I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh


Many people would know Khe Sahn from the classic Australian song of the same name by Cold Chisel or for references in Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. Khe Sahn was the site of a very bloody battle fought in the Vietnam War. In 1968, Khe Sahn was one of the most remote outposts of the war and ended in one of the biggest sieges of the war between the American Forces and the People’s Army of Vietnam. Today Khe Sanh’s horrid history has been mostly overgrown with wilderness except areas including the old airstrips which were poisoned during the war. The old combat base now houses a small museum of relics from the war and the area is extensively farmed for with coffee and banana plantations. There are several tourist operators from Dong Ha which offer tours to Khe Sahn and the DMZ and give you a good insight into this terrible time in Vietnam’s history. Just as a post note the term sappers refers to the people who extracted sap out of rubber trees.

Map showing Khe Sahn, Vietnam

40 Comments on “I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh”

  1. #1 touchy
    on May 4th, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Why is it that Australians love the song “Khe Sahn” when there was no major Australian involvement in that battle!!!!!??? Talk about mass hysteria. I hate that song, and the fact that so many “pub goers” love it shows what a pack of fucking retards they are – unfortunately that is most of Australia’s post baby boomers (before the gen Xers). Cold Chisel suck big time, and so does everyone out there likes the shit they sing.

  2. #2 Anonymous
    on Jul 5th, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    The term sapper does not refer to those who sap trees. It refers to the french term sappe, or to dig ( mine), as was done extensively in wars prior to ww 1

  3. #3 kaz
    on Jul 14th, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Touchy – First of all, Cold Chisel do not suck. Secondly, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean its crap and anyone who does like it is a dickhead.
    Sappers also refers to military engineers (originally a french term) – road builders, demolition experts, etc etc,

  4. #4 Rocky
    on Jul 14th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for your comments on this story we have had some good ones…our research wasn’t too good, and the name sappers does actually come from mine diggers not from Rubber plantations as I mentioned. Seems that I wasn’t paying attention too much on the bus trip out there. A few to many of those 333 the night before…sorry

    As for not liking Cold Chisel…well I think its just Un-Australia. Long live the mighty Chisel!

  5. #5 Walter
    on Jul 16th, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Cold Chisel do not suck but Don Walker’s brains were firmly in his arse when he wrote Khe Sanh. He ended up with something that’s become a living, breathing insult to Australian veterans and he’s been trying to live it down ever since,

    How totally bloody ironic that the fist-pumping oi-oi-oi Aussies who love this song are too dumb to even realise what a pile of unAustralian garbage the lyrics actually are.

    Mind you, if Rocky reckons the sappers were out there collecting latex he’s not going to have a problem with an Aussie chopper pilot surviving the siege of Khe Sanh in 1968 before disembarking in Sydney in 1973.

  6. #6 Pia
    on Sep 16th, 2008 at 1:46 am

    Cold Chisel wrote this song from veterans stories.
    And australia did have involvement as they were your backup, they were in all the planes running all the missions around you. We are supposed to be alined countries not biting off each others heads for who wrote a song about it forst or not

  7. #7 Vikki
    on Nov 7th, 2008 at 3:13 am

    I am a baby boomer and loved Cold Chisel. Khe Sanh and ‘I was only 19’ by Redgum another great Aussie band, both use historical licence in their lyrics, but it is their message that is important. Sadly neither US or Australian governments have listened and we continue to send our young off to war to return in body bags or mentally and physically damaged.

  8. #8 David
    on Jan 20th, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    The venomous postings of some people here, sadly a commonplace thing nowadays, seems to be some kind of “what about me” plea for attention which only detracts from the intent of the article. John Lennon would be deeply saddened by these sentiments after so many young people died at Khe Sanh in such a misdirected campaign.

  9. #9 michael
    on Jan 24th, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Walter, why do you think ‘Khe Sanh’ is offensive to Australian veterans? Not disputing your opinion, just curious to know your reasons. I must say, I always thought it was odd him writing a song about an almost exclusively American action. Quit a powerful song nonethless though, isn’t it?


