Visiting a SAM Missile on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.
Above Photo: the SAM-2 Missile at Pa-Am Village, Attapeu, Laos.
While we were in Attapeu, we headed out for a day trip to Pa-Am Village and the Vietnamese border near Kontum. We were going to look at the Vietnam War-era SAM-2 missile that has somehow miraculously not been sold as scrap.
On the way out of town we passed by a mountain that once housed a North Vietnamese Army camp and anti-aircraft battery that was heavily bombed during the war. I asked was it possible to visit and hike up the mountain, but my guide looked worried and said the area had not yet been cleared of unexploded ordnance.
I’d last been to Pa-Am a couple of years ago, and on that trip, to reach the missile, we’d had to walk through the jungle, then cross the Nam Pa River on a narrow bamboo bridge. Back then, the missile had sat on its own, surrounded by jungle. There was only one house behind it, and a tiny village nearby.
This time we crossed the river on a new road and a newly-built new concrete bridge and discovered the missile was now a roundabout for yet more roads that had been built around it.
A cluster bomb casing fence had also been built around the missile, which hadn’t been there before.
However, with the rapid pace of infrastructure development in the area, at least the missile is now more accessible, and it’s still an impressive sight.
The missile was transported from Vietnam to southern Laos after the US had pulled out of the region in 1973, and was intended to guard a main route of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Pa-Am lay on a number of important branches of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, one of which led east, into South Vietnam, and another branch headed south, into Cambodia.
I was interested to see the Russian and Vietnamese writing on the missile.
Pa-AM is well worth a visit if you’re in southern Laos – and if you can find someone to take you there from Attapeu…
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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