Nov 032012

all-ways keep the leather-man handy


Welding and fixing flats all part of the game!



good morning Xaibouathong nothing like changing a flat before breakfast

good morning Xaibouathong nothing like changing a flat before breakfast


Lucky for me this flat tire was near a village so I had lots of help!


Many hands make light work, fun changing flat tires!


Everyone is anxious to take a turn working on the tire, great fun.


Amazing these villagers, pitch in, to get the job done


Another close call it pays to get off the bike and have a look now and again.


Lady tire changer near Xanakham Laos, quick and efficient


Service with a smile



Villagers stopping to see what the Midnite mapper is doing to his wheel, show off there tools



Thorn in the tire caused this flat, plenty of spectators on their way to working in the fields



Nocturnal tube change lighting supplied by “Dek Noi”.


Nice place for a flat next to a refreshing stream

Nice place for a flat next to a refreshing stream


Survey trip Kilometer Sip Kaow Road 10, close call

Survey trip Kilometer Sip Kaow Road 10, close call but no air escaped!

Aug 142012

If you’d like to explore Laos by motorcycle, come ride with the man who mapped it.

Secret war relic wheeled tank

Secret war relic wheeled tank Russian BDRM


inside turret wheeled tank

inside turret Russian BDRM wheeled tank,The BRDM-2 has a crew of four; a driver, a co-driver, a commander, and a gunner. It has two pairs of chain-driven belly wheels lowered by the driver, which allow trench crossing just like its predecessor, and a centralized tire pressure regulation system, which can be used to adjust the tire pressure of all four tires or individual tires while the vehicle is in motion to suit to the ground conditions


cockpit area of wheeled tank

cockpit area of wheeled tank





Ho Chi Minh trail,
painting by Veteran Larry Chambers

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.

Bell UH-1 Iroquois (unofficially Huey)

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

Ho Chi Minh trail Cambodia – Sihanook Trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail tank speedometer-and-black-box

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

Ho-Chi-Minh-Trail-saved road

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.

Ho Chi Minh Trail Lamson-battle-map

My bike. photo above, is on LZ Sophia overlooking the Xepon valley scene of the Battle of Lamson

Ho Chi Minh Trail Landing Zone sophia 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. ”
end quote


2004 Along the Ho Chi Minh trail Phanop Valley

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.)

Ho Chi Minh Trail Ban Bac Ammo Dump

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

Ho-Chi-Minh-trail-jet-engine,Dac Cheung

Rusting jet engine from a crash site near Dak Cheung Southern Laos. Legend of the Ho Chi Minh trail, LaosGPSmap

Ho Chi Minh trail Tri Border area Cambodia

Ho Chi Minh trail Tri Border area CambodiaCambodia abandoned area of the Ho Chi Minh trail are piles of scrap and destoryed trucks Cambodia abandoned area of the Ho Chi Minh trail are piles of scrap and destroyed trucks

Pt 76 hiding in the weeds along side the road Pou Khoud

Pt 76 hiding in the weeds along side the road Pou Khoud

Scrap metal collector with an artillery round, Photo, Marcus Rhinelander

Scrap metal collector with an artillery round, note the mountains of fuel drums other war scrap in the background, Ban Sembo Near Ban Laboy Ford one of the main arteries of the Ho Chi Minh trail.


Ho Chi Minh Trail Kids in trough

Kids in a village Ta Oy District Southern Laos

Along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Mekong villager at work on a natural weaving loom

Along the Ho Chi Minh trail Mekong villager at work on a natural weaving loom

LaosGPSmap Ho Chi Minh Trail

Ho Chi Minh trail route 96 near Ta Oy southern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail-Ta-Oy

Just North of Ta Oy Southern Laos is an old section of the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail-Ta-Oy Samouy-village-scene

Samouay Southern Laos a village along the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Fuel depot, cutting fuel drums for scrap metal