  10. #10 Scotty
    on Jan 25th, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Although the name of the song may not relate to an Australian action, the message is clear. The song is about the appalling treatment of the returning vets by both the government and sections of the community in general and of their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life after such a cruel and mind altering war. Who among you who weren’t there could ever understand what it was like for a soldier to have to kill women and children because you didn’t know if they were VC or not. I’m 62 and have a son currently serving in the armed forces and to me they’re all heroes. Thank God they are treated as such today.

  11. #11 rohan kurtzer
    on Feb 3rd, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    i think that touchy needs to get a life if people in pubs like listening to khe sahn… thats up to them it has nothing to do with what its written about… i’m sure half the people dont even know what it is about… it a beautifully constructed song which deserves credit

  12. #12 thomas giemer
    on Mar 9th, 2009 at 8:07 am

    well back wen i was in vietnam or “Nam” as me n the boiz used to call it. we had to go around and drink the sap from the trees. now the best sap you could drink was the sap from a tree strangely enough that me n the boiz used to call the “Sap tree”. now this tree had some of the best sap in the world and well me n the boiz used to sit around it all day just drinkin sap. so that is what sappers are you young wippersnaps

  13. #13 thomas geimer
    on Mar 10th, 2009 at 12:33 am

    i think that touchy needs to get a life if people in pubs like listening to khe sahn… thats up to them it has nothing to do with what its written about… i’m sure half the people dont even know what it is about… it a beautifully constructed song which deserves credit

  14. #14 dexter
    on Mar 16th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    It’s just a song. Like Bugs Bunny ,it’s not real.

  15. #15 Go Rohan
    on Mar 17th, 2009 at 4:25 am

    i agree with rohan… if Australians like it well then so what! its a good song and it tells about what the soldiers went through and are still going through Australian or American!

  16. #16 Cranky
    on Mar 27th, 2009 at 5:30 am

    Bugs Bunny is not real?

  17. #17 Cee
    on Apr 25th, 2009 at 1:47 am

    I think that Touchy is brave for telling the truth- Cold Chisel are VASTLY overated as a band. But they had a couple of good song writers. And as a close relative of a Vietnam Vet, they do not on the whole like the song Khe Sanh because they see the battle as an American action in which they were not involved, apart from the RAAF air support which someone pointed out- which was minor. The town of Khe Sanh was used as a US base and there were no Australian troops there. I did laugh out loud when I read the post by Walter- that poor guy was on active service for 4 years!! It is like that poor bloke Frankie in Only 19 who set foot on a land mine in July – and he was going home in June- 12 months to go when everyoen else was there for 9 months! More worrying is the fact Scotty thinks heroes kill women and children-even Communist children are worth killing Scotty? You are old enough mate- why didn’t you join in and go and brass up a few commies? And the fact that ADF are overseas now is just a joke-John Coward loves to stay and talk war and send other people – he didn’t go to Vietnam buy the supported conscription. Kevin should bring them home.

  18. #18 Razgrize
    on Jun 2nd, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Touchy,I agree with you! This fucking ridiculous song is bull shit! Seriously,I’ve seen people who loves this song,I mean,seriously fans of this damn band,they are shitty too!Go to hell with this shitty song!

  19. #19 ranga
    on Jul 29th, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Well, i just googled ‘Khe Sahn’ to find out the story behind the song, and now im completely confused.

  20. #20 Sammm
    on Jul 30th, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Agh, this song is beautiful because of the message it sends. It does not matter if Australians did not find in this particular section of the war. The story of Khe Sanh, is a story of returned Vietnam vets not receiving the credit they deserved upon return to Australia. This is perhaps mainly due to the fact that the general public considered it a battle that should not involve Australia, and this is perhaps true. After veterans returned they were discredited for fighting in the war, and were basically painted as killers by the media and by protesters. This is unforunate, because the majority of soldiers who fought in this war were conscripted. Nonetheless, this song is discussing the horrible dissillusionment that veterans faced when they returned home. This song is quite factual, in that when soldiers returned home they felt isolated, many (not all!!) had become addicted to drugs due to the easy access to drugs in Vietnam and many of course faced mental and physical illness. This song is about the treatment of the veterans, and stories are always best told through song!

