Aerial view of armored personnel carriers mired in muck.

Vietnam War Nurse - Cu Chi Base Camp

Gracious living. Latrine in front; tent quarters in rear.

Approximately 1,200 men and fewer than 20 women were stationed at Cu Chi when I first arrived. Personnel lived in tents with wood floors. Wooden buildings and Quonset huts were being constructed at a furious rate to accommodate the many thousands of soldiers who would later come to the base camp and be deployed into the field for military missions.

Cu Chi - 25th Infantry Division Base Camp

The monsoons were just ending when I arrived in Cu Chi in October 1966. The mud was so thick and sticky that it would suck the boots or shoes right off your feet. Wooden slatted walkways called duckboards were laid across the muck to so you could move between locations.

Banner photos above: A Visit from Santa, 12th Evacuation Hospital, Cu Chi, Vietnam, Christmas 1966 (left); Pat Wojdag (Coté), 7th Surgical Hospital (MASH), Cu Chi, Vietnam, 1966; Rocket's Red Glare, portion of the Vietnam Women's Memorial, Washington, DC, USA). All photographs © 2013 by Beth Parks, Ed.D. (All rights reserved.)

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Defoliation. Heavy artillery in background.

25th Infantry Division base camp in its early stages.

Muck made transportation difficult.

When the monsoons were over, everything turned to dust. Dust got into every crack and crevice of you, your clothes, your bunk, and all your belongings.

Why all the mud and dust? Agent Orange and Rome plows. The entire area, which had been a peanut plantation, was defoliated early in 1966 to provide a clear area for what would become the sprawling 25th Infantry Division Base camp. Only a few sprigs of grass were beginning to shoot up when I got there.