Ho Chi Minh Fuel depot, cutting fuel drums for scrap metal

Navigators information for bombing mission

Navigators information for bombing mission

Ho Chi Minh Trail-Ta-Oy Samouy-tribal longhouse

Tribal Longhouse Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

Alak Village Kaleum Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

Alak Village Kaleum Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

Map warning Danger, Ho Chi Minh Trail

Map warning Danger

Vietnamese Kamaz truck rumbling down Ho Chi Minh trail route 96

Vietnamese Kamaz truck rumbling down Ho Chi Minh trail route 96

Howitzer left over from the Secret war Northern Laos

Howitzer left over from the Secret war Northern Laos


Ho Chi Minh trail bomb-waterfall

750 Pound bomb lying along the Ho Chi Minh trial in Southern Laos

Drop tanks artilery canon and 2000 lb bomb

Drop tanks artillery canon and 2000 lb bomb

Ho Chi Minh Trail Dakpok Kao village-water-supply

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

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

Ho Chi Minh Trail Katu Villager

Deep into the Anamite mountain chain along the Ho Chi Minh trail, local villager and child gathering wood.

Ho Chi Minh Trail River boat

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

Ho Chi Minh trail Bamboo tunnel

Machine gun on top of Armored Personel Carrier Ta Oy Ho Chi Minh trail

Machine gun on top of Armored Personel Carrier Ta Oy Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail gun tank-barrel

Tank muzzle appears out of a pile of rocks amid flowers along the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail tribal villager

Tribal woman smoking traditional cigar, Dak Cheung, Southern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail tribal cerimonial-house

Ceremonial house Xekong Southern Laos along the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail amputee

Ta Oy villager who lost his arm while searching for UXO. White cliffs in the background

Ho Chi Minh trail road, Ta Oy

Ho Chi Minh trail road, Ta Oy

Ho Chi Minh Trail scrap metal hunters

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

Ho Chi Minh Trail XML-mining-clearance

XML mining company Xepon Southern Laos, EOD technician clearing an area to be mined for Gold.

Ho Chi Minh Trail Tank Ban Dong

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.

Ho Chi Minh trail bridge road 110

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

M 113 US Armored Personnel Carrier Laos Ho Chi Minh trail

Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua

Russian APC BTR-152 Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua

Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua

Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua

Ho Chi Minh Trail logging-truck

The Old Ho Chi Minh trail, U S military trucks run by Vietnamese Companies, used for Logging Attepue, Southern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail pysops-flyer

Psyops campaign
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

Ho Chi Minh Trail Psyops-Flyer

Psyops flyers from Ban Bac ammo dump, burried in a bunker. Found by the Author. 2006

Ho Chi Minh Trail Ban La Hap road, 96

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

Ho Chi Minh Trail crash site wing

The Author,Don Duvall, with a wing from an undocumented (JPAC) F4 fighter lost near Dak Cheung Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail bombie-casings fenceHo Chi Minh Trail bombie-casings fence

Bombie casing, fence along the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail PT 76 Russian Light Tank

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.

Ho Chi Minh Trail russia-tank

Derelict Russian PT-76 tank Phonsavon Northern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail Fac Plane remains

Fac plane used for spotting along the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail T 28 fighte Plane remains

Wreck of T 28 fighter Savannakhet province Southern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail bombie-house

Stables held up with Bombie casings, Saravanh Southern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail Bomb Bell

Old bombs make good bells, Xekong Southern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail dogtag

Dogtag found on the Laos Cambodian border

Ho-Chi-Minh-Trail Pick Axe

This young boy holding a Pick Axe found on the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail S-75 Dvina Sam missile

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

Ho Chi Minh Trail  Sam-missile

Jan 2013 Pa am Village Southern Laos, sam missile

Ho Chi Minh Trail first-stage-sam

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.

Ho Chi Minh Trail  Sam-missile 2

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.

Ho Chi Minh Trail sam-support-truck

Russian Zil truck used as radar control center for Sam Missile, Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail Sam radar-control

Mobile radar used in conjunction with the S-75 Dvna missile system, Ho Chi Minh trail Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail radar-control-door

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!

