Follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail...
Submitted by Paul Sutton for Salem-News.com
Incredible photo essay on a famous route in Vietnam.
Photographer with an incredible mission.
(WASHINGTON DC) - “You’ve got to ride a dirt bike like you’ve stolen it,” as we accelerated through a particularly gnarly section, the wheels weaving between rocks, mud spraying up from the bike in all directions.
All around us was deep Southeast Asian jungle, with no form of civilization for miles. If anything happened to us out here [...]
The Legend of the Ho Chi Minh trail, there are few brand names to match that of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the secret, shifting, network of deep jungle tracks that led to the Victory for Vietnam war.
Chinese tank on road 96 Ho Chi Minh trail
appears to have toppled down the side of the hill and been buried, This tank lay underground until the ADB funded road was cut and an excavator uncovered this perfectly intact specimen, although a little dirty , live artillery shells and equipment were still inside the cockpit
Tank turret Aimed at the Sihanouk trail Southern Laos, Ho Chi Minh trail
What a fantastic view from this road looking into the Attepue valley.
Chinese built, T 58 tank with gun and turret, Ho Chi Minh trail
Inside the cockpit when this tank was uncovered, the 2 squares in front of the driver, are prisms so the tank can be operated without opening the hatch, Ho Chi Minh trail
speedometer and tachometer from Chinese built tank, One can only speculate that this tank fell off the side of the hill then was buried by a landslide? on the Ho Chi Minh trail
This section of “The trail” was “saved” When the Belgian Cooperation upgraded the road in 2008.
This road was heavily used during the war to transport guns and ammo, however the original construction was during the French era.
After a very long days exploring, many trees were blocking the road, lucky I had my saw with me. I managed to hack through the jungle and found myself on this perch overlooking Sepon.
This was the site of Anti Aircraft gun emplacements, remains of bunkers can be found along this ridge.
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
NVA truck remains, on “the trail” known as White Cliffs by the American pilots,
Ho Chi Minh Trail Southern Laos
Xe Bangfai Ford
Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos,
This recently built ford (2012) will soon be a bridge as road upgrading takes place.
The infamous Ban Bac ammo dump.
My camp site was a few hundred meters to the North, I was quite surprised when I woke up from my campsite in the remote jungle, and found there were others camping in the area.
These guys were marooned here for 6 weeks as they had no fuel to get the trucks out. They told me the “company” did not have any money for fuel.
Jet Engine, from crash site near Dak Cheung Laos Ho Chi Minh trail
GI helmet found along the trail Sekong
Weapons cache found along route 96 Ho Chi Minh trail. Weapons , fuel drums and artillery, were buried along the trail to protect it from the deadly bombs that rained down continuously.82 mm Russian mortar.
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos, gun remains near Ta Oy
Tank muzzle appears out of a pile of rocks amid flowers along the Ho Chi Minh trail
After the war, the collection and sale of war debris turned into a valuable scrap metal industry for tribes’ people in Xieng Khouang province and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Bomb casings, aircraft fuel tanks and other bits and pieces that were not sold to Thailand have been put to every conceivable use in rural Laos. They are used as cattle troughs, fence posts, flower pots, stilts for houses, water carriers, temple bells, knives and ploughs.Kids with metal detectors are on scrap metal hunt the only source of income for many Laos, Collectors often spend weeks or even month on end in the thick jungle, dragging large pieces of Vietnam War-era scrap metal to the roadside, awaiting pickup by transport trucks …
Ho Chi Minh trail
Remains of US made ARVN tank under a Jackfruit tree, a relic leftover from Lamson battle.
These remains have been moved to a new “War Museum” propped on cement pedestals, do not have the appeal of the scene above.
Ban Dong, Laos, Ho chi Minh trail
The US engaged in leaflet dropping from planes, however it is not known how the NVA distributed these flyers?
These were found by the author at the Ban Bac ammo dump buried in a pit with other war supplies and ammunition. 2006
The Ho Chi Minh Trail
The Author, with a wing from an undocumented (JPAC) F4 fighter lost near Dak Cheung Laos
Bombie casing, fence along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Russian T 72 Tank, this is a good example of this old design, at a local army base
Derelict Russian tank Phonsavon Northern Laos
Fac plane used for spotting along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Dogtag found on the Laos Cambodian border
This young boy holding a Pick Axe found on the Ho Chi Minh trail
S-75 Dvina Sam missile used to knock out B 52′s Attepue
Since its first deployment in 1957 it has become the most widely-deployed air defense missile in history.
