Blood Road (2017) Movie Script

RUSCH: There's a place I've
been avoiding for a long time.
It's been in my thoughts
for more than 40 years.
What happened there long ago
set me on this path.
There are still lots
of unanswered questions
and I'm not sure I'll find
what I'm looking for.
And this journey, it all
started with my father's story.
We have made a national pledge.
RUSCH: My father was a pilot
and he was shot down
during the Vietnam War.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON: We did not choose
to be the guardians of the gate.
MAN 1: Communism is a threat
we cannot afford to ignore.
WOMAN: The spread of
communism is imminent.
RUSCH: I was just 3 years
old, and I never knew him,
and he was missing in action
for a really long time.
LYNDON B. JOHNSON: We do not want an
expanding struggle with consequences
that no one can perceive.
RUSCH: My mom raised my sister
and I as a single parent.
MAN 2: A nation divided.
MAN 3: This war will have ramifications
on this country for generations.
RUSCH: And we never really
knew if he was alive,
if he was a prisoner of war,
or if he died that day.
All American prisoners of war
will be released.
MAN 4: They will soon join
the army of the forgotten.
RUSCH: Over 30 years later,
a search and recovery mission
identified the crash site
and found my father's remains.
And now I feel drawn
to go looking for answers,
to a mystery that's been
with me my entire life.
RUSCH: I've been a professional
athlete for most of my life,
and that involves
continually prepping, training,
preparing for some sort
of adventure or race.
I'm pretty much always getting
ready for the next thing.
JUDY: Rebecca, growing up, was
always attracted to challenge,
and she was always
doing things outside...
Riding a bike, roller-skating,
ice-skating on the pond,
riding ponies at the fair.
We went camping all the time.
It might have, at an early age,
started instilling the love
of what you can appreciate
out there.
ADAMSON: Everyone who competes
at really extreme sports
like adventure racing,
climbing, ultra biking,
all these kind of sports,
requires a very high
tolerance to pain.
And consequently,
to participate in these races,
it was mostly by passion
and sacrifice.
No matter how good you are,
people who do these sports
have another job
because they just don't pay.
Back to my other job,
riding bikes.
ANNOUNCER: Four-time Leadville
100 champion, Rebecca RUSCH!
BANNISTER: Rebecca has
become a top athlete,
whereas I went
into the Air Force,
but yet you look
at our similarities.
We're both very, very driven.
We both have
probably more energy
than a lot of people
can tolerate.
We're both on a path
to find our dad.
RUSCH: All of my life, I've
learned if I prepare properly,
I can do almost anything
that I set my mind to achieve.
But this challenge,
this is totally different.
My father's plane was shot down
over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The trail is a massive
braided network
that runs through Vietnam,
Laos and Cambodia.
There are a ton of unknowns
I'm gonna need help with,
so I'm putting together
a team with a support crew
and a riding partner to piece
this whole thing together.
It'll be good to have somebody
that knows the area,
speaks the language.
I've known Rebecca
for over 10 years.
She's had
a great deal of success
as an athlete
in multiple sports.
This trip is something different
than anything she's done
and I hope she finds
what she's looking for.
BAUER: The logistics for this
journey are incredibly complex...
The time on the bike,
distance traveled,
the heat of the jungle.
This'll be one of the more
difficult undertakings
that Rebecca's gone through.
RUSCH: My father's plane went down
on March 7th, 1972.
My goal is
to find his crash site,
and be there on the anniversary
of his death,
as my way to honor his memory.
By riding my bike there,
I will see more,
discover more,
fully immerse myself
in the place, in...
In some sort of way
to connect with him.
You driving?
I'll drive.
RUSCH: This trip, hands down,
will be the biggest undertaking,
the most ambitious thing
that I've ever attempted,
and I hope I'll actually be
able to find his crash site.
MAN: (AS STEPHEN) "June 5th, 1971.
"Dear Judy, Sharon, and Becky,
"I left California on Tuesday
"and spent 18 hours
"getting to the Philippines
via Alaska and Japan.
"It is not a trip
that I would care to do again.
"I have almost a week here
for survival school,
"and then I'm off to Da Nang
and serious stuff
"for most of next year.
"I'd like to hear from you
"a little more often
about the children.
"This is not easy for me
and that'll help.
Be good. Steve."
RUSCH: In order to get to the site
on the anniversary
of my father's crash,
we arrived in Hanoi
during the Vietnamese New Year.
I was anxious about
meeting my new teammate
and embarking
on such a big adventure
with a total stranger.
But I knew that riding
with someone from this area
could be a bridge to the
culture and really help me
understand what went on here.
When I heard about this project,
I felt excited,
because, for the nation
and people of Vietnam,
the Ho Chi Minh Trail
is a historical path,
a link on the path
to independence
and freedom
for our entire nation.
And lots of Vietnamese
people's blood
has been shed on this road.
It is indeed a journey
that I believe
will be exciting and meaningful.
I started biking when I was 16.
I became a cyclist
and was determined
to become
the best biker in Vietnam.
TRAN QUOC TUAN: Huyen is an athlete
who was an idol
in Vietnamese cycling.
Because Huyen won four Southeast
Asia Games gold medals,
in four consecutive events.
For an athlete in Vietnam,
there has never been one
who claimed such a record.
NGUYEN: After putting an end
to my competing career,
I became a coach.
I've heard a lot about
the Ho Chi Minh Trail
since childhood.
Not until now
does my dream of riding
on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
come true.
I am quite nervous,
but also excited about it.
I was looking for a long time.
Hello, hello.
Hello, hello.
Thank you for coming.
Thank you for having me.
These are for you.
Thank you so much.
I'm very sorry because
my English is not very good.
Well, my Vietnamese sucks,
so your English is better.
So happy to meet you.
Yeah, you too.
Rebecca, this is my father.
This is Rebecca.
It's nice to meet you.
Both my uncle and my father
the American Resistance war.
At that time,
America was our enemy.
One big problem is how
to overcome
barriers among people,
to connect
their hearts and souls
so they can
understand each other.
