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Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh Trail 6:  Living and fighting during War Time - details and Nixon's criminal attack on Laos of 1971

described by Khi and Gii

presented by Michael Palomino (2013)



from: The H Ch Minh Trail; Hong Khi and Th Gii Publishers 2008; English translation; first edition 2001; second edition 2008; printed in Vit Nam; VN - TG - 6.149-1
6  <Living and fighting in [the mountain range of] Trung Son during war time> - Nixon's criminal attack on Laos of 1971

[Hunger and diseases]

<Living in the Trung Son mountains and forests, one is certain that the scythe of Death is ready to fall on one's head at any moment. Death can come through material matters: food, shortage, lack of clothes, and illness without medical treatment. In the years 1968-1972, the Trung Son combatants were supplied daily with only 150 gr of rice. Besides hunger, diseases were rife: hepatitis, ascites malaria, etc., and there were continuous enemy air attacks. Fear and nostalgia constantly put pressure on the morale of the combatants.> (p.71)

[Bombing figures: 13 million tons of "monkey" bombs and shells]

<According to still incomplete statistics, from 1965 to 1971, each South Vietnamese received 1,215 pounds of bomb and shell (about 600 kg). During the same period, Vit Nam as a whole was subject to 13 million tons of bombs and shell (p.71), equivalent to 450 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima.> (p.72)

[Dioxin figures: 90,000 tons of highly toxic dioxin chemicals]

<Furthermore, the entire Trung Son region was sprayed with 90,000 tons of toxic chemicals containing dioxin, which is dangerous for both the environment and human beings. As little as 1,000 gr of dioxin is enough to kill a man. Over the whole war in South Vit Nam, the US dropped 500 kg [500.000?] of dioxin-containing chemicals (2,4 D, 2, 4, 5-T, Picloram), which formed yellow-orange, white or blue toxic clouds. (p.72)

US official publications say that between 1961 and 1971 about 44 million liters of orange chemicals, 20 million liters of white chemicals, and 8 million liters of blue chemicals were sprayed. (p.72)

[Dioxin mass killings in the jungle of trees and animals - except the rat - mass killings within the population]

Almost all the forests in Trung Son were polluted by US toxic chemicals. Many valuable forests, animal and plant species were annihilated. For instance, before 1965, the A Lui valley in Western Qung Tri was a region of tropical forests, green all the year round with many species of trees and a varied vegetal carpet, with 150 species of birds and 40 species of wild animals. Fish teemed in its rivers and lakes. From 1965 to 1970, the [monkey] US dropped a huge quantity of bombs and herbicides, resulting in the complete destruction of 100,000 ha of forest and the driving away of all kinds of animals, except the rat. (p.72)

The A Lui region had about 7,500 inhabitants, forming two ethnic groups T i and Ka Tu. Of them, the war killed 2,000 persons, 1,600 of which died from herbicides. How many (p.72) villages were there along East and West Trung Son which had suffered the same fate as A Lui? Tourists are invited to come to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which has many parallel and perpendicular cross-sections that allow for an effective means of communication.> (p.73)

From the chapter 8 Epilogue:

[North Vietnam Air defense eliminating aircrafts - and living Ho Chi Minh Trail]

<Air defense of the Liberation Forces had caused great losses to the US Air Force. In only 15 months , from January 1970 to April 1971, 65 planes had been shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, according to an official announcement. US Air Force Secretary Robert Simon stated that during the 1969-1970 dry season, 21 thousand tons of supplies had been conveyed from North Vit Nam to the last destinations in South Vit Nam, and during the 1970-1971 dry season, the US Air Force had detected 23,000-25,000 trucks rolling on the Ho Chi Minh Trail." (p.107)

(in: People's Daily: The Air War in Indochina; issue of 20 May 1979)

[Bloody feet]

<During the anti-US war, the Trung Son troops used to advance in Indian file [column of 1 person] when they went on foot, for safety reasons and for easy maneuvering. In front of them, there might be a narrow lane just wide enough for one man to walk, or an open expanse that had been repeatedly bombed, a field of timed bombs, a thin forest, or a plot scorched by phosphoric bombs. In other areas, they could slowly and steadily advance with their knapsacks or dossers on their shoulders.

Still others had to clench their jaws, press their lips together, and stampede across an area considered a target of enemy bombing. The rush was so swift that it made their feet bleed.> (p.73)

[Signs: a branch at a crossing]

<The soldier walking in Trung Son must be intelligent and react quickly. At crossroads, a broken tree branch implied many things. If it was inadvertently removed by the man in the front, at once those in the rear might lose their way and fall into danger.> (p.73)

[Every Vietcong soldier had a "Trung Son stick"]

<In troop movement, walking took more time but one followed safer routes and could admire the beauty of Trung Son. The Trung Son stick was the good traveling campaign of the Trung Son soldier. Almost all the walkers on the Ho Chi Minh Trail had their own stick. Generally, the stick was small but hard and solid, being made of (p.73) a tree branch, a section of liana, or a phyllotachys stem.

