Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

Hue is a convenient location from which to visit the former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). A trip here can be combined easily with a visit to the Vinh Moc Tunnels and the Mine Action Museum in Dong Hoi. Little remains of the numerous former battlefields of the war that dot the area inland and travel time can be slow. Although the surrounding countryside is stunning in parts, tours to these far flung bases are best suited to military enthusiasts.

The origins of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) date to the Geneva Accords of 1954. It was really just a cease-fire and interlude in the extensive fighting for control of Vietnam, which divided the country in half at the 17th parallel at the Ben Hai River. The northern half of the country became the Communist-led Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the south became the Republic of Vietnam (led by Ngo Dinh Diem and supported by the United States). The DMZ, which consisted of an area extending 5 km (3 miles) on either side of the borderline, was supposed to have been a temporary measure, enforced only until the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of Vietnam could be reunited following elections in 1956. The elections never took place, and the inaptly named DMZ was only abolished after many years of fighting that culminated in the victory of the North Vietnamese forces in 1975. Almost as soon as it was created, the DMZ was militarized, and by 1965 it had become a key battleground in the fight between north and south. The fighting forced virtually all the inhabitants of the area to flee and rendered the DMZ a wasteland. Despite the DMZ being heavily bombed, most of the land has been cleared and the risk of treading on unexploded ordnance is negligible, but sticking to the marked paths and staying out of remote areas is still advisable. Hiring a guide in Hue or Dong Ha is also advisable if you want to stand any chance of understanding the historical importance of any of the sites you are likely to visit.

The area south and west of the DMZ was the scene of some of the most bitter fighting of the war. Some names that may be familiar from the war are Con Thien, Camp Carroll, the Rockpile, Hamburger Hill, Quang Tri, and Khe Sanh.

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