Happy New Year.
making all this food. It's beautiful.
Huyen's father and my father
indirectly fought
each other in the war,
and it's extraordinary,
more than 40 years later,
that we can all sit down
at the dinner table
and share a meal together.
Cheers. Happy New Year,
Happy New Year.
RUSCH: To a good journey. Yeah.
RUSCH: Our last major
challenge before starting
is mapping out the trail
and trying to make sense
of the complex route.
Don Duvall is an American
living in Laos.
He has spent most of his life
exploring and mapping
the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
He is an essential part
of our expedition because
he has really helped create
the most historically
accurate route for us to take.
DUVALL: My background is
navigating sailing yachts
around the world
for almost 15 years,
and then I came
to Laos and started
map-making and surveying
on a motorcycle
on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
My role here with Rebecca's team
is to help them with navigation,
provide GPS maps and local
knowledge and information.
Where we can camp,
what rivers we can go across.
I'm gonna assist them
as a guide,
and also with navigation.
DUVALL: Yeah. Explaining to
the ladies about the trail,
honestly, I was a bit skeptical.
I've been riding up and down.
There are tough places.
No one's ever taken a bike
and done the full thing
from start to finish.
RUSCH: First off, the
mileage is off the charts.
We are attempting to ride
more than 1200 miles
of unknown terrain.
It should take
about three weeks.
And to top it all off,
we're trying to find
a more than
40-year-old crash site
in the middle
of the dense jungle.
DUVALL: The site was already excavated.
It's a large area to search,
a lot of jungle.
There'd be
a very small possibility
of any evidence of
the actual crash itself.
The idea is,
you know, we'll have
these guys
in a small support rig
that we'll meet
at certain points along the way.
DUVALL: That's gonna take planning.
RUSCH: We're gonna sit down with...
There's places
your bicycle can go
that they won't be able to.
There'll be leap frogs.
In between those places,
we need to be
totally self-sufficient
for bike maintenance,
whatever might
come our way, so...
Yeah, there'll be
some leap-frogging.
We have a little work to do
to actually look
at your whole route
and make a master plan
for the weeks ahead.
RUSCH: Yeah, easier. Yeah.
We can grind down
the shoe a little bit.
The watts down here.
All right.
Zero watts right now.
And then this screen over here's
got my little map on there.
RUSCH: My experience as a
professional athlete, you know.
Get from point A to B
as fast as humanly possible.
And this is a little different.
So for this ride,
we're a team, okay?
We are a team.
I will always be beside you.
RUSCH: I'm riding with a picture
of my father in my backpack.
And before
we started our journey,
I really wanted
to share with Huyen
that my reason
for being here is for him.
It's not really about me.
It's to honor his memory.
So I wanted to bring her in
and really help her
understand why I'm here.
Ready? Okay.
I would imagine a U.S. soldier
dropping bombs
to kill my compatriots.
I had never thought of
her father
in the photograph
as an actual person.
I thought that he was
just one of war's victims.
Just like Rebecca's family.
RUSCH: After years of preparation,
I'm nervous.
I don't know what
we're gonna find out there,
or whether or not we'll even
find my father's crash site.
NARRATOR: The Ho Chi Minh Trail
is a 10,000-mile-long network
of interconnected
paths and roads
crisscrossing the dense jungles
and rugged mountains
of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
The trail, named for Vietnamese
communist leader Ho Chi Minh,
was primarily used to secretly
move military troops
and supplies
during times of conflict...
most notably during the war
with the United States
from 1964 to 1975.
At that time,
a treaty temporarily
split Vietnam
into two countries...
North and South Vietnam.
The communist North sought
to reunite the South,
but the U.S. government
feared the Domino Theory,
which could lead
to other communist takeovers
within the region.
In order to help South Vietnam
fight off the North
and the spread of communism,
the U.S. sent arms,
aid, and eventually troops.
The North Vietnamese knew
the Americans
had superior firepower,
so they resorted
to guerrilla warfare tactics,
while secretly
transporting supplies
on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Initially, the North Vietnamese
primarily used bicycles, troops,
and even elephants to move
supplies along the trail.
But as the war intensified,
they realized
the trail needed to expand.
my father tell about the war.
The bomb
on Kham Thien Street in 1972.
At that time
my father, every day,
he go to Kham Thien Street
and collect a lot of bodies
of many, many people,
And in my garden,
there's a big hole.
Now, there's still a hole?
NGUYEN: Hole from bomb.
RUSCH: Why didn't he put dirt
in the hole, to make it go away?
Because many fish live there.
The fish live in the bomb hole?
In the crater.
RUSCH: You know, that same year, 1972,
is the same year my father died.
Yeah, your father died.
You need more food
to take with you?
No. No,
it's enough.
You have enough, okay.
RUSCH: It could go nose down more.
MAN: Yeah.
It's a vegetable.
Very good for health.
Very good.
So you're back
a little less than a centimeter.
All right, thank you, guys.
MARTIN: All right.
RUSCH: Okay. Let's go.
How do I say it in...?
BAUER: I'm guessing we can
probably catch them at 40K.
And then another 864 hours.
It's a head.
That's a head.
Do people eat the eyeballs?
Excuse me?
Excuse me?
Oh, this one. Okay.
RUSCH: There's not really
a line system here.
Oh, where's my passport?
Where's yours?
Make sure nobody has it.
Excuse me?
My passport.
Thank you.
RUSCH: As soon as we crossed the border
into Laos, I felt different.
It was really cool
to just look around
and soak in the atmosphere
and feel like I was finally
moving closer to my goal.
Instead of just thinking about
it and dreaming about it,
I was actually doing it
and making progress.
biggest challenge to me is my stamina.
And the thing I worry about
the most,
that I ponder a lot about,
it's how to become
a real friend to Rebecca.
"Dear Judy, Sharon and Becky,
"I'm what they call
the weapons systems operator
"in the back seat of the F-4E
Phantom fighter jet.
"What we're really called is
a GIB, for 'guy in the back.'