It helped the walker
-- feel his way, or
-- ford a stream;
-- it supported his load at a rest;
-- it spared his effort in mounting a slope;
-- it put across two stones,
-- it could serve as a seat;
-- it offered a pole for hanging the mosquito-net.

It could be also used as a hubble-bubble tobacco pipe; a hole was pricked in the upper part of the phyllotachys stick; water was put in and a self-made pipe-bowl was adjusted to the hole, and the soldier could have the pleasure of a smoke.> (p.74)

[Personal hunting and cooking by the Vietcong soldiers - recipes]

<Looking for vegetables, catching fish, and hunting were for the troops in Trung Son not only a way to overcome the immediate shortage of foodstuffs but also a pleasure and a distraction. And every soldier in Trung Son could cook food. (p.74)

-- the "nhoi" (nhi) leaf should be finely cut and cooked with timed meat;
-- the "chan ech" ("chn ch", frog leg) leaf, which is as green as a rice plant, crumpled and boiled, gave a soup as delicious as the dish prepared with snails, young banana, and "xuong sng" leaf;
-- the boiled "don buot" (don but) leaf produced pickle, its stem and its old leaf, if boiled, constituted a refreshing beverage;
-- the "rau dn", "cn tri", "chua b", "dng dnh" leaves were all eatable. Don't be afraid that they may be poisonous because they have long been tested. (p.74)

In general, any kind of leaf eaten by monkeys, gibbons, pigs and the poultry or any other animals are also comestibles to man. Suspect leaves can always be tested; if they are not bitter, not acrid, not sour, if their flowers have red tender buds, variegated petals and a smell neither pungent nor (p.74) fetid, the leaves are surely harmless. Coming to a place where he will garrison, a Vietnamese soldier in Trung Son will observe the terrain and know what vegetables and foodstuffs are available for his meal. For instance, in a dry and sunny place, he is sure to have wild tamarind, ground gourd [pumpkin], "chua ngt", and "dy bn". On humid soil, he will find vegetables "tu bay" (airplane leaves), "rau mo g" (cock crest), or "rau dn", "rau mc" (lance-shaped), "co phng". In perennial forests, at the foot of big old trees, "mn thuc", "tai voi", "chua khan", and "mng ngua" (horse hoof) are found. (p.75)

To facilitate the search for green vegetables, a soldier-poet has composed a poem on the Trung Son wild leaves:

"In perennial forests, green vegetables are found
'Tm phuc' can be got near streams and gullies, sour wild managosteen on branches
'Thp mm mo', 'dng', 'cng cua', 'm
d' (plantain) and 'rau m' (centella) are kings (highly appreciated) on the battlefield:
'Tai tru' (buffalo ear), v ngua (horse hoof) grow at road side;
Having 'tn' and 'cc', don't slight 'tu bay';
Though delicious, mushrooms may be noxious;
Bamboo shoots and chillies give the hottest soup." (p.75)

[Medical stations with special food and drinks - engineering units and some stairs without end]

<Steep slopes and high passes were most suitable places to set up medical stations where women physicians offered forest teas, areca ginseng, and invigorating pills to the troops to relieve their tiredness after their strenuous march. (p.75)

For their part, engineering units and couriers carved flights of steps in the slopes and passes. For instance, the rather steep and over 4 km long Nguyn Ch Thanh slope is provided with a flight of 1,080 steps. It takes one hour to climb from the bottom to the top.> (p.76)

[Heavy driving conditions]

<Moving on the Trung Son Range is very hard and dangerous, even by motor vehicles. One has to put up with the bumpiness of the road and the blinding swirls of red dust or to roll on many portions of road or on the mountain peaks with deep abysses on the side, the "sky bridges" or "Trung Son dykes", as they were called by drivers. From morning until night, white clouds hide the road surface, and the conductors must carefully pic their way while driving.> (p.76)

[Military stations]

<Following the liaison line, the traveler will learn of the military stations which are innumerable on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Each military station had its own life and represented a regiment-sized logistic unit of Army Corps 559. It was responsible for all of the logistics in a large area. Therefore, generally it was composed of
-- one battalion of motor vehicles,
-- one battalion of liaison agents, and
-- one battalion of army engineering.

Besides, each station had at least
-- one company of telecommunication workers,
-- one company of infantry troops, and
-- one company of store keepers.> (p.76)

[Military stations: guests in the military stations]

<Army units moving on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and having to stop over in a stage of the station were designated by the common appellation of (p.76) "guest."

