Moc Hoa Special Forces Camp

It was one of those hot and sunny days in southern Vietnam, the ones that completely drains you. The Plain of Reeds in the Mekong Delta doesn’t offer much shade from trees as it consists more or less only of open fields demarcated by the canals. Keeping the concentration up while driving here is crucial as the slightest lapse can cause you to hit one of the many obstacles that has made the Vietnamese roads infamous. Buffalos, trucks, other motorbikes and deep potholes can turn your beautiful countryside drive in to a very bad day.

The Plain of Reeds is located in the northern Mekong Delta, in the Long An and Dong Thap provinces, bordering to Cambodia. During the conflicts of last century, this area played a crucial role. The Viet Minh, The Viet Cong and other armed groups of different allegiances used the area as a sanctuary, staying hidden from government forces. This of course meant that lots of fighting also took place here as numerous missions were launched in to the area to try to weed them out.

Plain of reeds

During the Vietnam War this area was an important part of the supply network for VC and PAVN forces operating in the Mekong Delta. Fresh troops, food and ammunition was smuggled along the canals and over land from Cambodia just across the border. In response to this, US military leadership decided to establish a number of camps in different strategic locations to try to stop or at least limit the influx of supplies and troops.

This hot day we were going to visit one of those camps, just a few kilometers from the Cambodian border and right by the area called “Parrots Beak” by US forces. The camp was once the Moc Hoa Special Forces Camp, at the time it was established in 1963 it was named A-414 and in 1965 it was upgraded to a B camp and was designated B-41. In 1966 it became the home of the Mobile Strike Force (Mike Force) for IV-Corps. MACV-SOG also ran reconnaissance operations in to Cambodia from the camp.

Southern end of runway at Moc Hoa

This camp was in the epicenter of the activities described above. It covered one of the main routes towards Saigon as well as the densely populated and strategically important Mekong Delta. This was a very dangerous area.

As we travel Vietnam, discovering historical sites of the wars of last century, visiting Moc Hoa has long been high up on the list of sites we want to go to. Understanding what happened here is important to understand the war in the south. Visiting a site like this, getting a feel for how remote and exposed it was, is humbling. Only kilometers away across the border were large contingents of PAVN forces just waiting to come and get you. On the other side the VC were constantly planning and executing probes and attacks on the camp. The level of activity was constantly high with brown navy boats patrolling the canals, aircraft patrolling the air and land missions were launched in order to keep the enemy at a safe distance.

With an already long day behind us and three more hours to drive to get back to Saigon, we approached the little town of Kien Tuong where the camp was located. It is a typical Vietnamese rural town. It is also very typical for a border town in that there is a palpable government and army presence. There is always a strange atmosphere in these places. A sense of another era, before the country opened up for business, with new liberties and opportunities for urban Vietnamese. The development the last decade has clearly escaped this area.

Military cemetery, Kien Tuong Moc Hoa

We approached from the south. Before reaching town we spotted a military cemetery on the left side of the road. These cemeteries can be found all over the country and bear witness of the immense sacrifices that were made by the Vietnamese people*. We stopped to pay our respects. Walking among hundreds of graves, reading the inscriptions with the names of the soldiers and dates they were killed, makes the war more comprehensible. These men and women died here.

Military Cemetery in Kien Tuong

 

We continued the last couple of kilometers towards town and turned south towards the old base area. It is clear that this little town has grown a lot the last years. The base area on the east side of the runway is developed, there are boulevards, parks and residential areas. Also a monument of some sorts that we don’t really know what it is for.

Moc Hoa runway looking south

We then turned towards the runway along a small road and as it opened up, we realized this is also a developing area of the town. The packed dirt of the runway is bordered by two paved roads the whole stretch. On the runway itself, there are some residential homes built. It looks a bit off, but the plots aren’t that bad. We stopped at the south end of the runway and as in pictures we have seen from the era, it looks the same with open fields and some low brush. Coming back north we looked for traces of the original square A-Camp area, but also that was built up. Perhaps a closer look would reveal some of the old berms, but it looked highly unlikely.

The runway at Moc Hoa Special Forces Camp

Our best assumption is that nothing of the old camp is left except the roads along the old layout. In the packed dirt there might be items to discover, but overall the town of Kien Tuong has taken over. It is still a good visit though and anyone coming through the area is well advised to make a stop here.

The drive back to Saigon was as difficult as they come in Vietnam. With heavy traffic under a merciless sun and the dehydration reaching dangerous levels, I tried to stay focused so I would make it back in one piece. We had to balance going safe and slow with also keeping the pace up so we didn’t have to drive in the dark which multiplies the dangers of the Vietnamese traffic. We limited ourselves to one stop only for a drink. During the drive back, we passed countless of old camps, battlefields and other places of significant events. Most of them have fallen victim to development and time itself. Vietnam is rapidly changing and although too many of the old war sites have disappeared, the history is constantly present and there to discover.

 

How to get there

Moc Hoa Special Forces Camp is located in the little town of Kien Tuong about 110 kilometers from Saigon.

Decimal coordonates: 10.766184 105.936763

 

*Up until not long ago, cemeteries with Saigon soldiers were off limits and many had been removed to leave space for urban development. This is changing now and people are allowed to also come and pay their respects for the fallen soldiers of the Saigon side.

