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.
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Being 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. Together with the fact that most of the 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.
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 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 to a small town since its days as US base. There are a couple of hotels in town for those who wants to stay the night. Driving through the valley should be on the bucket list for any history traveler.
Further reading: Aluoi Airfield which was located in the center of the valley.
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.