By SPEC. 4 STEVE MONTIEL
S&S Staff correspondent
FIRE BASE CHARLIE 2, Vietnam-- Dozens of trucks moved men, supplies and artillery into Fire Base Charlie 2 Friday morning as the Army of the Republic of Vietnam took over the last American base along South Vietnam's northernmost line of defense.
The fire base, manned by units of the 1st Brigade, 5th Inf. Div. [Mech.) since 1968, is 14 miles northwest of Quang Tri and less than 6 miles from the Demilitarized Zone,
It was the command post for the 1st Bn., 61st Inf. Most of the task force that had been working at and out of Charlie 2 pulled out of the base, but one artillery battery will remain, U.S. military spokesmen said.
In a simple noontime ceremony, a handful of South Vietnamese and American soldiers gathered around the two flagpoles that tower over the firebase.
GIs lowered and folded the flag of the Republic of Vietnam first and then the U.S. flag. 'They handed the South Vietnamese flag to the ARVN officer who will command Charlie 2, and stepped aside as two ARVN soldiers raised their Country's flag.
The American flag will no longer fly over Charlie 2.
The mood of most American soldiers at the base seemed subdued as they prepared to leave early Friday, packing field gear and private possessions and burning garbage.
"I don't see any big difference between one piece of real estate and another," said one sergeant. "There's still a war going on."
Units of the 1st ARVN Inf. Div. began moving into the fire base about 9 a.m. in a long convoy of trucks carrying soldiers and equipment and pulling artillery pieces.
While ARVN soldiers unloaded their trucks, GIs loaded their belongings on vehicles bound for Quang Tri combat base.
Capt. Slim Herman, commanding officer of the scout section of Charlie 2, said he was relieved to leave.
"We've spent a lot of time humping in the field.' Herman said. ''People have been very tense since we found out we were pulling out of here.''
Herman said the scout teams were going out on patrol until the day before the firebase was turned over to the South Vietnamese Army.
One of Herman's men, Spec. 4 Robert Sexton, put it more simply. Wow man, it's great," he said.
Maj. Gen. Pham Van Phu, commander of the 1st ARVN Inf. Div., arrived at Charlie 2 in a helicopter and said he was confident his men could thwart any enemy attempts to pierce the line of fire bases just below the DMZ.
Phu said air and artillery firepower gave South Vietnam the edge over North Vietnamese units in Quang Tri Province.
He said he thought any major Communist offensive probably would come from the west, from Khc Sanh and not across the DMZ. A major thrust from the north across the DMZ would be politically bad for North Vietnam because it would appear to be a direct invasion, Phu said.
Elements of the 1st ARVN Inf. Div. took over control of Fire Base Alpha 4 Thursday. Charlie 2 is three miles south of Alpha 4.
Pacific Stars & Stripes
Sunday, July 11, 1971
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