Ho Chi Minh Trail radar-control-monitor

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.

Ho Chi Minh Trail radar-control intructions

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.

Ho Chi Minh Trail pysops-flyer

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

Ho Chi Minh Trail Anti Aircraft gun

37 mm automatic air defense gun
AAA gun emplacement, Sihanook trail Cambodia Pnom Bok

Ho Chi Minh Trail Gun Barrel

Rifliing inside a cannon at the Ban Dong war museum

Ho Chi Minh Trail scrap metal forge

Villagers using war scrap to fabricate Knives, Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail melting-war-scrap

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

Airplane door being used on a shed in Xam Thong village a relic from the secret war

anvil ho Chi Minh trail

Artillery shell used as an anvil Ban Phanop Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Ho Chi Minh trail bomb-carry

Villagers salvaging a partially exploded bomb from the Jungle along road 110 Southern Laos.

Ho Chi Minh Trail Target Alpha scrap-metal hunters

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.

War Era Maps of the Ho Chi Minh trail Published by the National Defense Mapping Agency Washington DC

Ban Laboy Ford, on the Nam Te Le river, Now known as the Xe Bangfi, War Era Maps of the Ho Chi Minh trail Published by the National Defense Mapping Agency Washington DC

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.

Ban Laboy young tribal villager poses with leaning on a bomb at the Ban Laboy ford

A young tribal villager poses, leaning on a bomb at the Ban Laboy ford

F-4- D Over the Dogs Head, Ban Laboy Ford. Ho Chi Minh Trail

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


Rusting pontoon ferry sits on the side of the 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. 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 “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 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 Son

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

The Author testing Armored Personel Carrier on the old Ho Chi Minh trail

Kids having fun with a home made cart on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Kids having fun with a home made cart on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Home Made Cart On the Ho Chi Minh Trail

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.


Silent, in its new resting place.Ho Chi Minh trail

Sam Missile found and disarmed by UXO Laos, Near Ban Lankham.
Ho Chi Minh trail Laos


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

Armored car troop carrier hiding in the Jungle Xam Neua, Ho Chi Minh trail

2004 on the Ho Chi Minh trail Sam Missile

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

Ho chi minh trail fuel pod

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

Ho Chi Minh trail tad-hai-bridge1

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.

Ho-chi-minh-trail, Ban Bac Ammo Dump

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

Ho Chi Minh trail NFL-truck

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

Ho Chi Minh trail ammo-box

Ammo box full of 50 caliber rounds found near an Anti Aircraft emplacement along the Sihanook trail.

Ho chi minh trail ammo rounds

Ho Chi Minh trail, young Souk tribesman holds 50 caliber anti aircraft rounds, on the Cambodian border.

Ho chi minh trail camp

Camp along the Sihanook trail cooking wild birds, a Hornbill and Pheasant are on the menu this day

Ho Chi Minh trail bombvictim

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.

Ho chi minh trail bullets

These bullets found rusting in the jungle along the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Destroyed Jeep

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.

e Banchiang destroyed bridge at Tad Hi

Xe Banchiang destroyed bridge at Tad Hi, along the Ho Chi Minh trail

Xe Bangchiang ferry crossing on the Ho Chi Minh trail

Xe Bangchiang ferry crossing on the Ho Chi Minh trail


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


Stunning beauty, along the Nam Ngo river on the 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.


Samouay villager’s along the Ho Chi Minh trail Near target Echo Eight.

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

Images of War, red dust flying as these Kamaz rumble fully laden towards Dak Cheung Ho Chi Minh trail Laos

Ho Chi Minh Trail, remains of fuel depot

A mountain of fuel drums, Near Ta Oy Ho Chi Minh trail Laos

Ho Chi Minh trail fuel-dump

Archive photo of wartime truck park and fuel drum storage area like the photos above and below.
Ho Chi Minh Trail Explore Indochina

Ho Chi Minh Trail War Scrap

Russian ATS-59 was a Soviet cold war era artillery tractor., Ho Chi Minh trail Laos,
Gps Lao, Laosgpsmap

Ho Chi MInh Trail Dak Village

Teriang village on the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ho Chi Minh Trail Dak Cheung Laos

Alak villagers along the Ho Chi Minh trail Dak Cheung district.

