Khe Sanh Combat Base

Khe Sanh Combat Base was a United States Marine Corps outpost south of the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) used during the Vietnam War. Military Grid Reference: 48Q XD 841422 (abandoned runway 10/28).

Khe Sanh Combat Base
Detail Map Khe Sanh Combat Base
Diagram of base
Site history
In use1962-1975
Vietnam Service Medal ribbon

Vietnam War
Battle of Khe Sanh
Operation Lam Son 719
Garrison information
Occupants3rd Marine Division
1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division


In January 1966 the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) attacked the base with 120mm mortars and intelligence indicated that a PAVN buildup was taking place around the base. In March MACV instructed the III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF) to plan a 1 battalion security operation around the base. On 27 March 3rd Marine Division commander MG Wood B. Kyle ordered the 4th Marine Regiment at Phu Bai Combat Base to deploy the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines and supporting artillery and mortar batteries to Khe Sanh. 1/1 Marines commander Lt. Col. Van D. Bell flew into Khe Sanh to plan his deployment and found the Special Forces there to be nervous and leaving all patrolling outside the perimeter to Nùng forces. On 3 April the operational order for Operation Virginia was issued, with the operation to begin on 5 April. On 4 April an advance unit was landed at Khe Sanh, but the arrival of the rest of the force was delayed by bad weather and the effects of the Buddhist Uprising and it wasn't until 18 April that VMGR-152 Lockheed Martin KC-130s were able to complete the deployment. The plan called for sequential sweeps to the northeast, northwest and then southwest of the base. On 19 April HMM-163 helicopters landed the headquarters unit and Company C in a blocking position 6km north of the base and then landed Companies A and B 9km further east, Companies A and B then swept west meeting no PAVN and joined up with Company C on 21 April and the force then returned to the base. Reconnaissance patrols of the northwest sector indicated no PAVN presence and so the 2nd phase of the operation was cancelled. III MAF then ordered 1/1 Marines to march east along Route 9 which had been closed for several years to determine if there was any PAVN buildup south of the DMZ. The artillery unit was moved to Ca Lu to cover Route 9 and on 1 May the 1/1 Marines completed the 30 miles (48 km) march from the base to Cam Lộ encountering no PAVN.[1]

Fighting began there in late April 1967 with the hill fights, which later expanded into the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh. U.S. commanders hoped that the PAVN would attempt to repeat their famous victory at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which would permit the U.S. to wield enormous air power. Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses alone dropped more than 75,000 tons of bombs on the PAVN 304th and 325th Divisions encroaching the combat base in trenches.

On April 1, 1968, the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division launched Operation Niagara to break the siege of the base. All three brigades from the 1st Cavalry participated in this vast airmobile operation, along with a Marine armor thrust.[2]

The defense of Khe Sanh commanded international attention and was considered the climactic phase of the Tet Offensive. On July 5, 1968, the combat base was abandoned, the U.S. Army citing the vulnerability of the base to dug-in enemy artillery positions in neutral Laos and the arrival of significant airmobile forces in I Corps (1st Cavalry and 101st Airborne Divisions). However, the closure permitted the 3rd Marine Division to conduct mobile operations along the DMZ.

In 1971, Khe Sanh was reactivated by the U.S. Army (Operation Dewey Canyon II) to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese incursion into Laos. It was abandoned again in early April 1971.[3][4]

On 27 January 1972 a U.S. Air Force Lockheed AC-130 gunship was shot down by a PAVN SA-2 missile over the base.[5] In March 1973, American intelligence reported that the PAVN had rebuilt the airstrip at Khe Sanh and were using it for courier flights into the South.


Khe Sanh Combat Base can be visited daily as part of tours starting in Huế. Most of the base is now overgrown by wilderness or coffee and banana plants. In a small museum on base historical pictures and weapons are shown. Additionally a C-130, Boeing CH-47 Chinook, Bell UH-1 Iroquois, artillery and armor, restored bunkers and portions of the airstrip are visible.



Seabees of Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 301 set and seal runway mats into place at Khe Sanh, 29 November 1967


Khe Sanh base, 1968

Khe Sanh


Helicopter1 Khe Sanh

UH-1H helicopter

Helicopter2 Khe Sanh

CH-47 helicopter

Bunker1@Khe Sanh

Outside view of a restored bunker

Landingstrip Khe Sanh

The airstrip


The first person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops features a level (titled SOG) where the player (fictional CIA operative Alex Mason) fights to defend Khe Sanh from the North Vietnamese Army.

The Electronic Arts/DICE game, Battlefield Vietnam (2004) features a level where the Khe Sanh base is the main base for US troops. The level incorporates other historical sites like Khe Sanh Village, Lang Vei, the junction of National Route 9 and Ho Chi Minh Highway, and the bridge over the Rao Quan River, though all of the interceding distances are compressed to work within the game's playable area.