Guests were varied but the greater part were troops and vanguard youths. After a leg of the march, arriving in a stage, guests were to perform some simple formalities (to register the number of persons). They received accommodation and food but they had to arrange their next stay with the guest station. The Corps 559 had kept ready many houses with roofs most often made of "trung qun" leaves, which does not easily catch fire when dry.

There were many columns in the houses for hanging hammocks. When the guests became numerous, layers of hammocks were hung to accommodate them. The guests were not fastidious and accepted what they were given. When the houses were full, they would live on guest-reserved ground in a forest of small trees that was no bigger than a house, near a water source convenient for washing and bathing. About 100 m away was the toilet area.> (p.77)

[Military stations: kitchen at a military station]

<The guests could chose a place for cooking. They made a Hong Cm stove and prepared their meal themselves (Hong Cm was the name of a combatant from the anti-French war who invented the stove bearing his name). The stove was dug into the ground and had several underground chimneys for gradually letting out smoke that were set close to the surface to prevent detection by enemy airplanes. As fuel, dry branches and oleaginous plants were used. Often a piece of rubber was added to kindle the fire more quickly.> (p.77)

[Military stations: sleeping place with a hammock]

<To prepare a sleeping place, the Trung Son soldier first must choose two trees just far apart from each other to hang a hammock. Then, he must ascertain the existence (p.77) of an air raid shelter nearby. If there was none, he had to make one. He would also cut thorny wild bushes down to the ground and remove the rocks in order to have a flat surface so that, in case his hammock was broken or untied, he would fall down safely. His knapsack and his rifle were put within his reach. In the anti-US war, for a few days rest, such a place could be said to be satisfactory. If orders came to set out, one could leave light-heartedly. At the next military station, the same routine would be replaced, and the Trung Son combatants complied with it out of their own free will. They did everything (eat, sleep, provide safety measures) by themselves without being reminded.> (p.78)

[Military stations: guest life in military stations: reports and sharing things and cooking]

<If the stay in the guest ground was prolonged, it was natural that normal daily activities happened. The guests would be busy looking for their co-villagers in the nearby guest ground. And when they met one another, they talked noisily and cheerfully about their families and about fighting on the battlefield. The concept of what constitutes having the same place of origin varies. They could come from the same village, the same commune, the same district, the same province, and the same zone. Furthermore, they were from the same country and had therefore befriended one another. (p.78)

An atmosphere of festivity would prevail; they offered one another whatever they had in their knapsack: a package of dry provisions, a tin of power milk, Tam Dao cigarettes (a highly appreciated brand, for many smokers), a piece of a parachute, a trophy dagger (p.78), a self-made duraluminium [?] comb, or a lighter. When they had nothing more to offer, they resorted to the self-sufficient manioc field to dig out a few roots, to boil or grill them and to eat for pleasure and fun. Everybody could use this field, provided that the principle planting one root after eating it was respected. This was very simple and needed no effort. The reputedly fertile red basalt soil of [the mountain range of] Trung Son, turned over to plant the cuttings, made the roots sprout up within ten days. The manioc roots of Trung Son were big and starchy, good to eat.> (p.79)

[Cultural life in the military stations]

<The life of the Trung Son troops during the anti-US war was culturally rich, as recorded in various forms by many poets and writers or by the soldiers themselves, through novels, short stories, accounts, poems, diaries, and letters of correspondence.> (p.79)

[Military vehicles: especially modified transport bicycles]

<There are many kinds of vehicles on the road in Trung Son, from transport bicycles to tanks. Transport bicycles in the anti-US war developed the tradition of those of Dien Bien Phu (Din Bin Ph, a cluster of French military posts have strategic importance regarding not only Vit Nam but Indochina as a whole, a city of Din Bin Province in North-West Vit Nam). The load carried by transport bicycles was always 250-350 kg. These record loads were carried not only by men but also by women. Some women succeeded in pushing 264 kg over hundreds of kilometers. The transporters worked day and night. At night they had the initiative of using kerosene lamps (p.79) with a leaf or a bamboo spathe fixed behind the flame instead of using chimneys. The lamps attached to the shaft of the bicycle, were not extinguished because there was no wind, the forest being thick.> (p.80)

[Military vehicles: demining trucks - details about transportation by truck with turn back kitchens and medals]

<Stories about trucks were more interesting. Besides transporting loads, trucks also destroyed US bombs, particularly the magnetic bombs, which exploded on contact with some steel or iron object. When the suicide drivers accelerated their trucks to the highest, the speed made the bomb explode but the truck remained undamaged.(p.80)

