Day 1 & 2: (Sunday - Monday , 6 – 7 March, 2016) – Enroute
Report to the International Terminal by 9:00 p.m. and proceed to the EVA Airlines ticketing counter for flight to Taipei. We lose one day crossing the International Dateline.
Day 3: (Tuesday, 8 March, 2016) – Taipei to Ha Noi
After a short layover in Taipei, we depart for Vietnam. At Ha Noi's Noi Bai Airfield, we proceed through immigration, retrieve our bags, clear customs, and board our motorcoach and cross the Red River and its dikes to explore the Ha Noi environs. We visit the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) and the John McCain Monument. Afterwards we enjoy our Welcome Dinner.
Meals: B (in flight) /L/D Hotel: La Casa
Day 4: (Wednesday, 9 March, 2016) – Ha Noi
This morning we visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh House, and One Pillar Pagoda. Mission-permitting, we will stop at JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) for a command briefing on their efforts. We then enjoy a fabulous lunch at the Lotus Buffet Restaurant. Next is the fascinating War Museum with its Dien Bien Phu exhibit and American artifacts. Tonight we enjoy a visit (mission permitting) to the Marine House, home of the U.S. Marine Corps Security Guard responsible for the protection of the U.S. Ambassador and the American Embassy.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: La Casa
Day 5: (Thursday, 10 March, 2016) – Ha Noi to Hue
Early this morning we head back to Noi Bai to catch our flight to Phu Bai Airfield. Upon landing, we explore the Recon Radio Relay site (Hill 180) at Camp Hochmuth. We then head north of the airfield to a ferry site across from Thon Hoa Da Tay village. Returning to Highway 1 we enter Camp Eagle, home to the 101st Airborne in I-Corps. Here we search for the 101st HQ bunker. Continuing north, we enter Hue City (the old Imperial Capital of Vietnam) and begin our study of the 1968 Tet Offensive battle for Hue. The Battle of Hue was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war, and we spend the remainder of the day visiting strategic sites around the southern city. We follow the actions of 1/1 and 2/5 covering, among others, the football stadium, the former MACV Compound, Tran Cao Van Street, Joan of Arc Girl's High School, Hue University, Treasury, Public Health Building, Provincial Capital Building area, and the Church of the Redemptress. Famous for its university, this town, known for open and radical thinking, is also home to the high school that graduated Ho Chi Minh, General Giap, and President Diem. We then arrive at our hotel (which was the ARVN BOQ during the war) on the southern bank of the Perfume River.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Huong Giang
Day 6: (Friday, 11 March, 2016) – Hue
Today we take a relaxing Dragon Boat cruise up the beautiful Perfume River to the Thien Mu Pagoda. It was from this pagoda that Thich Quang Duc was driven to Saigon where he immolated himself in protest to the government’s oppressive treatment of the Buddhist people. We re-board our boat and continue upstream. Making an amphibious landing, we climb a hill to meet our motorcoach and drive to the Tu Duc Tombs. We then enter the Citadel with its ramparts and towers, and visit sites specific to the northern battle, including the Chuck Meadows and Dong Ba Gates and Phase Line Green. We finish at the Imperial Palace gate blown by 1/5, which allowed the ARVN to enter and lower the NVA flag that had flown from the main flagpole for 24 days. We then visit the Forbidden City, home to the ancient emperors.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Huong Giang
Day 7: (Saturday, 12 March, 2016 – Hue to Dong Ha
We head north on Highway 1 for our first stop, Poste Kilometre 17 (better known as PK-17). Next is Camp Evans and a view of FSB Miguel (Hill 400). Soon thereafter we enter Quang Tri City where we visit La Vang Basilica (site of a 1798 appearance of the Blessed Virgin), LZ Sharon, LZ Nancy, and LZ Ann. Returning to Highway 1 we stop at Long Hung Church, a Catholic Church in which ARVN troops sought refuge during the 1972 Easter Offensive invasion from the North and in which NVA troops sought refuge as they retreated during the ARVN counter-attack. The church has been left as it stood after the battle, with scars from grenades, rockets, and bullets. We also visit Bo De School, which provides a shocking and violent reality of the ‘Battle of 81 Days and Nights’ for the city and its Citadel. The battle is infamous for the huge amount of ordnance fired by both ARVN and NVA forces. As we leave the city, we venture east to CAP unit sites at the villages of Thon An Luu, Thon An Phu, and Thon Thuong Trach. Returning to the city, we turn north again and cross the Quang Tri Bridge. This section of Highway 1 is known as the ‘Highway of Horror.’ During the NVA’s 1972 Easter Offensive, thousands of local refugees – most of which were old people, women, and children trying to flee south – were mercilessly slaughtered by communist NVA troops and artillery. The north side of the bridge is where the worst of the massacre occurred, because massive numbers of people were trapped because the downed bridge prevented escape. We then stop at 4th CAG, Camp Red Devil and the Ai Tu Airfield (Quang Tri Airbase). Our last stop of the day is the Lew Puller School.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Saigon Dong Ha