The book The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt mentions a marine at Kesanh (sic), several times throughout the story.

See also


  1. ^ Shulimson, Jack (1982). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: An Expanding War 1966. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. pp. 140–3. ISBN 9781494285159.
  2. ^ Lurps: A Ranger's Diary of Tet, Khe Sanh, A Shau, and Quang Tri, revised ed., Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Lanham, MD (2009).
  4. ^ Khe Sanh Medal of Honor Awards - HAGEN, LOREN D. - 1Lt, US Army, Inf, US Army Training Advisory Group.
  5. ^ Melson, Charles (1991). U.S. Marines In Vietnam: The War That Would Not End, 1971-1973. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. p. 32. ISBN 978-1482384055.
Battle of Khe Sanh

The Battle of Khe Sanh (21 January – 9 July 1968) was conducted in the Khe Sanh area of northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), during the Vietnam War. The main US forces defending Khe Sanh Combat Base (KSCB) were two regiments of US Marines supported by elements from the United States Army and the United States Air Force, as well as a small number of South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) troops. These were pitted against two to three divisional-size elements of the North Vietnamese Army.

The US command in Saigon initially believed that combat operations around KSCB during 1967 were part of a series of minor North Vietnamese offensives in the border regions. That appraisal was later altered when the NVA was found to be moving major forces into the area. In response, US forces were built up before the NVA isolated the Marine base. Once the base came under siege, a series of actions was fought over a period of five months. During this time, KSCB and the hilltop outposts around it were subjected to constant North Vietnamese artillery, mortar, and rocket attacks, and several infantry assaults. To support the Marine base, a massive aerial bombardment campaign (Operation Niagara) was launched by the US Air Force. Over 100,000 tons of bombs were dropped by US aircraft and over 158,000 artillery rounds were fired in defense of the base. Throughout the campaign, US forces used the latest technology to locate NVA forces for targeting. Additionally, the logistical effort required to support the base once it was isolated demanded the implementation of other tactical innovations to keep the Marines supplied.

In March 1968, an overland relief expedition (Operation Pegasus) was launched by a combined Marine–Army/South Vietnamese task force that eventually broke through to the Marines at Khe Sanh. American commanders considered the defense of Khe Sanh a success, but shortly after the siege was lifted, the decision was made to dismantle the base rather than risk similar battles in the future. On 19 June 1968, the evacuation and destruction of KSCB began. Amid heavy shelling, the Marines attempted to salvage what they could before destroying what remained as they were evacuated. Minor attacks continued before the base was officially closed on 5 July. Marines remained around Hill 689, though, and fighting in the vicinity continued until 11 July until they were finally withdrawn, bringing the battle to a close.

In the aftermath, the North Vietnamese proclaimed a victory at Khe Sanh, while US forces claimed that they had withdrawn, as the base was no longer required. Historians have observed that the Battle of Khe Sanh may have distracted American and South Vietnamese attention from the buildup of Viet Cong forces in the south before the early 1968 Tet Offensive. Nevertheless, the US commander during the battle, General William Westmoreland, maintained that the true intention of Tet was to distract forces from Khe Sanh.

Battle of Lang Vei

The Battle of Lang Vei (Vietnamese: Trận Làng Vây) began on the evening of 6 February and concluded during the early hours of 7 February 1968, in Quảng Trị Province, South Vietnam. Towards the end of 1967 the 198th Tank Battalion, People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 203rd Armored Regiment, received instructions from the North Vietnamese Ministry of Defense to reinforce the 304th Division as part of the Route 9-Khe Sanh Campaign. After an arduous journey down the Ho Chi Minh trail in January 1968, the 198th Tank Battalion linked up with the 304th Division for a major offensive along Highway 9, which stretched from the Laotian border through to Quảng Trị Province. On 23 January, the 24th Regiment attacked the small Laotian outpost at Bane Houei Sane, under the control of the Royal Laos Army BV-33 'Elephant' Battalion.

In that battle the 198th Tank Battalion failed to reach the battle on time because its crews struggled to navigate their tanks through the rough local terrain. However, as soon as the PT-76 tanks of the 198th Tank Battalion turned up at Bane Houei Sane, the Laotian soldiers and their families panicked and retreated into South Vietnam. After Bane Houei Sane was captured, the 24th Regiment prepared for another attack which targeted the U.S. Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei, manned by Detachment A-101 of the 5th Special Forces Group and indigenous Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) forces. On 6 February, the 24th Regiment, again supported by the 198th Tank Battalion, launched their assault on Lang Vei. Despite air and artillery support, the U.S.-led forces conceded ground and the PAVN quickly dominated their positions. By the early hours of 7 February the command bunker was the only position still held by Allied forces, to rescue the American survivors inside the Lang Vei Camp, a counter-attack was mounted, but the Laotian soldiers, who formed the bulk of the attack formation, refused to fight the PAVN. Later on, U.S. Special Forces personnel were able to escape from the camp, and were rescued by a U.S. Marine task force from Khe Sanh Combat Base.