On the Ho Chi Minh Trail, transport means were closely related to the roads. When the covered roads were installed, truck convoys could go a long distance without stopping and the so-called "turn back" kitchens were also organized. (p.80)

The portion of road was 120 km long; according to norm, it should be covered in two nights. The driver who achieved his job in one night was conferred a diploma of merit and a packet of Tam Dao cigarettes. To preserve the driver's health, a half-way stop, the "turn back" kitchen, was established, on the principle that after finishing his journey, the driver delivered the cargo and turn back to the half-way stop. There he was offered 4 "The Cock" cigarettes and a meal more generous than normal (rice, biscuits, sugar, milk). He would then rest until the afternoon of the following day and return to his point of departure to receive new cargo and the cycle of routine work began again. Thanks to this organizing (p.80) method, in the 1971 Southern Laos campaign and in many others, a great number of drivers over fulfilled the target and met the requirements of the front. They were awarded medals admitted to the Communist Party of Vit Nam and allotted a two month leave of absence.> (p.81)

[Details about transportation: walky talky and code names of the drivers]

<There are also numerous stories out there. Generally truck drivers over long distances were provided with walky-talkies. In emergencies, they reported to the managing center for assistance and they announced their coded name, like "Eagle" or "Sparrow calling in". The managing center often received preposterous information, for instance, "Sparrow" had a type puncture, "Eagle" had its water tank perforated. Afterwards these secret names were abolished not to waste the time of the managing center.> (p.81)

[Details about transportation: gun transportation in sand - example Mr. Phat's tank]

<Memories remained fresh in the minds of the Trung Son combatants. For example, the artillery gun used in the attack on the Kom Plng enemy post (in North Ty Nguyn) is called a "sand tank". It was an automatic gun improved in 1951 by soldier Nguyn B Pht of the 5th Interzone. Originally it was a SKZ (recoilless gun) for the destruction of fortifications at short range. To move the gun in grater safety, Pht made a frame surrounding the gun and put sand inside the frame, as a mobile fortification. Artillerymen had only to bring it close to the enemy post and to open fire. Resounding victories were son in this way. The Trung Son combatants also called the gun "Mr. Pht's tank". Twenty five years of (p.81) struggle had passed from this sand tank to the real tank N 843 of the Commando Brigade 202 (secret name Ng
ĩa Bnh), which entered the Independence Palace on the morning of April 30, 1975 to liberate Saigon, after moving from Khe Sanh (Quang Tri Province).> (p.82)

[Soldier reports: stories about tigers]

<Stories about the Trung Son soldiers can keep one entertained throughout the night without getting bored. They are as fascinating as the Arabian legends of "The Thousand and One Nights".> (p.82)

<For example, there is a story of the liaison Trn Van Tang, who had gone up and down hills on the Ho Chi Minh Trail for ten years to fulfill his task to perfection. He had walked about 20,000 km. Twice he escaped being caught by a tiger. The first time he hung his hammock up on a tree, and the tiger was below him with his hackles up, waiting to pounce on him. The second time he was sleeping in his hammock not far from the ground when a tiger jumped on him, but he plunged into the river and swam to the other side.> (p.82)

[Soldier reports:
stories about victories of "Corps 559": destruction of "US" military posts and bases in 1968]

<The soldiers of the Corps 559, were always busy, each doing his job willingly and complying with the standard way of living and fighting laid down by the Corps Command. There is the story of 10 heroic combatants at the La La Stream, who defeated over 200 GIs. Through concerted efforts in living, working, and fighting, the troops in Trung Son, under the leadership of the Corps Command 559, had many victories, both great and small. Throughout 1968, all US military posts and bases along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, such as (p.82) Dc Miu, Cn Tin, Ai Tu, T Con, and Lng Vy were destroyed by the Army Corps 559. Finally, after 170 consecutive days of fighting, our troops had defeated the Khe Sanh Base - a pan-shaped hollow that the US Command hoped to make an extremely important strategic mobile base for the control of all three Indochinese countries by completely cutting off the supply line (i.e. the Ho Chi Minh Trail) of North Vit Nam. (p.83)

[Soldier reports: Road N 9 and Khe Sanh Base in 1968]

<In fact, the US direct intervention in Vit Nam Road N 9 and Khe Sanh base had become well-known all around the world. It was Khe Sanh that President Johnson had wrote to the US generals to defend at any cost, and the T Con Airfield near Khe Sanh have all kinds of fighter and transport planes, except the flying fortresses B.52, that were based to carry out attacks all over Indochina. They were both destroyed by the combatants of Corps 559. Six or seven years later, the wreckages of planes, scrap iron from stores, anti-aircraft guns and shells were still scattered in utter disorder over the ground.> (p.83)

