Well here I sit in Laos again, I have been putting around the place on and off for 10 years now. Mostly traveling by motorcycle, no surprise there. However I am now into offroading. This little hobby started around 1999 when I took my first backpacking trip after 15 years sailing around the globe on my sailboat Espritdemer. This land trip took in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. All countries I was able to rent bikes with the exception of Laos. And Laos, in those years was just opening up to tourism. Well so off to Singapore and buy a bike. Were I found a trusty ole Xl600 Honda. This good ole bike made many trips up through Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Borneo. To cut a long story short eventually I moved down to a smaller more nimble bike an XR400. In around 2003 I discovered the ancient Kymer Empire known as Ankor Wat. Cambodia at the time was just coming out of the Kymer Rouge era and the country was in a shambles with and dilapidated road network, which had more oxcarts than cars in the country. Well with the combination of great offroad riding and the lure of ancient temples in the Jungles. (Indiana Jones). I spent a few seasons with my GPS mapping, discovering many ancient temples and ancient road networks across the land. Wow great fun and memories, until development caught up with the place and it became a bit ordinary. The fantastic temples, surrounded by landmine signs with skull and crossbones that I would camp inside, would now have ticket gates guards and tourists!!
So my attention turned northwards towards Laos and in the theme of ancient roads, the Ho Chi Minh trails were the next target. Of course with all the GPS gear from the boat and a few navigation skills. I used the incredible US Military maps to find the old trails which were intact, lots of war junk along the trails and the main source of income for the locals was selling the metal to the Vietnamese which was then melted down in smelters.
So blah blah blah. After a few years of this great fun I continued to map the whole of the country and produce the LaosGPSmap which you can see on the web site. However the Ho Chi Minh trail continues to be a passion, In fact I am writing this from Xepon site of one of the biggest battles of war. The Lao and Vietnamese are have a huge celebration and dedication ceremony at the new war museum here at Ban Dong.
To me it was a dark, foreboding place where we knew the enemy was creeping up on us and we were shooting at ghosts, just every once in a while happening to hit something important. Not enough to stem the tide.
Ho Chi Minh trail Cambodia – Sihanook 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.
When the South Vietnamese went into base area 604 in the vicinity of Tchepone (Operation LAM SON 719 in 1971), they found a similarly large number of enemy assets. Even though they did not stay long, nor do a thorough search, they came up with twenty-six cache sites, eight base camps, three hospitals, twenty-three storage areas, twenty truck parks, fifty-nine anti-aircraft artillery positions, 220 bunkers, 817 fuel barrels, seven 2000-gallon fuel storage tanks, thirty-three kilometers of fuel pipeline, one fuel pumping station, and three surface-toair missile sites. This was the site of Anti Aircraft gun emplacements, remains of bunkers can be found along this ridge.
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
My bike. photo above, is on LZ Sophia overlooking the Xepon valley scene of the Battle of Lamson
File Photo, March 1971 Lz Sophia, Army OH-6 and an USMC CH-53 after they were brought down by a North Vietnamese 37mm battery
Army OH-6 and an USMC CH-53 were seen on a hill just south of Tchepone in March 1971 after they were brought down by a North Vietnamese 37mm battery
Excerpt,”I participated in two invasions of Cambodia.The first was the U.S. invasion in the Spring of 1970. The second was in early 1971 (a couple of weeks before my tour of duty was over) when the South Vietnamese alone invaded Cambodia but were supported by U.S. gunship and medevac aircraft. During that second invasion, I never saw Cambodia during the day, as all of my medevac border crossings came at or after sunset.
One night while we were deep in Cambodia (North of Phnom Penh) we were hijacked by some ARVN’s (Army Republic of Vietnam) who were losing a battle. Because of the large number of casualties, the mission called for two Dustoff aircraft. I was the first bird in and CW2 was right behind us with his. Our landing site was to the center of a ring of tanks and and APC’s (armored personnel carriers) located on the top of a large bare (defoliated) hill top surrounded by thick jungle. All of the tanks and APC’s were outward and engaging with the enemy. The chaos reminded me of an old Western movie where the encircled wagon train was defending itself from Indian attacks from all sides.