Ho Chi Minh Trail Route 96 Attepue

Untouched since the war, a section of the Ho Chi Minh trail looking South towards Attepue

Ho Chi Minh Trail Blown Up Truck

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

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

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 “Ho 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, or below at LaosGPSmap [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Contact the Don at,

Ho Chi Minh trail bomb-carry

Washington DC Vietnam Memorial flowers, flags, army boots and plaques are displayed during the "Rolling Thunder" rally. 200,000 motorcycles visit the Washington  Memorial  Day each year.

Washington DC Vietnam Memorial flowers, flags, army boots and plaques are displayed during the “Rolling Thunder” rally. 200,000 motorcycles visit the Washington Memorial Day each year.

Aug 142012

“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 we were in trouble; the only thing to do was to hold on and enjoy the ride.

Less than a week before I’d been sitting in an office in London when my boss turned to me and asked; “How do you feel about a little trip to Laos next week?” A few days later I was on a plane to Bangkok, bags hastily packed, a slight sense of trepidation as to what the hell I had let myself in for. My mission: to recce a 600 km section of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail for a TV program I was producing. And since the only two people who knew the trail well enough to act as my guides were bikers, we’d be doing the trip by the glorious medium of two-wheels.

My boyfriend Marley was less than delighted about my latest task, “So, let me get this straight; you’re going to be spending a week riding a motorbike through the jungle, with your thighs wrapped around another man? I’m not the jealous type but..”

Don on the Russian missile
On the Ho Chi Minh Trail

The other man was Don Duvall and D Greenhalgh,  a bike and trail obsessive.  Don, dubbed the Midnight Mapper, has lived in Laos for 10 years and dedicated his life to mapping every single square inch of the Ho Chi Minh trail by GPS from the back of his trusty Honda XR400.  With a proclivity for frequent peals of laughter, Duvall’s cartographic retentiveness knows no bounds, and to date he has mapped more than 50,000 GPS points in Laos. I couldn’t have wished for two better people to be riding with.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail is arguably one of the greatest feats of military engineering in history, a Goliath of ingenuity and bloody determination. At its peak this 20,000km transport network spread like a spider’s web through Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, an indestructible labyrinth through which the North Vietnamese fed the war in the South. Without the trail, there could have been no war, a fact the Americans knew only too well. In a sustained eight-year campaign to destroy it they flew 580,000 bombing missions, dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on neutral Laos, denuded the jungle with chemicals, and seeded clouds to induce rain and floods. At one point Nixon even mooted the notion of deploying nuclear weapons.

Amazingly, considering its importance, there are very few people today who know of the whereabouts of the remaining sections of trail. Backpackers might ride a sanitized, tourist version of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam, but only a smattering of devotees make it as far as the real trail in Laos. Much of the vast network of roads and tracks has simply been lost forever to the jungle and most sections that do remain are heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO). Even today, almost 40 years after the last bomb was dropped, UXO is a deadly legacy of the war and still kills around 200 people a year. Since our ride would be following some of the main arteries of the trail, UXO was something we had to be very careful of –  there would be no diving off into the jungle for a wee.

The three of us set off from the village of Nongchan, a scrappy border settlement in the shadow of the Truong Son Mountains. This jungle-clad spine of karst peaks stretches for around 1,000 kilometers along the Vietnam-Lao border and would be our companion for much of the ride south. Since I’d never ridden a dirt-bike before and now wasn’t the time to start, I’d be riding pillion on a hired Kawasaki KLX 250, with Don solo on his Honda. As I poured myself into the non-existent gap between my driver and our tower of luggage, Don let out a whoop of laughter; “Jeeeesus, you two are going to have an interesting time, this ride is hard enough alone, let alone with two of you on that bike.” By the time I’d wedged myself in there was barely room for a Higgs boson.