"Aside from being responsible
for navigation,
"we do just about everything
the pilot does.
"We can carry just about
any type of weapon made,
"but a normal load would be
"about three tons
of bombs or napalm.
"We generally
release that at speeds
"ranging from
about 400 to 600 knots.
"The ground really comes up
at you pretty fast.
"I usually fly
about twice a day,
"which is quite exhausting.
"There is no such thing
as a day off.
"We work seven days
a week all year.
"It does make the time
go faster, however.
Be good. Steve."
Stephen was a heck of a guy.
I can't call him Stephen.
He was Steve.
Steve was a heck of a guy.
He went to Vietnam.
He didn't want to go to Vietnam.
Nobody wants to go to war,
but it was his duty,
and he was gonna do it
to the best of his ability.
In Rebecca,
I see a lot of her dad.
I see a lot of Steve
in a lot of different ways.
She loves animals,
she loves pets,
and her dad did too,
just adored them.
She definitely has a wanderlust
the way her dad did.
She definitely wants to do
things outside, not inside.
I see those things,
and I see the seriousness.
Steve was a serious guy,
he wasn't a goof-off.
And Rebecca's got
a very serious mode,
and her dad was
very much the same way.
RUSCH: One big climb
and then here a river.
Here maybe we buy
some food and water.
We need to really
get this secured down better.
In fact,
I think I'm gonna pop this dude.
RUSCH: Meeting up
with the support team
is taking more time
than I thought.
We have a hard cutoff
to get to the end of
the riding and get on a boat.
Given the schedule
and the goal
that I've set for us,
we're gonna have to figure out
a better rhythm
in order to make it
to the crash site
on the anniversary.
If we don't make this cutoff,
that's gonna put us behind
the next day
and the next day
and the next day.
Time's ticking!
It finally feels like this
is truly the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
There's a simplicity to it.
The terrain is different.
This is where I wanted to be.
RUSCH: Whoo-hoo!
RUSCH: Nope. Yeah. This way.
I just have to move the map.
In the month of August
Mary loves Sally the most
RUSCH: Oh, my God, it's a lake.
Maybe Buddha is the true
Son of God's kiss
Maybe you'll never know
Whoo-hoo they sang
As they crossed the river
As they prayed to Jesus
The walls fell on Jericho
Well, who knows
Yeah, who knows
which birds will be left
Yeah, who knows which birds
Will be left
RUSCH: Shit.
I just got a vine on my neck.
It stopped my bike.
Holy shit.
The authentic jungle
took a bite out of me.
I was... Heh. Rode through,
basically a lasso. Err!
I tried to strangle myself
on the trail.
But yeah, it really did a number
on my neck and my face, so...
DUVALL: The girls used a boat
to go across
the Nam Theun II Reservoir,
which is an area of the flooded
Ho Chi Minh Trail.
RUSCH: That way?
Here is an aluminum boat.
This aluminum came
from the war days.
This was fuel tanks
that were dropped
by the jet fighters
over the Ho Chi Minh Trail
while they were dropping
their ordnance.
All this war metal was used,
even the bombs.
Anything was used
by the villagers
for whatever
they could fabricate.
RUSCH: Historically, the
trail went through there,
so the choice was either
to ride all the way around,
or enlist help to actually
take a boat ride with our bikes
across the reservoir
to the other side.
It was the first part
of the trail
where there was
a physical representation
right in front of me
of pieces of the war.
And that specific boat
was actually an F-4,
which is the plane
that my father flew.
People in the war
were very wonderful people.
Always when a solider
catches a soldier from U.S.A.,
only they question.
RUSCH: Yeah.
NGUYEN: They question them.
Vietnamese people are very kind.
RUSCH: It's been really interesting
to talk about the war.
We call it the Vietnam War.
They call it the American war.
And she has what
I'm sure her history books say
versus what
American history books say,
and I'm sure it's skewed,
and who knows what the truth is?
Somewhere in the middle,
One of my biggest fears
in not knowing
what happened to my father
was that
he was a prisoner of war.
I had nightmares about it.
There are accounts on both sides
of terrible treatment of
American and Vietnamese POWs,
and I can't
even imagine how hard
it must have been
for those soldiers.
But across it all,
she and I both feel
the same way,
in that, at this point,
there is no animosity
against the cultures.
People are welcoming.
They're amazing here.
And she feels
the same about Americans.
There's none of that.
I think to all Americans,
whether they joined
the war or not,
the war has gone
and so has the past.
If possible,
I will do what I can
to ease the pain of war.
NARRATOR: As the war escalated,
North Vietnam continued
to improve
the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Soon it was able to accommodate
large convoys of cargo trucks
loaded down
with provisions and weapons,
much of it provided by
the Russian and Chinese
Well aware
of the North's secret route,
U.S. forces attempted
to halt the flow of supplies
by creating strategic
choke points.
But the North simply detoured
the trail
around U.S. positions,
moving it across the border
into Laos and Cambodia.
The U.S. knew the trail
was being rerouted
into neighboring countries,
but were hesitant
to send ground troops
into Laos and Cambodia
because they worried that
China and the Soviet Union
might respond by escalating
their own involvement
in the war.
So the American forces resorted
to bombing
the trail from the air.
Although the North Vietnamese
utilized thousands
of anti-aircraft guns
to defend the trail,
those early bombing raids
caused major damage.
The North trail engineers
were forced
to be resilient and resourceful.
Whenever the Ho Chi Minh Trail
was damaged,
they worked tirelessly
to repair it,
and when necessary,
rerouted it elsewhere
through the dense jungles.
RUSCH: You okay, Huyen?
RUSCH: Okay.
RUSCH: Woo... Stickered vines.
We're gonna be
scratched up tonight.
If you see the trail,
let me know, Huyen.
That's a big mushroom.
Very nice.
If we get stuck here all night,
we can eat it for dinner.
We have to stay generally south,
so it's just gonna just...
We'll just kind of stay south
and hope for the best.
RUSCH: Oh, wait, yeah, we
have to go around here.