Day 8: (Sunday, 13 March, 2016) – Dong Ha
This morning we walk to the Dong Ha Bridge (destroyed by Capt. John Ripley which stopped the initial NVA advance during the 1972 Easter Offensive). Boarding our motorcoach, we travel east on the north side of the Song Bo Dieu and Song Cua Viet. Our first stop is the village of Dai Do, site of the Battle of Dong Ha fought by The Magnificent Bastards of 2/4 in May 1968. We continue east, passing through Mai Xa Chanh and My Loc before we arrive at the north side of Song Cua Viet inlet. Here we turn north on the new beach road north along the Tonkin Gulf, stopping at Charlie-4 and LZ Bowie. We then cross the Song Ben Hai (this river was the only true physical demarcation between the North and the South). Now in North Vietnam, we explore the tunnel complex in the artillery village of Vinh Moc. The Vinh Moc Tunnels are an incredible complex of tunnels that were dug by local people to evade the constant US counter-battery bombing of the area. The tunnels include kitchens, wells, and a ‘hospital,’ as well as living quarters for roughly 60 families. The tunnels, which are at a depth of 30m saved many villagers’ lives, and are still in very good condition. We then head west and south, crossing the Hien Luong Bridge (also known as the Peace Bridge). Back in South Vietnam, we proceed to FSB Gio Linh (Forward) which overlooks the DMZ from the Republic side. We then pass through Alpha-3 and visit the U.S. base at Alpha-4, better known as Con Thien (the Hill of Angels). A-4 was the western anchor of the McNamara Line. Crossing 2/4’s Bastard’s Bridge (aka The Washout), we stop at Charlie-2. After passing Charlie-3 we stop for photos at Cam Lo Bridge. We then return to Dong Ha on Route 9. Today we have traversed the four quadrants of Leatherneck Square: Dong Ha, Gio Linh, Con Thien, and Cam Lo.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Saigon Dong Ha
Day 9: (Monday, 14 March, 2016) – Dong Ha to Lao Bao
This morning we head west on Route 9 (the main U.S. supply route from the coast to Khe Sanh). Vietnam is a very long, thin country, and we traverse it today from the coast all the way to its border with Laos. Our first stop is Camp Carroll, (the joint-forces artillery plateau). Crossing the Khe Gia Bridge, we stop at the Rockpile where we gear up and hike to the northeast side of the Razorback. Back on Route 9 we come upon other sites that were of military importance during the war, including Vandergrift Combat Base (LZ Stud), where he visit to the airstrip. Passing through Ca Lu and crossing the Hairpin we enter Khe Sanh Village, where we stop for lunch. Next we venture north to Khe Sanh Combat Base where we spend ample time exploring. Khe Sanh Combat Base was a U.S. jungle outpost close to the border with Laos. It grew into a major military base and airstrip under LBJ and was the scene of a 77-day siege in 1968, as well as many vicious hill battles in 1967-68. Our last stop is Lang Vei Special Forces Camp, overrun in the first-ever NVA tank assault. Co Roc Mountain soars to the heavens just across the border. Tonight we stay in the Laotian border town of Lao Bao in somewhat Spartan accommodations.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Sepon
Day 10: (Tuesday, 17 March) – Lao Bao to Hue
After breakfast, we return east on Route 9 for a short while and then head south at the Da Drong Bridge onto Highway 14 (now called the Ho Chi Minh Trail Highway) and deep into the Da Krong and A Shau Valleys. The road we take was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the HCM Trail was not one continuous road, but an extensive network of ever-changing roadways and footpaths spanning four countries). Despite heavily bombing the area, the NVA supply route infiltration network was never completely cut off. This is an area of beautiful dense jungled hills and it’s easy to imagine how troops and supplies traversing the Trail travelled somewhat undetected. Continuing south, roughly parallel to the Laotian border, we pass through stunningly beautiful countryside. The area around the A Shau Valley and A Luoi saw particularly fierce fighting in the late 1960’s. Probably the most famous is the Battle of Hamburger Hill (May 1969) which resulted in a horrific number of casualties on both sides. This mountaintop outpost was controversially abandoned by the victorious U.S. soon after the fight. This area was heavily napalmed during the war – an estimated 69 tons of napalm were dropped during the Battle of Hamburger Hill alone – and it’s astounding how well nature has recovered. We view Hill 937 (Dong Ap Bia) from a distance. At A Loui, we turn east on Highway 547. Our last stop will be the 101st Airborne outpost at FSB Bastogne. Tonight dinner is on our own.
