Fifty years have passed since the “Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail” was established (October 23, 1961 –
October 23, 2011). Across this legendary route, many ships without numbers overcame typhoons
and strict blockades of the enemy to successfully transport tens of thousands of tonnes of weapons,
food and medicines to supply the southern front, contributing to a great victory in Spring, 1975.
During the Vietnamese people’s resistance war against the US for national salvation, the Ho Chi
Minh Trail was considered a “strategic road through jungles” while the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail was
associated with the secret transport ships without numbers.
The existence of these two mysterious routes caused extreme difficulties for US military officials and
the South Vietnamese government at that time, who tried to prevent the northern army from
assisting in the southern battles.
After the Geneva Agreement was signed in 1954, the US imperialists and the Ngo Dinh Diem lackey
government aggressively carried out its policy to “denounce communists and exterminate
communalists” and drag the guillotine throughout the South. To further enhance its capability of
timely supporting the south and to aid in liberating the South and reunifying the country, the Political
Bureau decided to open a second transport route at sea. On October 23, 1961, the Ministry of
Defence decided to establish Mission 759 (now Naval Brigade 125), marking the birth of the Ho Chi
Minh Sea Trail, a strategic transport route.
On the night of October 11, 1962, a wooden motorboat of Mission 759, disguised as a fishing boat
carrying 30 tonnes of weapons, left the wharf K15 in Do Son (Hai Phong) to go to Ca Mau. This
began the stormy journeys of the ships with no numbers on the legendary Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail.
After 10 days, the boat landed safely at Lung Vam (Ca Mau). After that successful trip, President Ho
Chi Minh sent a telegram to the soldiers of Mission 759 to compliment and encourage them. He
advised them to draw from their experience to continue transporting weapons to the south so that
the people could fight against the enemy, for North-South reunification.
After that first successful trip, to evade the enemies’ eyes and ears, most of the ships carrying
weapons for the southern battlefield were disguised as fishing ships with non-fixed numbers and
they constantly changed their routes. Hence the name “ships without numbers”.
From 1961 to 1975, the Naval Brigade 125 mobilized 1,879 ships to travel nearly 4 million nautical
miles to transport 152,876 tonnes of weapons, technical equipment and medicine, and take 80,026
officers and soldiers from the North to the South. The ships without numbers fought over 1,200
enemy aircraft raids. 19 ships and 700 tonnes of cargo were destroyed. More than 90 officers and
soldiers died and the body of only one soldier was found. Brigade 125 was awarded the title “Heroic
Unit of the People’s Armed Forces” twice. Eight individuals and five ships were awarded the title
“Hero of the People’s Armed Forces”.

After ship C143 was discovered by the enemy in Vung Ro (Phu Yen) in February, 1965, the enemy
intensively increased patrol activities. Because of this, Mission 759 had to change its operations,
forcing the fleet to use different routes. In late 1970, besides the route taken along Hoang Sa and
Truong Sa Archipelagoes, the ships had to take a roundabout route through many other territorial
waters, such as northeast Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand.
During the anti-US resistance war, along with the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail
contributed to assist the south to win a great victory in the spring of 1975, completely liberating the
South and reunifying the country.
Talking about the historical mission of the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail, General Phung Quang Thanh,
Minister of Defence, said: “The Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail was a route linking the large rear in the North
with the large front in the South. It showed the will and aspiration for independence, freedom and
reunification of the whole nation.”

In 2011, the 50th anniversary of the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail (October 23, 1961 – October 23, 2011)
was celebrated. On October 5, 2011, from wharf K15 in Do Son (Hai Phong), the starting point of the
legendary route on the East Sea, 148 people who were veterans of the ships without numbers in the
past, and outstanding members of the youth union started a trip entitled “Following the Ho Chi Minh
Sea Trail”.
Transport ship HQ-996 took them to many places marking the glorious victories of the ships without
numbers. They went to wharf K15 (in Hai Phong), Gianh Port (Quang Binh), Sa Ky Station (Quang
Ngai), Vung Ro Port (Phu Yen), Station 177 (Ba Ria - Vung Tau), Thanh Phong Station (Ben Tre)
and Vam Lung Station on the cape of Ca Mau. These stations were among many secret landing
places of the ships during their mission to transport supplies to the south. From these places, tens of
thousands of tonnes of weapons and food were provided for the units engaged in the fighting.
During their trip, the veterans revisited the old battlefields. At each stop, they met their old comrades
and the local people who had protected and helped them during the most difficult and severe years.
When they disembarked at Thanh Phong Wharf in Ben Tre, they met Huynh Phuoc Hai, a former
soldier. They were happy and touched because after several decades, some veterans had died.
Meeting his friends, Hai showed them some items of the ships that he had kept for 50 years. These
included an aluminum mug, a food tray, and even a bullet used by the enemy during combat to
protect his ship in Ben Tre.
For the younger people who were born after the war, the trip was both insightful and meaningful.
During the journey they visited many places relating to the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail. At each stop, they
lit incense to commemorate the heroes who died for the independence of the nation and the sacred
integral sovereignty of the sea and islands of the country. During this trip, the veterans, youth union
members and the local authorities donated 20 houses (worth 1.2 billion VND), 167 savings books
(worth 501 million VND), 1,194 gifts for the veterans of the ships (597 million VND) and 200
scholarships for the children of the former sailors’ families (500 million VND).
After 18 difficult days of traveling on the sea and sailing over 1,500 nautical miles with seven stops,
on October 22, 2011 HQ-996 arrived at Ho Chi Minh City, the last destination, finishing the
“Following the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail” trip.
The trip left special emotions and memories of a glorious period for many soldiers of the ships who
sacrificed their lives for national independence.
The trip was an important event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail. It
provided an opportunity for young people to express their gratitude to those who sacrificed
themselves for the country and for the young people to learn about the glorious, historical past. More
importantly, it stirred up the young people’s enthusiasm to protect the sea and island sovereignty of
the fatherland today.
Story: Vy Thao - Photos: Tran Huan - The Duyet - Navy Museum’s file

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