Vietnam is a maritime country located on the coast of the East Sea (South China Sea). Its history of national construction and defense is always associated with the role of the East Sea.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea and the Truong Son (Annamite) Trail on land (also called Truong Son Road) are two lifelines in the resistance war against the U.S. invaders for national salvation. Six decades have passed, but the miracle of the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea still resounds, bearing great stature and significance to the current national building and safeguarding cause.

Stature of Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea

Though the number of weapons and goods transported on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea was smaller than that shipped via the Ho Chi Minh Trail on land, it was of great significance. The Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea really became a powerful spearhead of “deep penetration, fighting the enemy's back” to transport weapons and goods to and reinforce key coastal areas where the reinforcement provided through the strategic transport route 559 (Truong Son road) could not reach and the enemy did not expect/imagine our creativity and boldness.

Troops of Unit 125 receive a flower basket presented by then President Ton Duc Thang on the New Year of 1969. (A file photo)

Transport at sea was arduous and dangerous but its advantages were speed, time, and high efficiency. Apart from military goods, the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea also undertook an extremely important mission of transporting more than 80,000 Party, military officials and military experts to the South, from the South to the North to report to the Party Central Committee and receive new and timely instructions on the leadership, direction and command in the Southern theater.

Specially, during the General Offensive and Uprising in spring 1975 - important moment of the resistance war against the U.S. invaders for national salvation, the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea quickly transported nearly 9,000 tons of heavy weapons, including 50 tanks and cannons, and sent nearly 19,000 officers and soldiers crossing over 66,000 nautical miles to join combats and coordinate with other forces, directly contributing to the cause of the liberation of the South and national reunification.

The stature of the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea was really great, gathering the strength of the entire nation with an unshakable determination and will of "dare to fight, know how to fight, know how to win and be determined to win" over the U.S. invaders. While performing this difficult and arduous task, the forces, especially the Navy, embraced the situation, actively built up forces, prepared vehicles, and carried out training programs carefully, creating favorable conditions to achieve high transport efficiency.

The exploit of the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea was created by generations of troops of No-number ships who were always infinitely loyal to the Party, the Fatherland, and the people and heightened their unyielding will, spirit of ingenuity, creativity, readiness to combat and sacrifice themselves to complete all assignments.

Significance of the trail to Fatherland construction and defense cause

The Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea demonstrated the determination, will, and aspiration of “Nothing is more precious than independence, freedom.” However, above all, the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea was the trail of “the people’s heart disposition,” of the people’s warfare posture at sea, which gathered the strength of all people and manifested the high sense of responsibility and deep sentiment of the people in the North to those in the South. Relying on the people and receiving wholehearted support from the people, troops on this strategic transport route at sea surmounted all difficulties, fierce challenges, and all enemy blockades to outstandingly fulfill their assigned tasks, thereby speeding up the cause of liberation of the South and national reunification. That was a significant lesson. Therefore, we should continue boosting information dissemination, raising troops’ awareness and responsibility, and bringing into play the role of the people in the struggle to safeguard the national sovereignty over the seas and islands.

The opening of the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea in the resistance war against the U.S. invaders proved that the Vietnamese people’s patriotism always shines at all times. Inheriting the glorious tradition of the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea, our Fatherland safeguarding mission has been lifted to a new height: to actively, proactively, and early protect the Fatherland from afar, and to be steadfast in the goal of firmly defending national independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity; protecting the Party, State, and people, the cause of the renewal process, national industrialization and modernization, national interests, political security, social order and safety, and culture, upholding political stability and a peaceful environment for socialist-oriented national development, bringing into play the synergy of the whole nation in which the armed forces are the core.

Looking back upon the resistance war against the U.S. invaders for national salvation (1954-1975), it can be affirmed that there was no operation in which the line between life and death was as fragile as performing missions during voyages on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea. Only those with high will and resolve, ready to sacrifice for the Fatherland undertook and completed those challenging tasks. The practical operations on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at sea are importantly significant to the building of will and determination among troops who are tasked with safeguarding the sacred national sovereignty over seas and islands in the current period. More than ever, it needs to build political stance, will and determination for troops in charge of maritime sovereignty defense through training, so that they are really aware of their positions and other positions, master weapons, equipment, especially modern ones. For troops at detachments, they must be good at independent operation and operational coordination. This is a foundation for troops to build confidence in their ability to defeat the enemy in any conditions and circumstances.

Operating on the transport route at sea for years, no-number ships were materially and spiritually supported by people of socialist countries, such as the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and other regional countries. This practical assistance importantly helped us maintain continuous transport and limit damages caused by the enemy, ensuring a smooth route, and providing weapons and equipment for the Southern theater in a timely manner to win.

Situations in the region and the world have always been developing complicatedly, and unpredictably; therefore, the missions of safeguarding the national sovereignty over seas and islands, continental shelf, and upholding a peaceful and stable maritime environment are extremely tough, requiring naval troops to continue bringing into play the tradition of the No-number ships, building a modernized navy in line with the spirit of the resolution adopted at the 13th National Party Congress. Naval troops are also requested to resolutely and persistently settle disputes and disagreements at sea and on islands by peaceful means on the basis of international law while effectively exchanging with navies of countries in the region and the world, closely coordinating with them in patrolling, maneuvering, search and rescue, and anti-piracy, in order to maintain an environment of peace, stability, order, security and maritime economic development. They should always be the key force in firmly safeguarding sacred national sovereignty over seas and islands.

By Associate Professor, Doctor, Senior Colonel Nguyen Van Sau, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Institute of Military History

Translated by Mai Huong