What Links the US War in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh Himself (Besides the Obvious, I Mean)?

What Links the US War in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh Himself (Besides the Obvious, I Mean)?

Above Photo: Lockheed F-104 Starfighters at Udorn Thani air base in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

During the Vietnam War, the US air base at Udorn Thani (as it was known back then) in northern Thailand was vital to the war effort in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

From Udorn, fighters were able to patrol the skies over the battlefields, they were able to fly sorties to bomb bridges and other strategic targets, and to attack the supply routes of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong, especially, and ironically, the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Udorn Air Base during the Vietnam War

Udorn Air Base during the Vietnam War

Aircraft and helicopters from the base also flew frequent search and rescue missions over the jungles of Laos and Vietnam and, at night, reconnaissance flights and intelligence-gathering planes flew out of Udorn over the Trail as well.

T-28s used during the Secret War in Laos, at Udorn Air Base in Thailand.

T-28s used during the Secret War in Laos, at Udorn Air Base in Thailand.

The CIA’s cloak and dagger airline, Air America, was also based at Udorn, as were many of the planes used in the Secret War in Laos, when not flying out of Long Tieng. Udorn’s proximity to Laos and North Vietnam (40 minutes flying time from Hanoi) made it an ideal location as they fought their bitter war against Ho Chi Minh’s soldiers.

An F-4 Phantom lands at Udorn Air Base.

An F-4 Phantom taking off at Udorn Air Base (Sgt Dave Ramsey).

Who’d have thought that only forty years earlier, and only a couple of kilometers away from Udorn air base, another group were using Udon Thani as their own base in Thailand to fight a different but equally bitter war in Vietnam.

Ho Chi MInh and Richard Nixon. Closer than they might have thought...at least in Thailand.

Ho Chi Minh and Richard Nixon. Closer than certainly Nixon might have thought…at least in Thailand.

This time their leader in Thailand was none other than Ho Chi Minh, who had a house in nearby Ban Hang, which was then a wild jungle full of tigers and elephants. He used Udon Thani to drum up support from the local Vietnamese traders who had migrated there from Vietnam, by travelling up the Mekong, over the centuries. He was fighting for Vietnamese Independence against the French colonialists.

Udorn Air Base from the air.

Udorn Air Base from the air during the Vietnam War.

His presence in Thailand was a secret, and he stayed here for three years, from 1928 – 1931, frequently travelling to other areas of Thailand with large Vietnamese populations.

The track to Ho Chi Minh's house in Ban Hang, Udon Thani.

The track to Ho Chi Minh’s house in Ban Hang, Udon Thani, very close to the former US air base

Ho Chi Minh also had a house in Nakhon Phanom, where there was another large US air base located during the Vietnam War, forty years later, ironically set up with the intention of defeating Ho’s assault on South Vietnam. Nahon Phanom air base was also within frequent air-striking distance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Ho Chi Minh's house reconstructed in Ban Hang, Udon Thani Province, Thailand.

Ho Chi Minh’s house reconstructed in Ban Hang, Udon Thani Province, Thailand.

We visited Ho’s house in Udon Thani today, and while I was expecting to be massively disappointed, I was actually quite impressed.

 Mock-Up of Ho Chi Minh's Bedroom

Mock-Up of Ho Chi Minh’s Bedroom

Of course the house isn’t his real one, but it is located in the area in which he lived and it was constructed as faithfully as possible from contemporaneous accounts of how he lived.

A lecture area in the house.

A lecture area in the house.

What was once dense jungle surrounding the house is now rice fields, and when I stopped to take a couple of photos I was struck by how like Vietnam the landscape was.

I was struck by how "Vietnamese" the surrounding area looked, especially the rice fields and the verdant greenery.

I was surprised by how “Vietnamese” the surrounding area looked, especially the rice fields and the verdant greenery.

Inside the house and the large exhibition centre which has been built with Vietnamese-Thai business donations, we were shown around by a custodian who was full of information, although only a few exhibits are labelled in English, and my wife had to do some serious simultaneous translation from rapid-fire Thai to English.

Peter Alan Lloyd sitting outside the site of Ho Chi Minh's house, with the custodian, Mr Preecha.

Sitting outside the site of Ho Chi Minh’s house, with the custodian, Mr Preecha.

The house is well worth a visit if you’re in the Udon Thani area and, amazingly for Thailand, the road signs for the house actually lead you right to it. And if you’ve ever driven around Thailand, you’ll know how exceptional that is.

For POWs left behind in Laos, see:

Location of Udorn Thani in blue, and the approximate location of Long Tieng, the CIA's secret air base in Laos, in red.

Location of Udorn Thani in blue, and the approximate location of Long Tieng, the CIA’s secret air base in Laos, in red.

© Peter Alan Lloyd

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews  U

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

Front cover of BACK Part 1.

Front cover of BACK Part 1.

Front cover of BACK Part 2.

Front cover of BACK Part 2.

 

Like this? Share it.

Related Posts

4 Comments

  1. Manuel M.

    Again another interesting article of yours! Every time I read your posts about Laos, Vietnam or Cambodia they happen to surprise me – everytime!

    You should visit Vietnam too, if you haven’t already. It might be not as comfortable to travel around, if you compare it with Thailand or even Laos, but you always find some interesting historical places there. Some days ago I visited the kitschy Ho Chi Minh Museum in HCMC, which was – surprise – about basically every step of his life. If some stuff written there is true, he actually used to be quite a globetrotter. From the USSR, China, France, Mexico, and even the US, he already visited quite every corner of the earth.

    By the way, the planes depicted on the title picture are rather Lockheed F-104 Starfighters than Phantoms.

    Thanks and keep on your good work!

    Reply
    • Peter Alan Lloyd

      Thanks for your comments (and for the correct Lockheed ID).

      I may go back to Vietnam later this year – my first trip there was 1992 and I go back every five years or so, amazed at the changes.

      Best wishes,

      Peter

      Reply
  2. David J. Ramsey

    The photo of the R-F4C is from the 14th Tac Recon Sq.
    taking off, not landing. I made the shot with a Nikkor 500mm parabolic mirror lens while working as a photographer for 7/13th AF, Udorn RTAFB, 1969. Sgt. Dave Ramsey.

    Reply
    • Peter Alan Lloyd

      Many thanks Dave – It’s a great photo. I have added your credit to the description.

      Peter

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *