DMZ Vietnam Map

DMZ Vietnam Map in 1954

Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, or V-DMZ for short, was established in Quang Tri Province in 1954. The historically famous Ben Hai River and Hien Luong Bridge mark what happened in Vietnam’s history as the painful past of the country. This blog will help you learn more about Vietnam DMZ and an insight into the wartorn years in Vietnam.

The History of DMZ Vietnam Map

The dates, numbers, and events provided below are based on documents from Ho Chi Minh City Council’s Library.

The background – when and why Vietnam DMZ was established

The battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 ended with victory for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, leading to the critical Geneva Conference in the same year. The French Union and the People’s Army of Vietnam signed the Geneva Accords of 1954, or the Agreement on the Cessation of all Hostilities in Vietnam, officially on July 21.

The accords led to a dividing line in Central Vietnam, separating the two army forces, Vietnamese to the north and French to the south of the line. A demilitarized zone (DMZ) was also accordingly established northward and southward of this line “to act as a buffer zone,” preventing any conflicts that might lead to the recurrence of hostile activities or violence.

The dividing line (or provisional military demarcation line, to be exact) was set to be in Quang Tri Province, an extensive province in Central Vietnam. Specifically, on the mainland, this line started from the mouth of the Ben Hai River, lasting through the course to Bo Ho Su village and then to the Laos-Vietnam frontier. The line included the mainland and extended to the territorial water (counting from the coastline of Quang Tri province).

This demarcation line was more well-known as “the 17th parallel”, suggesting its latitude.

dmz vietnam map ben hai hien luong in the past

Ben Hai River – Hien Luong Bridge in Central Vietnam is the witness to the birth of DMZ Vietnam Map

The Area of DMZ Vietnam Map

As stated in the Geneva Accords, DMZ Vietnam was expected to cover a “maximum” width of 5 km (3.1 miles) on either side (north and south) of the demarcation line. Since there was no mention of a “minimum” width, both sides (Vietnam and France) decided the width would vary between 2.5 km and 5 km (1.55 and 3.1 miles).

Why couldn’t it be a straight line with a 5 km width on each side? Because of the natural topography at some points and, more importantly, Vietnam’s request not to let this line interfere with or divide the existing Vietnamese rural villages or rice fields in Quang Tri province at the time. If the line crosses one village in the middle, that village will be brought totally in or out of the Vietnam DMZ.

dmz vietnam map cover 1

DMZ Vietnam Map – the dividing line is known in Vietnam as the 17th parallel

Another term agreed by the two sides was that the provisional demarcation line and the Vietnam DMZ would extend to only where it was controllable. “Controllable” was perceived concerning 2 aspects: human resources guarding the zone and the natural geography of the area in question. The 100 police officers (each side) clearly wouldn’t manage to supervise too big a zone, and the perilous and rough region from Ben Tat (Vietnam) to the Laos-Vietnam frontier was too challenging to set up milestones, especially within the 25-day limit given to survey the establishment of DMZ Vietnam map.

In August 1954, the first milestone, writing in both Vietnamese and French: “Giới tuyến quân sự tạm thời / Ligne de démarcation Militaire Provisoire,” was set up in Mui Si in the zone, followed by others.

The narrowest part in the zone was 2.5 km from Ben Hai River, on Highway 1 in DMZ North, and the widest part was 6 km from the river, in the back of Tan Trai village. DMZ North included Vinh Giang commune and half of Vinh Son commune, with a population of about 7,000, while DMZ South included Vinh Liem commune and the other half of Vinh Son commune, with a population of around 13,000.

The general rules inside the Vietnam DMZ in 1954

Besides the aforementioned rules of non-interruption to rural villages and production of Quang Tri province, other important rules were primarily concerned with potential violent acts and entry rights:

  • Army forces of both sides had to withdraw all of their troops, weapons, and arming equipment of any kind from the Vietnam DMZ. Only essential arms for the security policers of the DMZ could remain.
  • Both sides are prohibited from committing any violent act starting from within the DMZ or from outside or showing attitudes that could lead to further conflicts and hostilities.
  • No army officers or civilians can enter the DMZ or cross the demarcation line. Permits to do so, however, fall into 3 types: 1. Permanent permits issued by each DMZ (North and South) for their residents, stating details of the resident’s full name, age, address, and unique body trace for recognition, to move within their DMZ freely; 2. Temporary permit for outsiders to reside in DMZ for a specific period; and 3. Special permits to cross the demarcation line.
  • Residents of DMZ North can enter DMZ South, and vice versa, only at the 10 points appointed by the management committee of DMZ, that is, Hien Luong Bridge and 9 boarding points on either bank of Ben Hai River.
dmz vietnam map ben hai hien luong today different colors both sides

Hien Luong Bridge across Ben Hai River – the two colors representing the two opposing forces

The Perspective of Vietnam History on the DMZ Vietnam Map

Quang Tri Province being the division line also embodied the country’s division into two halves following two different political ideologies of two respective governments, North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Many Vietnam historians consider Vietnam DMZ at the time a “miniature” of the Vietnam War with varied, diverse, and intense fights in multiple fields – economy, military, politics, and diplomatics. DMZ North, for example, built and showcased glamourous constructions to reflect economic development, as well as displaying robust and explicit intention of reunification by putting up slogans like “South and North is one” (Nam Bac la mot nha).

It was not until 1976, when the country’s North and South reunited, that the Vietnam DMZ was abolished entirely.

The Story of DMZ Vietnam Map Today

Today, when peace has existed for decades, Vietnam DMZ no longer holds the same position, but its remnants are still here. Vietnam DMZ is a significant part of Vietnam’s history in general and Quang Tri province in particular. Therefore, there are intriguing tours to learn about Vietnam DMZ in Quang Tri province.

DMZ Touring

Tourists can explore the Demilitarized Zone today by joining one of the various organized tours daily, mainly from Hue, Da Nang, or Quang Tri. Travelers can visit the most famous war settings, such as Khe Sanh Combat Base, The Rockpile, Ho Chi Minh Trail, Doc Mieu Station, or the Vinh Moc tunnels on a full-day trip.

dmz vietnam map ben hai hien luong overview

Overview of Vietnam DMZ (Ben Hai River – Hien Luong Bridge) nowadays

Summary of DMZ Vietnam Map

Vietnam DMZ in Central Vietnam started as a buffer zone to prevent further hostilities from both sides, Vietnam and France, after the great Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Ironically, the location later became a miniature of the evermore severe attacks during the Vietnam War, reflecting intense, explicit manifestations of ideologies and intentions from North and South Vietnam. Only in 1976, one year after the reunification of the country, that the line was removed.

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