One of the Biggest Little Towns in Laos during the war. The extreme western terminus of the DMZ. The Plain des Jarres Golf and Country Club. Indian Country. 20 Alternate, LS-98, or simply LS-20 A on the map. Whatever you called it, Long Tieng was home to quite of few of us for a while.
Nestled in the valley below Skyline Ridge and our TRC-28 Microwave shot back to Vientiane, 20 Alternate was a hot town mais non cocottes. If you risked fooling around with one of the beautiful Meo babes, you were headed for a shotgun wedding regardless of whether you had consummated it or not. You had to hitch a ride to Vientiane if you wanted to get laid.
It was the only large airport I’ve ever seen with one way in and the reverse way out- hence the nickname of The one-way runway. You landed on runway 315. You took off on runway 135 which looked and felt remarkably similar. At the end of our runway (landing) were what we called the titty Karsts. Two large unequal, Madonna missile bra-like projections sprouted up at the end of the runway. They were also referred to as the vertical speed brake and actually stopped a C-123 cold in its tracks in the late sixties.
Here’s another, more recent shot looking southeast from the top of the shorter of the two karsts
This was General Vang Pao’s last stand and it finally fell in 1973 when it was overrun by the Pathet Lao, aided by the Chicoms and NVA Regulars.
I was there for an incredibly short one month and 14 days but what honestly felt like a lifetime. A very brave pilot I became friends with departed here on 22 February, 1971 and augered in on his way back down to L-08 (Vientiane). His tour was almost over. I found out about his passing in 2007 while researching my claim and looking for buddy statements. I was about 500 klics southwest at Operating Location C at T-11 in Thailand with Hepatitis went he went in. I came down with it 89 days after almost finding the Golden BB up near the Plain of Jars (September 1970). I was discharged from the civilian hospital on the 24th of February 1971 and never ran into Chuck again. I assumed he’d DEROSed back to the States.
Forty three years. Seems somehow like last week and at the same time, almost a memory of a dream.