The SA-2 missile had a solid fuel booster rocket that launched and accelerated it, then dropped off after about six seconds. While in boost stage, the missile did not guide. During the second stage, the SA-2 guided, and a liquid-fuel rocket propelled it to the target
Range: Minimum 5 miles; maximum effective range about 19 miles; maximum slant range 27 miles
Ceiling: Up to 60,000 ft.
Warhead: 288-lb. blast-fragmentation
Speed: Mach 3.5
Weight: 4,850 lbs
The remains of an unsuccessful launch of a SA-2 Sam Missile,
Xepon, Ho Chi Minh trail, Laos
The SA-2 did not operate alone, but as part of a complete system. A typical SA-2 site in North Vietnam had six missiles on launchers, control and support vans, a Spoon Rest acquisition radar, and a Fan Song guidance radar.
Mobile radar used in conjunction with the S-75 Dvna missile system, Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
Saved from the Scrap-metal hunters by government decree.
Sam SA-2 is a popular tourist attraction outside of Attepue at Ban Paam on the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Russian Zil used as radar control center for Sam Missile, Ho Chi Minh trail
NVA propaganda flyer found at Ban Bac ammo dump. This Psyops flyer with racial implications!
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
37 mm automatic air defense gun
AAA gun emplacement, Sihanook trail Cambodia Pnom Bok
Rifliing inside a cannon at the Ban Dong war museum
Villagers using war scrap to fabricate Knives, Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos
Kamuane Province Laos, Villagers use homemade apparatus for smelting war scrap for making knives
Ban laboy Ford, I camped beside the river and was awoken by villagers ( 1:00 am) whom had walked over the mountain in search of scrap metal to sell at the market. That was a cold night.
This was the area of Harleys valley, and famous rescue attempt of Lance Peter Sijan.
F-4C was engulfed in a ball of fire, due to the bomb fuses malfunctioning and causing a premature detonation on their release. The fighter went down in a fireball and Sijan ejected into the jungle.He evaded enemy forces for 46 days (all the time scooting on his back down the rocky limestone karst on which he landed, causing more injuries). He was finally captured by the North Vietnamese on Christmas Day, 1967. When captured, he was sent to Hanoi. In his weakened state, he contracted pneumonia and died in Hoa Lo Prison (the notorious Hanoi Hilton).His courage was an inspiration to other American prisoners of war and he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour
“Into the Mouth of the Cat” by Malcolm McConnell, is a great book describing this story.
Ban Laboy ford,“The target was near a junction of main vehicle infiltration routes on the part of the Trail the Americans had designated LOC 101. It lay in wild, uninhabited, triple-canopy forest, surrounded by sheer chimneys and towers of limestone called karsts that rose from the narrow jungle valleys.”
Bomber air crews continued to rotate between Anderson AFB, Kadena AB and U Tapao Royal Thai Airfield allowing for the maximum number of sorties
from the crew force. A major ongoing objective in September of 1968 was interdiction of the supply routes from North to South Vietnam to preempt a
logistics buildup and offensive campaign by the enemy. The B-52 effort was concentrated in the areas of Ban Karai and Mu Gia Passes and Ban Laboy Ford.
From mid-May through mid-September, it was estimated that over 1,800 trucks moving supplies South crossed the Ban Laboy Ford. The ford consisted of a
prepared ford, a cable bridge and a cable ferry/pontoon bridge across the Nam Ta Le River. On 18 September, 18 B-52s and 12 F-105s attacked the
Ban Laboy Ford destroying the pontoon bridge and damaging the cable bridge. The main ford, however, remained intact.
From 20 September until 1 October, Tac Air continued to pound the ford but was unable to destroy it. On 1 October, six B-52s salvoed 108 bombs each,
resulting in bomb trains of 780 feet and a direct hit on the ford. For the first time in three years the Ban Laboy Ford was closed.
Repair efforts were thwarted by continuous Tac Air and Arc Light strikes.
Armored personel carrier, turret, at a local restaurant. The restaurant is gone now making way for a new Government Administration building.Muang Nong
War remains outside a Vietnamese shop-house Kulum District Laos
The Red Princes bridge, a vital part of the Ho Chi Minh trail destroyed by US bombing in 1967
UXO quarantine, UXO Laos, compound at Ta Oy District
500 lb bombs under the porch at Ban Phanop Jan 2012,
Known in the business as a “quick strike mine”.
