It is said that the last vestiges of the end section of the legendary Truong Son Road (also known as the Ho Chi Minh trail), running past the Binh Phuoc and Dac Nong provinces, has almost disappeared under the wilderness of forests. A team from SGGP made a recent trip to Bu Gia Map District, Binh Phuoc Province, in search of the lost ending.
|One of the memorial steles erected along the end section of Truong Son trail|
Following instructions from Brigadier Phung Dinh Am, former commander of B90 Army Corps - the first unit that was ordered by the Army Party Central Committee to go to battlefields in the South via Truong Son, we began our expedition in Lam Dong Province.
After traveling across mountain pass B40 in Bao Loc Commune, we got out of the car and took a four kilometer hike to the first stop, as the path becomes narrower and slippery.
We expected to find the memorial stele in the midst of a vast jungle, as Brig. Phung Dinh Am had told us, but we found it surrounded by newly-grown plantations of coffee, cashews and rubber trees instead. The carved words on the stele say :
“On October 30, 1960, here is the place where the logistics units of the North and National Front for the Liberation of the South met for the first time to mark the successful connection of the Truong Son trail system from North to South.”
Newly newly-grown plantations of coffee and cashew have eliminated the trace of the trail.
We left Bao Loc and followed a path along the source of Dong Nai River to get to Dac Buc So Commune, Dac Nong Province, where we had been told there were other memorial steles.
Fearing we would get lost in the jungle and end up in Cambodia because of heavy rain, Cpt. Quang Van Tuyen, deputy commander of Tuy Duc Border Post, acted as our guide.
Before heading to the jungle, we paid a visit to a memorial stele erected near the border post to pay tribute to N’ Trang Long, chief of a tribe of the M’Nong ethnic minority.
In late 1911, N’ Trang Long appealed to villagers to rise up against the domination of the French. The uprising was successful at first, but from 1933 the French army began to launch counter-attacks. In 1935, guerilla troops suffered heavy causalities, N’ Trang Long was killed and the uprising was over.
From the memorial stele, we hiked 11 kilometers to an historical site, “Truong Tan Buu,” in Quang Truc Commune, formerly the garrison of the 559 Army Corps 559 during the war against the US invasion.
Commander Bui Van Loi, political commissar of Dac Dang Border Post, the unit which currently looks after the historical site, told us that the commune at present has 6,300 people living in 12 villages. Seventy percent of the population is M’Nong.
This demonstrates that M’Nong not only stood side by side with Viet Minh troops in the struggle against the French, but also with North Vietnamese soldiers during the war against the Americans.
From the Truong Tan Buu site, we followed the border patrol path running along Mundulkiri, a sparsely populated province of Cambodia, to an old stele erected just a few meters from the border.
The carved words on the stele say:
“Section of Ho Chi trail between Bu Prang and Loc Ninh Province. This was the gathering place for Vietnamese troops from the North (1965-1975) before going the battlefields in the southeastern part of the country and the strategic logistics station for B2.”
We then proceeded to T-junction 14C, where we found another stele which reads: “Historical site of Ho Chi Minh trail: Section that links the starting section of Eastern trail to Chon Thanh District, Loc Ninh Province.”
Running on the right of the stele is the narrow deserted trail, on which so many vans of North Vietnamese troops had traveled during the war.
We had been told that there were some other steles in Loc Ninh District, but we could not travel further because it was getting dark. Before we got back, soldiers from the Dac Dang Border Post accompanying us stood to attention and saluted the border landmark (see photo below) .
According to history books about the 559 Army Corps, between 1973 and 1975, the end section of Truong Son trail, running from the Central Highlands to the southeastern province Tay Ninh, bordering Cambodia, was upgraded by being paved with gravel and limestone. An oil pipeline system was also laid to supply fuel to battlefields in Loc Ninh and its neighboring areas.
Since the trail was the life-line of North Vietnamese troops, which ensured the supply of food, materiel and weapons to southeastern battlefields during the war, the North Vietnamese troops had made several attacks and successfully occupied Duc Lap, Dac Song and Dac Sac Districts to protect it, paving way for the liberation of Buon Me Thuot in March 1975.
Despite the glorious history, what remains of the trail in Bu Gia Map are only several steles. Not many traces of the section can be found now, as it is overgrown with grasses, bushes and trees. Local people do not know where the Truong Son trail is, as most of them are emigrants who settled down in Dac Nong several years ago.
The end section of Truong Son Trail may be lost forever if they are not restored in time. But whatever happens, its place in history will never be forgotten.