|Return to Loc Ninh and FSB Wade|
After Quan Loi, Alpha Battery traveled to various Fire Support Bases and finally to Loc Ninh to establish what I think was Firebase Wade - I could be wrong about the name, but it has been over 33 years. When I got in country in May of 1970, Alpha Battery was already at Loc Ninh with two 175s and two 8 inchers. I rode up to Loc Ninh in a supply convoy in the back of a deuce-and-a-half and as we were climbing the hill to the airstrip and firebase the guns began a fire mission. As I was a newbie, I did not put my fingers in my ears big mistake! My first introduction to Loc Ninh was the loudest noise I had ever heard. Hard to believe I would eventually be able to sleep through those same noises.
I was introduced to my new home in FDC it consisted of part of the back of the 577 and an addition that was made of powder canisters, stolen Air Force pallets and sand bags. It was not really architecturally correct or even very sound, but consistent with the zoning laws of the area. I have begun to go through my photos of Loc Ninh, Bu Dop, and Song Be and will post them soon.
I remember Loc Ninh as the muddiest place I have ever been. On one occasion we lost an 8 inch gun in the mud up to the deck and it had to be pulled out by one of those tank-wreckers. I recall the muddy walk to the latrine at the edge of the firebase, showering under a canvas bucket standing on a pallet, and the RATS REAL BIG RATS. And I remember the really good guys I served with; some of whom I have just been able to make contact with through this website nice job, John.
Since I have recently begun doing business in Vietnam, I decided to hire a driver and car to see what Loc Ninh looks like now. I have a partner with a furniture factory in Dong Nai (not too far from Bien Hoa) and I stay in Ho Chi Minh City (Formerly Saigon ). To get to Loc Ninh, we traveled up Highway 13 to the site, which is now a paved road. However, the quality of the paving makes one wish it was still dirt it has some incredible built-in bumps. It takes about 2 ½ hours from Ho Chi Minh City. It takes equal amounts of accelerator, brakes, and horn to make the trip. You will be pleased to know that those water buffalo still wander onto the road and bring traffic to a complete stop.
An Loc is now a sizeable town we passed through on the way to Loc Ninh. Upon arriving, I noticed Loc Ninh had changed substantially. The old part still exists down by the stream (river ?). However, modern Loc Ninh has moved up hill from the original site and the new, paved Highway 13 runs through the center. It was a disorienting change, so we stopped to ask the villagers the location of the old air strip. They pointed out an old dirt road going up the hill behind some of the newer buildings.
We bounced along the road I was glad I had hired a 4X4 and came to the beginning of the air strip. The air strip is the only thing that has not changed. As the photos show, nothing remains of the firebase. As most of you who were there know, this area was defended by the ARVN and some advisors after we left and was the scene of some of the most intense fighting near the end of the war. Now, it lies abandoned and peaceful. Trees have overgrown the firebase area and new rubber groves surround it. A plaque stands half-way up the hill commemorating the NVA victory in April, 1972.
Vietnam today is an emerging manufacturing center. 70% of the population is under 30 and wants to work, make money and buy a motorbike. They are very friendly toward Americans. Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is insane and traffic signals are merely suggestions. There are specific rules for walking across the streets: 1. Cross when traffic is coming, because there is never a break in traffic; 2. NEVER STOP WALKING while crossing because the traffic will part around you IF THEY CAN JUDGE YOUR WALKING SPEED; and 3. Never look a vehicle driver in the eye because if you do, for some reason you become a target.
I am returning to Vietnam on January 9, 2004 so now that I know there are more of you out there, I will take more photos and post them here. It is amazing to me that since my December trip, I have found a number of guys I served with through this site. Hopefully we can find many more.
(All photos linked to this page are by Scott Krueger unless noted otherwise)