These bombs are fused with magnetic trip mechanism, MK30 mod 0 arming device, designed to be dropped into rivers acting as mines, or detonate by the magnetic signatures of vehicles,when a tank or truck rolls past! These were often fitted with high-drag “Snakeye” tailfins used for low-altitude release
“Please treat with care and do not roll, tumble or drop”
Ho Chi Minh trail
Quick strike mines being deployed, with snakeye tailfins, from an aircraft over the Ho Chi Minh trail
Snakeye along the road, this sitting in front of a villagers house means its for sale, as scrap metal, Kaluem Southern Laos
Operation Igloo White, Spikebuoy
It began as “the McNamara Line” across Vietnam. It led to the seeding of the Ho Chi Minh Trail by air with 20,000 sensors
The sensors—a network of some 20,000 of them—were planted mostly by Navy and Air Force airplanes, although some of them were placed by special operations ground forces. They were dropped in strings of five or six to be sure that at least three sensors in each string would survive and be activated. The sensors operated on batteries, which ran down after a few weeks, so replacement sensors had to be dropped.
Most of the sensors were either acoustic or seismic. There were two kinds of acoustic sensors, both derived from the Navy’s Sonobuoy, to which microphones and batteries were added. These sensors could hear both vehicles and voices.
Claymore mine, a directional anti-personnel mine used by the U.S. Forces, detonation via remote control. Photo Muang Laman southern Laos
Xepon, Wat, showing scars from the battle of Lam Son
719,Operation Lam Son 719, was a limited-objective offensive campaign conducted in southeastern portion of the Kingdom of Laos by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) between 8 February and 25 March 1971, during the Vietnam War. The United States provided logistical, aerial, and artillery support to the operation, but its ground forces were prohibited by law from entering Laotian territory. The objective of the campaign was the disruption the Ho Chi Minh Trail of a possible future offensive by the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN),Gps lao, Hi Chi Minh trail
Machine gun, Karum District Laos, Ho Chi Minh trail
Very long, 100 or more, “Bombie casing “fence near Ban Laboy
Ho Chi Minh Trail Southern Laos
Armored personnel carrier leftover from the Indochina war.
Ta Oy Ho Chi Minh trail
Vietnamese ammo box found at Ban Bac, Ho Chi Minh trail
Helicopter near war memorial Rt 9 and 23
Ho Chi Minh trail Muang Phin, Route 23 heavily used Ho Chi Minh trail, in the early stages of the war. Later roads were built farther East, significantly shortening the distance the supply trucks had to travel, to deliver their goods.
Black smith using war materials for making knives, Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
Symbol of war, on a Ta Oy village headmans house
F 4- C, Phantom wingtip (Boxer 22) salvaged from a crash site near, Ban Phanop Southern Laos
The pilot (Ben Danielson, KIA) and navigator ejected after being hit with Anti aircraft fire over the Phanop valley. Shortly thereafter, one of the biggest rescue missions of the conflict ensued.
A total of 336 sorties (bombing runs) participated in this rescue. 21 different types of ordnance was used, 20mm canon fire to air to ground missiles. Ten helicopters and five A-1s suffered battle damage.This was an amazing example of the effort expended by the US to save a downed crew member.
This wingtip is now Prominently displayed at the Wat in the Northern part of the village.
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
Forward air controller over the Ho Chi Minh trail. Note the heavily cratered landscape, File photo
262 meter Bamboo bridge at Ban Along over the Xe Lanong river, the villagers will charge you 20,000 kip to cross, a bargain at any price.
The large vehicle ford is 900 meters upstream were most of the traffic during the war crossed the river.Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
The Author testing Armored Personel Carrier on the old Ho Chi Minh trail
Bamboo bridge on “the trail” built on the old French abutments, the bridge builders will charge you 5000 kip to cross
Mag de-mining team Boulapa district Ho Chi Minh trail
UXO Laos 1280 kg bomb on display Saravan Southern Laos
500 pound bomb, smack in the middle of route 15 Ta Oy
I am not sure how all the construction equipment managed to miss this and not set off a bang!
