since its days as a US special forces camp. There are a couple of hotels in town for those who wants to stay the night. As much as the Ashau Valley is one of the most exciting and historically significant destinations in the country for the history traveler, it is also as beautiful as any landscape Vietnam has to offer. Having been the scene of some of the most violent battles during the last century, today the Ashau Valley's serene beauty will make its visitors want to stay just a little longer.
How to get there
Located in Thua Thien Province about 65 kilometers west of Hue along the Laotian border, the valley is easily reachable over day from Hue. For those traveling in north-south direction along the Ho Chi Minh Highway, the road stretches through the whole valley.
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