[Statistics about Khe Sanh campaign in 1968]

<During the Khe Sanh Campaign in 1968, 17,000 enemy troops were killed, including 13,000 GIs. Captures and destroyed war materials, such as artillery guns and particularly the "Kings of battlefields", as Americans proudly called them, motor vehicles, airplanes, gasoline, ammunition, ground army weapons, bombs and mines, were innumerable. (p.83)

In his 13 July 1968 letter to lawyer Nguyn H
ũu Tho, the Chairman of the National Front for (p.83) Liberation of South Vit Nam, President Ho Chi Minh wrote:

"Our victory in Khe Sanh evidences the invincibility of our army and people's strategy and strength. It has contributed a significant part to the great victories won by our people in South Vit Nam. Together with the big victories in other battlefields, it paves the way for still bigger victories."> (p.84)

[Nixon's attack on Laos with 45,000 troops - the battle for Road N 9 in 1971]

<Three years later, the Trung Son troops again dealt a deadly blow at the US forces in Road N 9 in Southern Laos. The then US President, R. Nixon, nurtured a strategic plan that used the important region of Southern Laos to cut off the supply route to Cambodia and South Vit Nam. In fact, in previous  years, the US Air Force had been used to cut off this supply line but to no avail. Now a large-scale campaign was launched with infantry in great number. Moreover, Nixon also wanted to retrieve his program of "Vietnamization of the War" and to maintain a strong military posture so as to keep his presidency for another term. (p.84)

Forty-five thousand US and Saigon troops under the command of general Abraham, Commander of the US Expeditionary Corps in South Vit Nam, advanced to North Quang Tri with thousands of planes, 1,500 military vehicles, 400 artillery guns and large-caliber mortars and started the Lam Son 719 Operation against Southern Laos. At the same time, in Khe Sanh, 23,000 troops including 15,000 GIs, over 700 planes, 200 guns and mortars, and over 1,000 military vehicles were concentrated along Road N 9 from Dng H to (p.84) Lao Bao, a distance of 70 km. (p.85)

But the whole operation was a bitter failure. The US and Saigon troops were pitifully battered because before the 1971 rainy season, the Army Corps 559 Command had brought here an artillery regime and the Special Task Tank Brigade 193 whose combatants were mostly natives of the North-West and Vit Bc well-versed in moving and fighting in forests. The Units of Army Corps 559 occupied the mountain peaks. Army Division F2 had also regrouped to the North of Road N 9, out of which, Regiment 22 was nicknamed "the steel regiment" and the Ngu Bnh Hero division of the Bnh Tri Thin military region was in charge of Peak 550. Military Station 33 was completely entrusted with organizing logistics and mobilized all its combatants to fully meet all the requirements of the campaign. Single-mindedness and determination prevailed throughout the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Trung Son troops had foiled the US air-born tactics in Southern Laos. Before 1971 anti-aircraft guns were in existence in South Vit Nam and in all networks of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The US and their puppets felt in command with their helicopters. (p.85)

The Corps 559 Command had foreseen that the enemy's strong points on Road N 9 - the Southern Laos Campaign - where transporting their troops by helicopters, it also guessed the route followed by the helicopters, along with the minimum and maximum numbers of planes. Therefore, it knew the possible path of the US-puppet troops. The enemy was utterly in the dark about the anti-aircraft fire power of the (p.85) Liberation troops. In reality, seven days before the US brought its troops to the Ban Dng, Shepone, La Hap Triangle, the anti-aircraft units with radar-provided 57 mm, 100 mm A.A. guns, and artillery units with 37 mm guns (the principal forces) had been secretly deployed into the Road N 9 - Southern Laos region. All company-size units were equipped with 12,7 mm and 14,5 mm machine guns. Together with two army divisions and three independent regiments, they were stationed on hill tops. Each company had its own radio communication to report on the situation and to keep close contact with the command. (p.86)

For four consecutive days, the Army Corps 559 made no reaction to the reconnaissance activities of the enemy. On the first day, three US helicopters made reconnaissance flights over the Ban Dng area and returned to their base. No reaction from Corps 559. On the third day, the US dropped troops on peak 600. The Vietnamese perfunctorily fired at them with rifles. On the fifth day they waited for them in front and fired profusely at them, preventing 75 US planes from dropping troops.> (p.86)

[Nixon's attack on Laos: parachute troops with heavy losses]

<Finally, at the price of heavy human and material losses, the US and the puppets brought 3 regiments to the Southern Laos triangle and about 1 battalion to the Tha M Pass. The Vietnamese command of the Road  N 9 Southern Lao front was composed of generals L Trong Tn, L Quang Dao, and Dng S
ĩ Nguyn. They deliberately let the enemy do so because the (p.86) enemy troops could not move anywhere once they had been dropped. Even at the Tha M Pass, only 800 m away from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, truck convoys kept rolling to bring supplies to Corps 559. In the 30 years of its existence and development, the web of roads in Trung Son had never been obstructed, in any way.> (p.87)

[The bombs of the monkeys were for nothing...]