When we “touched down” the ARVN’s abandoned their wounded and swarmed my aircraft. My medic and crewchief started to throw the unwounded off the aircraft when the ARVN’s pointed their weapons at us. I told my crew to get back on board and close the cargo doors when they could. I tried to pick our bird up to a hover, but with all the ARVNs on board, we were well over our Gross Max Weight limits and our rotor (RPM) would keep bleeding off. Since we were sitting ducks where we were, I decided to try a running take off and attempt to reach “translational lift” by running (sliding along on our skids) down the hillside.
I was surrounded by armored vehicles, so I looked for an opening between two vehicles that was large enough to fit, but ended up clipping off both of their FM whip antennas. Once outside of the circle of armored vehicles we started our run down the hillside with all lights out except our search light (the scan of which I controlled by my thumb on the cyclic). We slid and bounced toward the tree line, slowly gaining ground speed by nursing the rotor RPM, engine RPM and Torque settings gingerly to achieve lift off. As we cleared the the tree tops, I turned the search light off and began a slow climb and increase in airspeed. I radioed Stan to warn him what he was in for and asked my crew for a head count of ARVN’s on board. My crew chief said it was a “…pile of assholes and elbows and shit eating smiles…” that he estimated the count at 17-18 or more. Then my medic shouted that we had an ARVN hanging from the skids! I immediately reduced airspeed and power to begin a descent. I remember thinking,'”Man oh man, now what are you going to do? You’ve got a guy on the skids and a triple canopy jungle beneath you and it’s pitch black out there and you’re in the middle of bad guy country along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”. As I continued my descent, I decided to look for a road or clearing that would allow me enough room for a “run on landing” and a “run on take off”. Shortly thereafter my medic came on the intercom and said, “Never mind, we lost him.”.I immediately looked at my altimeter and saw that we were about 700 feet AGL (above ground level). I finally got through to Stan, but it was too late. They pulled weapons on him as well and I think he pulled out 18 ARVN’s as well. I radioed back to Tay Ninh for MP’s to meet us, but they were late arriving at the pad and all of the deserters disappeared into the night. ”
2004 Along the Ho Chi Minh trail Phanop Valley, Bomb craters clearly visible along the road. Legend of the Ho Chi Minh trail, LaosGPSmap Senior General Van Tien Dung (North Vietnamese Army) described the end state of the trail, after the final 1975 victory as such: The strategic route east of the Truong Song [Chaine Annamitique] Range, which was completed in early 1975, was the result of the labor of more than 30,000 troops and shock youths. The length of this route, added to that of the other old and new strategic routes and routes used during various campaigns built during the last war, is more than 20,000 kms. The 8-meter wide route of more than 1,000 kms . . . is our pride. With 5,000 kms of pipeline laid through deep rivers and streams and on mountains more than 1,000 meters high, we were capable of providing enough fuel for various battlefronts. More than 10,000 transportation vehicles were put on the road. (Note that the information provided in this quote may contradict other data provided on the trail. Such discrepancies are common. Most data has been taken at face value from numerous sources with no attempts at comparison. Most data is generally similar.)
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. Legend of the Ho Chi Minh trail, LaosGPSmap
Pt 76 hiding in the weeds along side the road Pou Khoud
Kids in a village Ta Oy District Southern Laos
Along the Ho Chi Minh trail Mekong villager at work on a natural weaving loom
Ho Chi Minh trail route 96 near Ta Oy southern Laos
Just North of Ta Oy Southern Laos is an old section of the Ho Chi Minh trail
Samouay Southern Laos a village along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Ho Chi Minh Fuel depot, cutting fuel drums for scrap metal
Navigators information for bombing mission
Tribal Longhouse Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos
Alak Village Kaleum Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos
Map warning Danger
Vietnamese Kamaz truck rumbling down Ho Chi Minh trail route 96
Howitzer left over from the Secret war Northern Laos
750 Pound bomb lying along the Ho Chi Minh trial in Southern Laos
Drop tanks artillery canon and 2000 lb bomb
Village of Dakpok Kao fresh clear stream feeds the outdoor bathing and water supply, on the Ho Chi Minh trail
Ban Tagnong a “hot” place on the Ho Chi Minh trail The new generation living with the legacy of the war.
