Sa Dec and Cao Lanh
The Mekong River together with The Bassac River formed The Mekong Delta which was the rice basket of Vietnam and one of the main reasons North Vietnam sought to re-unite the country. Controlling and utilizing the water ways was of utmost importance for both sides during the war. The Viet Cong and NVA would infiltrate, bringing men and supplies, from Cambodia on land but mainly on the water. This meant that U.S. forces would set up bases along the river so they could block these transports.
Using PBR’s, nimble but powerful fiberglass patrol boats, US forces would patrol the rivers as well as the smaller canals, checking the local traffic on the river for weapons and supplies. Often getting involved in firefights as they were attacked from the shores.
Sa Dec and Cao Lanh are located about 15 kilometers from each other along the Mekong River, covering the strategic water ways north of Vinh Long. The towns being small, but important, U.S. forces had presence in both places with MACV Compounds, runways, helicopter pads, PBR docks and other installations. Please see below a short video as we drive down the Sa Dec runway
Traveling the area, one quickly realizes that within this limited geography, there would have been thousands of places to hide in the small canals and forested areas. Finding VC and PAVN infiltrators was literally like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially considering many of them were locals and knew the area better than U.S. troops and ARVN troops that mostly were not locals themselves.
At our latest visit we drove through the towns in the rain and looked around for some of these installations. We found the old site of the MACV compound in Cao Lanh and the old runway in Sa Dec. Next time we will get some pictures from the runway in Cao Lanh and we understand there are still remains of the old PBR docks there. The PBR docks in Sa Dec were located along the small canal in town and we have little hope of finding any remains as the whole canal has been built up along. We will give it a try though.
Today there is a large bridge over The Mekong River from Cao Lanh, making the crossing so much easier. We drove the old road down to Sa Dec and enjoyed the beautiful delta scenery.
As a general travel destination, this is another breathtaking landscape part of Vietnam. As soon as one can look beyond the houses that are lined up along the country roads, one is rewarded with beautiful flatlands, rice paddies, pineapple and coconut farms and some of the friendliest people one will ever meet
How to get there
The best and easiest way is to drive from Saigon via My Tho. For those who wants to discover more in the delta, staying over in Vinh Long is possible as well as in Sa Dec and Cao Lanh.