8 thoughts on “Moc Hoa Special Forces Camp”

  1. I arrived at Mic Hoa in Sept. 1966 via helicopter from Can Tho. The entire Delta was flooded. I was taken to B 41 then by boat down the runway to A 414. General Westmoreland arrived by helicopter at 414 and we exchanged salutes as he got on a boat to go to the B team. We ran an operation with assault boats and helicopter support as advisors south of Moc Hoa soon after. The Vietnamese commander refused to engage printing to XO to yell the hell out of him. We had two types of outboard motors. The Evenrudes worked find but we’re purely civilian construct. The Johnson’s, built to army military specs kept stalling out. I kept insisting the Vietnamese CIDG keep them running to little success. In November that motor cost an American his life.
    Then Mike Force Airboats came in and we practiced with them. On an operation on Nov 14 Airboats and assault boats took two Americans KIA and one WIA out of six. I wasn’t wounded. One of the KIA was in a stalled out assault boat. He got three in the chest. The SFC got s bullet almost between the eyes. I escorted the two bodies to the morgue in Saigon for ID. They were the only bodies in the morgue. A whole long row of empty slabs.
    Six days later we went into Cambodia with Airboats and hovercraft and helicopters and killed 56 Communists caught by surprise, but when it was found out we were in Cambodia we were ordered to withdraw. General Abrams came by the next day for a debriefing.

  2. My Uncle was a SF medic in A-402. Unfortunately he died in Jan., 1969. I have always wondered what his Base camp and living conditions were like. Thank you for sharing your photos. A much bigger thank you and Welcome Home to the veterans who have posted above!! I have always appreciated you guys!!

  3. I was a Special Forces aidman stationed at A-414 from Sept. 1966 to Sept. 1967 at Moc Hoa next to its runway. Shortly after I left and likely after the Tet offensive 414 was moved next to the Cambodian border. While at Mic Hoa the A-Team was the only A-Team in Vietnam advising South Vietnamese SF B-Team members as the space downtown where the B-Team was was too tight for all those personnel. We ran some Mike Force airboat operations and the Navy ran hovercrafts as the Delta was flooded in the fall of 1966.

    1. Brant, thank you for your comment and for providing some interesting context. I would be very interested in knowing more about your time there.

      1. Well, that was the most intense. Lt Duncan, soon to leave, took me around, I was only a Sp 4 though I left the army as a buck sergeant, so I could take over his psy/op duties. That’s right, I as the lowest ranking member if an A team was given the duties and those responsibilities of a first Lt. The junior members of an A team were the medics, with exceptions, and the common men, with exceptions. We had heavy and light weapons, two in tells, the team Sergeant the XO and team commander. I missed one but it added up to 12. One XO I didn’t much like, was George O’Toole, out of West Point. That’s because he wasn’t psychologically integrated into the team. He was an officer and except for the captain, we were enlisted. Standard army but SF was NOT standard army. Good guy but KIA as commander of another team Dec. 1967.
        The officers tended to rotate every few months. Duncan, though, stayed a year.
        I understood John Wayne came through in 1966 before I got there. A 414 was pretty safe in its location. Jenifer Jones came through while I was there. She sat in the team bar having some refreshment not bothered at all by all the Playboy centerfolds plastered on the walls. That fall she was found beneath the cliffs at Malibu a failed suicide attempt apparently partly because of the death of her dear friend the actor Charles Beckford. She went on to marry a rich man, Simon I think, and had many more years doing good works.
        I enlisted in the army for photography school at Ft. Dix but was recruited into Special Forces in Basic Training Ft. Ord CA. The basic mistake I made was to turn down on enlistment to go for four years instead of three and go to the National Security Agency which meant studying a foreign language at Monterey CA. Being a spook is better than bring shot at, even to no effect. But that was 1964. A year after I enlisted my bro, Marc, joined the Marines. After boot camp the gunny came out to the formation and said we need two men to go to the army photography school at Ft Dix. You and you. So Marc became a really great photographer who worked with Ansel Adams and published several books of his photos.
        During my medical training I spent time at Ft Gordon Army hospital in GA fall of 1965 when former President Eisenhower had a heart attack or some sort of heart issue playing golf at Augusta. (He kept hitting his balls into one tree and asked it be removed but Augusta declined but thereafter it was called ” the Eisenhower tree.” It finally did die recently.) So I was asked to spend nights with him with one or two others. That was 13 nights as a PFC with a five star general before they put him on a train and shipped him off to Walter Reed but not before the brass send him the prettiest, nicest captain nurse to share my shift. So here am I with this great general President, we’ve had three, Washington, Grant and Eisenhower, but one night me out of his sight, I see amongst all the flower decorations, an elephant from my senator and hero Barry Goldwater, but in Ike’s sight, so I walk up to it and drop my green beret over its head and look up at Ike looking at me. I looked back at the elephant and back at Ike and give him at huge Eisenhower grin to beat his grins then turn and take the beret and walk out of site. A year or two later he has an article in Readers Digest in which he states he has seen America’s youth and they are great. He was thinking of me if not others too.
        The last about this: the first night they took me to see him in a blocked off corridor in the old hospital from WWII he was all alone sleeping with a (now) primitive heart monitor above his head. Five years before he had been the most powerful man in the world.
        When he died on March 28, 1968 I decided to stop smoking. It was my 25th birthday. I knew smoking had taken 10 years off his life. As supreme Commander in Europe he smoked 5 packs a day. Why not? He was sending Americans to their deaths. He knew it and they knew it. He smoked and they went. Such is war.

    1. I was a Special Forces aidman stationed at A-414 from Sept. 1966 to Sept. 1967 at Moc Hoa next to its runway. Shortly after I left and likely after the Tet offensive 414 was moved next to the Cambodian border. While at Mic Hoa the A-Team was the only A-Team in Vietnam advising South Vietnamese SF B-Team members as the space downtown where the B-Team was was too tight for all those personnel. We ran some Mike Force airboat operations and the Navy ran hovercrafts as the Delta was flooded in the fall of 1966.

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