Tales From The Ho Chi Minh Trail-Unexploded Bombs-War Scrap

Left Behind Bombs-UXO- War Scrap.

A reminder.

You would imagine that there wouldn’t be much left behind in the way of bombs, as they blow up on impact and that’s the end of them. Unfortunately the bombing campaign over Laos yielded a figure of 30%,which  failed to do there job, a large number. They have a warranty, as it says on the sticker on the bombie casing, maybe someone should have filed a claim.

How would you make a claim?. Stuck on the side of  CBU cannister.
100’s of CBU canisters in Muang Kham.

The US Airforce flew 580,000 missions, dropping about 2 million Tonnes in weight. That’s mind boggling for me, making Laos the most heavily bombed place, per capita, on earth, more bombs than world war 2 on sleepy Laos.

B52 Bomber dropping It’s payload.
Ban Laboy 2013, Close to the Ban Kari pass.

That means that after the hostilities stopped and the US left Asia, there where roughly 600,000 tonnes left laying around that failed to explode as they should. This left the countryside littered with bombs, a huge task to gather them up, especially as some are the size of a tennis ball which make them very hard to spot. I think these are the worse, dubbed Bombies, anti personnel mines. MAG, the mines advisory group here in Laos, announced in September 2021 that they had found their 300,000th bomb in Laos. 270 Million Cluster bombs were dropped alongside conventional bombs in Laos.

Bombie casing split in half.

The big bombs are much easier to spot, although most are found by accident, or after heavy rains, who wants to bang your shovel of one of those by accident, farmers often un-earth them, and children often mistake them for toys, with serious consequences.

750 pounder…
2 man job to move it… Pic Credit  DongTri Minh
from a distance…

Where are the bombs now?

Many are still where they where dropped, waiting to be found, Laos has many active Mine disposal companies scouring the land for them, I’ve seen them working in the same districts, I saw them in 10 years ago, in Xiangkhouane and Khammouane provinces, both these provinces where bombed heavily.

2014 in Khammoaune Province, near Charlie and Alpha choke points.

The locals have invented a whole new industry from what’s left behind, scrap metal, the explosives would be sold to mining companies and the scrap metal to the Vietnamese, this is still going on today. Locals with homemade metal detectors head of into the bush and hunt for metals, many have died in this  job, and continue to today.

A local out metal detecting..

They locals have also put some of what was dropped to good use in the way of furniture, herb gardens or BBQ’s, I see them everywhere I go. There are also Vehicles, Sam Missiles, Fuel Tank Boats, Machine Guns and many other sort of war scrap stuff laying around. But the bombs present the biggest problem.

Many types, Pic Credit Jim Rotramel.
This still has part of the detonator sticking out, unearthed by an excavator on the trail, everything stops until the bomb squad arrive.
Appears to still have some explosives inside it as well.
Bombie unearthed by rain 2021
Armed as the fall to earth by rotating, nasty, is it armed now?
2020 and as you can see there is still plenty being unearthed.

Displays Of UXO Around Laos

Hotel in Muang Nong.
Guest House in Ban Langkham.
Fuel station in Phonsavan.
At the foot of the Mu Gia Pass.

More to come.

Enjoy this post? Find the rest of our Ho Chi Minh Trail Tales here. Interested in riding in Laos, but looking for  more adventure in different areas of Laos, Check out our Laos ADV Tours page.


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