Camp Ashau (A Sau) was one of the early Special Forces camps established in the country. As U.S. command through intelligence saw how important the Ashau Valley was for the PAVN, it was decided that a number of Special Forces camps should be established in order to deny PAVN free access to the valley. Thus, in 1963, the camps of Aluoi and Ta Bat was established together with Camp Ashau. Aluoi was the most northern outpost, just a couple of kilometers north of where the road from Hue reaches the valley, Ta Bat a few kilometers south of that and Camp Ashau being the most southern one, the three camps effectively blocked the whole southern part of the valley.
Check out our video below from our visit at the camp site in February 2019.
With the Laotian border being just across the ridge west of the camp, the location was well chosen to cause maximum disruption to PAVN’s activities. During the days of 9th to 10th of March, large forces of the PAVN staged fierce attacks on the camp. Poor weather conditions made attempts to resupply and reinforce the forces in the camp practically impossible. Completely overwhelming the U.S. Special Forces personnel and their irregular South Vietnamese forces, the PAVN troops were able to overrun the camp in the afternoon of the 10th. Two Medals of Honor were awarded for actions during the battle. As the last soldiers were evacuated from the camp, it would not be until the spring of 1968 until U.S. forces returned to the valley.
At our last visit in February 2019 there is still lots to see that tells us there was once a Special Forces Camp on the site. The most obvious signs are the outlines of the camp together with berms stretching along the perimeters. We also found remnants of old structures both in the camp area east of the road that runs through the area, as well as west of it. The runway couldn't be used to take air traffic today, it is now only a small road used by locals with tractors and motorbikes. There are craters everywhere in the area. Both inside the camp as well as the surroundings. It is difficult to say if these were from the battle or if they are the results of the Arc Lights strikes that took place over the years as the war in the valley raged on.
This is a great visit for the history traveler. Standing on the site of one of the early larger battles, looking north along the valley floor, Ta Bat and Aluoi almost within visible range one will certainly understand why PAVN was so determined in getting this obstacle out of the way. Being located just a couple of hours drive from Hue, today the area can hardly be considered remote, but during the war, this was “Indian Country”. Visiting here on the floor of this rugged valley, one will certainly get a feel for how far away from any type of civilization this was in those days.
How to get there
Camp Ashau is located about 12 kilometers south of Aluoi and about 800 meters west of the main road leading through the valley. Normally it is very easy to access the area also on a day tour from Hue or if one is spending the night in Aluoi. As Laos is just across the hills to the west, this is a border area and there is a border police station just by the site. We were asked to show our permits to the guard, so make sure you come prepared and do not try to enter the area without proper paperwork.
Decimal coordinates: 16.120754, 107.330488