Visiting a SAM Missile on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

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.

The heavily-bombed mountain on the way out of Attapeu, as we crossed the Sekong River.

The heavily-bombed mountain on the way out of Attapeu, as we crossed the Sekong River.

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.

This photograph was taken a couple of years ago - note how little development there is around the missile - just one house to the left and nothing on the right.

This photograph was taken a couple of years ago – note how little development there is around the missile – just one house to the left and nothing on the right.

The missile today - note the development all around it, and the new cluster bomb fence. The missile is now a traffic island.

The missile today – note the development all around it, and the new cluster bomb fence. The missile is now effectively a traffic island.

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.

The only way to the missile a couple of years ago - across this rickety bamboo bridge

The only way to the missile a couple of years ago – across this rickety bamboo bridge

New bridge, new road, new way across the river to reach the missile.

New bridge, new road, new way across the river to reach the missile.

A cluster bomb casing fence had also been built around the missile, which hadn’t been there before.

An interestingly crumpled cluster bomb casing in the fence.

An interestingly crumpled cluster bomb casing in the fence.

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 SAM-2 Missile in Pa-Am Village, Attapeu.

The SAM-2 Missile in Pa-Am Village, Attapeu.

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.

Pa-Am: What was once a heavily jungled track and part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail is now a wide dirt road, scheduled for concrete shortly.

Pa-Am: What was once a heavily jungled track and part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail is now a wide dirt road, scheduled for concrete shortly.

I was interested to see the Russian and Vietnamese writing on the missile.

Russian and Vietnamese writing on the SAM-2 Missile at Pa-Am Village, Attapeu, Laos.

Russian and Vietnamese writing on the SAM-2 Missile at Pa-Am Village, Attapeu, Laos. A Russian-speaking friend tells me it says in Russian “Made in the USSR”.

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…

peter alan lloyd BACK novel attapeu province pa-am SAM-2 missile vietnam war secret war in laos ho chi minh trail tri-border area laos jungle cluster bombs (14)

 

See news of our latest Vietnam War-related film, MIA: A Greater Evil here: http://peteralanlloyd.com/mia-a-greater-evil-an-exclusive-introduction-to-our-forthcoming-film/

For POWs left behind in Laos, see also: 

 

Location of Attapeu and approximate location of Pa-Am, 35KM northeast of the town.

Location of Attapeu and approximate location of Pa-Am, 35KM northeast of the town.

© Peter Alan Lloyd

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