The Wonderful Story
Recently, the online community was amazed by a stunt performed by British stuntman Jim Dowdall, who has appeared in blockbuster movies like James Bond, the Bourne series, and Indiana Jones. He drove a Jaguar XF sports car across the Thames river using only two 1-inch diameter cables.
However, this would not have been such a remarkable feat if people knew that the drivers of the Truong Son army had been doing it for a long time. What’s more incredible is that they even drove trucks across the cables, not just small cars with various support devices like the British actor mentioned above.
Driving on the cable is a miraculous story on the Truong Son road
In early 1965, Lieutenant General Dinh Duc Thien, who was then the Chief of the General Department of Logistics, was sent to China for work. There, he was taken by his Chinese counterparts to visit the cable bridges that stretched from one mountain to another, from one river bank to another during the anti-Japanese period.
Upon returning to Vietnam, General Dinh Duc Thien presented the structures he witnessed in China to the Institute of Transport Engineering. In cooperation with several departments of the four universities in Hanoi, they conducted research and eventually applied this “new” transportation method in the battlefields on the Truong Son road.
At that time, Nguyen Trong Quyen, a teacher of the motorbike department at the logistics officer school, was chosen as the first driver to drive on the cable. He recounted, “For the first time, my colleagues and I tested driving on the cable in the Dien Bridge area, over the Nhuệ river.
The engineers used an electromagnetic punching machine to make concrete pylons approximately 5-6 meters underground and then used a winch to pass a thick cable, similar to a wrist, from one side of the river to the other, according to the calculations of the engineers. I drove a Soviet truck that ran on a pulley system on the cable, similar to a train running on rails.”
Initially, I thought the pulleys would slide along with the cable to the other side, but instead, it swung terribly. From February 1965 to May 1965, I ran constant tests in two ways. The first was running on pulleys as described earlier, then designing a sliding floor for trucks with a load capacity of 4 tons or more.
With the pulley system, a 1-ton truck running on cable would hardly be detected from the air, as reconnaissance planes would only see two lines instead of guessing they were bridges. For trucks weighing 4 tons or more, we used a sliding surface applied in places with a lot of trees, where enemy reconnaissance planes had a harder time finding us.”
The Death-Defying Experiment
In June 1965, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport at that time, Phan Trong Tue, invited members of the Government Council and all ministers of the ministries to attend the final trial to prepare for the application of this method on the battlefields on the Truong Son road.
The location for the final trial selected by the Institute of Transport Engineering was Canh Dien, about 1 km from Dien Bridge over the Nhuệ river.
Quyen recalls: Around 8 o’clock in the morning, the Deputy Prime Minister asked me to drive for everyone to watch. Mr. Dang Van Thong, the director of the Institute of Transport, pointed to the oscillation meter of the cable and said: “While driving, if the car tilts to the left or right less than 15 degrees, just keep going.
If the car tilts from 16 to 17 degrees, you and the passenger must jump into the river so that the construction workers below can pick you up.” I drove about 1/4 of the cable and saw the gauge jump to 10 degrees, and about 1/3 of the cable it jumped to 15 degrees. At this time, looking at the rearview mirror, my passenger, Nguyen Van Xay, urgently said, “Sir! People on the shore are waving the flag and ordering our guys to jump.”
I joked, “Our guys are walking on the mouth of the death god. If they jump, they will be crushed and drowned under the river. Just go wherever the current takes us. Let it be.”
As soon as I finished speaking, the car flipped. It fell into the river, with 3 tons of concrete pouring out. The car lost its traction and turned over three times. Luckily, because the car doors were closed tightly, water could only slowly seep through the gaps instead of rushing in.
Me and Xay sat and watched the approaching death inch by inch inside the cabin. The hope briefly emerged, and I told Xay, “Now, you and I lie down and wait for the pressure inside the cabin to equalize with the water pressure outside, then kick the door and jump out…”
The Unique Bridges…
After that failure, all the efforts seemed to be in vain for Quyen’s driving trip. They focused on finding the cause and found that the flipped car was not due to his driving skills, but because the concrete pylon had sunk and slanted after a rainstorm at night, causing the truck to slide and unable to bear the load, shaking in the wind, and the more it shook, the dirtier the bridge pylon became, the more the cable tangled, and the faster the car fell.
A series of “unusual” bridges were replicated throughout the Truong Son road
The next trial was more meticulously calculated with concrete pylons deadlocked with steel, measuring the cable tension within the allowed range instead of randomly setting the pylon like the previous experiment. Under the observation of government officials, on November 11, 1965, this decisive test was successful.
The government decided to install cable bridges for cars running on pulleys for the first time at Km 0 (Dac Krong, Quang Tri). Following that, a series of “unusual” bridges were replicated throughout the Truong Son road, providing favorable conditions for the transportation of equipment and military supplies from the northern rear to the deep battlefields of the south, contributing significantly to the historic victory in the spring of 1975, national reunification…
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Anh Duc compiled (TTTD)