RUSCH: The physical beatdown
that the jungle takes on you
makes any task that you have
exponentially harder.
It certainly did ours.
RUSCH: You okay?
Okay. I'm okay. Yeah.
How do you like the sling?
Going up towards a protected
area in the plateau,
I was testing the bike out.
I made the slightest mistake.
The front wheel went out,
and when I hit...
One of the most common
and cycling injuries is
a broken shoulder,
and I knew when I hit
that my number was up.
Not a good day for Don.
You know how many
freaking kilometers I put on
without a freaking injury?
NGUYEN: (IN VIETNAMESE) We had thought
that he had to discontinue the role
of guide and interpreter
for Rebecca and I
as well as the whole group.
RUSCH: Don was seriously hurt,
and it's a minimum
of a day's ride
to the nearest hospital
from where we were.
He needed to undergo surgery,
and that would have taken him
out of the trip entirely.
So he refused.
He decided to rejoin the trip
and just tough it out.
NGUYEN: Oh, very big hole.
NGUYEN: Big hole.
Big bomb.
RUSCH: This whole trail,
this whole section,
there's a lot of 'em.
The first bomb crater we saw,
I didn't believe
that that's what it was.
It was the first time of seeing
really obvious physical scars
still left in the land
and people living amongst that,
and living
basically right on top,
right around
all these bomb craters.
There was crater after crater,
and I actually couldn't fathom
the scope of the devastation
and how many there were.
Everywhere you look,
there's another one,
there's another one,
there's another one.
And I was asking Huyen
about them, like...
"Why is that hole still there?"
You'd think that the ground
would have filled in,
but I guess it doesn't,
because in the rainy season,
they fill with water
and become these little ponds
and sort of ecosystems.
trail, there are so many bomb craters.
That really reflects
the harshness of the war.
RUSCH: It's upsetting to see them.
I felt sorry
for the people who lived there.
I felt sorry for my father
and the other pilots
and the internal conflict
that they must have experienced.
We knew one thing for sure,
that it was very painful.
And I think that war
is the most cruel thing.
And I still do not understand
what it was for.
DUVALL: Phanop Valley, this
was the main choke point
because it was where
the greatest concentration
of trucks were,
so it was hit by fighters,
B-52s, continuously for years.
MARTIN: There's a town
in the Phanop Valley
near the border of Vietnam.
I called it Bomb Town.
And what we did there was...
Wow, I mean, I... Yeah.
I couldn't describe it.
One thing you want to notice
is how they're rounded off,
and the jagged pieces
are missing up there.
Because... From this ordnance.
RUSCH: It got hit? Yeah.
RUSCH: Yeah, yeah.
"Dear Judy, Sharon and Becky,
"some of the anti-aircraft
from the bad guys over here
"really water your eyes.
"They use tracers so you can
really see it coming.
"Most of the time, we've only
been getting small arms fire,
"but I can do without any of it.
"You kind of lose inhibitions
about bombing these guys
"when you know they're trying
to knock you out of the sky.
"I have to brief shortly.
"Give my love and lots of hugs
and kisses to Sharon and Becky.
"I've got that 8-by-10 color
picture of them at my desk,
"and it is a real comfort
to look at.
Be good. Steve."
DUVALL: These circles with an X through it
are areas where
they were storing supplies,
so very likely
this was a storage place
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
many children from U.S.A.,
if they can see
what happened here,
I think they don't want
to come here, came here.
Get ready.
Here it goes.
They turn down here.
Wow, this looks like this road.
here are very rich, I think.
Big house.
If you dig through
this barrel here,
you'll find all kinds
of interesting artifacts.
Maybe some pickaxes.
This looks like
springs from trucks.
I don't know, but this is
igniter instructions in English.
What? Yeah, okay. Yeah, this is
a parachute flare casing.
Oh, cool. Look at that.
That's amazing.
RUSCH: I feel sort of weird
snooping around everyone's houses.
Like, you would
never do this at home.
DUVALL: You can go into many
villages and still find plates,
utensils for cooking.
Almost every village
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail,
you'll find
a planter that's built
from a cluster bomb casing.
There's still
plenty of evidence around,
and it will remain
for many years.
Oh, a pagoda.
RUSCH: This place is sweet, with
the flowers and everything.
Check that out.
Look at that drum.
collect it and put it here.
RUSCH: When I was young,
I remember that people
would hear my father's story
and they would say to me,
"Oh, I'm so sorry.
It must have been so awful
to grow up without a father."
And I didn't really
understand that,
because I was 3
when he was shot down.
I was so young that
it was nothing that I knew.
And it's taken me until now
to be ready
to dig a little deeper
and want to know more.
Can we go?
Yes, I know.
I feel you.
Let's go.
In my dad's case,
they did an excavation
many years
after he was shot down,
and they identified him
through teeth.
So I went in
and they opened up the bag,
and brought out the two teeth,
and showed me what the teeth
that were on the table were,
and what his x-rays looked like.
It was no doubt.
I knew it was him.
And my eyes filled with tears
and I thought...
"Wow, he's...
He's really home."
Because you don't believe it
until you see it.
And I thought, "How different
would our lives have been
"if we knew
right at the beginning
or doesn't it matter?"
But I do know
that not a day has gone by
that I don't miss him.
Not a day goes by where
I want to make sure
I'm making him proud.
RUSCH: Growing up, I didn't know
what happened to my father.
I had reoccurring dreams
that maybe he was alive
and he had another family
and was living over here.
We would meet in a coffee shop,
and I would tell him
all about my life.
And when they found his remains,
and I knew that he died
that day in the crash,
I felt a strong desire
to come here
and try to find out
the circumstances
around his death.
I don't understand.
To better communicate
with the locals,
we enlisted Pahn's help.
I am one of the coordinators
who guide the track,
speak to local people,
and translate between
her team and local people.
DUVALL: Each individual village,
on their ethnic background,
has areas that are sacred
that have to be honored.
So he would also check
quite thoroughly about that
and inform us.
RUSCH: Just as we were about to leave,
PAHN told us a monk
had been watching us,
and wanted to show us something.
because of the bombee in the ground.
