The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a military supply route running from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The route sent weapons, manpower, ammunition and other supplies from communist-led North Vietnam to their supporters in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The trail was named after Ho Chi Minh, the president of North Vietnam. During the 1960s, the Ho Chi Minh Trail (actually a network of trails, footpaths and roadways) moved several tons of supplies each day through rugged mountain ranges and dense jungle.
U.S. military forces—aware of the amount of weaponry that the trail supplied to the Viet Cong, its enemies in South Vietnam—had the Ho Chi Minh Trail in its sights as American involvement in Vietnam increased over the 1960s.
In 1965, more than 30 U.S. Air Force jets struck targets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. This was just one part of several American ground and air strikes against villages and roads along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Since such raids had become common knowledge and were being reported in the American media, the U.S. State Department felt compelled to announce that these controversial missions were authorized by the powers granted to President Lyndon B. Johnson in the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
But the Johnson administration came under increasing criticism at home and abroad because of the bombing raids along the trail in Laos and Cambodia. Congressional opponents of the Johnson administration thought the president was escalating the war without authorization.
There was also an immediate response in the international community. Not surprisingly, communists roundly criticized Johnson’s actions. In Havana, Premier Fidel Castro condemned the United States and promised that Cuba would aid North Vietnam. On March 4, about 2,000 students attacked the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
There was also a reaction in non-communist capitals. Prime Minister Lester Pearson of Canada expressed concern about the risk of escalation, but said that Canada understood the U.S. position.
In Britain, however, there was mounting criticism of the government’s support of U.S. policies in Vietnam. In New York City, Women Strike for Peace members demonstrated outside the United Nations to urge an end to the war.
Sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail still exist today, and parts of it have been incorporated into the Ho Chi Minh Highway, a paved road that connects the north and south regions of Vietnam.