Beverly Deepe Keever

Beverly Deepe Keever (born June 1, 1935) is an American journalist, Vietnam War correspondent, author and professor emerita of journalism and communications. In 1969 Beverly Deepe married Charles J. Keever.

Beverly Deepe Keever has had a varied career that spanned the journalistic profession and professorate. Her career ranged from public opinion polling for an author-syndicated columnist in New York, to war correspondent, to covering Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and then to teaching and researching journalism and communications for 29 years at the University of Hawai’i.

As a professor emerita and 40-some years after departing Saigon, she wrote her memoirs of covering the Vietnam War for seven years—longer than any other American correspondent as of that time. Titled Death Zones and Darling Spies, the book chronicles her dispatches as a freelancer and then successively for Newsweek, the New York Herald Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor and the London Daily Express and Sunday Express.

Her 1968 coverage of the embattled Khe Sanh combat base was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting by the Christian Science Monitor. Another of her 1968 dispatches was selected by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in its centennial year as one of the 50 great stories by its alumni. In 2001 she was one of some four dozen combat correspondents whose work was selected for an exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. designed to trace 148 years of war reporting starting with the Crimean conflict of 1853. Fourteen years later, her artifacts and journalistic career were displayed and discussed in the “Reporting Vietnam” exhibit featured at the Newseum through September 2015.

She also researched and wrote News Zero: The New York Times and The Bomb. Excerpts from and adaptations of this book have been published in two award-winning cover articles in Honolulu's alternative weekly and on global web sites. She is also a co-editor of U.S. News Coverage of Racial Minorities: A Sourcebook, 1934-1996, for which she conceptualized with others the prospectus of the volume; made arrangements with the publisher; served, in effect, as the managing editor coordinating the writing of 11 other scholars; contributed two chapters and co-authored two others.

Bruce B. G. Clarke

Bruce Bennett Gorham Clarke (born January 26, 1943) is a former United States Army officer. Clarke is currently president of Bruce Clarke Consultants, Inc., a defense consulting firm. He is widely published on military and national security affairs, including in his book Expendable Warriors (2007) and in a regular column for the Examiner.

Ca Lu Combat Base

Ca Lu Combat Base (Vietnamese: Cà Lu) was a United States Marine Corps base located on Highway or Route 9, near Krông Klang, Đa Krông District, western Quảng Trị Province, South Vietnam.

Ca Lu was the western terminus of Highway 9 for the U.S. Marines since the road was cut between there and the Khe Sanh Combat Base. The 3rd Marine Division had overall command and control of the DMZ area.

The 3d Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment under Lt. Col. Gorton C. Cook manned both The Rockpile and Ca Lu Combat Base in 1968.

Operation Lancaster ran between 1 November 1967 and 20 January 1968, where the 9th Marine Regiment suffered 27 killed and 106 wounded and the North Vietnamese 46 killed. Operation Lancaster II followed directly after Operation Lancaster was a multi-Battalion operation that ran from 21 January and lasted until 23 November 1968, resulting in 1,801 known North Vietnamese casualties and 359 killed U.S. Marines and 1,713 wounded.

Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP) (United States)

Company E, 52nd Infantry, (LRP) was a 120 man-sized long-range reconnaissance patrol unit attached to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam in 1967-69. Its origin begins on January 1, 1967, as "LRRP Detachment G2," 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). It was then redesignated "Headquarters & Headquarters Company LRRP Detachment" in April 1967, and redesignated "Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP)" on December 20, 1967.Later, when all LRRP units were folded into the US Army Rangers on February 1, 1969, Company E was redesignated, "H Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger).

David Althoff

David Althoff is an American marine who was awarded three Distinguished Flying Cross, three Silver Stars and nearly 50 Air Medals. He also is a recipient of the Cunningham Award and a developer of SuperGaggle.

David E. Lownds

David Edward Lownds (October 4, 1920 – August 31, 2011) was a United States Marine Corps Colonel who served in the Vietnam War, notably as ground commander at Khe Sanh Combat Base during the Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968.