There are some bombee
under the ground.
Walk here, in his steps.
Walk in the line.
I didn't see
where he first stepped.
Okay. Wow.
What is it?
A bomb.
A part of bomb.
You just step on it, it explode.
Be careful here.
NGUYEN: Be careful.
PAHN: Bombees.
The plane drop it to ground,
and then they do this.
Also they have many, many too.
The "bombees."
He only found it
about a month ago.
A month ago he found it?
He found, yeah.
Like Vietnam.
In Vietnam, we have many.
Thank you for showing us.
RUSCH: There was an unexploded
ordnance right on the ground
that the monk walks
every single day.
I can't even imagine
what that's like.
the first time in my life
I have ever seen a bomblet,
and I knew it could go off
at any time.
People's lives
were still threatened,
though war has passed
for 40 or 50 years.
I couldn't understand
Rebecca's emotions fully.
She didn't express
her feelings to me,
but I did feel
that she was holding in a lot.
NARRATOR: From 1964 to 1973,
the U.S. intensified
their bombing campaigns
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail,
especially in Laos.
Determined to stop
the continuous flow
of troops, weapons
and supplies on the trail,
the U.S. conducted more than
half a million bombing missions
over the course of the war,
averaging out
to about one strike mission
every eight minutes.
Approximately eight million
tons of bombs
were dropped over Southeast Asia
with three million tons
dropped directly on Laos,
making it the most heavily
bombed country on the planet.
Nearly one-third of those bombs
failed to detonate upon impact,
leaving approximately 25 percent
of the region littered
with unexploded ordinances,
also known as UXOs.
Since the end
of the Vietnam War in 1975,
it's estimated that
in Vietnam and Laos,
more than 60,000 people have
been killed or injured by UXOs.
Because of the bomb
left from the war,
I lost my eye.
I lost my arm.
clear our farms, that's scary.
I'm scared,
but if we don't do it,
how can we feed ourselves?
NARRATOR: Over the past 40-plus years,
organized bomb removal teams
have been scouring the land
carefully extracting
the bombs one at a time,
and disposing of them
using controlled explosions.
In addition to bomb removal,
governments are working
to educate locals about UXOs.
Especially at risk
are villagers who earn a living
by recycling the scrap metal,
and children who think
the bombs are balls or toys.
Maybe it's a bomb.
Bring it out.
Gently, gently.
NARRATOR: At the current
pace of UXO removal,
it'll be more than 100 years
before all the bombs
in the region
have been successfully cleared.
RUSCH: In one of the villages,
we met an elderly lady
who was alive during the war
and living there.
PAHN: (IN LAO) Good afternoon, Ma'am.
These girls are foreigners.
Would you mind telling us
where people lived in the war?
Can you tell them?
in the cave, the forest.
We lived in the mountain.
PAHN: During the war,
how long did you stay
in the cave?
Very long.
How long, days or months?
Five to six years.
Also, she too is daughter.
She was born in the cave.
(IN LAO) She was born there.
Her brother was born there.
RUSCH: And I asked this woman,
"Well, why did you come back
to this place
that was devastated?"
I mean,
their village is now built
around a whole maze
of bomb craters.
And she just simply said,
"well, this is my home.
Where else would I go?
I came home
because I live here."
That was really powerful for me,
and especially, you know,
I've lived out of my car,
I've lived all over the place,
and haven't had a sense of home
for a lot of my life.
The caves were essential
for survival during the war.
They were used as shelter
from the bombing,
for storing ammunition and food,
war room planning,
and even shortcuts
through the jungle.
Don found a cave
that we could pass through
and meet up with the trail
on the other side,
but since we are visitors
in this place,
we have to abide
by the local customs
to get permission
to go through the cave.
RUSCH: They drink the whole thing?
PAHN: Whiskey.
Heh. Okay.
It's good.
Thank you.
PAHN: Also for good luck.
What do I do?
I just touch it?
Yeah. No, no.
No. I eat it?
RUSCH: Oh, okay. Really small.
Give me this small one.
Yeah. Okay.
Also good luck.
The big one... Heh...
RUSCH: No, the small one
is good, thank you, heh.
Yeah, I have something
to tie it down with.
Immediately after the ceremony,
Huyen and I grabbed our bikes
because we really wanted
to get through the cave
before nightfall.
I'll get the paddles.
It was the biggest cave
I've ever seen. Absolutely.
And there's tons of caves
in this part of the world,
and it's a big part
of the history
of where people hid out.
But also the explorer in me
was, like,
"Okay, what's gonna be in here?
This is really exciting."
It's slippery. Be careful.
RUSCH: You okay?
It's really slippery.
Hold on to the boat.
We have to take probably
at least two or three trips
to move all the equipment
one by one.
There was
a super-difficult portage
of getting around rapids
and boulder-hopping and moving
the bikes and the kayak.
Two of us really struggled.
I wasn't as strong,
so Rebecca was always
by my side to support me.
RUSCH: If these bikes survive
this, I will be shocked.
We're gonna be here
till fucking 2 in the morning.
Wait, wait. The pedal.
I'm pissed!
The trip to the cave,
it was lengthy
and gobbled up too much time.
It took too much time,
while Rebecca
always wanted to forge ahead
to get to her dad
as soon as possible.
And I really felt for her.
RUSCH: We had been in the
cave for almost nine hours.
It was exhausting,
frustrating, and set us back.
Huyen finally pointed out
the outline of a tree.
That's where I was, like,
"Oh, we made it out, we made
it out, we're outside."
were born in very different cultures.
RUSCH: Have you been riding with these?
Carrying these the whole time?
Yes. Yeah.
However, very soon I found
one thing in common between us.
She lost her father
when she was a child,
and I lost my mom since I was 8.
We both have a family,
we have feelings,
have fathers and mothers
that we've lost.
RUSCH: The first time
she talked openly
about how close
she was with her mother,
and I asked about her husband
who's also passed away.
And that's
really recent as well.
