North Vietnamese Army Body Armor – Ho Chi Minh Trail
Patch Repair on Front
NVA Transportation Corps drivers assigned to Unit 559 wore body armor in limited numbers on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Steel helmets of East German origin are often seen being worn in conjunction. Of course, other photos show standard Com Bloc copies of the Soviet M40 helmet as well.
The body armor was ChiCom made. It consisted of heavy overlapping metal plates attached together then covered by a cotton cover that was sewn on. The neck was closed by a ChiCom button of the type found on their export tunics. A lime green web strap wrapped around the waist and was secured by a metal buckle. Another web strap, in the shape of a Y, came from both sides of the rear panel and buckled in front. These straps could be adjusted. The hardware on the webbing was made of aluminum in an effort to prevent rust. As there is no photographic evidence we have seen showing Chinese PLA troops wearing body armor at the same time, we believe this early Chinese body armor was made to Hanoi's specifications and used exclusively by the NVA.
The photos of the Troung Son, the NVA name for the Ho Chi Minh Trail, clearly depict the vest being worn by these drivers in the first photo. You can see all the same detail, including the left shoulder strap with buckle, the split Y web strap on the sides, the armored collar and the web waist belt.
The HCM Trail was under constant bombardment by the USAF. It was the only means of resupply for the Front due to Naval interdiction operations. By issuing body armor to a driver who did not have to walk the trail, but could sit in a truck, it made it more likely the driver would survive to move supplies down the trail. The collar could be worn up when under fire.
This is an ultra rare item.
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