A baby sitting on the steps next to an artillery round and a section of the gasoline pipeline that ran the length of the trail
Deep into the Anamite mountain chain along the Ho Chi Minh trail, local villager and child gathering wood.
A forgotten area of the Ho Chi Minh trail, a farmer clears his land to discover a Vietnamese riverboat bound for the Xekong river at Ban Bac.In the foreground is the remains of the truck that was pulling the boat along the Ho Chi Minh trail.This river boat, has a recessed propeller and keel coolers for shallow draft operation. Sadly I watched the scrap metal hunters carve this up with gas torches to be sold as scrap steel.
Ho Chi Minh trail Bamboo tunnel
Machine gun on top of Armored Personel Carrier Ta Oy Ho Chi Minh trail
Tank muzzle appears out of a pile of rocks amid flowers along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Tribal woman smoking traditional cigar, Dak Cheung, Southern Laos
Ceremonial house Xekong Southern Laos along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Ta Oy villager who lost his arm while searching for UXO. White cliffs in the background
Ho Chi Minh trail road, Ta Oy
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
XML mining company Xepon Southern Laos, EOD technician clearing an area to be mined for Gold.
Remains M41 Walker BulldogBetween Aloui and Landing Zone Alpha, the armored column was ambushed at a stream crossing and four M41 tanks were abandoned in the middle of the stream isolating the 11th Armored Cavalry on the west bank. The airborne soldiers abandoned the cavalry and kept on marching east down QL 9. No reinforcements were sent and no recovery vehicles came to remove the abandoned tanks. The 11th fought on alone, and after three hours cleared a way across but had to leave seventeen disabled vehicles on the west side of the stream. The NVA used the vehicles as machine gun positions until the vehicles were destroyed on 25 March,Ban Dong, Laos, Ho chi Minh trailThe next day, the 1st Armored Brigade and a paratrooper battalion were ordered to go back and recover the 17 damaged tanks and APCs left behind by the 11th Cav. Once again American air cover had been promised and once again it was diverted. The brigade succeeded in picking up the vehicles and had the 17 vehicles in tow when, once again, they were ambushed crossing a river near Aloui. The four lead M-41 tanks were hit with RPGs blocking the route. For three hours the South Vietnamese fought to survive until the disabled tanks were pushed aside and the column could move. All the vehicles that were being towed as well as the four M41s were left behind and later destroyed by Cobras
A forgotten area of jungle on the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Near “The Falls Chokepoint” old Rt110 is a bridge used during the war still standing, A good place to hang your hammock for the night.
M 113 US Armored Personnel Carrier Laos Ho Chi Minh trail
Russian APC BTR-152 Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua
Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua
The Old Ho Chi Minh trail, U S military trucks run by Vietnamese Companies, used for Logging Attepue, Southern Laos
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
Psyops flyers from Ban Bac ammo dump, burried in a bunker. Found by the Author. 2006
Ho Chi minh trail road South of Muang Nong Southern Laos. This is road number 96
Tourism comes to the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos
The Author,Don Duvall, with a wing from an undocumented (JPAC) F4 fighter lost near Dak Cheung Laos
Bombie casing, fence along the Ho Chi Minh trail
PT-76 is a Soviet amphibious light tank, this is a good example of this old design, at a local army base.
In February 1968 the NVA brought PT-76 light tanks down the trail to attack the Lang Vei Special Forces camp.The camp was just inside the Vietnam border from Laos. Captain Frank Willoughby, Lang Vei camp Commander, had one sitting on top of his command bunker after the attack. Although I was not involved, my unit at Forward Operating Base-3, Khe Sanh Combat Base, organized and conducted the relief operation that rescued him and the other camp personnel.
Derelict Russian PT-76 tank Phonsavon Northern Laos
Fac plane used for spotting along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Wreck of T 28 fighter Savannakhet province Southern Laos
Stables held up with Bombie casings, Saravanh Southern Laos
Old bombs make good bells, Xekong Southern Laos
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,this missile was better known by the NATO designation SA-2 Guideline, 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
Jan 2013 Pa am Village Southern Laos, sam missile
The remains of an unsuccessful launch of a SA-2 Sam Missile, Shown here is he solid rocket booster first stage which dropped off after 6 seconds
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.