This was her opportunity
to kind of share
a little bit more of her story.
two kids has various difficulties.
it's my kids who give me
strength and motivation in life.
RUSCH: After sitting down
and sharing with Huyen,
I realize that her daughter
is growing up just like me.
We both lost our fathers
at a very young age.
It really gave me
a better understanding
of what Huyen's going through,
especially knowing how hard
it was for my mom
to raise us as a single parent.
You are very strong.
RUSCH: Thank you.
So are you.
You're doing awesome.
That was
a gnarly couple of days.
It all looks the same.
I don't have my GPS rolling.
Wow, it's not a very good trail.
Too much.
(IN VIETNAMESE) So at that time I felt
utterly tired, drained and forlorn.
After two strenuous days,
I was exhausted
and I felt like giving up.
More up. More hiking.
I think it stays hard
for a little while.
Yeah. And then we'll
see Jason and Greg,
but then we have 70
kilometers on the bike
to reach our goal
of the campsite.
I'll try my best to follow you.
RUSCH: I thought it
was gonna get easier,
but it doesn't look like it.
You guys spent
the night in a cave.
We went through,
spent the night on the beach,
then started the hike over
this morning.
BAUER: Yeah.
RUSCH: Lots of walking.
MARTIN: Today was all coming over?
All hike a bike, just totally
over those mountains, like...
BAUER: Huyen, how are you feeling?
My shoulders, my arms, my legs.
BAUER: From your pack?
Huyen's body is definitely
reaching for the reserves.
MARTIN: It sounds like a long time
of being sweaty and wet.
Rebecca definitely came back
with some battle scars
and some scratches, and seemed
to be a little slower.
It's 3:30, okay?
So no more than
20, 30 minutes here and we go.
Is that okay with you?
Cool. Awesome.
I like it.
RUSCH: As we were about
to get back on the trail,
we heard a group of Lao
villagers laughing and singing
and having a great party.
And it was such a welcome sight,
and it was exactly
what we needed
to lift our spirits
before the long ride ahead.
We can do this, right?
RUSCH: I kind of wanted to
call a little team meeting.
Everyone's tired, sweaty,
getting heat rash,
and working super-long days,
and I just felt like
that I wanted to kind of
use the opportunity
to remind you why I'm here
and to thank you for being here.
My dad was a musician.
I don't know if you know that.
One of his favorite songs
is one that speaks to me
and sort of defines
how I've lived
my life
wandering around as well.
This is my father's voice,
and it's the only time
I've heard his voice,
'cause I don't remember it
from when I was a kid.
It's a long and dusty road
And a hot and heavy load
The folks I meet
Ain't always kind
Some are bad
Some are good
Some have done
The best they could
Some have tried
To ease my troubling mind
And I can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Wow, a lot of people.
RUSCH: Here we go.
Here we go.
Well I've been
All around this land
Just doing the best I can
Trying to find out
What I was meant to do
And the faces that I see
They're as worried
As can be
And it looks like
They're wondering too
And I can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
DUVALL: I don't know where they
turned wrong. I don't see tracks.
If you're not seeing
their tracks,
that'd be the only other way
they could go.
RUSCH: All right, we're out.
So now I had
a buddy from home
Till he started out to roam
Last I heard he was out
By the Frisco Bay
And sometimes
When I've had a few
His old voice
Comes singin' through
And I'm going out to see him
Some old day
And I can't help
But wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
(IN LAO) When the planes
came, people came inside.
This was a house and a kitchen.
So if you see me passing by
And you sit
And you wonder why
You wish that
You were a rambler too
Nail your shoes
To the kitchen floor
Lace them up
And bar the door
Thank your stars for the roof
That's over you
And I can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Once again.
And I can't help
But wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Thank you.
RUSCH: What is this, Don? What is it?
DUVALL: That's a seat off
an anti-aircraft gun.
That they found up in the hills.
RUSCH: So they dragged all
this stuff back here?
RUSCH: What's he telling you, Don?
DUVALL: He's saying that this
came from the anti-aircraft gun
they found up in the hills.
RUSCH: Yeah.
They got the seat,
but all the rest of the metal
got sold to Vietnam.
This place is a living history.
And it takes on
a whole other life
when it's right there
in front of your face.
It's a better use for it
here, now.
Just to chill under this tree.
NARRATOR: Throughout the war,
the Ho Chi Minh Trail
remained a top priority
in the United States' battle
against North Vietnam.
By 1969,
the U.S. had 540,000 troops
on the ground in Vietnam,
yet they remained unable to halt
the flow of supplies
along the trail,
so the U.S. continued
its relentless carpet-bombing
and even began spraying
the jungle with Agent Orange,
stripping the leaves off trees
to better spot
the trail from the air.
While the war raged on,
both sides continued
to suffer heavy losses.
By 1972,
the death toll was staggering.
Approximately 58,000 Americans
were killed,
hundreds of thousands of
Laotians and Cambodians died,
while three million Vietnamese
Meanwhile, in the United States,
anti-war protests began
to erupt across the nation.
Responding to
an ever-increasing death toll,
many Americans
grew disillusioned
with their nation's
heavy involvement in the war.
RUSCH: Huyen and I are
very different people.
She is very talkative,
very curious,
and I tend to be
more of a private person.
It's probably good
because she actually gets me
to verbalize some of the things
that are spinning around
in my head.
Many people,
many children, American,
Vietnamese, and Laos died here.
When I think about it,
and I feel unhappy,
and very lucky now
we can have a peace life.
RUSCH: Ever since we got to this area,
I'm a little afraid
to see the place where he died.
I don't know how I'll feel.
RUSCH: I knew the trip
would be unpredictable
and I would learn things,
like you said,
that I didn't expect, but...
I think I'm learning more
about myself than I expected.
Maybe the missing part
of myself is here.
"Dear Judy, Sharon and Becky,
"I'm not looking forward
to this next year.
"I love the flying
and the airplane,
"but I don't like the job.
"Regardless of
any opinions I have
"about this war or any other,
"it is hard to think
about the killing
"that I will be doing.
