A special journey

“In the predawn hours of May 5, 1968 except for the constant churning of insect wings, the surrounding landscape west of Khe Sanh was unusually silent. In a floodplain valley that snaked from Khe Sanh to the old Lang Vei Special Forces in the west, Route 9 showed no sign of human activity. It was the stifling humidity that lay like a warm wet blanket that kept Lieutenant Dean Turpin out of his foxhole begging for a whisp of cooling wind. With his starlight scope pressed closely to his eye, Turpin strained to look west across this widely splayed valley to the dark green shapes of hills a few thousand meters north and west from his position. Without notice, Turpin began to witness intensifying light green streams of small arms fire chasing themselves up and down one of the hills. Occasionally, this light show was punctuated with an explosive flash. Several seconds later, a muffled boom registered where Turpin and the remainder of Bravo Company of 2/5 Cavalry were hunkered down on a hill west of Khe Sanh. His Georgia zip code was betrayed by a slight New York accent, as Turpin excitedly mutters to no one in particular; “Jesus. . . . LZ Peanuts is catching hell.” A few kilometers southwest on a non-descript hill called Landing Zone Snapper, the squelch of urgent radio transmission came into the 2nd Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division headquarters from Landing Zone Peanuts. “Black Jack Six India this is Old Grand Dad Six India. We have gooks in the wire. Say again . . we have gooks in wire! We have multiple penetrations of the perimeter. Request immediate illumination and Blue Max support.” By daybreak, broken bodies of dozens of North Vietnamese and the flotsam of war littered the slopes of LZ Peanuts. The Landing Zone had remained in American hands, but at a significant cost of life for both sides. And yet history did little to preserve the fight for LZ Peanuts. History recalls the Battle for LZ Peanuts as merely another nameless battle of many witnessed by the U.S. Army Cavalry forces that were busy fighting in dangerous region of Vietnam at a dangerous time. For most of those who survived this battle, the fight for LZ Peanuts was among the most significant they saw during their tenure in Vietnam.”

Please click images for slideshow

Embedded video below is the long version covering our whole visit to the hill. We’re approaching from a small farm road on the east side of the northern part of the hill before walking up and around it.

Traveling in the footsteps of history is almost always a very rewarding experience, visiting places where history was written, where battles were fought and where men stepped up and risked their lives for their brothers. For us in the team behind this site, some days are more rewarding than others.

We have a special relationship with and interest in some of the actions that the men from 1st Battalion 5th Cavalry Regiment took part in during Operation Pegasus in 1968. Operation Pegasus was aimed at relieving the US Marines that had just lived through the ordeal of a 77 day siege at Khe Sanh Combat Base in north west Quang Tri province just a few kilometers from the Laotian border.

Inserted on the hill from nearby staging areas, the Cavalry soldiers had fortified the steep slopes with bunkers. On the eastern ridge a battery from 1/77 Artillery had their howitzers set up, but as the ammo dump was hit by incoming artillery fire from North Vietnamese batteries set up inside Laos they were of no use. This meant the men at LZ Peanuts had to rely on support from helicopter gunships and artillery from firebases further east for fire support. Attacks came from more or less all directions and in the chaos North Vietnamese soldiers penetrated the lines forcing the Cavalry soldiers to hand to hand combat.

Today there is little but some evidence that this battle took place on the hill. Along the steep slopes there are trails at where the bunker lines were placed, there are craters scattered all over the place bearing witness of the air strikes that were placed on the hill after the Cavalry troops had departed.  Bringing a metal detector would probably help a visitor to unearth not only metal remains but live rounds so we strongly advise anyone taking on that. We stayed on the trails during our visit making sure we did not expose ourselves to any unnecessary risk.

The embedded video from our visit clearly shows what the hill looks like today as we’re walking right through where most of the fighting took place and is specially put together for those who were there that night.

Hills like this where battles were fought are spread all around the country. Finding them and traveling there makes for a deeper and more profound insight in to events. However, as violent and intense battles took place on these sites it also means that they are riddled with unexploded ordnance and other harmful and possibly lethal items. Anyone who intends to walk these sites will need to take extra precautions, preferably using a guide with local knowledge. If that isn’t possible, then it is probably a better idea to observe the site from distance.


