Dakrong Valley is the river valley north of Ashau Valley stretching all the way up to the Dakrong bridge where a monument over the Ho Chi Minh Trail is to be found. The valley saw a lot of heavy fighting during the war since it was used by PAVN troops as a staging area and infiltration route.
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Located in the south west Quang Tri Province, the valley was the scene of the large and successful Operation Dewey Canyon where US Marines were inserted in order to disrupt the North Vietnamese operations. During the two month operation in 1969 The Marines established a number of Fire Support Bases and Landing Zones and systematically worked their way towards the objective of cutting off the PAVN troops’ supply routes and destroy weapons caches.
In the area the PAVN troops had established numerous bunker and tunnel complexes on the mountain sides, making the advance very difficult for The Marines. One of the purposes of the operation was to push down towards Base Area 611 in the northern Ashau Valley and it was also decided that The Marines were allowed to push south west along Route 922 in to Laos to raid the PAVN camps and storage facilities.
The locations of the Fire Support Bases that were established like FSB Cunningham, LZ Razor, FSB Erskine and FSB Shiloh are well off the main road leading through the valley so trying to reach them might be a very difficult task. One would likely have to navigate through the jungle which probably is littered with UXO considering the heavy bombing and fighting that took place there. Overall the Operation Dewey Canyon was a success for The Marines with all objectives reached beyond expectations.
Both before and after Dewey Canyon, US Army Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols and Marine Recon units often performed missions on the steep slopes of the mountains in the river valley.
While driving the valley today there is little evidence that this was once a highly contested area and that it during periods was occupied by thousands of PAVN troops. The road winds slowly through the valley along the Dakrong River and on the way one passes through small villages where people from the mountain tribes goes about their traditional lives.
Beyond its violent history, it is also another one of Vietnam’s many incredibly beautiful river valleys that makes traveling here such a treat. Many travelers pass through here going to or from Khe Sanh knowing very little about the history of this amazing place. If you are on a tour through the country or just doing a day trip from Hue, we encourage you to stop for a break here, take some pictures and send a thought to those who once were part of writing the history of this place.
How to get there
The regular DMZ tours don’t go through the valley as they could, but sticks only to the Route 9 back and forth from Dong Ha. One will reach this remote valley either via The Dakrong Bridge from Route 9 or via Aluoi in the Ashau valley. The Ho Chi Minh Highway stretches along the valley and it is a very scenic ride. The roads are in good condition so a trip up here can easily be done over a day going from Hue, including the Ashau valley.