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March 28, 2014

War Watch: 4 Vietnam vets visit places of battle

(Continued)

Pete Conroy, a soldier with the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, was involved in operations in this area during the fall of 1968.

“The word was then,” he said, “that we controlled the top of the mountain, but the VC (National Liberation Front soldiers) always held the bottom and surrounding plain. 

“We flew on helicopters many times through this vicinity.”

“There is a theme park and a gondola system that takes people to the top these days,” Omar said. “This is the main tourist attraction here besides the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh.”

PHOTO INTERPRETER

From Tay Ninh, the highway winds back easterly toward the 31,000-acre Michelin Rubber Plantation that was the scene of many battles during the Vietnam War. 

The historic record indicates that while this plantation was a staging area for VC and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) operations, they were paid off by Michelin so the company could keep the rubber operation running. 

The U.S. government paid Michelin for any damages incurred by U.S. military action.

“The orderly plantings of these rubber trees bring to mind the end of the French Colonial Empire,” said Reinhart, a retired college professor.

“I was a photo interpreter in Saigon during the war,” said Tallon, “and many times I’ve viewed this area looking for evidence of VC or NVA activity from the perspective of an aircraft flying at 10,000 feet. 

“Whole battalions could operate under this canopy with no one being the wiser when viewed from above.”

PERSPECTIVE

Along the outskirts of Cu Chi is a large military cemetery for the sons and daughters of this community who died during the war. The entrance monument, a large concrete mosaic somewhat resembling Picasso’s “Guernica,” shows men, women and children with guns and hand tools toiling away for their cause.

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