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 truck used as radar control center for Sam Missile, Ho Chi Minh trail
Mobile radar used in conjunction with the S-75 Dvna missile system, Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
Gun rack on the door to the radar control room, maybe the operator was worried he would have to defend himself against his superiors if his missile shot missed!
Fortunately I do some mapping work with the military here, and a friend allowed me access to some of this ancient but Magic stuff!
Radar and controls inside the command module, note the curtain to keep out the light for visibility on the CRT, just to the right of the radar control is a gun rack with weapons at the ready.
I wonder how many “kills” this one had? I looked around to see if there were anything like “a notch in the gun stock” , however I did not see any thing.
Radar command instructions and rows of buttons this is well before the days of integrated circuits and computers, the success rate of this system was low.
NVA propaganda flyer found at Ban Bac ammo dump by Don Duvall of LaosGPSmap. 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
Airplane door being used on a shed in Xam Thong village a relic from the secret war
Artillery shell used as an anvil Ban Phanop Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Villagers salvaging a partially exploded bomb from the Jungle along road 110 Southern Laos.
Ho Chi Minh trail, Target Alpha, one of the heavily bomb “Choke Points” along the Ho Chi Minh trail. 2013 there is still plenty of UXO (unexploded ordinance) to be found. These scap metal hunters from Ban Ta Hua are on a mission.
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,â€œThe 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.â€
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.
A young tribal villager poses, leaning on a bomb at the Ban Laboy ford
F-4- Over the Dogs Head, Ban Laboy Ford. It’s an F-4D model and the tail code “FG” means it’s from the 433rd Fighter Squadron – “Satan’s Angels” – out of Ubon. Submitted by Lt Col Lance DeYoung (USAF, Ret) This fantastic shot clearly shows the shape of the Nam Te Le river in the shape of the Dogs head. The alternative ford and the scarred earth from incessant ordinance strikes. The F-4 has an unusual configuration, carrying an Pave Knife laser designator pod on the left inboard station (the only station wired for this pod), which normally carried weapons (it was not plumbed for fuel tanks). In order to carry its mission load of two, 2,000 pound laser-guided GBU-10s, one went on the other inboard pylon and one went on an outboard pylon. This left the two remaining stations for fuel – a 600 gallon tank on the belly (centerline) and one 370 gallon tank on the other outboard station. Operationally, then, when the inboard bomb is dropped, there is asymmetric weight and drag on the inboard pylon (not as big a problem as the outboard pylon since it’s closer to the fuselage). When the outboard bomb is dropped, the same situation happens but it’s more pronounced than the inboard situation because it’s farther from the centerline. I suspect that outboard 370 gallon tank was used up first so that when the outboard GBU-10 was dropped, there was no longer much if an asymmetric weight issue (but there was asymmetric drag). However, this was somewhat offset by the Pave Knife pod providing drag on the opposite side. Ho Chi Minh trail
Jock Montgomery discovers the Ban Laboy pontoon bridge, lying silent in the clear waters of the Xe Bangfai, downstream of the Ban Laboy Ford.Â This bridge carried a large amount of traffic down the Ho Chi Minh trail Photo Jock Montgomery Photography
December 2012 View, of the Ban Laboy Ford
Road to Ban Laboy steep karst mountains surround this valley with lots of caves.
May and June 1966 were particularly deadly for the fliers over Steel Tiger North. The gunners were getting better at their duties and tactics by the time the dry season started giving way to the deluges of the summer monsoon. On the evening of May 15th Spooky 10 disappeared with eight crewmen aboard. The AC-47 was orbiting just east of the Chokes when the ABCCC controller took the crew’s last position report.
Another view of the area known as “Harleys Valley” This small area was named for U.S. Airforce Captain Lee Dufford Harley a Forward Air Controller flying a single engine O-1 Bird Dog aircraft who was shot down by ground fire at this location and presumed killed.
