The town of Xepon appears in more after-action reports, CHECO, and Corona Harvest documentation about the war than any other place on the HCMT. So much went on at Xepon I’m dividing this into two or three parts. I’ll post the other parts in the next few days.
I discovered this song, Tchepone, on YouTube. The lyrics tell a lot about flying near Xepon and perhaps are a microcosm of the entire air war over the Ho CHi Minh Trail. Click on it and let it play as you continue on. (Click Here to read the LYRICS)
Xepon is another of the places with many spellings. One common version is Tchepone. Most, but not all, of the war-time documents use Tchepone. Again the Falangs (Foreigners – mostly English speaking) spell the word phonetically trying to make it sound like the Laotians pronounce it. The “Sepon” river (Nam Sepon) flows by the town so, that’s another spelling. I suspect there are many more. Still, I don’t think any of them, including Xepon, truly capture the way the Laotians pronounce it. I will use Xepon since that is how it appears in today’s maps.
Xepon was a trans-shipment center between HCMT roads leading in from North Vietnam and out to South Vietnam. Route 91 comes in from The Chokes. Route 9 goes out to the South Vietnam border about 25 miles away.
Xepon had everything the NVA needed to fully support the HCMT; POL centers (gas stations), repair centers, hospitals, rest areas, food. Of course, there were places to hide everything from bombing. As you would expect, there was massive AAA to protect all the assets.
You can read the complete story of Knife 61, 62 and SAR at RotorHeadsRUs (opens in a new tab)
But wait… there’s more. Knife 61 & 62 were shot-down during “Operation Junction City, Junior”… an ambitious attempt to recapture a portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Read more about it in the sidebar: Operation Junction City, Junior.
There were so many shoot-downs in the area that it’s difficult to pick out just one or two to talk about. There was one that caught my attention, and I wrote about it in “More Memories of Naked Fanny”… or perhaps I should say one of the participants, DC “Surfer” Johnson, wrote about it. DC “Surfer” Johnson was a PJ in a Jolly Green (JG-67) as part of the SAR force for the Stormy 02 SAR (Stormy 02 was an F-4D). Surfer Johnson was shot down during the SAR and is another of the heroic stories of Search and Rescue.
We will try to find the spot where JG-67 crash-landed. But… I’m not sure we can get there. As you probably know, the jungle has reclaimed many of the places. So, we may or not get there. Also, one problem in finding crash sites is different sources give different coordinates.
The “pinning” on the Google Earth map (below) shows locations of shoot-downs during the Stormy 02 SAR. As you can see, the locations may vary by miles. It seems the exact locations are best known by villagers who lived there at the time. That’s how the JTF-FA found the three crash sites shown on the map.
There’s a lot going on in the map; the Route 9(E) intersection shown at the right center is the border of Vietnam. The pins at the top left of the map show the location of one of the bombing pics shown in “Places to go – The Chokes.” The bottom left of the map shows where the hulk of the CH-3, Knife 61 is on display. The bottom center has a pin near where JG-67 with DC “Surfer” Johnson was shot down.
Maybe with a little help from Don Duval, we’ll be lucky enough to find someone who knows where JG-67 went down.
By the way… JTF-FA is the organization that continues to search for POW/MIA from all wars. The acronym stands for Joint Task Force – Full Accounting.
Next – Places to go – Xepon Part 2
Do you guys do 4 wheelers as well? Knees aren’t up for dirt bikes any more. Also, do you guys ship them there or bury them, rent them?
Hi Larry… Don will be taking a support vehicle (I think Don uses a 4X4 Ford Ranger Crew Cab.) A few guys will be able to ride in the support truck. Don lives in Laos and has a fleet of dirt bikes. He also told me he can arrange for another vehicle to “hire” if there is enough demand. So far, there is room in the support truck.
Any chance you may locate the crash site of Spectre 13? AC-130A shot down March 29th 1972 by a SAM near Tchepone. I was her crew chief and the last to see my 14 man crew alive.
Hi Tom… I want to do just that sort of thing. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) found and excavated the site. Per the DPAA web site, “Between 1986 and 2006, joint U.S./Laotian teams excavated the gunship’s crash site in Savannakhet Province and recovered human remains and artifacts.” DPAA analysts used modern forensic techniques to eventually identified all 14 crew members. The crash site of A/C tail # 55-0044 was near Muang Phine which I intend to visit. If I can find more information on the exact location, I’ll see if I can find anything.