  21. #21 Batho
    on Aug 10th, 2009 at 3:43 am

    It’s one man’s story – a veteran Don Walker met in Kings Cross who was a chopper pilot – about all those things that Sammm says plus the ignorance of the ordinary public… “their legs were often open but their minds were always closed, and their hearts were held in fast suburban chains”. Ironically many of the “pub goers” who sing when pissed are probably the same type of people he was referring to. Does that matter? Probably not, let’s not get to high & mighty about it all. Born In The USA is along similar lines.

  22. #22 Roger Davidson
    on Nov 11th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Australians did fight in the battle of Khe Sanh.

    It may have been a largely American battle but individual Australians were involved.

  23. #23 Brute
    on Dec 3rd, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I left my HEART to the sappers.

    It doesn’t say he was a sapper.

    Common sense eh?

  24. #24 Greenie
    on Dec 22nd, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    As a son of a vietnam vet and nephew of a chopper pilot who was seconded to the marines in Khe Sahn I can say Aussies were there, if not on the ground certainly dragging KIA’s and wounded out. And while it may have been the norm to only serve 9mths there were those who stayed on. Their’s and others stories and pride for having served led me to join up. I did more than my share in Desert storm version 1 and have the scars and issues to go with it. But I don’t blame anyone for it.

    As for “touchy” and the others who take issue with the song & people who like Cold Chisel hop we don’t meet or you too will find out what a “retard” can do.

  25. #25 d-dawg
    on Feb 4th, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I think the song is kind catchy, but I’m still a bit unsure to what the story behind the song is. I guess I should research it…

  26. #26 pinkmini
    on Mar 3rd, 2010 at 4:32 am

    How about changing the info which greets us to your website? I know nothing about military stuff – but I do know SAPPERS are something to do with armies.

  27. #27 Sean
    on Apr 10th, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Khe Sanh is probably our only iconic song. Australians were there, but perhaps Long Tan would have been a more appropriate song title ,but its the overall message that finds us so patriotic.
    Its still a great song, the Yanks have got American Pie we have got Khe Sanh

  28. #28 henryK
    on Apr 14th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I’ll tell you now Australian soldiers were in Khe Sanh (only a few but the song doesn’t mention numbers or particulars), they were there in the early seventies with the AATTV (if you don’t know what that stands for then look it up). I’ll tell you what shits me is when you see left wing uni students drunk and singing along to the song holding their lighters up in the air with NFI, the descendants of those weak pricks that sent money to the VC and threw eggs at the troops that risked their lives to protect the people of South Vietnam and halted the spread of communism (a cracker system of government that one). Interpret the song as you like but maybe it tells the story of an Aussie soldier who served with the most decorated unit of the conflict talking about how he left his heart to the sappers of Khe Sanh as this was the furtherest point north he deployed during the war. That’s right Greenie maybe old mate was suppose to go home in June but he stayed on because of his mates, something that nobodies like touchy and razgrize will ever no about, you wankers.

  29. #29 david
    on May 14th, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Touchy you idiot, your the idiot that believes Dirty Harry was real. Its a song with a great tune and everyone I know loves it because it tells a story and its got great music. You were probaly fighting the girls in Sydney to see Justin Bieber. Thats what musics about telling stories they dont have to be real. Like Down Under its a song the all Austrlian know. Now just go along a cheer for Justin you muppet

  30. #30 claire
    on Jun 1st, 2010 at 10:33 am

    this song is not about the battle of khe sanh, its about the experiences of a veteren AFTER the war. How they struggled to fit back into ‘normal society’.

    Although some people may think the lyrics and content are an insult Australia, I think the way the veterans were pushed aside when they returned, when alot of them were conscripted, is the bigger insult.

  31. #31 Vic Check
    on Sep 1st, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I’m a khe sanh Veternan ex pat American. Col. Ivan Cahill an Australian Served with the 2 Battalion 3 Marines as a company commander with with Echo company…. that company actually wore slouch hats at base Camp Carrol Quang Tri Province…. A Great man a great leader…. Believe me everytime I hear that song….its give brings anger to me against the gov’ts who sent us there …. Vic Check field medical technican 2/3 Marine Special Landing Force SLF Bravo It was no victory for anyone..Most who fought there carryn the the mental scare of the most violet clashes of the American War in vn. google it fools….

