The Ho Chi Minh Trail: Then and Now (Part 4)

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Top Gear team photo at Ha Long Bay
One of the world’s most popular shows teamed up with Explore Indochina to make TV magic. Top Gear: Vietnam Special was absolutely legendary.

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Devastation

the bridge at Sepon
Multiple strikes destroyed the bridge at Sepon.
a crater north of Ban Bak
A crater north of Ban Bak.
a heavily bombed river crossing
A heavily bombed river crossing, location unkown.
craters in the Ban Phanop choke point
Craters in the Ban Phanop choke point.
the Trail north of Villabury
The Trail north of Villabury. Notice the fresh crater in the middle of the photo.
a crater south of Muong Nong
A crater south of Muong Nong.
hundreds of craters photographed during the Vietnam War
Unrelenting bombing created moonscapes in Laos.
a crater at the base of the Mu Gia pass
A crater at the base of the Mu Gia Pass.
the Falls choke point in far south Laos
The Falls choke point in far south Laos.
a crater in the Mu Gia pass area
A crater at the base of the Mu Gia Pass.
results of a series of B-52 strikes
The result of a series of B-52 strikes along the Foxtrot choke point north of Sepon.
a crater in the Ban Phanop valley
A crater in the Ban Phanop Valley.

Operation Igloo White

seismic listening devices
Thousand of seismic listening devices were dropped on the Trail by the USA as part of the elaborate 'Igloo White' program.
an Explore Indochina rider by some bombs
The idea was to listen into night time activity on the Trail to coordinate attacks in regions where the trucks were heard.
a sensor being dropped by hand
Early in the war the sensors were dropped by hand.
seismic listening device
Vietnamese counter measures included moving the sensors and starting up truck engines carried on bamboo poles to random locations each night.
seismic listening devices being dropped by jet
The sensors were dropped by jet later in the war as the Trail became more dangerous.
Vietnamese soldier inspecting a seismic listening device
NVA soldiers became adept at finding and moving the sensors.
base of the Igloo White Program
The entire program was controlled by Task Force Alpha, located at an ultra secret base in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand.
the Igloo White computer
Technicians used the largest computer in the world at the time to analalys data received from the sesors to try and predict when and where the trucks were heading.

Logistics

an NVA officer leads an attack
An NVA officer, pistol in hand, leads a counter attack during Operation Lam Son 719.
a pistol found in a scrap metal shop in Khe Sanh
A similar pistol found in a scrap metal shop in Khe Sanh.
a bandaged Vietnamese truck driver
A bandaged Vietnamese truck driver.
an old steering wheel in a river
The same type of truck steering wheel can be seen in a river bed west of Ban Bak.
another Vietnamese truck driver
An iconic photo of a Vietnamese truck driver.
a steering wheel found in a scrap yard near Sepon
A steering wheel in a scrap yard near Sepon.
Vietnamese women carrying armaments
Women accounted for a large percentage of Trail workers.
an artillery shell found by road workers while widening the Trail north of Villabury
The same kind of munition was found by road workers while widening the Trail north of Villabury.
a Russian BTR troop carrier
A Russian BTR troop carrier.
a BTR gun turret in Muong Nong
A discarded BTR gun turret in Muong Nong.
Vietnamese soldiers digging with shovels
Some 30,000 workers, many of them women, kept the Trail open.
old tools found on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Their simple tools, such as spades, picks and hammers, are commonly seen on the Trail.
a Vietnamese soldier with a pickaxe
Many of the workers on the Trail were only 18 or 19 years old.
a pick head found near Ta Oi
A pick head found near Ta Oi.
workers using mallets to install traffic signs
Workers use mallets and hammers to install traffic signs on the Trail.
a hammer made from the clamp from a bomb
The small hammer to the right of this photo is made from a clamp taken from a US bomb.
Vietnamese soldiers in the Ban Phanop area
The Ban Phanop Valley was a natural choke point because trucks where forced to drive through a small opening in the karst rock formations.
Explore Indochina riders stopped by some karst
The karst in the Ban Phanop Valley is visibly shattered by the relentless bombing that targetted it.
Vietnamese soldiers chatting
At regular intervals along the Trail were way stations which housed hospitals, repair stations and protective bunkers for the trucks.
a truck axle dragged out of the jungle south of Ta Oi
A truck axle dragged out of the jungle south of Ta Oi.
a station on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
There were up to 70 such way stations, called Binh Trams, stretched out along the Trail.
truck parts found north of Kaleum
Truck parts found north of Ta Oi.
a bridge destroyed during the Vietnam War
Early on in the war all bridges in southern Laos were destroyed.
Explore Indochina riders next to a ruined bridge
This old French bridge at Tad Hai remains destroyed.
Digby Greenhalgh

By Digby Greenhalgh

Digby Greenhalgh is the founder of Explore Indochina, and a recognized expert on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. All motorcycle tours are designed and guided by Digby.