Nongchan’s wooden shacks petered out into lush jungle, the morning mist hanging over jagged karst outcrops, the red dirt road cloggy from recent rain. Bomb-craters punctuated the roadside, a reminder that during the war this area, the Ban Phanop valley, had been pummelled into oblivion by the United States. Forced through a natural gap in the mountains from Vietnam, all southbound traffic on the trail was funnelled through this valley, a fact the U.S. knew only too well. It was so heavily bombed one U.S. pilot called it “the most God forsaken place on Earth.” Looking at the dense, verdant jungle that flanked us as we rode, it was hard to imagine that 40 years ago it would have looked like the surface of the moon.

The first village we came to was a single dusty street of ramshackle stilted houses. The whole village was a living war museum, and as we wandered up the street pointing out the countless bits of war ephemera converted for use in everyday life. Spring onions sprouted in rusty cluster bomb casings, women leaned against ladders made of aluminum fuel rods, boys paddled in canoes fashioned from fuel canisters, and a chicken nested in a missile nose-cone. Outside the small wooden temple the faded wing of a US F-4 fighter leaned against a tree, children peering at us through a large hole in the metal.

Walking past one house we noticed two large 500-pound bombs lying under the steps; “I’m sure those are still live ” look, they’ve still got the fuses on, - pointing to their shiny tips. No one seemed the remotest bit concerned though, and children’s bare feet ran past inches from the fuses. We later found out from an NGO that these two bombs were indeed live, and that the man who had found them was keeping them until he could sell them for scrap metal. It highlighted what terrible risks people here would take with UXO in order to sell the valuable scrap metal and put food on their family’s table.

Every village we rode through that day, and for much of our journey, bore the same scars of war. Cows wandered along the road wearing bells made of mortar fuses, houses were held up by cluster bomb casings, and schoolyards were pockmarked with bomb-craters. Often red UXO-warning markers poked out of the dust next to houses, outside schools, or on the edge of the dirt track. Yet these reminders of war seemed so incongruous with the children who waved and shouted “Sabadee!” as we rode past and the shy mothers smiling down at us from their huts.

Abandoned American tank at Ban Dong Laos
Ho Chi Minh trail

Laos is a country of a thousand rivers and as we rode south through Khammouane, Savannakhet, Saravan, Sekong, Attape, and Champassak provinces, we would cross what felt like a hundred of these. Methods of getting across these rivers varied according to depth, width, and how many people were watching. Generally it was a case of throttle-on-feet-up-and-ride, hoping we wouldn’t smack a large rock in the middle and get an ignominious ducking. Deeper crossings saw me being hoofed off, while he edged the bike across and I walked. If we were lucky there might be some sort of makeshift “bridge” – a questionably stable structure made of bamboo or galvanised metal.

Unexploded bombie. painted red by the UXO team.
Ho Chi Minh trail, GPS Lao

One river crossing was somewhat more perilous. This particular river was several hundred metres wide, and while trucks could just about drive, bikes had to make the short journey on an extremely narrow, very unstable wooden canoe, steered by a toothless old man wielding a single pole. He rode the bike on in front of me, the wheels wedged in the rut at the bottom of the canoe, his legs resting on the paper-thin sides for stability. “Just crouch down, sit behind me and don’t move”he said, not even daring to turn his head for fear of tipping us. I obeyed, hardly daring to breathe as the old man inched us across, so slowly that a large green lizard paddled past, eyeing us with a beady yellow eye. At one point we wobbled so violently I feared we’d be joining the lizard, and I could see His legs shaking.

Tired, muddy, elated, and in need of a Beer Lao, we rolled into Villabury at the end of the first day, 120km on the clock.”You’re going to love tonight,” He had said earlier, a glint of mischief in his eyes, “we’re staying at a tranny hotel.” I had visions of rolling up at a one-horse town in the jungle and finding a sequin-clad oasis of dancing ladyboys. Instead we were greeted by a rather corpulent, grumpy transvestite, whose short skirt revealed a pair of startlingly hairy legs. Nevertheless, it didn’t deter from the novelty of the situation, and the $8 rooms, cheap beer, and fried rice were just what we needed.