The big meadow, into which Captain Harley and Airman Guillot crashed, was already well on its way to becoming a major storage complex and transshipment center. From that cloudy day on, the valley also became known to the fliers at NKP as “Harley’s Valley.”
Smack on the Border with Laos Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh trail, Mother and child at a scrap metal sellers house.
Scrap metal collector on the Vietnamese border, a slowly dying industry.
Ban Laboy village very few houses remain, the ones that do are used for stockpiling scrap metal for recycleing.
Armored personel carrier, turret, at a local restaurant. The restaurant is gone now making way for a new Government Administration building.Muang Nong
Suspension bridge of the Xepon river, on the Ho Chi Minh trail
Guest house with a reminder of the war, Muang Nong Southern Laos
Anti Aircraft gun poking out of the undergrowth Muang Phin Southern Laos along old RT 23 Ho Chi Minh trail
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 â€œthe McNamara Lineâ€ across Vietnam. It led to the seeding of the Ho Chi Minh Trail by air with 20,000 sensors
The sensorsâ€”a network of some 20,000 of themâ€”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 Navys 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
The “Vault” at Muang Xepon, one of the last things standing after the vicious battle of Lamson.
Xepon, Wat, showing scars from the battle of Lam Son719,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
Tchepone itself was just a small village but around it the PAVN had established sanctuary base 604, the main base for attacks in Quang Tri Province, and base 611, south of 604 and closer to the border, used to launch attacks against the city of Hue and Thua Thien province. These base areas consisted of many small storage depots and five large storage areas, each between 1 to 2 square kilometers, stocked with weapons, ammunitions, logistic supplies, medical supplies and rations. Other areas around Tchepone were used for troop replacement and training. For a week ARVN troops wandered about the two base camps methodically destroying everything in sight or using artillery, tac air or gunships to destroy the depots. Over 9,700 secondary explosions were documented, sometimes continuing for a half hour after the initial strike. The NVA were in a state of shock at Tchepone, over 5,000 were killed in the depot area – mostly rear area troops or troops in rest centers – with another 69 captured as air cavalry roamed the area unopposed. Thousands of tons of enemy supplies were destroyed and a POL pipeline was cut in several places. Almost 4,000 captured enemy weapons were airlifted out and brought back to Viet Nam.
Xepon, Wat, showing scars from the battle of Lam Son
Finely crafted canoes on the Xepon river made from Downed US aircraft. Phou Tapang 649 meters, in the background, where NVA Anti Aircraft emplacements were found..
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
Tarieng Village Ban Laboy Southern Laos
Armored personnel carrier Chinese type YW531 leftover from the Vietnam war.carries a maximum of 15 including crew, Mounted astern is a 12.7 mm machine gun
Ta Oy Ho Chi Minh trail
Ban Lahap at the crossroads of RT 92 and 922
Target Oscar Eight. This was one of the most important points along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This was the headquarters of the 559th Transportation Regiment of the NVA, the unit responsible for maintenance of the road network, traffic management, road security, and the correct routing of men and supplies. This was also a major choke point for truck traffic headed east along Route 922 to the A Shau Valley in I Corps, and traffic headed further south on Route 92 destined for the Kontum, Pleiku, and Ban Me Thout regions in South Vietnam.
Neither Route 92 nor Route 922 existed before the NVA decided they needed all weather access into South Vietnam for their trucks. The NVA road builders built these roads through rugged terrain, and camouflaged them well that FACs would often have to fly close to the ground to see them.
This intersection was heavily bombed by U.S. Air Force fighter bombers and B-52s. U.S. Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunships also conducted night time “truck plinking” missions here.
Recon teams from MACV/SOG made frequent insertions into this area in attempts to interdict traffic, either directly via Hatchet Force missions, or indirectly by calling in air strikes. The NVA detected practically every SOG insertion into this area and the SOG teams fought many vicious battles with NVA security regiments in this area, taking many casualties.
also the area of Target Oscar 8, a vicious series of battles took place here. On the ridge top to the left are foxholes and mortar shells from AAA artilery, along with caves were the gunners hid when B52 strikes were taking place.
