Another Vietnam War Mystery in Laos: Russian SAM Missiles.

Another Vietnam War Mystery in Laos: Russian SAM Missiles.

Above Photo: North Vietnamese Anti-Aircraft Gunners fire on US Planes during the Vietnam War.

When I was travelling along Route 9 in Laos recently, I was surprised to come across the remains of a SAM-2 rocket, or the rocket’s solid fuel booster stage, which had clearly been fired, and which was now resting in a memorial park in Muang Phin.

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The remains of the fired SAM-2 rocket in Muang Phin.

This area saw much fighting during the Lam Son invasion of Laos by the US-backed South Vietnamese Army, who tried to take the nearby town of Tchepone, in a failed attempt to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail in half.

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A close-up of the back of the rocket’s fuel cell.

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Another view of the fired SAM missile.

The reason it was unusual to see these SAM rocket remains so far south is they confound conventional thinking about the presence of these missiles in Laos during the war.

It is generally believed that the North Vietnamese Army only moved SAM-2s along the Ho Chi Minh Trail into southern Laos after the US pulled out in 1973. To have done so before would have invited destruction from the air, as they were large, cumbersome missiles to transport, and it would have been difficult to successfully hide them on a journey of hundreds of miles.

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A mystery.

In no accounts of the invasion of Lam Son in 1971 have I read that SAM-2 missiles were launched against planes. Anti-aircraft fire, small arms and RPGs, yes, but nothing as big as a SAM-2 missile.

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The remains of a SAM-2 rocket in Pa-Am village, still guarding the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the far south of Laos. You can clearly see the configuration of the back section is identical to the above remains.

Even the above still-intact missile in the far south of Laos didn’t arrive until 1974, well after the US had pulled out of Vietnam and Laos. And the garbled sign (below) makes it clear what a huge undertaking this was, even without the risk of air attack.

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Explanatory sign at the Pa-Am SAM-2 missile site

So that begs the question of just how did these SAM-2 missile remains end up so far south in Laos, in an area of the country that saw the heaviest fighting of the Lam Son invasion?

For now, I have no idea.

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A Russian-built SAM-2 Rocket fires during the Vietnam War.

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:

See also: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/the-wreckage-of-a-us-helicopter-shot-down-in-laos-during-the-vietnam-war/

And: http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/remnants-of-the-secret-war-in-laos/

And: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpacker-dangers-in-the-jungles-of-laos-unexploded-ordnance-from-the-vietnam-war/

Approximate location of Muang Phin and Sepon shown in red circle.

Approximate location of Muang Phin and Sepon shown in red circle.

© Peter Alan Lloyd

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews 

UK: Amazon.co.uk: BACK Parts 1 and 2 

US: Amazon: Back Parts 1 and 2

Smashwords: Back Parts 1 and 2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peter.lloyd.94064?fref=ts

Website: www.peteralanlloyd.com

Twitter: @PeterAlanLloyd

 

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5 Comments

  1. Matt

    There were a couple of AC-130 losses in Laos where SA-2 was the cause. Finding out SA-2s were along the Trail meant that F-105G Wild Weasels had to start going along with the gunships.

    Reply
    • Peter Alan Lloyd

      Thanks. Were those losses up near the Plain of Jars? I know they had them further north, as it was an easier journey from Vietnam.

      Reply
  2. Matt

    No, down on the trail itself. Tchepone and points north, IIRC. Just after the Paris Peace Accords, SA-2s were reported in the Khe Sanh area….and the VNAF never went there for the final two years of the war.

    Reply
  3. gary brown

    A C-130 was lost to a sam while dropping flares on the hochemintrail and I lost a dear friend and they did not recover the dog tags until a few years ago

    Reply

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