Walking Charlie's Delta Trail

Down in the Delta, life is anything but dry. Canals, tributaries, rivers, swamps and winding water ways link everything together and sometimes seem to lead nowhere. In this part of the world, the highways are the riverways.

During the War, duty in the Delta was a continuous barrage of water and mud. It was just a way of life. The easiest, fastest and safest way to travel was by boat. And the Brown Water Navy were the ones who patrolled those highways of water.

The Viet Cong had been born there and knew the Delta. The Navy and Army units assigned there had scant little time to learn all the secrets of survival.

In the region bounding a triangle of Vinh Long, CanTho and Sa Dec, the Viet Cong prevailed. This was *their* country. We had to keep our eyes on the treeline.

Recently, some of the old trails and strongholds of the Delta have been opened for national tours, showing the hideouts and hiding places of the VC in the Delta. Here is a scant collection of some camera shots as we walked Charlie's trail.

One of the amazing things about a tropical wetland is the proliferation of vegetation, both healthful and deadly. Combined with the meat of such animals as snake, monkey, and fish, there was a smorgasbord for the taking. Within these two pictures, here and here , there are vines filled with fresh water, roots of protein, fruits and nourishing array of foods that could keep you alive for months..... if only you ate the right ones. Nearly identical vines and plants lay side by side with one that could kill you with an agonizing poison, and the snakes and spiders with their deadly bites. Those who have spent time in the Delta can recognize which are which. Those who can't die of starvation, or worse, in a natural supermarket.

A favorite "trick" of the Viet Cong was to lie in wait along the treeline to ambush their enemies. In a cleverly disguised "spider hole" they would wait for days for boats or foot patrols. The spider holes were so well camouflaged that there are many stories of troops literally walking right over the hiding areas.

The VC would dig a hole, lower into it a large clay jar (typically used to hold fresh water) and cover this with a hinged lid that was undetectable when covered correctly. The lids swung open easily and provided a bullet-proof wall with it's thick wood. But imagine the life of the VC living in the spider hole. If the jar ever broke (and even when it didn't), the hole became instantly shared with the poisonous snakes and insects and filled with water.

Hidden among the trees were paths (not nearly so well marked as they are now to facilitate the tours) that wove and wound on the semi-solid ground. Some led nowhere; some led to vital VC command posts, now reconstructed for the tours. The location of some were known or suspected, based on the surrounding collection of 200-pound bomb craters that now make up series of swamp lagoons.

Much of the area is still full of mine fields and other marked locations warning of dangerous materials.