  32. #32 jeffro
    on Sep 5th, 2010 at 8:05 am

    khe sanh is an iconic aussie song,whether it is historically correct or not doesn’t really matter. Vietnam vets had a horrendous time on their return home from a war that should never had happened,and this song goes some way towards getting that message out to younger people.How would a young bloke feel when,having his whole life,his dreams cut short by being conscripted into a war which we now know should not have happened?And then on his return home he is disrespected and ridiculed by his countrymen/women.Protest the government that sent these guys not the guys themselves.Anyway,the song is ok.

    on Sep 6th, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I am studing Aussie rock bands at school, and I picked Cold Chisel. I do agree that khe sanh really has nothing to do with Aussies but just because someone is from one country doesn’t mean they have to write about songs strictly based around that country. It doesn’t matter much about the origin of the song, I mean if it did none of the ‘top’ songs nowadays would be at the top. Let’s face the facts, the Vietnam war was wrong, and this song was just expressing that fact by linking the song to a story, a story which fighters in the vietnam war lived.

  34. #34 Nics
    on Sep 8th, 2010 at 12:30 am

    David…. you said it mate.

  35. #35 Tab
    on Sep 18th, 2010 at 3:53 am

    How many of your were actually running around Khe Sanh during the Vietnam war? Unless any of you have actually been to war and suffered its effects then you should probably keep your opinions to yourselves and let the people who have be honoured the way they should be.

  36. #36 Mick
    on Oct 5th, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    I agree with Samm, Greenie and HenryK. I was RAAF & joined just at the end of Vietnam and so I was trained by ex-nam ADGs. The song is a good one and obviously uses some poetic licence. I just wonder if he was going to write about Long Tan and “Khe Sanh” just rhymed better. Whats is a name? The message in the song is clear and I now how those vets felt as I was living in Melbourne at the time and going to Uni there. Not too nice. Anyway, when I hear it, and I love it by the way, I just mentally substitute Long Tan. Hmm, can a retard do that? mentally substitute words in a song?? lol, Touchy, you’re a dipsh!t.
    cheers n beers to all the viet vets, US, Aussie, NZ, Sth Korea, Phlips, Thai, German, etc (did I miss anyone? sorry if I did)

  37. #37 NotMyRealName
    on Jan 19th, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Khe Sanh is probably the only song that a buch of drunk Australians, anywhere in the world, would be able to sing the lyrics to if you asked them. I think is a beautiful song, both musically and lyrically, but I agree with someone many comments back, that it is actually totally getting the boot into the “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!” mindset of so many of those drung Australians. It is not about the battle of Khe Sanh, it is about the post Vietnam experience of so many Australian soldiers, and the awful small-mindedness of this country. When, after I had happened to have a Chisel CD on in the car, my seven year old son asked me “Daddy, what’s 1973?” I explained the whole issue of the Vietnam war and the awful treatment of the vets when they came home, because I don’t want him to grow up to think that that song is somehow our second national anthem and is saying something good about this country.

  38. #38 Daniel
    on Jan 29th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    It should be called “Long Tan” as in: “I left my hearts to the sappers round Long Tan”….just makes more sense in my opinion as “Khe Sanh” is an Australian song dedicated to a siege for the most part involving the US.

  39. #39 Colin
    on Mar 4th, 2011 at 4:10 am

    I always thought Khe Sanh was used as the location in order to appeal more to the American market. It’s funny all this talk about whether Aussies were there or not, I think it was a commercial decision, or failing that, the onomatopoeia of the words, Khe Sanh how they sound, have a greater impact than long tan.
    As a child of the 70’s who shunned the whole Chisel thing during the 80’s in favour of The Smiths, Pixies, alternative stuff, I am of the opinion that they are actually underrated. I think it had something to do with stonewash, flannelette and mullets.

  40. #40 Angry
    on Oct 17th, 2011 at 12:14 am

    this song is not just about Australian Vetrens, yes we did not get as involved in the war as Americans did but our diggers went there and died there for you to say that there was no ‘major Australian involement’ is in insult to my grandfather and his mates who died for your sorry ass. Many Australian fathers, brothers and sons went there and never came back. Cold Chisle is an iconic Australian band for you to say you don’t like there music fine, but don’t confuse there music and the message that they are giving out to the world. You really should check your facts before you go sprouting out shit that you think id true becuase it’s not.

Leave a Comment

NOTE: All Comment are reviewed by humans before being published.