Ho Chi Minh trail

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The Ho Chi Minh trail was a logistical system that ran from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) through the neighboring kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia. The system provided support, in the form of manpower and materiel, to the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, or derogatively, Vietcong, and the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), or North Vietnamese Army, during the Vietnam War (1955–1975).

The trail was not a single route, but rather a complex maze of truck routes, paths for foot and bicycle traffic, and river transportation systems. The name, taken from North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh, is of American origin. Although the trail was mostly in Laos, the communists called it the Truong Son Strategic Supply Route, after a mountain range in central Vietnam.[1] According to the U.S. National Security Agency's official history of the war, the Trail system was "one of the great achievements of military engineering of the 20th century."[2]


Origins (1959–1965)

Parts of what became the Ho Chi Minh trail had existed for centuries as primitive footpaths that facilitated trade in the region. The area through which the system meandered was among the most challenging in Southeast Asia: a sparsely-populated region of rugged mountains (1,500–8,000 feet), triple-canopy jungle and dense primeval rainforests. During the First Indochina War the Viet Minh maintained north/south communication utilizing this system of trails and paths.

In 1959, Hanoi established the 559th Transportation Group under the command of Colonel (later General) Vo Bam to improve and maintain a transportation system to supply the NLF uprising against the South Vietnamese government.[3] Originally, the North Vietnamese effort concentrated on infiltration across and immediately below the Demilitarized Zone that separated the two Vietnams.[4]

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