The crux of our ride was a 60km section between Nong and Ta Oy: “the boonies” as the boys called it – dense jungle inhabited by remote tribes, elephants, and the odd tiger. “No one’s ever ridden this section two-up, - warned my driver, as we filled up at a petrol shack in Nong where part of a tank languished outside, “I’m not even sure it’s possible.” The ride was every bit as hard as my driver and Don had warned, a thrilling cocktail of river crossings, mud, rocks and steep hills, the tree canopy enveloping the track in a green womb. Only one hill managed to get the better of us, the bike sliding over in the mud, caking us both in a sticky layer of Trail dirt.

The few villages we did ride through in this area were home to some of Laos’s 50 different ethnic groups; animists who speak no Lao and have few ties with the central government. Pot-bellied pigs, skinny dogs, and chickens scrapped in the dust and no one seemed to be doing much. It was as if achievement was measured by who could do as little as possible, for as long as possible, in as much shade as possible. There were no schools, no temples, no electricity, and by the looks of the swollen stomachs of many of the children who ran after us, not enough food. It was so remote here we didn’t even pass the ubiquitous, overloaded mopeds, which frequently trundled past us during the rest of our ride, weighed down by anything from bananas to saucepans, logs and even live pigs. The only traffic we saw on this section was a handful of women walking barefoot along the track, large bamboo tobacco bongs slung round their necks. Amazingly, two of them fled into the jungle in terror at the mere sight of us – evidence of the rarity of foreigners in these parts.

At Ta Oy we emerged from the crepuscular darkness of the jungle onto the packed dirt of a new road, a row of parked up diggers and width of which suggested this was destined to be a major highway. It was a bizarre juxtaposition to the remoteness of the jungle. Aching and adrenalized, we checked in to the only “hotel” and celebrated our victory over the crux by getting utterly inebriated on Lao Lao, a potent local moonshine which should only be imbibed in the absence of anything else. Since Ta Oy was, ” shithole,” and our hotel was a plywood, mosquito infested dive, getting drunk was an exceptionally good idea.

Abandoned truck along the Ho Chi Minh trail

The accommodation may not have been high luxury, but one of the many wonderful things about this ride was our ever evolving environment. We breezed along sections of graded red dirt, spun through glutinous mud, sped along the occasional winding ribbon of tarmac, and bumped over original Ho Chi Minh Trail cobblestones. And as we pushed south, the topography changed entirely, morphing from jungle to strange pine-clad plateaus, redolent of Greece or Turkey. At Chavan, a parched plateau used by the French as an airstrip in the Indochina War, we ate a picnic lunch in an old bomb-crater, then spent an exhilarating few hours trailing Don’s bike through the pines, leaves eddying up behind his wheels. Later that day the land changed again, the beautiful Bolaven plateau rising to our right, Truong Son mountains to our left, blue sky and ochre dirt completing the picture. Dipping down towards Attapeu as dusk fell, we passed the rusting hulk of a tank, abandoned in some distant battle, every ounce of removable metal stripped from it for scrap.

Our last stretch was 200 kilometers of surprisingly smooth tarmac between Attapeu and Pakse, a final dash before I had to cross the border to Thailand and catch a flight home. The ride had been such a blast, and Don and Dig such excellent companions, I wasn’t relishing the thought of being catapulted back to the normality of an English winter. With barely a moment to spare before I had to leave for the airport, we skidded into Pakse, a backpacker haunt on the Mekong, and after a hasty goodbye to the boys it was all over. Much to the disgust of my neighbor on the long flight home, I hadn’t even had time to wash or change, and traveled the whole way to England covered in a thick layer of trail mud. It was a strangely satisfying end to a truly marvellous adventure.

Ants Bolingbroke-Kent writes The Itinerant. To join a small group ride down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, contact D0n at, The map costs a bargainous $50. A tour with the mapper himself a smidge more than this.