[Nixon's attack on Laos: action of Army Corps 559]

<The Army Corps 559 units generally combined attacks of various scales (large, medium, and small), cutting off the communication and supply lines of the enemy, pounding their bases, and launching offensives against their commanding posts, airfields, and stores. After two months of continuous fighting, the Vietnamese troops in Khe Sanh killed 7,000 enemy soldiers including 4,054 GIs, destroyed 863 military vehicles of various categories, 73 artillery guns and heavy mortars, shot down or destroyed 234 planes, and exploded 41 large and small millions of liters of gasoline, and thousands of tons of arms and ammunitions. (p.87)

IN the meantime, on the other side of the frontier, on 8 February, 1971, 20,000 Saigon troops, accompanied by US advisers, ebulliently advanced into Southern Laos via three roads that ran parallel to Road N 9. The northern group included contingent 1 of commandos and a brigade of parachutists playing the role of a shield, the southern group included three regiments of the Saigon army division (reputedly composed of crack troops) and a battalion of marines to defend the Western side, and the main group included (p.87) motor and armored vehicles used for attacking along Road N 9. The enemy mobilized 2,000 planes of various kinds and 50 flying fortresses B.52. On the sea, the US 7th fleet would ensure the supply by boats and the control and threatening of the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Vit Nam.> (p.88)

[Nixon's attack on Laos: Western propaganda - and the defeat of "U.S." troops at Road N 9 - statistics - Army Corps 559]

<As early as the first days of the campaign [when the Vietnamese troops did not respond yet!!!], Western news agencies and press told the world that victory was in the hands of the [racist and arrogant] Pentagon. This prediction was based on the fact that the US had mobilized almost all the best trained army units of the Saigon troops, the US air and naval forces participated in great numbers, and because of the blitz-krieg [lightning war] character of the campaign against Southern Laos. (p.88)

Actually, the US campaign against road N 9 - Southern Laos was a complete failure. The transport of troops by helicopters from the beginning was not so effective. Around mid-February, over 1/3 of US planes had been put out of action, a dozen battalions of Saigon troops had been annihilated or taken prisoner. Finally, the US and Saigon administration suffered a bitter and heavy defeat: 15,400 soldiers killed, 10,000 from all units captured alive (two brigades of the parachutist division, 4 contingents of the special-task tank brigade N 1, brigade of marines N 147, regiments 2 and 3 of army division N 1, contingent of commandos N 1, and brigade of marines N 258, 13 artillery battalions). (p.88)

During the campaign, the army and the people of Laos destroyed 496 enemy planes (mostly helicopters), destroyed or captured 586 military vehicles (including 318 tanks and armored vehicles), and destroyed or captured 144 big guns, over 5,000 firearms of all kinds, and a great quantity of documents and other military equipment (excerpts from "The Brief History of Laos", NXB Khoa hoc X
hi, Hanoi (H Ni 1978). At the same time, the "complete victory" campaign launched in November 1971 by Cambodia also won a resounding victory. (p.89)

It can be said that almost all the major offensives and campaigns in South Vit Nam during the anti-US war were organized and directed in the Trung Son Range by the Ho Chi Minh Trail Army Corps 559. The tourist may conclude that the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" is worthy of being the most outstanding logistic base of Vit Nam that contributed to the resounding victories which put an end to the war between the US and the Saigon administration.> (p.89)

[Over 2 million natives helping against racist arrogant "U.S.A."]

<The Ho Chi Minh Trail was actually a strategic communication line for Vit Nam to bring the war for national independence to complete victory. Over two million people of various ethnic groups living along the Trung Son Range were mobilized to serve the war. They joined the Army Corps 559, served as transporters of supply and ammunitions, as logistic servicemen or as guides.
As transporters they were most efficient and trustworthy. They were (p.89) not organized into sections or companies but on a family or a village basis. They designated a representative to work with the military unit.> (p.90)

[Transportation with elephants]

<Generally, they used elephants as means of transport, since elephants are strong, can walk or run rapidly, and cross deep rivers or rapid currents safely. When thick forests bar their way, elephants can break trees with their trunks and tread upon the bushes to advance. Going up a slope, elephants kneel on their front legs to climb, when going down, they kneel on their hind legs and grope their way with their trunks. They can hear noises and smell scents long before the mahout [elephant ward] can. During war time, when US planes carried out attacks, Trung Son elephants knew how to avoid them. When they met hostile areas in an open space, they lied immobile, like big rocks, and they could also run all day  with the troops to pursue the enemy. They constituted an efficient means of transport. Command of the Ho Chi Minh Trail made full use of elephants for this purpose during the anti-French and anti-US wars.> (p.90)