John J. Tolson

John J. Tolson III (October 22, 1915 – December 2, 1991) was a lieutenant general in the United States Army. During the Vietnam War, he helped implement the airmobile concept use of helicopters in combat with the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Tolson credited the U.S Marines for first using helicopters to transport troops into combat in the Korean War, making the ground fight a three-dimensional war, thus freeing troops from the tyranny of terrain.In World War II, John J. Tolson was a member of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Battalion and participated in every jump with that unit, including the recapture of Corregidor in 1945.In the Vietnam War, Major General Tolson took command of 1st Cavalry Division in April 1967 and served in that capacity till July 14, 1969. Under his command, his division played crucial roles during the Tet Offensive during the Battle of Hue and at Quang Tri City in January 1968. It also participated in the second biggest battle of the war: Operation Pegasus the relief of the Marine Khe Sanh Combat Base in March 1968 where all three brigades engaged the enemy, as well as Operation Delaware, the massive air assault into the A Shau Valley in April 1968.After his Vietnam tour ended, he was promoted to lieutenant general. He retired in 1973 as deputy commander of the Continental Army.He died on 2 December 1991 at the age of 76. He was survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

Khe Sanh

Khe Sanh is the district capital of Hướng Hoá District, Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam, located 63 km west of Đông Hà. During the Vietnam War, the Khe Sanh Combat Base was located to the north of the city. The Battle of Khe Sanh took place there. The Khe Sanh Combat Base is a museum where relics of the war are exhibited. Most of the former base is now overgrown by wilderness or coffee and banana plants.

Larry W. Maysey

Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey (May 18, 1946 – November 9, 1967) was a United States Air Force pararescueman who was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the Air Force's second-highest decoration (after the Medal of Honor).

Maysey grew up in Chester Borough, New Jersey and graduated from West Morris Central High School.On 8 November 1967 two HH-3E Jolly Green Giants of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron were launched on a night mission to extract five survivors of a Special Forces reconnaissance team. The site was known to be hot, surrounded by a well-disciplined, People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) battalion. A Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) and a United States Army helicopter had already been shot down and destroyed. Illuminated by a C-130 Hercules flare ship dropping LUU-2 parachute flares, Jolly 29 made a pickup of three survivors before being driven off by intense enemy fire. Jolly 29, with heavy battle damage, landed at the USMC Khe Sanh Combat Base. Maysey's helicopter Jolly 26 then attempted to pick up the remaining two survivors, both now wounded. Fighting, both in the air and on the ground, was intense. Maysey jumped from the safety of Jolly 26, and ran down a steep slope rescuing the two remaining men. Jolly 26 was now being hit with small arms fire. Just after Maysey had helped both survivors safely on board, a rocket propelled grenade struck the number one engine, fatally crippling the craft. The engine exploded, inverting the aircraft, which rolled and skidded down a deep ravine and burst into flames; a pilot and one other man survived the crash. Maysey received the Air Force Cross posthumously. The pilot Captain Gerald Young was rescued later that day and subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.

Operation Lancaster

Operation Lancaster was a U.S. Marine Corps operation that took place in northern Quảng Trị Province from November 1967 to January 20, 1968.

Operation Niagara

Operation Niagara was a U.S. Seventh Air Force close air support campaign carried out from January through March 1968, during the Vietnam War. Its purpose was to serve as an aerial umbrella for the defense of the U.S. Marine Corps Khe Sanh Combat Base on the Khe Sanh Plateau, in western Quang Tri Province of the Republic of Vietnam. The base was under siege by an estimated three-divisional force of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN).

Operation Pershing

Operation Pershing was an operation conducted by the 1st Cavalry Division, the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 22nd Division and the South Korean Capital Division in Bình Định Province, lasting from 12 February 1967 to 19 January 1968.The operation concluded on 19 January 1968 with the 1st Cavalry Division being ordered to move 350km north from Landing Zone English in Bình Định Province to Camp Evans in Thừa Thiên Province as part of Operation Checkers, to increase the number of manoeveure battalions in I Corps in order to support the besieged Marines at Khe Sanh Combat Base and defeat any other People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) attack across the DMZ.

Operation Scotland II

Operation Scotland II was a U.S. Marine Corps security operation that took place in northwest Quảng Trị Province from 15 April 1968 to 28 February 1969.

The Hill Fights

The Hill Fights (also known as the First Battle of Khe Sanh) was a battle during the Vietnam War between the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 325C Division and United States Marines on several hill masses north of the Khe Sanh Combat Base in the I Corps Tactical Zone.

Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone

The Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone was a demilitarized zone established as a dividing line between North and South Vietnam as a result of the First Indochina War.

During the Vietnam War, it became important as the battleground demarcation separating North from South Vietnamese territories.

The zone ceased to exist with the reunification of Vietnam, though the area remains dangerous due to the numerous undetonated explosives it contains.

William H. Dabney

William Howard Dabney, (September 28, 1934 – February 15, 2012), was a retired colonel in the United States Marine Corps. He was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in the Vietnam War. He also served as the Commandant of Cadets at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) from 1989 to 1990.

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