The History of DMZ Viet Nam

Flagpoles of the two regions


During the American War 1948–1975, Quang Tri and Quang Binh – two provinces on either side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ Viet Nam) were the most heavily bombed and saw the highest casualties – military and civilian, American, and Vietnamese. Names made infamous in the 1960s and 1970s America has been perpetuated in countless films and memoirs: Rockpile, Con Thien, Camp Carol, Darkrong Battle, Hamburger Hill, and Khe Sanh Combat Base.

Hien Luong bridge seen from the South of Vietnam - DMZ tour
Hien Luong bridge is seen from the South of Vietnam

For some people the Demilitarized Zone will be what draws them to Vietnam, the end of a long and difficult pilgrimage; for others, it will be a bleak, sometimes beautiful, place where there’s nothing particular to see but where it’s hard not to respond to the sense of enormous desolation.

Vietnam demarcation line and demilitarized zone
Vietnam demarcation line and demilitarized zone | DMZ Viet Nam – Show northern Quảng Trị Province, along the Ben Hai River, which separates North and South Vietnam. (Indochine Map)

Under the terms of the Geneva Accords 1954, Vietnam was split in two along the 17th Parallel, pending elections intended to reunite the country. The demarcation line ran along the Ben Hai River and was sealed by a strip of no man’s land 7km wide on each side known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ Viet Nam). All Communist troops and supporters were supposed to regroup north in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, leaving the southern Republic of Vietnam to non-Communists and various shades of opposition. When the elections failed to take place, Ben Hai river became the de facto border until 1975.

dmz viet nam
Vietnam Administrative and political divisions Map – DMZ Viet Nam

In reality, both sides of the DMZ Viet Nam were anything but demilitarized after 1965, and anyway, the border was easily circumvented – by the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the west and sea routes to the east – enabling the Bac Viet (North Vietnamese) to by passing a string of American firebases overlooking the river.

Book DMZ tour from Hue with a tour guide with Hura: PRIVATE DMZ TOUR FROM HUE

One of the more fantastical efforts to prevent Bac Viet southwards was US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s proposal for an electronic fence from the Viet Nam coast to the Mekong River, made up of seismic and acoustic sensors that would detect troop movements and pinpoint targets for bombing raids. Though trials in 1967 met with some initial success, the “Mc Namara Electric Line” was soon abandoned: sensors were confused by animals, especially elephants, and could be triggered deliberately by Bac Viet.

Flagpoles of the two regions
North Vietnam and South Vietnam Flags in DMZ

The conventional bombing by artillery and aircraft contain the Bac Viet, but nothing stop them Bac Viet stormed the DMZ Viet Nam in 1972 and pushed the border further to the south. Exceptionally bitter fighting in the territory south of the Ben Hai River claimed more American lives than any other battle zone in Vietnam.

A banner in the south of Viet Nam
A banner in the south of Viet Nam. Translate “If you need an Independent Country – Need the President Ngo Dinh Diem”

Figures for Bac Viet losses during that period are not known, though more than 1000 died. So much firepower was unleashed over this area, including napalm and herbicides, that for years nothing would grow in the impacted, chemical-laden soil; but the region’s low, rolling hills are now almost entirely reforested with a green sea of pine, eucalyptus, coffee, and acacia.

Read More:
DMZ Vietnam 
– Hien Luong bridge – Ben Hai River
– Vinh Moc tunnel – The secrect village under ground
Khe Sanh Combat Base and the west of Quang Tri Province 

The terminology used in this article or you can read in other documentaries:

  • Bac Viet is known as Viet Cong, the North Vietnamese.
  • Viet Cong: a person who supports or believes in the principles of communism.
  • DMZ Viet Nam is a Demilitarized Zone –  an area of Quang Tri province, in the north of Hue city about 95 km, and takes 2 hours driving


  • You can book a DMZ tour with a tour guide to visit the 17 Paradell from Hue as well as the battle of Quang Tri (Khe Sanh, Dakrong, Rock Pile…). A local guide will show you the life of the Vietnamese in the American War
  • If you travel from Phong Nha to Hue or Hoi An to Phong Nha and don’t have enough time for the Battle of Quang Tri & DMZ tour, we just stop at this place: Hien Luong – Ben Hai for visiting and relaxing.
  • The entrance ticket for Hien Luong historic site: is 25.000 vnd ~ 1 USD per person. At the present, you can see the Hien Luong bridge was painted in 2 colors to remember the separate period; visit the museum of the American war and the flag tower.
  • Book DMZ Viet Nam tour with English Speaking Guide with Hura: DMZ tour