War head SA2 S-75 Dvina Sam missile, Soviet-designed, high-altitude, command guided, surface-to-air missile,
HO Chi Minh Trail
Excerpt #1 from the MISTY FAC Book
1967 was a “build-up” year for us, the VC and the NVA. Late in 1967, Intelligence reported the movement of four NVA divisions, two artillery regiments and armor – yes armor! – to a place called Khe Sahn in Quang Tri province, I Corps. Huge movements of U. S. and NVA troops and equipment ensued in early 1968 under our very eyes, but as usual, we saw very little – no trucks, no troops, no movement, no nothing. Then, on 31 January 1968, all hell broke loose all over South Vietnam with the Tet offensive. Cities, towns, villages and compounds burned all along the coast as we went “wheels-up” from Phu Cat and headed north on daily missions.
Howie quickly flipped the camera to the right and came back with a beautiful picture of an SA-2 on a Guideline transporter with a wide-eyed NVA soldier trying to pull the cover on the missile. I still have the picture. It is one of the most amazing pictures of the war. So much for the 4500′ rule – Ed was only slightly above the height of the launcher.
Sam Missile found and disarmed by UXO Laos, Near Ban Lankham.
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
The Author posing on a С-75 (SA-2 Guideline) Russian built missile on the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Ban Phanop, on a tributary of the Bangphai River, . The village is located in the Ban Phanhop valley, one of the “chokes”, or narrow corridors along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos that were heavily bombed by American forces during the Vietnam War
Kids playing in a “Bomb Boat” made from discarded fuel tanks, Ho Chi Minh trail
House constructed with bombie casings (bottom) and flare tube canisters ( white colored sheathing) Ban Siampang, Ho Chi Minh trail
A spectacular sight at the, Tad Hia bridge Over the Xe Bang Heing River, this bridge was built in 1942 and designed by Souphanouvong who became the first President of Lao PDR in 1975. It was destroyed by the American bombing in 1967.
deep in the jungle the Ban Bac ammo dump
In October 1970, the North Vietnamese started to move supplies into Laos across the Mu Gia and Ban Karai passes, _4/ but traffic south of the passes remained light due to heavy rain and two tropical cyclones, Kate on 25 October and Louise on 28 October. _5/ As the enemy road maintenance crews repaired the road system and the rivers subsided, truck movements increased on the Ho Chi Minh trail. During November there was an average of 252 Igloo White sensor-detected truck movements per day but most of the traffic was in northern Steel Tiger. On 27 November, a high of 889 sensor-detected truck movements was counted. The total number of sensor-detected truck movements for November was 7564. During December 1970, the number of sensor-detected truck movements increased to an average of 665 per day. The highest daily total for the month of December was 1037 and the overall total for the month was 20,601. _6/
When flooded the Xe Kong River acted as a barrier to the continued movement of the supplies down the Ho Chi Minh trail system. The Xe Kong had flooded in October and continued to carry an unusually high amount of water during November. Reliable reports indicated the North Vietnamese were storing large quantities of supplies to the north of the river, awaiting a time the Xe Kong could be forded.
Studies of sensor-detected truck movement patterns, climatic conditions, and North Vietnamese supply procedures led 7th Air Force Intelligence to suspect that there was a major storage complex in the Ban Bak area. Similar indications had been noted during previous dry seasons. Between 1 September 1970 and 18 December 1970 , 25 items of intelligence relating to targets in the Ban Bak area were received. Two pertained to points within one kilometer of the storage area eventually uncovered at Universal Transverse Mercator Map (See Figure 2) coordinates XC855540. One was a
reconnaissance photo showing bunkers and a large open area containing supplies on 4 September 1970 . The other was a 20 November 1970 report from a forward air controller of antiaircraft artillery fire and supplies on the side of the road. There were-forward air controller (FAC) and photo reconnaissance reports of truck revetments, supplies, possible truck parks and storage areas located from one to – seven kilometers away from the storage area with the majority being from two to five kilometers to the north. During November 1970, Igloo White sensors detected almost four times as many truck movements into the Ban Bak* area from the north as departed it moving south. 7/ Intelligence signs indicated a major supply dump and storage area near Ban Bak and north of the Xe Kong River existed; the next task was to find it
The night was clear with a bright moon at 30 degrees above the horizon. The moon helped the FACs to find the trucks moving along the trail, but the angle of the moon acted as a detriment. The truck drivers could drive with a minimum of artificial light using the brightness of the moon to illuminate the road. The low angle of the moon also lengthened the shadows made by the tall trees along the side of the road, making it more difficult to locate parked trucks
Captain Monnig continued to track the trucks with a Model NVSF-040 Uniscope. The Uniscope had entered 20TASS supply about three weeks earlier supplementing the Starlight scope. The Starlight scope had the capability to amplify light 400,000 times.
