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

the Ho Chi Minh Trail can be an uphill struggle at times

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 4.

Devastation

the bridge at Sepon
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 made moonscapes out of 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
Results of a series of B-52 strikes along the Foxtrot choke point north of Sepon.
a crater in the Ban Phanop valley
Crater in the Ban Phanop valley.

Operation Igloo White

seismic listening devices
Thousand of seismic listening devices were dropped on the Trail 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, so as to coordinate attacks in the regions where the trucks were heard.
a sensor being dropped by hand
Early on they were dropped by hand.
seismic listening device
The Vietnamese counter measures included simply moving the sensors, fooling them with toads filled with tobacco, or having workers start up truck engines on bamboo poles at random locations each night.
seismic listening devices being dropped by jet
But as the Trail became more dangerous, the sensors had to be dropped by jet.
Vietnamese soldier inspecting a seismic listening device
NVA soldiers became adept at finding and moving the sensors.
base from the Igloo White Program
The entire program was controlled by the ultra secret base just over the Mekong river in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand.
the Igloo White computer
Which housed the largest computer in the world at the time.

Logistics

an NVA officer leads an attack
An NVA officer leads an attack during Operation Lam Son.
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
Notice the same steering wheel in this river bed.
another Vietnamese truck driver
Another Vietnamese truck driver.
a steering wheel found in a scrap yard near Sepon
A similar 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 BTR gun turret in Muong Nong.
Vietnamese soldiers digging with shovels
Some 30,000 people, many of them women, kept the Trail open.
old tools found on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Their tools litter the Trail.
a Vietnamese soldier with a pickaxe
Many 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 to install traffic signs.
a hammer made from the clamp from a bomb
Notice that the hammer to the right is made from the clamp from a bomb.
Vietnamese soldiers in the Ban Phanop area
The Ban Phanop area was a natural choke point as the trucks heading southwards had no choice but to drive through a small opening in the karst rock formations.
Explore Indochina riders stopped by some karst
The karst there still shows signs of having been shattered
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
At the Trail's height, there were some 70-odd such stations.
truck parts found north of Kaleum
Truck parts found north of Kaleum.
a bridge destroyed during the Vietnam War
Early on in the conflict all bridges of note were cut off.
Explore Indochina riders next to a ruined bridge
This old French bridge remains destroyed.

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