How to get there

The hill is located about two kilometers north of Route 9 just west of Khe Sanh town. For those adventurous and motivated enough to get up to this hill we recommend renting a car with driver in Hue or Dong Ha to take you as close as possible to the hill depending on the condition of the farm road leading up the northern side. At our visit we had to walk the last six hundred meters.

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5 thoughts on “LZ Peanuts”

  1. I was part of the Blue Max aircrews that tried to eliminate the threat of the NVA. We unloaded everything we had on the enemy. It was difficult as they had breached the barbed wire perimeter. I will never forget what I witnessed that horrific night. It was my honor to be invited to the reunion in GA several years ago.
    Two of the survivors LT Mike Maynard and LT Charlie Brown remain my closest friends. They fought gallantly to eliminate the NVA and save a many of their man possible. RIP all those that were KIA that night. Cavalry forever!

    1. Thank you for your comment Joe. I was honored to work with Charlie to locate the hill and other details to find and explore the hill. I will go back one day to spend more time there to explore and also hopefully get up to where you saved the captured Marine.

  2. I visited LZ Peanuts in February, 1968. I was in Vietnam to visit the village of Tu Ha and PK-17, where I was through the TET 68 offensive 50 years earlier. Along with us was Jeanette Chervony, daughter of A 1/77th Artillery Radio Repairman SGT Eddie Chervony, who died on LZ Peanuts 5 May 68. We were able to drive to within 1 click up the hill, then walked the rest of the way to the top, through a field of coffee beans. The A 1/77th finger on the hill stretches south, and the hill peak where the brigade/1-5th was located is further up the hill to the north. Ms Chervony left a fitting memorial there with the pictures of each of the men who died the night of 4-5 May 68.
    I was privileged to attend an LZ Peanuts 50th Anniversary gathering at Fort Benning 5 May 2018. What a touching opportunity to hear the first-hand moment-by-moment recollections of the leadership of the 1/5th and 1/77th men in attendance. I can put anyone interested in contact with the tour team that facilitated the visit to LZ Peanuts.

  3. I want to make a comment but I’m having trouble where to start. I was there that day. Five. May 1968, I was a radio relay operator for the S-4 with the headquarters first of the fifth Calvary.I can’t remember names for some reason and I can’t remember some of the things that happened that day and night. I do remember I was standing in line for supper. Talking to the soldier that I was relieving to go home. We were several feet away from each other on the Eastside of the hill when he got hit in the stomach and fell to me. I caught him as he went down , holding him calling for a medic. We got them on the chopper. The medic told me that he was going to be okay. I hope so. I knew him, but this day I can’t remember his name. After the helicopter took off. It seemed like hell just opened up the mortars and rockets. Came in I was trying to climb down to my bunker. I was never so scared in my life . I got to the bunker when I heard a rocket hit the ammo dump for the 105 howitzer that were on the spur just below me. The explosions kept going on but I couldn’t tell if it was the ammo dump or mortars going off. I don’t know what the time was I was just scared. I heard Sgt. call out that they were coming up the hill trip flares were going off and the smell from the ammo dump burning and the bodies in the wire on fire from the flue gas that was set off I will never forget it. I don’t know, or I mean, I don’t remember how long we fought. I do remember the Sgt. saying we needed more men to move to the front of talk headquarters. I went and got behind a bunker covered with sandbags and I can see the ammo dump burning on my left. It was lighting up the area in front of me I could see movement and started firing. I didn’t know what I was shooting at. At that time I could just see lights flickering from the fire. I remember praying for the sun to come up. I knew then they would stop fighting and leave. I don’t remember too much after that. I do remember it was late that afternoon that I got in a helicopter . It flew us over to Dong Ha I remember getting off the chopper walking over to a stack of Air Force pallets later my weapon in my gear on it and now I can’t remember how I got to the home base at Quang Tri from there. I want to thank you for let me tell my problem and it’s very hard to forget. I do have a lot of troubles today trying to remember and trying to forget. I wish I could remember the names of the soldiers I fought with and have died for us.

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