Lai Khe Base Camp
Along route QL13, also known as Thunder Road, there were a string of bases during the war. One of the most important ones was Lai Khe, which served as base camp for the 1st Infantry Division from 1965-1972 along with several other American units over different periods of time. The base camp was the headquarters for the 3rd Brigade with the division headquarters not far away in Di An. The other brigades were stationed at Quan Loi, Phuoc Vinh and Dau Tieng. It was a well chosen site, right on the highway, and together with its large runway and relative proximity to Saigon, supplies could be brought in fairly easily via both road and air. Another 70 kilometers up the road, a Special Forces Camp was located in Loc Ninh.
Being located so close to Saigon meant it was an important part of the city’s outer defenses as PAVN forces later in the war would push down QL13 during its attacks. At one point, it was one of the most active areas when it came to PAVN and VC activities. Being so close to the Iron Triangle, it also meant that many operations were launched from the base even as it was a constant target for enemy attacks.
In fact, Lai Khe was probably the most rocketed base camp in the country except for Khe Sanh during the siege. At times, the camp would receive incoming rockets three times per day and twice per night and there was a sign at the main gate reading: ‘Welcome to Rocket City’.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem to be much left around the old base area, however if you know what you are looking for then you can still find evidence of this massive installation’s existence. On the east side of the highway there is mostly rubber plantations today. Due to it being very muddy we couldn’t drive around there as much as we had liked. As the camp areas were located among the rubber trees and the main roads inside the plantation are the same as they were then, one will get a good understanding of what it looked like back then. Please view below video from our latest visit at the camp for a good view of what the site of the camp looks like today.
The west side of the camp is another story. There one will find the old water purification compound along with the Brigade HQ and admin buildings. We are not sure but believe also the general’s quarters are still there. Furthermore the large gate along the highway is still there and one of the main bunkers. Driving around in the area west of the highway one will also find large concrete slabs that clearly are remains from the era.
Inside the camp, some of the older trees carry marks of shrapnel from the countless rocket attacks. The perimeter roads are still possible to drive on along with the bypass road on the east side of the camp outside the old minefield.
Lai Khe Base Camp should be on the list to visit for any history traveler It is a quality visit with much to see and its historical significance should not be under estimated.
How to get there
Lai Khe is located about 60 kilometers north of Saigon along QL13 towards An Loc and Loc Ninh. It’’s a nice half day visit to go up there and back, or a full day trip for those who wants to venture further north and visit the other bases that were located along the road.
Decimal Coordinates 11.195, 106.617
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