The area where the Covey FACs worked was a high-threat area. On the plateau, the AAA fire was intense and the triangulation extremely accurate. Some hits were reported but there were no casualties and no downed aircraft. _15/
But before the F-4 aircraft could arrive, the trucks entered the triple canopy jungle plateau area and pulled east off the road into some trees. Captain Monnig raised the amplification of the Uniscope to full volume and instructed Lieutenant Browning to hold the aircraft steady and to disregard any AAA fire. The trucks continued through the jungle and all that Captain Monnig could pick out in the Uniscope were flickers of light as the truck headlights reflected off the foliage. Then the trucks turned north moving to an area 700 meters east of Route 924. _16/
Then the trucks stopped, doused their lights, turned them on again, then doused them again. About this time two F-4 aircraft, Wolfpack 93 from the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Airfield , Thailand , were in position. Covey fired a smoke rocket to mark the target. The fighters were armed with Mark 82 hard bombs and CBU 24 cluster bombs. _17/ On the first pass there were no secondaries. Captain Monnig moved the fighters 100 meters to the southeast. On the second pass, a 23 millimeter (mm) AAA gun started to fire. On the third pass, “the sky seemed to open up.” A huge orange ball of fire with black smoke climbed a thousand feet into the sky. _18/
The BAn Bac Ammo dumb found, this turned out to be one of the most successful interdiction’s of the war.
Even with all of the strikes, enemy truck drivers continued to use the truck park and storage area. By 5 January 1971 , it was estimated that there had been 10,097 secondary explosions, 435 secondary fires, 43 trucks destroyed, and 11 damaged.
Armored personnel Carrier, and Anti Aircraft gun Muang Nong
Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos
Siampang village on the Ho Chi Minh trail, Laos, kids playing in a cab of an abandoned North Vietnamese truck. This one of the notorious choke point heavily bombed areas in the Phanop valley.
North Vietnamese truck on the Ho Chi Minh trail
One of a kind, Mortar turn signal, on the Ho Chi Minh trail
Young girl and sibling near Samouy Laos, with metal detector used for scrap metal hunting
In Vietnam War M3A1 Grease Gun was outdated for frontline duty, but nevertheless it was distributed to South Vietnamese irregular troops , such as Civil Guard, for combat duty. Thanks to it’s compact size American helicopter pilots carried M3A1 Grease Gun, in addition of their pistols, for the grave situation of being shot down behind enemy lines. Other US users included USMC and US Army special forces. Captured samples were employed by Vietcong. M3A1 Grease Gun was even copied by communist China who manufactured with model name Type 64. This example found on the Ho Chi Minh trail near Ta Oy
Russian Army Truck – ZIL 157
6 wheel drive truck, Laco Focus Southern Laos, Ho
Chi Minh trail
Between 1964 and 1973 the US bombed Laos continuously, despite Laos being a peaceful, neutral country and despite the US never openly declaring war on Laos
Mortars hanging in front of a carnival, October 2012
BLU-3/B Bomblet / Clusterbomb, nicknamed “pineapple”. The design of this clusterbomb can be traced back to the sixties of the past century. The bomblet is meant for use against personel and unarmoured targets,The body of the bomblet is made of 250 steel balls ø1/4 inch (ø6,25mm) dia. steel balls which have been placed in a casting mould. The space between the balls is then filled with a casting alloy called Zamac, an alloy of Zink, Aluminium, Magnesium and Copper
Tribal house along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Images of War, red dust flying as these Kamaz rumble fully laden towards Dak Cheung Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
A mountain of fuel drums, Near Ta Oy Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
Archive photo of wartime truck park and fuel drum storage area like the photos above and below.
Ho Chi Minh Trail Explore Indochina
Russian Armored Personnel carrier, Ho Chi Minh trail Laos,
Gps Lao, Laosgpsmap
Teriang village on the Ho Chi Minh trail
Destroyed NVA truck on the Ho Chi Minh trail, near Ta Oy and the Ban Bac ammo dump, destroyed in and intradiction raid.
Ho Chi Minh trail
F 4 jet engine found at an undocumented crash site. There is more to this story to be sure. Dak Cheung province Laos
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