[Scouting work by the natives]

<Transport of supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail was generally carried out in the dry season. To avoid detection by the enemy, people of ethnic minorities often went scouting in all directions to ensure absolute security for the conveyance of supplies.> (p.90)

[Factors: mountain - forests - loyal natives]

<In brief, the mountains and forests of [the mountain range of] Trung Son, combined with the loyalty and faithfulness of the ethnic groups, constituted a solid foundation for this strategic communication line.> (p.90)

[Tourism in the mountain range: visiting trail spots - "U.S.A." never found out the complete trail]

<The traveler can visit villages and hamlets on the territory of Vit Nam and also of Laos; these mark the branches and tracks of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The various landscapes of the Ho Chi Minh Trail network will also explain for why, even with electronic eyes and sophisticated spying devices, the US had failed to determine the entire length of the trail.> (p.91)

["U.S." tactics: "US" trials to bribe the Vietnamese fail completely]

<During the first days of the construction of Ho Chi Minh Trail [year is missing], the adopted motto "to avoid contact with the people and to prevent detection by the enemy", was difficult to follow. It was possible to realize the second part of the motto, but to avoid contact with the people was almost impossible.

The people of Ty Nguyn had very keen eyes. They discovered many peculiar things that the first road markers had not completely wiped out. They stuck to "the road of the Old Father (Ho Chi Minh)" to defend and assist our troops. Although the US attempted to buy them (p.91) off, even to use force to herd them into strategic hamlets or into agro-villages, it could in no way divert them from the Trung Son Range. They hid themselves, took refuge in deep forests, and stuck to the trail system in spite of economic enticements.> (p.92)

["U.S." tactics: "U.S." Old Teo failing with manipulations with a story of rice, rats, and cats - and then bomb threats]

<There was a US colonel disguised as a [Jesus Fantasy] priest and and bearing a false name in a minority language, Eay Teo (Old Teo). Before the village authorities he claimed to be a "new American" opposed to the "old American" who had helped Dim massacre the people. He promised to offer rice, salt, cloths and weapons to the people, with the condition that the latter refrain from assisting the Vietcong. He argued that "the old Americans and the Dim clique were like cats, the Vietcong were like rats, and the ethnic minorities were like rice. The rats secretly came to eat rice; the cats came to catch rats. In so doing, the cats were harmful to rice. Had the rats not come to eat rice, the cats would have no reason to come. (p.92)

The villagers did not believe in this "new American" because he looked like the old American. Then, Eay Teo changed and threateningly stated:

"Either you go to the concentration camp or tomorrow the troops will definitely carry out sweeps in all the villages of the district." (p.92)

["U.S." tactics: "pacifying"]

<From then on, US crimes increased up in all the villages of Ty Nguyn [central highlands]. For instance, for two consecutive years, the basins of the Krng No and Krng Ana rivers were subjected to the Staley Taylor plan of pacifying South Vit Nam in 18 (p.82) months. The US and the puppets launched as many as 13 sweeping campaigns called An Lac A to An Lac N. But they could not drive the people out of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The latter would rather sacrifice themselves for the sake of the trail.> (p.93)

[Solidarity without limits withing the Vietnamese - secret healings - no salt storage for "U.S." troops - sharing food and clothes - stories and poems]

<Many stabbed themselves to oblige the village head, who alone knew a precious medicinal leaf capable of healing wounds, to reveal this leaf to treat the wounded soldiers of the Army Corps 559. Many village heads made examples of themselves by refusing to take salt, which they had been appointed to guard, into the store, even when that meant they had no salt left to eat. (p.93)

There is an endless number of stories about minority people sharing food and clothes with the troops and combatants with their follow combatants, and they are all very moving. They have been written into books by many writers and poets. (p.93)

[Solidarity without limits: watching service]

<There were many combatants in [the mountain range of] Trung Son who year in and year out, had only the task of watching on a high watch-tower the direction of jet plane flights, of counting the number of released bombs and marking the places of the bombs on a map for engineering soldiers to come and destroy.> (p.93)

[Solidarity without limits: the natives know all secrets of mountain range of Trung Son]
From the chapter 8 Epilogue:

<It is not easy to discover the Trung Son Range in general and the Ho Chi Minh Trail in particular if one is not a native. Over two million minority people have lived on the mountain range for generations. Old people and children alike know it like the backs of their hands. They are used to its immense natural environment, imposing and mysterious. The troops of the Army Corps 559 that lived in the Trung Son Range relied on these two million minority people. They lived and died for them and in defense of their motherland from foreign invaders.> (p.109)

