American GI Patrols on the Last Link of the Ho Chi Minh Trail Before Saigon

On his missions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, near Saigon where the Cu Chi Tunnels are, U.S. Army Sergeant Arnold Krause told journalist Peter Alan Lloyd,”During our time at Pershing our focus was to primarily disrupt the flow of men and supplies from Cambodia down through war zone C and D and into Saigon. Our job was also to engage the enemy at every opportunity and eliminate them. The VC supply Trail passed down through the East side of Dau Tieng and through the Michelin rubber plantation. This was one of the hottest spots in Vietnam. If you look at charts of casualties, you will find Hau Nghia province and Tay Ninh province right up there in the number of casualties. It was also the most direct route to the capital because of the direction of the rivers which the VC could use their sanpans to ferry supplies, in addition to using the trails. So our base was surrounded by some of the hottest areas of real estate in South Vietnam at the time. [Source: Sergeant Arnold Krause, with Peter Alan Lloyd, Eyewitness Accounts The Vietnam War, April 2013]

“The Trail also wound through the iron triangle, which was a Viet Cong-dominated area, between the Thi-Tinh and Saigon rivers, next to Cu Chi district. It then crossed the Saigon River in the Hobo Woods and Filhol rubber plantation, bypassing Cu Chi and on towards the outskirts of the capital, Saigon. To our East were many small Hamlets and villages that favored supporting the local VC forces. To our Northwest, the Boi Woods, to the Northeast laid the Hobo Woods and the Mushroom, three geographical strongholds for the enemy south of the Saigon River.

“In October, the company was on a mission near the southern side of the Saigon River at a time when we were sweeping through a heavily populated wooded area. As we are moving to this area we engaged a small force of VC and a firefight ensued. After the enemy disengaged from the action we swept the area and discovered a rice cache. It was covered with vegetation above ground, most likely because it was going to be moved soon. As for the bags themselves, they were likely confiscated after being used somewhere else.

“One time we found hospital supplies wrapped in U.S. newspaper, so nothing surprised us. There were several tons of rice found and we airlifted it back to FSB Pershing. The discovery of food stores, ammunitions, and medical supplies was not a daily occurrence but it happen a few times. Prior to the discovery of this food cache, when we were near Hoc Mon, we were specifically seeking out weapons caches based on Intel, and spent days scouring the banks of creeks and rivers looking for munitions hidden in the vegetation along the shore lines. We frequently found in the field, small arms, mostly 5.56 Chicom rounds for the AK-47’s. Of the bigger stuff, occasionally we would find 75mm recoilless rifle rounds, 122mm rockets, 82mm and 60 mm mortar rounds, and tons of RPG-7’s – rocket propelled grenades, some artillery rounds, but not sure of what size.

“VC tunnel complexes and spider holes, as they were called, were everywhere we went. I did very little tunnel work because I was too tall and manuvering in a tunnel was not easy. The tunnel holes or entrances in places were barely 18-20 inches wide, so it took a small man to get into these. Most of the “Tunnel Rat” guys packed their .45’s and a good knife and if they remembered, some sort of ear plug, but you still had to listen for the enemy. When the Division base camp was built at Cu Chi, it was right on top of the Cu Chi Tunnel complex, which I think was left over from the French struggles, but certainly expanded with time. Saying “on top” does not imply that the tunnels were in the base camp, but they were close by.

“Cu Chi remained the 25th Div base camp from 1966 to 1971 when we began to pull out. Cu Chi got mortared or hit with 122mm rockets occasionally and did experience a few ground attacks. BUT, it was too big for the enemy to overrun. They got through the wire when I was there, and blew up a bunch of CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

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