"I try to rationalize and say
that it has to be done,
"but I can't see any reason why.
"If anything
should happen to me,
"please don't let me die
to Sharon and Becky.
"That is very important to me.
"I'll close now.
"I've been rambling enough.
Be good. Steve."
RUSCH: The original
schedule as planned
was to visit the crash site
on the anniversary
of my father's death.
We had a huge ride
in front of us.
We were late,
the clock is ticking,
but we pushed on
and we finally got to Ta Oy,
a small village really close
to the crash site.
DUVALL: Yeah, for locating
the actual crash site,
we had historical documents
from the Joint Pacific
Accounting Command,
who'd actually
excavated the site
and had GPS coordinates.
We could match them up
with modern-day maps,
go in and actually find
the crash site,
with the help
of the local villagers,
who had actually been there
at the time.
If you go to the crash site
or go to Ta Oy,
we have to get permission
from Liban, the village chief.
The village chief.
RUSCH: It's his land where
the plane went down,
and so we have
to follow that protocol.
It's just the way that it works.
It's not like
faxing over a document
and signing it and you're done.
It's like, you sit
on the floor with them,
and you drink
some mystery alcohol,
and it's... You kind of be
in their environment.
RUSCH: Logistics and difficulties
in finding
and contacting the chief
meant that we didn't get
to the crash site that day.
I was frustrated.
We were so close
to the crash site,
but now it was clear that
we were not gonna be there
on the anniversary.
I was in the other aircraft
on the morning
of March 7th, 1972,
in which I saw
Stephen's aircraft get hit.
This is my statement
as to what exactly happened.
"On the 7th of March, 1 972
"Gunfighter 60 and 61
departed Da Nang Air Base
"to search for trucks
moving early in the morning
"on the route structures
in southern Laos.
"We sighted two trucks
"and called them out
to Stephen's aircraft,
"which also
had the trucks in sight.
"He called he was rolling in
on the target.
"A few seconds later, we notice
muzzle flashes on the ground
"and tracers from a triple A
gun, going what appeared
"to be right across
Stephen's flight path.
"I then saw a bomb explode,
and right after that
"I saw Stephen's aircraft
hitting the ground.
"In my estimation,
"Stephen's aircraft
was hit by ground fire
"which disabled the crew,
and they went in
with the aircraft."
RUSCH: For one of the first
times, we actually halted.
And for me, it was a time
to organize my thoughts.
This country just moves
at a different pace,
different than America,
you know.
I was just letting that happen.
Don was pouring over his maps
and cross-checking
the GPS coordinates
with the military documents.
There's two different
points marked.
One of the actual GPS
that they quoted is right here,
and apparently
the other excavation site
would be down here.
They're separated by 500 meters.
It's a large area and, well,
don't get
your expectations too high.
RUSCH: PAHN came back with the news
that finally the village chief
was able to meet with us.
the head of the village.
Mr. Airh.
So this is his culture.
If guest come to visit,
have to have Lao whiskey.
First for the spirit
of the house.
PAHN: For take care our team.
How it taste?
PAHN: He heard from the
elder of the village.
Talked to him about...
plane crash in 1972.
In 2003, he go to join the team
to looking for the plane crash.
He was on the team that went?
Yeah, he also join the team
for looking for...
AIRH (IN LAO) When they
excavated, I joined them.
I worked as a laborer.
When we found something hard,
the Americans would come get it.
Then they told us whether
it was the bomb or plane debris.
It's incredible to meet somebody
who helped find my dad.
It was really important
for me and my family, so...
Mr. Airh told us what happened.
They screened to search
for the remains
such as bones, teeth,
or things like nails.
They found
and screened two teeth,
and they brought them
back to the U.S.
they were Rebecca's father's.
There was another pilot,
but he wasn't lucky.
He flew with Rebecca's father,
but his remains
were never found.
(IN LAO) They shot the plane
from far away and followed.
(TRANSLATING) After the plane
dropped, two Vietnamese soldiers,
one head of the village
at that time,
his father go to check
and see the dead person,
and they put under the tree.
He'll show you
at the crash site.
His father buried my father?
Yeah, his father.
It's okay, it's okay.
And the tree is still there,
the exact tree?
It's still the same.
Still... Still over there.
He will show you the tree.
RUSCH: How I found him
and found this village,
there's no other explanation
than it was meant to be.
There's no other way
to explain it.
So, I mean, I sat there
in shock, and it's like,
"Okay, I'm ready.
Now we really have to go.
We have to go to this site."
(IN VIETNAMESE) How blissful
and ecstatic she was.
A daughter who lost her father
since the age of three,
and in all those years
until she is 46,
she has always been longing
to return to her father
and reconnect with him.
tree over there, you see?
RUSCH: He pointed around the corner,
and you know,
at the top of the tree,
and kind of gestured that
that was the tree
that he was talking about.
How far we've come to be here.
And how many years
I've waited for this.
And now, this moment
was staring right at me.
a very strange tree, very old.
I could sense
Rebecca's intense emotion.
And I thought she looked
at that tree
as if she was waiting for
her father
to emerge from the tree.
RUSCH: "This journey down
the Ho Chi Minh Trail
"has brought me here to meet you
"and stand in the place
where you died,
"where you died
for me and your country.
"You've spoken to me
through your songs,
"your letters and the way
you lived your life.
"You've given me
the gift of life,
"and the tools to live mine
"with compassion,
joy and curiosity.
"I know now that this,
"this is not an ending,
but a beginning,
"the beginning
of our relationship.
"I miss you, Dad...
"but now I know
you'll always be with me.
Love, Rebecca."
RUSCH: I felt relieved.
I felt...
I felt close to him
for the first time in my life.
I felt like he was really there.
And so I read him...
I read him my letter,
and spoke to him,
and uttered the words "Dad"
for the first time in my life.
And it felt good to say,
felt good to say, "Hi, Dad."
RUSCH: So I left my letter in there,
and I left his MIA bracelet
that my mom had given me,
because he's not missing
for me anymore.
I finally found him.
