Terrain around I Corps SF camps

Vietnam was a country of extremes

Topography around Gia Vucs

Viet Nam was a country of extremes. The weather was no exception. During their dry season it was blistering hot -- the daytime temperatures were often 100+ degrees. During the rainy season -- the monsoons -- the temperature dropped into the seventies as thick clouds blanketed the sky. You felt as if you would sweat to death and then, strangely, during the monsoons... you thought you might freeze to death. During the monsoons everything was wet! Our underground sleeping quarters often had three or four inches of water in them. You frequently had to battle five- to six-inch long bright orange centipedes to get to your cot.

In I Corp (the northern part of South Viet Nam) the lush river plains were bounded by what appeared to be steep-sided mountains... some rising to 5000 feet or more above sea level. However, much of I Corp could be better described by saying that it consisted of a high plateau punctuated by deep river beds. The mountains rose out of the high plateau. Looking at the steep sides from the river beds, it was easy to think that you were looking at the mountains themselves. In fact, you were just looking at the sides of the plateau as it dropped to meet the river bed. This is why this area was referred to as "the central highlands" of Viet Nam. Indeed, several of the maps list this area as 'the Annam Highlands'.


Terrain around Gia Vuc (A-103)

This picture affords the viewer a good look at the terrain in the Gia Vuc area. As mentioned elsewhere in this web site, the sharp changes in elevation create the beautiful waterfalls. The white arrow (next to the handle of the M-60 machine gun) points to a majestic waterfall in the distance. This waterfall was visible from the camp.... I estimate the waterfall to be 3 to 5 miles away.

Perhaps a better example of the 'high plateau' topology would be the picture showing the area around Thuong Duc, RVN. Special Forces A-109 was another 'typical' I Corps SF camp -- accessible only by air. Team members got used to riding in the Hueys. The open chopper doors often provided an excellent opportunity to get pictures, such as the one shown below.


Terrain around Thuong Duc (A-109)

This picture was taken enroute to Thuong Duc and very near the camp. The Thuong Duc A-109 Special Forces camp is to the right of the picture -- just out of the camera's view. Note the pronounced plateau with the low river valley. The river can be seen snaking its way to the South China Sea at the bottom-right corner. Sharply defined ridges or 'fingers' provide the transition between the plateau and the river plains. Also note that the actual mountains rise out of the high plateau. The A-109 portion of the web site has some excellent photos illustrating the severity of the terrain in and around Thuong Duc.

Points of interest

The white church, near the bottom-right corner of the photo, was approximately two kilometers from the camp. Since this distance was just about the same as the maximum effective range of our fifty caliber machine gun, the church was often used as the target for our fifty caliber gun tests.

If you look closely, you will notice that the hillside (center, right-hand edge of picture) is brown when the remainder of the terrain is green. This is because the Vietnamese would intentionally set the foliage on fire... in a sense, start a 'forest fire'. Because it was so wet in Viet Nam, there was little fear that the fire would burn wildly out of control. Eventually, this fire would die out. The Vietnamese would then cross the river and collect the charred wood. They set the fire to produce charcoal for their homes!

I have pointed out the ruggedness of the terrain several times throughout this web site. This picture, perhaps better than any other, illustrates the severity of the elevation changes. When you couple the rapid changes in height with the dense vegetation and constantly wet conditions, you end up with terrain that is extremely difficult to traverse.