"Ron and I just got into Hanoi. It was a long trip - 12 hours to Tokyo and 6 hours to Hanoi. We are really tired and desparetly need a shower and some rest.
First Impressions of Hanoi is of a slowly modernnizing metropolis. There are parts that looks a little like Pleiku did back in the day, but also a lot of new buildings going up. We meet with the group going to Konutm with us tomorrow."
L to R: Paul and Ron outside the new Hanoi Airport upon arriing in Vietnam
We had a meeting with some of the NVA veterans to discuss the trip to Kontum. All the men at the table (except one) are NVA veterans that fought at Brillo Pad.
"They insisted that we go to lunch with them and had a traditional Hanoi meal:
Cha ca La Vong - Grilled fish served with peanuts, green onions, dill, noodles, and Nuoc mam sauce. Ordinarily I avoid this kind of stuff but I must admit it was pretty good. However the shrimp paste was not my cup of tea.
Today was kind of a free day. We leave in the morning for the 2 day trip to Kontum. Of course we had to visit the "Hanoi Hilton"The prison is about 10% of it's original size and has some interesting items-including John McCains flight suit and some interesting propaganda exhibits.
Infromation Plate in front of Prison
Ho Chi Minh statue in the garden by the palace
We left Hanoi at 6 am and are now near the DMZ at 10pm
Below: On the right is Mr. Chuck - he does understand all the nuances of the name, then me, Dong, and Ron Reddy. 4 Vietnam veterans that were at Brillopad but 2 were NVA
Our crew, Mr. Chuck on the right is indeed wearing a Red Warrior shirt. If you look close at Ron standing next to him you'll see he is wearing a NVA scarf
The bridge across the river that separated North and south Vietnam.
Blue was north, gold south
We are now in Kontum after another loooong drive. Binh, I, and a regular current Vietnamese captain are going to go up to Brillopad in the morning. When I was asked why, I stated that it had been with me everyday of my life since May of 68. When the 2 NVA vets concurred we all got a little watery eyed.
Wish me luck.
Above: Paul (left) with Ron and Dong at the marker for the 77unknown. 99% liked my Red Warrior shirt.This is a memorial to fallen NVA soldiers in the Kontum area. It was called Polei Kleng but that was an ethnic name and it was changed to Sa Thay
2 young Honor guards taking a break
These are some of the 400 plus grave markers honoring NVA soldiers. There is a center marker for 77 unidentifed KIA
After the second trip to Say Thay we made another trip to the "Memory House" (base of Brillo pad)
We were once again interviewed by VN TV with help of an interpreter. We were also joined by another GI who had been on 175 at Polei Kleng firing in support of us at Brillopad. He asked one of the NVA:
"Why did you want OP hill and Brillopad so badly"
NVA: "We've asked ourselves why, every day since then. We were told to take it and that's what we tried to do."
Dong and Paul Ogren outside the "Memory House" memorial, near LZ Brillo Pad Sa Thay memorial is close to where we actually had Charlie company for several days before we took Chinooks up to LZ Brillo Pad.
The Memory House is located at the foot of the mountain that LZ Brillo pad is on.
I think a lot of the people will remember the Polei Kleng airstrip and be surprised that the memorial is so close to where our night position was. We were actually closer to the river than where the memorial is. It could be that the airstrip is in a different location than it was in 1968 but I don't think so at least according tot he locals.
Another interesting thing in all this is that the NVA remember the M-79 and were quite in awe of it. They told me yesterday while at the memory house that they (the NVA) thought they could go in any province EXCEPT Kontum, IT may account for so much of the heavy fighting there.
Paul Ogren places a medallion from the Vietnam War Memorial, ln respect to this once NVA soldier KIA at Brillo Pad.
LIke Americans trying to find their lost MIA soldiers, the Vietnamese too honor their fallen. Here a casualty list from the fighting near LZ Brillo Pad.
Above: We went back to Say Thay - Polei kleng today to be interviewed by VN TV. I counted over 800 grave stones in one section. About half have this marker which means anonymous unknown. They hope someday to identify them
I did not make it up to the actual FB, sadly. It's a long story but I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I haven't given up on the trip.
Ban Me Thuot: The boys report that Ban Me Thuot is amazing. It's huge with traffic that rivals Los Angeles
Here is a symbolic passing of a jar of dirt from LZ Brillpad, Mr. Chuck. Dong, Ron Reddy and Paul Ogren
At the end of a tiring and emotional week, out two Red Warriors prepare to return home.
We just got back to Hanoi at 1am. We have another interview tomorrow than 2 days relaxing on a Ha Long bay cruise. Then a meeting on the 3rd with the 209th NVA regiment veterans group. Then home on the 4 th.