The Ho Chi Minh Trail

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 February, 2010, 12:00am

Trails in the jungle

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a system of trails, roads, bicycle paths and stretches of river. The North Vietnamese built the network, starting with its war against the French colonialists, then against the United States.

There had probably been trails for trade for centuries in Laos and Vietnam. The mountains in this border region can reach up to 2,500 metres. Since there was also a lot of jungle and very few people lived there, there were no roads.

War against the French

In 1887, the French took control of what is now modern Vietnam. They divided it into three 'protectorates'. Tonkin was the north. Annam was the centre. Cochinchina was in the south. At first the capital was Saigon in Cochinchina. Saigon is now called Ho Chi Minh City.

During the second world war, the Japanese occupied Vietnam. Nearly 2 million people died in a famine. The Viet Minh independence movement helped organise food supplies to the people. This made them very popular. At the end of the war in 1945, the Viet Minh government declared independence. But the French reoccupied the south and the Chinese supervised disarming of the Japanese army in the north. The stage had been set for war.

Supply chain

By 1954, Vietnam was divided into north and south. The dividing line was called the 17th parallel. By 1960, the Vietnamese Communist Party had decided to use violence against the government of the South.

In 1963, around 12,000 northern Vietnamese had moved south on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Ten years later, despite US bombing of western Vietnam and Laos, the trail had become almost a highway. It was used to move supplies and troops. On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell. The war was over.

And tunnels

Vietnam's famous tunnel network was not part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The tunnels were used in the South, so that soldiers who were fighting the government and the US could hide.

Life in the tunnels was very hard but they were still very effective. The tunnels allowed Vietnamese soldiers to live very close to Saigon and fight the US troops. Experts think the combination of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the tunnel network helped the North defeat the US in South Vietnam.

now do this

1 The Ho Chi Minh Trail was built along (and inside) the border of ...

a. Thailand

b. China

c. Laos

2 The ... divided Vietnam into three 'protectorates'.

a. French

b. United States

c. Viet Minh government

3 After the second world war, the French- and then US-supported capital of Vietnam was ...

a. Saigon

b. Hanoi

c. Ho Chi Minh City


February 1