Khe Sanh is the small capital of Hurong Hoa District in the Vietnam’s Quang Tri Provence. During the Vietnam War, Khe Sanh was a combat base for American marines. In early 1968 the base came under attack and was besieged by forces of the North Vietnamese Army. A series of actions, now referred to as the Battle of Khe Sanh, was fought over a period of seven months (January to July 1968) which resulted in the siege being lifted and the marines evacuated, but not before they destroyed the base rather than risk similar battle in the future. Australian involvement in the battle was limited to the missions carried out by the RAAF’s No 2 Squadron, who flew close air support missions in the area.
The song Khe Sanh (named after the battle) was written by Don Walker, the pianist for the Australian rock band Cold Chisel. It tells about an Australian Vietnam veteran trying to deal with his return to civilian life – womanising, post traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction, working on oil rigs and flying helicopters, travelling the world in search of answers. It is a life, he says, that only other vets (veterans) would understand.
Released in May 1978, the song achieved only modest success on the national charts at the time, but did reach No. 4 in Cold Chisel’s home town of Adelaide. In 2001, APRA, the Australasian music industry’s peak body, listed Khe Sanh at number eight in a poll of all-time best Australian songs. In November 2014, the song was added to the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia registry of historically, culturally and aesthetically significant sound recordings. Khe Sanh still receives strong airplay on Australian radio stations with a “classic rock” format.
This arrangement for male choir (TTBB) features a piano accompaniment with guitar chords.