[Solidarity without limits: smoke maneuver and noise simulations near "tropical plants" provoking "US" attacks - bringing down the monkey's air planes]

<Other combatants were entrusted with the task of deceiving the enemy. They planted dry tree branches on open spaces. They burnt leaves to darken the sky with clouds of smoke in order to attack enemy planes. Or they simulated the noise of a truck engine or human coughing beside the "tropical plants" to suffer hours of shelling or B.52, F4H air attacks or the firing of 22 mm machine guns by C130 cargo (p.93) planes.> (p.94)
From the chapter 8 Epilogue

<An example question [why Ho Chi Minh Trail remained a mystery for the "U.S." monkeys] lis why signals sent by the "tropical plants" and ascertained by the electronic calculation centers regarding the movement of troops or motor vehicles prove to be erroneous, thus causing the bombing raids to be fruitless. The answer was: These signals were false ones thought to be true. Suffice to say that a soldier simulated the noise of a truck engine and at once the "tropical plant" sent signals about the motorized operation of a truck convoy. (p.108)

Sometimes to be safer, a toad was caught, crammed with tobacco, and put beside a "tropical plant". Now and then the coughing of the toad made the plant send signals regarding the number of troops, based on frequency of the toad's coughing. B.52s then were mobilized to annihilate a toad. (p.108)

[Solidarity without limits: Blockage of laser rays by smoke of leaves]

Another question was why laser rays could not direct bombs to hit targets? The answer was that our soldiers neutralized the effect of the laser by using elements of their daily lives: when blowing their tobacco smoke directly on an oil lamp, they saw that the smoke rose up. So they burnt forest leaves to darken the sky with clouds of smoke. The effect of (p.108) laser rays was neutralized as they could not get through the smoke. (p.109)

[Solidarity without limits: girl's ferry services - burials - girls without men sometimes for years]

From the chapter 8 Epilogue:

<Why did the road of the Ho Chi Minh Trail disappear when they got near a river? The answer was: at the river there were movable floating pontoons or stone roadways submerged under the surface.> (p.109)

<There were vanguard youths, mostly girls, who stood all night long in water in straight rows as pickets for the trucks to cross submerged pontoons. Solemn burials were organized for those who lost their lives in Trung Son. That is why many Trung Son combatants wished that, if they were to die, they would rather die of an explosion, so that funerals and burials would not be created to attract enemy planes. Yet, what sacrifice was comparable to that of the vanguard girls? Theirs was so immense that it undoubtedly commands the utmost admiration. Almost all the vanguard youths working in Trung Son were girls. None of them were older than 30, married, or had children. Quite a few had not yet even had a lover! Many units of vanguard girls did not see men for several years.> (p.94)

[Solidarity: Flash and arrow unit]

<The Trung Son people stepped up and fought the US and the puppets in a most natural way. H Vai, a Pa K youth, originally believed that an arrow could not kill an American. He tried and in fact Americans died. He organized a guerrilla group and joined in the fight. He was awarded the title of hero. His two nephews, Kan Lich and A Nun, followed him in fighting Americans. Each fought in his own way. Kan Lich entered an enemy post and woke the GIs up so that he could open fire at a great number of them. To spare bullets, Kan Lich waited until the GIs had stood in rows to shoot at them. In an airfield, Kan Lich waited until the taking off of a plane to open fire so as to destroy both the pilot and the plane. As for A Nun, Kan Lich's brother, for 2,000 days he (p.94) lived on the tracks of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and conveyed 130 tons of goods and weapons to the front, only by means of the dosser on his shoulders. He furthermore once carried a generator that weighed 100 kg and, another time, carried a gun barrel that weighed over 100 kg.> (p.95)

[Killings as a precondition for being a guerrilla member]

<There was also 13-year-old Ko Lon who asked to be admitted in the guerrilla group, but was refused because he was still a child. He made a booby trap by himself and killed 5 Americans. he asked again to be accepted as a guerrilla and was refused once more, so with his crossbow and poisoned arrows, he killed three puppet soldiers. He went to the communal military command to ask again for admission to the guerrilla group and was given three bullets and one rifle and told to kill three enemy soldiers before he could become a guerrilla. With his first bullet, he killed 5 enemy servicemen in a row and then with his second bullet, he killed 3 others. He returned and gave back the third bullet to the guerrilla group. Obviously, the struggle carried out by the people of Trung Son against the US invaders and their puppets for the defense of their villages is itself a myth, one closely associated with the strategic Ho Chi Minh Trail.> (p.95)

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