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The Ho Chi Minh Trail: Then and Now (Part 3)

crossing a shallow river on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

The Ho Chi Minh Trail Then and Now

We’ve spent more than 20 years exploring and photographing the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and have compiled this set of images comparing what it looked like then with now. This is part 3.

Pipeline Network

North Vietnamese building a pipeline
To keep the trucks fueled, the NVA had to build a petrol pipeline, one of the longest in the world at the time.
old pipe supporting a house
Local people use the old sections of pipe when building houses.
Vietnamese workers installing fuel pipes
The entire network was installed by hand.
couplings on a length of fuel pipe
Notice the couplings are the same as in the photo to the left.
a fuel depot on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
There were numerous fuel depots along the length of the Trail.
a ruined fuel tank
A much better alternative to the original plan which saw porters carry bladders of petrol on their backs.
enormous petrol storage tanks north of Sepon
Enormous petrol storage tanks north of Sepon.
blast wall protecting petrol tanks
Blast walls protected the petrol tanks from US bombs.

River Crossings and US Black Ops Bases

a river crossing on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Along the Trail were numerous rivers. Some were crossed by fords.
a river crossing north of Bualapha
North of Bualapha.
Vietnamese military ferry crossing
Others were crossed by ferries.
a remnant of a ferry at Ban Bak
A remnant of which still exists at Ban Bak.
US special forces staging post called Leghorn
In southern Laos near the tri-border with Vietnam and Cambodia, US special forces set up a staging post called Leghorn.
the view of Leghorn from the Cambodian border
Its imposing location can still be seen while riding the Trail near the Cambodian border.
Leghorn from above
Leghorn proved unassailable due to its location on top of a steep limestone cliff.
leghorn from the trail
Local villages cut a trail to the former site and removed most of the scrap metal left behind.

AK47s, SAAMs and Aircraft

SAAM missiles in the Vietnam War
SAAM missiles were not used extensively on the Trail, as they were used primarily to defend North Vietnam.
Explore Indochina riders by a SAAM missile
But they were used in the Mu Gia and Ban Laboy regions, and a number were left behind at the war's conclusion while on their way to south Vietnam.
Vietnamese soldiers with surface to air missiles
They proved effective at forcing planes to fly lower, thereby bringing them within range of smaller AA guns.
missile casing at the base of the Mu Gia pass
A SAAM at the base of the Mu Gia Pass.
missiles being transported during the Vietnam War
SAAMs were transported in large cigar-like tubes.
part of a missile on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Parts of which still litter the Trail.
a surface to air missile being fired
All told some 205 planes were shot down by them.
Digby holding a missile warhead
The explosive warhead was at the front of the SAAM.
a soldier by an A1 Skyraider
The A1 Skyraider proved a real workhorse due to its ability to soak up fire, high ordinance portage and ability to stay in the air for a long time. A favorite for search and rescue missions.
missile tubes in a UXO camp in Attepeu
Notice the triangular shape of the tubes, here seen in a UXO camp in Attepeu.
a cluster bomb being used as a lamp
The cluster bombs dropped from these tubes were turned into lamps, as seen in the bottom-centre of this photo.
a cluster bomb being used as a lamp beside a DVD remote
As they still do so today, but this time next to a DVD player.
Vietnamese soldiers carrying wires
The NVA installed a wire-based communication system, some 13,000 km in length.
old wire poles
North of Villabury. Notice that the insulators are the same.
Vietnamese soldier laying cable by hand
The wired network was installed by hand.
discarded wire reels north of Ban Bak
Discarded wire reels north of Ban Bak.
Vietnamese troops with AK47s
The iconic AK-47.
breakfast on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Sometimes we find AK-47s while riding the Trail.
a Vietnamese soldier with an AK
AK-47s were simple, tough and effective.
old AK in a scrap yard near Paksan
An old AK-47 in a scrap yard near Paksan.
Vietnamese soldiers drinking
Notice the water bottles at the centre bottom of the photo.
army water bottle being used as a cow bell
Water bottles also find a modern day role as cow bells!
bomb fuses
Many kinds of fuses were used: timed, impact, chemical, etc.
bomb fuses being used as cow bells
They make good cow bells.
American checking bombs
Notice the fuses at the front of the bomb. There was typically a backup on in the tail as well.
a fuse being used as a cow bell on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Another fuse cow bell.
multi barrel M-61 Gatling gun
The multi-barrel M-61 Gatling gun was very lethal.
an old Gatling gun found on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
And found itself attached to helicopters, jets and gun ships.
a gunship in the Vietnam War
When mounted to the left side of an AC-130 Spectre gunship, the M-61 proved lethal to trucks on the Trail.
American Spectre
Spectre gunships were equipped with infrared, night vision, two Gatling guns and one 105 mm cannon and were highly effective against trucks.
Americans with M-61 ammunition
The M-61 could shoot an astonishing 6,000 rounds per minute.
an unspent M-61 shell south of the Mu Gia pass
An unspent M-61 shell south of the Mu Gia pass.

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