HUYỆN DẦU TIẾNG, TỈNH BÌNH DƯƠNG

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Camp Rainier was established in 1966 in Dầu Tiếng village in Bình Dương province. Some of the first US Army units from the 25th Infantry Division assigned lớn Camp Rainier originated from Fort Lewis, Washington, south of Tacoma, where views of Mt. Rainier are an everyday sight. Constructed to support American attempts khổng lồ control heavy PAđất nước hình chữ S infiltrations inkhổng lồ Tây Ninh & Bình Dương provinces from over the border in Cambodia, Camp Rainier had a key role protecting Saigon from the southern terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

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Bombs & artillery shells at outdoor museum

Just 65 kilometers north of South Vietnam’s capital city, this was one of the most highly militarized sections of the Rtoàn quốc. Tây Ninc & Bình Dương provinces were the home page of the famous Iron Triangle, a heavily contested area north of Saigon that the US Army và ARcả nước just couldn’t pacify. This Triangle was trang chính khổng lồ massive tunnel complexes & daily mass infiltrations of northern troops and supplies, most notably Cu Chi which was đôi mươi kilometers south of Camp Rainier. NLF và PAnước ta troops launched attacks from the tunnel complex, and retreated back underground when faced with heavy counterattacks from US và ARtoàn nước forces. For years, they lived underground and in the forests of the Iron Triangle và conducted frequent operations that rendered Saigon’s outskirts highly insecure.

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Huey at outdoor museum at Camp Rainier

Many of these installations were built after the US found a heavy presence of NVA troops in và around the Michelin Rubber Plantation, which at that time, stretched khổng lồ the border of Dầu Tiếng town. Camp Rainier’s location, supply depots, và airstrip enabled the US khổng lồ rush reinforcements lớn nearby firebases và operations quickly. Launched in 1967, Operation Cedar Falls was designed lớn destroy large swaths of the Triangle & deny this real estate to lớn communist forces. Five sầu hundred troops stationed at Camp Rainier were aước ao the vanguard units deployed during Cedar Falls.

The responsibility of pacifying Bến Súc, a town that the NLF had captured two years earlier & used as a base of operations, fell lớn them. The Bến Súc story is harrowing and began with a surprise landing on the town by 60 helicopters from Rainier, evacuation of residents, deployment of bulldozers, và concluded with air strikes and napalm. Camp Rainier regularly came under NLF attacks launched from the adjacent Michelin Rubber Plantation, notably during the Tet Offensive sầu và later in February 1969, when the base was in danger of being overrun. Two battalions of PAVN broached Camp Rainier’s surrounds that night, & several soldiers breached the perimeter of the base. Rockets landed on the very airstrip that remains in Dầu Tiếng town today, & small units attacked bunkers in và around the runway.

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Tank at outdoor museum in Dau Tieng, Camp Ranier

The old airstrip of red soil và surviving chunks of tarmac from Camp Rainier crosses the town’s main road. The dimensions of the runway were more or less retained. There’s no construction here, and the backyards of homes border either side of it. An informal market of conical-hatted và colorful pajamas-wearing women squatting over tubs of live sầu shrimp và vegetables was at the intersection with the main road. I crossed the intersection, proceeded along the runway, & encountered the ingredients for some kind of a carnival or fair.

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Video below is provided by Luke Johnston at Viet Nam Heritage - Healing Through History

Rows of colorful two-seater rocket ships and bumper cars were parked on the cracked pavement and red soil, waiting to lớn be assembled as carnival rides. Random Vietnamese stuff piled up along the sides of the airstrip - stacks of weathered lumber, concrete, rusted fences, & burned couches. The old airstrip is now mixed use public land: a place for community events like carnivals & markets, a dump, and a motorxe đạp short cut across town.

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Amusement park on runway at Camp Rainier

In Dầu Tiếng town center a community park and sports center with a front lawn display of dozens of US bombs, a Willys Jeep, an M-41 tank, và a UH-1 Huey helicopter. Next lớn this display is the famous Camp Rainier swimming pool. It is a raised pool on the second màn chơi of the construction housing it, và it’s well-maintained and still used today. It was gated & shut when I visited, as I’d shown up before opening hours. This was unfortunate, as I was curious to see if the black mosaic of a Playboy Bunny rendered by American GIs in the late 1960s on the pool’s floor was still there. The pool was originally built around 1930 by French who were affiliated with the Michelin Rubber Plantation.

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The pool at Camp Rainier, Dau Tieng

By 1967, it had been sitting idle for about twenty years in a dilapidated state. Soldiers from the US Army 12th Infantry Regiment decided khổng lồ fix up the pool and deliver themselves a luxury few troops in the field had. They built ten showers under the pool, repaired structural damage, of which part was caused by a grenade blast, and gave it a new coat of paint. They installed a high dive sầu platkhung, with a diving board that was constructed from a UH-1 Huey rotor. They installed a hi-fi system and painted the Playboy bunny on the floor of the pool.

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The pool at Camp Rainier, Dau Tieng

At the time, this pool was written up in Army journals as the biggest morale boost since the Armed Forces Network started broadcasting the TV show Batman.

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It most likely got a lot of use in the late 1960s, even if it was mere meters from PAViệt Nam soldiers hiding in the rubber forests that ringed the base. I climbed around on the structure to lớn see if there was any way I could get around the locked gate, but it wasn’t promising. I was left lớn imagine these soldiers cranking Tommy James và the Shondells, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, or Buck Owens on a hot Bình Dương afternoon, swimming and drinking beer, taking a break from the war.