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The Ingenuity of the Viet Cong: Home-Made Weapons from the Jungle

By Michael Heidler

During the Vietnam War the North Vietnamese forces could rely on support from China and the Soviet Union, but for the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, better known as the “Viet Cong,” the situation was rather miserable. They suffered from a lack of modern weaponry for their armed resistance against the government and the American military. To compensate for these shortcomings, much talent at improvisation was needed.

With the end of the Indochina War and the division of Vietnam, the foundation stones for future conflicts had already been laid. Almost seamlessly, South Vietnam was struck by a civil war against the dictatorial acting President Ngo Dinh Diem and his anti-Communist government. He took ruthless action against any opposition and primarily persecuted the Communist Viet Minh that remained in the South. From isolated peasant uprisings against the forced land reform, a resistance movement was born in 1956-1957. In 1958, it already counted about 1,700 members from Viet Minh, Communist Party, Cao Dai, Hoa-Hao, Catholics and Buddhists. In the first three years, more than 1,000 government officials fell victim to their terror. By 1960, the government of North Vietnam had decided to support the resistance in the South. Several thousand Communist fighters, who had been educated in the North, gradually infiltrated into South Vietnam. They would organize the armed struggle against the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and also act as instructors.

When travelling the hidden paths to the South, the fighters from the North could only take small amounts of weapons with them. Thus, there was a lack of modern weapons like the AK-47 or machine guns; not to mention heavy equipment such as mortars, anti-aircraft guns and their supply with ammunition. Only the forced expansion of the Truong-Son trail, in our language better known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, improved the situation considerably. This network of paths, roads and waterways was already used during the Indochina War and extended from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. By the end of 1966 the North Vietnamese had completed 2,959...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N1 (January 2018)
and was posted online on November 17, 2017

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