Symbol of war, on a Ta Oy village headman’s house
A lost and forgotten section of the Ho Chi Minh trail.
These large fuel tanks built inside a cave with a small opening, obviously they were built inside the cave perfectly safe from the bombs raining down/
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
Phanop Vally Rescue Operation
Navigation charts showing vectors to main targets of Ban Phanop, Ban Laboy and Tchepone, From the Nakhon Phanom airbase. provided by Jim Conkey
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.
One can imagine a line of porters pushing bicycles across this bridge on the way south,The large vehicle ford is 900 meters upstream were most of the traffic during the war crossed the river.Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
Xe la Nong bridge at Ban Along
Muang Nong Village USA Fighters helmet is found.
Karst formation in the Phanop valley, The NVA managed to get the POL pipeline and Anti Aircraft guns on top of these Karst pinnacles.
Kids having fun with a home made cart on the 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
Ban Karai pass, one of the notorious passages of the Ho Chi Minh trail, time stands still. Ho Chi Minh trail with original stones laid down by hand by the slave workers ( sacrifice of the many who shoveled, dug, fought, and scraped by to get supplies of rice and ammunition to North Vietnam’s front-line forces. There is an important stress on the efforts of women to keep the supply lines open.) along the trail during the time of the Vietnam War. Note the trees overhanging the trail so not to be detectable by US spotter planes
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.
Several of these Sam missile transport containers, were found in Kamuane province in close proximity. This is the area were the rockets were fired at B 52’s
The Author posing on a S 75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline) Russian built missile on the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua, Ho Chi Minh trail
2004 on the Ho Chi Minh trail Sam Missile
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
Seiampang Village Southern Laos a villager pulls a fuel pod, drop tank, out of the Jungle on the Ho Chi Minh trail. These fuel pods were jettisoned over Laos when the sorties were completed and the bombers returned to base.
Ho Chi Minh trail could this be a , F-105 Centerline drop tank.
House constructed with bombie casings (bottom) and flare tube canisters ( white colored sheathing) Ban Siampang, Ho Chi Minh trail
Medical supplies, ampules of morphine, found in a cave in the Karst mountains near one of the Choke Points in the Phanop valley, along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Setting sun casts a yellow glow on this spectacular sight, the Tad Hai bridge, Over the Xe Bang Hieng 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.
I am holding a live B-40, Vietnamese copy of the RPG-2, 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, 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. 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. Ho Chi Minh trail
Skeleton of a NFL Truck body in the area of Ban Bac ammo dump. This truck has been picked clean of any sell-able scrap, only the thinnest metal which is not valuable remains.
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos
Ammo box full of 50 caliber rounds found near an Anti Aircraft emplacement along the Sihanook trail.
Ho Chi Minh trail, young Souk tribesman holds 50 caliber anti aircraft rounds, on the Cambodian border.
Camp along the Sihanook trail cooking wild birds, a Hornbill and Pheasant are on the menu this day
This tribesman from Pou Luang lost his arm to an American Bomb when he was only 5 months old. Deep in the jungle in the triboarder area harvesting what they can from the forest, scrap metal and valuable hardwoods.
These bullets found rusting in the jungle along the Ho Chi Minh Trail
A destroyed jeep along the Sihanouk Trail near the Parrots Beak , 2004
Xekong river the Ban Bac ferry crossing, (Bac, Translation from Lao is Boat crossing) Thousands of trucks full of war supplies heading south would have crossed the Xekong river here.
Ban Bac ethnic villagers, smoking waterpipe at a very young age.
View of the Xekong river valley in the area of the Ban Bac ferry crossing
The remains of the Bac ferry at a gold mining camp on the banks of the Xekong river. Thousands of trucks and untold tons of war supplies used this major crossing on the way Southward towards the war front.
One of my favorite place’s on the Ho Chi Minh trail, pine forest on Road 96 near Chavane, this was one of the Major arteries of the trail. just before the road drops down from the plateau and crosses the Xekeman river near Attepue.