Meals: B/L/_ Hotel: Huong Giang
Day 11: (Wednesday, 16 March, 2016) – Hue to Hoi An
This morning we bid Hue goodbye and head south on Highway 1. Our first visit is a Marine Recon extraction site 300 meters north of Hill 30. Our next stop is near Dong Li Hi where we disembark and hike to the site where Cpl. Joseph Walter Lyons gave his last full measure. Returning to Highway 1, we turn south and pass by Dam Cau Hai, one of the largest lagoons in all of Southeast Asia encompassing 112 square kilometers. After stopping for a rest and photos at Elephant Pass, we enter the Lang Co fishing village, where we walk across the bridge separating Dam Lap An from the sea. We then head up the breathtaking Hai Van pausing at a Recon extraction site. We stop at the Pass of the High Clouds to take in a view of Da Nang and her bay. The Hai Van Pass had been a vital strategic military foothold for the Chinese for centuries, and was used by the French during France’s Indochina War and by the U.S. in America’s Vietnam War. Bunkers and fortifications dot the hillsides here. Continuing down the Hai Van to sea level, we visit Nam O Bridge. We then visit Red Beach II, where U.S. Marines made their first amphibious landing in Vietnam in March 1965. We pass through Dog Patch as we enter Da Nang City. After lunch, we stop at III MAF HQ Camp Horn and the CAP School at My Khe Beach on the South China Sea. My Khe was better known as “China Beach,” which was used as an in-country ‘R&R’ by U.S. troops. A little farther south we pass through the site of the Marble Mountain Air Facility, a U.S. helicopter base during the war. Our last stop is a wood-carving and silk shop as we arrive in Hoi An. Hoi An, a beautiful well-preserved ancient trading port, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its temples and architecture show the different cultural influences of its time and its lovely Japanese covered bridge is unique. Luckily for Hoi An, its importance waned long before the War, and it was left essentially isolated and relatively untouched.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Green Heaven
Day 12: (Thursday, 17 March, 2016) – Hoi An
This morning we travel west and parallel to the southern edge of Go Noi Island. We stop for visits to Liberty Bridge (south) and An Hoa Regimental Combat Base. On our return, we also make a special visit to the My Son Holyland located deep in the foothills of the Que Son Mountains. My Son is the site of Trakieu, the ancient capital of the Cham Kingdom, and contains ruins dating back to the 5th Century. On our way back, we arrive at Hill 119 for a hike to the top of this 1st Recon outpost. Lunch and dinner are on our own to sample some of the many local restaurants and night spots.
Meals: B/_/_ Hotel: Green Heaven
Day 13: (Friday, 18 March, 2016) – Hoi An to Da Nang
After breakfast we head north and stop at a marble carving shop. This area is famous for their stone-sculpture industries. The Marble Mountains are visually-striking hills that rise from the flat coastal region – these mountains are home to Buddhist shrines and numerous caves. We climb to the top of the largest mountain and explore the VC hospital area located deep within. After lunch we arrive at our riverside hotel. Tonight all hands are required at our very special Farewell Dinner at the most famous restaurant in Da Nang, the Kim Do.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Brilliant
Day 14: (Saturday, 19 March, 2016) – Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City
After a leisurely breakfast, we head to Da Nang Airfield for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by most Vietnamese). As we depart Tan Son Nhut Airfield, we will pass by the old ARVN National Headquarters and head into the center of the city. We visit Reunification Hall (the old Presidential Palace), Norte Dame Cathedral, and pass by the former US Embassy location which now houses the new U.S. Consulate.
Meals: B/L/D Hotel: Asian Ruby
Day 15: (Sunday, 20 March, 2016) – Departure
After breakfast, we are free to relax or take a walk along old Tu Do Street (now Dong Khoi Street) to explore fascinating little shops where you can discover special gifts to bring home. At noon we transfer to Tan Son Nhut Airfield for our flight to Taipei. Departing from Taipei, we gain a day enroute by re-crossing the International Dateline, arriving in the continental United States this same day.
Meals: B/L/D (in flight)