Amputee victim, from gathering Un exploded ordinance, Near Ta Oy Southern Laos, Ho Chi Minh Trail
Soviet artillery tractor, and Anti Aircraft gun Muang Nong
Because of its strategic location encompassing the convergence of several key supply lines, the Tchepone/Muong Nong, Sector is regarded as the most important sector along the infiltration corridor in southern Laos. 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
Jungle road section of the Ho Chi Minh trail. This shot taken from the seat of my Honda XR400, For mapping I use 2 Garmin GPS devices, and 4 Cameras for geo-referencing photos later used for analyzing and mapping. Also the Spot locator is a fantastic tool for relaying to LaosGPSmap, home base, All is OK I will return in a month or so….
Pilots helmet found in a village near Muang Nong on the Ho Chi Minh trail
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
Forgotten pile of war scrap found along the Ho Chi Minh trail
War scrap at Karuem, on the Xekong river just down stream from the Ban Bac ford, truck fender, fuel drums and bombie casings of all kinds are being sold for scrap metal.
Artillery anti aircraft gun with a Bomblet placed near the barrel, along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Truck body abandoned on the Ho Chi Minh trail.
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
The Flow of Men, The most important role for the Ho Chi Minh Trail was as a route to funnel personnel to the south. The North Vietnamese eventually released a figure of two million personnel who transited the trail during the war.
Mortars hanging in front of a carnival, October 2012
BLU-3/B Bomblet / Clusterbomb, nicknamed Pinapple. 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 ¸1/4 inch (6,25mm) 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
Ho chi Minh trail, Villager holding a deadly bomby
Ban Karai pass a great example of an untouched section of original Ho Chi Minh trail. Most of the trail has gone under the “blade” I use the term “Komatzu-ed” after the big yellow tractors of the Japanese Komatzu company. Those cobblestones are rough to drive on. hence the path just off the road to the right silk smooth dirt.
Tribal village on the Chaleunxai plateau along the Ho Chi Minh trail
Ban Bac villagers line up for the camera
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
Teriang village on the Ho Chi Minh trail
Alak villagers along the Ho Chi Minh trail Dak Cheung district.
Untouched since the war, a section of the Ho Chi Minh trail looking South towards Attepue
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
Ban Dong War Museum
Deep along the Vietnamese border area on the Ho Chi Minh trail Brao Villagers sitting on the steps of their hut
“The Wall” A soldiers boot along with flowers and flags in commemoration of the fallen and Missing In Action, Ho Chi Minh Trail Laos
Please ask, about our Ho Chi Minh Trail tours! John R. Campbell, a civilian psychological warfare advisor in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967 talks about the bravery and dedication of the troops coming down the trail in Are we Winning? Are they Winning: A Civilian Advisors Reflections on Wartime Vietnam, Author House, 2004: There could not have been a starker documentation of the superiority in the depth of motivation, discipline and self-sacrifice of the average North Vietnamese soldier than knowing when he started down the Ho Chi Minh Trail that no one he had ever known ever came back. Yet they continued to go south in greater and greater numbers, year after year. Documentation shows that while few went with genuine enthusiasm, they still went. It wasnt as if this was just a vague rumor to them, since for an average of 500 who started down the trail, only 400 came out at the end of their trek south. This was a 20% attrition rate even before they faced an enemy soldier. In the early days of the war it took six months to travel from North Vietnam to Saigon on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. By 1970, regular North Vietnamese Army soldiers could make the journey in six weeks. By the end of the war with motorized transportation the trip might take one week. It is estimated that as many as 20,000 soldiers a month marched south at the height of the trail’s use. And, it wasn’t only men and trucks that came down the Trail. Captain Hammond M. Salley, recalls: Another misconception is the common belief that the trail was named by the communists in honor of their esteemed leader, Ho Chi Minh. In fact, the designation â€œHo Chi Minh Trail was a slang term coined by the Americans. Throughout the war, and for many years after the conflict ended, the North Vietnamese referred to the network as the Truong Son Road. In recent years (I suspect as a result of increased tourism) the Lao and Vietnamese have embraced the name invented by the Americans and now use it on signposts and memorial markers Contact the Don at, Espritdemer@hotmail.com or below at LaosGPSmap [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
Contact the Don at, Espritdemer@hotmail.com