I didn't see a strong athlete,
but a daughter
coming back to her father.
Just like she was saying,
"Dad, are you seeing me?
It's me."
Come on in, you guys.
AIRH (IN LAO) When I took
Rebecca to her father,
where the plane crashed,
I guess from her expressions,
she felt both sad and happy.
And then he showed
Rebecca the slide path
that the plane had taken
as it tumbled down the hill
to its eventual resting spot.
RUSCH: Oh, yeah, I see.
There's a huge trench,
goes as far as I can see,
just dug down
where the plane slid.
Oh, it goes a long way.
That made it real,
and even more magical,
because, you know that...
You know, that's the place.
No way.
And look what he just found,
he just found
a couple of things...
Yeah, he just picked them up.
I bet all up and down here
there's stuff.
MARTIN: The impact site
was up the hill a ways,
and the plane had slid down
toward the tree,
and it had left
a pretty good scar
on the land
that was still there.
Yeah, heh.
AIRH (IN LAO) My feelings towards
the event that I met Rebecca,
I felt sorry for her.
I would go out
and find my father too,
if it was my father.
She came here
because she is a good daughter.
Laos or other nationality,
we are all human.
We have feelings.
I'm so happy
that we could help her.
I'm glad we came here.
MARTIN: Absolutely.
As long as I am alive,
I will tell my children
not to cut down that tree.
I'm gonna go back to the tree.
Since Rebecca started
the journey back
to where her father died,
she was very persistent
and eager
to get there immediately.
Day after day, she became
more and more impatient.
She yearned for it.
And I believe
it was the biggest hope,
the cause for which
she did this trip.
It was to find the love
that she had not been granted
since her childhood.
RUSCH: Visiting him and
visiting the site,
it doesn't feel like
mourning of a death.
It feels like kind of a rebirth
of him, in a way.
I'm finding out who this man was
that I never asked
the questions about
when I was younger.
But now that
that floodgate is open,
all that information,
all those songs,
those are things that,
as soon as I get home,
I'm gonna be digging into
with a hunger.
We have a welcoming party!
So much has happened
in just a couple weeks here,
and now the mood
and the motivation
has certainly shifted.
And Ho Chi Minh City
is within
striking distance, really.
Even though my body
is starting to break down,
and I'm feeling the effects
of the trail, but we're close.
This seems so long ago
right here, heh.
Now we're down here,
and we're already looking
at the finish line.
RUSCH: For the rest of the ride
through Cambodia and Vietnam,
it was like a blur.
A weight had been lifted,
and I felt free and happy.
I didn't expect
to feel that way.
After she saw bomb craters,
the local people's
hard and poor lives
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail,
I realized that she became
more and more open-hearted.
It felt to me that
she had changed significantly.
RUSCH: All along the trail,
we talked about the war
and there wasn't ever
a discussion
of blame or a political agenda
or anything.
We both shared
the same sentiment
that it was unfortunate
that so many people died
for something
that not everybody understood,
and I still don't
totally understand.
long journey on Ho Chi Minh Trail,
seeing the harshness of the war
with my two eyes,
my opinion about war
became clearer.
I understand the biggest pain
of humanity is war.
RUSCH: Ultimately, I go back again
to the letters that my dad wrote
about war, explaining
how difficult it was
to drop bombs on people,
and how he didn't necessarily
understand why.
RUSCH: After riding every
single day for nearly a month
and covering
more than 1200 miles,
we were so relieved
to reach the finish.
You could really tell that
Huyen was excited to be home.
I felt cheerful and happy.
Through the last day
of the journey,
I could never have imagined
that I could be so strong.
RUSCH: We rolled into the city center,
and there was a small patch
of green grass,
amongst all the cement
and the tall buildings,
and it was the grounds
of the Independence Palace.
This is the place where
two years after
the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam,
the North overtook the South,
ending the war
and joining the country
under one communist government.
The whole crew
was there to greet us...
Greg, Jason, Don,
Huyen's family
and even my sister, Sharon.
RUSCH: Huyen's kids ran up to her.
They really couldn't
contain their excitement.
They haven't seen
their mom in weeks.
This trip opened my eyes
to really hold on tighter
to the people
that are still here with me,
before it's too late,
before they're gone too.
RUSCH: I'm so glad
you're here, heh, heh.
I'm so glad you're here.
MARTIN: Good job.
We did it, thank you.
MARTIN: The physical
objective was to ride
the whole thing,
and she did that.
I think, emotionally,
it's probably been
more rewarding
than she had hoped for.
lucky to see such a woman in my life.
Not knowing
when we would meet again,
I feel so sad, that I had
to say goodbye to a sister,
a friend
who had shared difficulties
side by side with me.
Mr. Don,
thank you for everything.
Oh, what a great trip.
On my motorcycle, I can't say
I've ever done what they did.
Tremendous experience for me.
Probably one of the best things
I've ever done in my life.
(IN VIETNAMESE) I realized the war
was over and the war is still there.
When Rebecca found her father,
it was a source
of enormous happiness to her.
It was the feeling, I think.
That is
the healing pains of war.
Thanks for taking care
of my sister.
We need to heal
those wartime pains.
You did such a good job.
And thank you for teaching me
how to slow down a little bit.
They call the Ho Chi Minh Trail
the Blood Road
because so many people
lost their lives here.
And while it's impossible
to completely erase the scars
left from the war,
we can honor the memory
of those who died here
by learning from their sacrifice
and choosing to forgive.
If we can't learn to forgive,
we'll just end up
making the same mistakes.
Over the past century,
our two nations have known
cooperation and then conflict,
painful separation,
and a long reconciliation.
If you consider
where we have been,
and where we are now,
the transformation
in the relations between
our two countries
is remarkable.
STEPHEN: This is another
one you can sing along to.
Everyone we sang for
has seemed to like it
a little bit at least. Ahem.
Here's the chorus.
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Try it.
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
It's a long and dusty road
And a hot and heavy load
The folks I meet
Ain't always kind
Some are bad
Some are good
Some have done
The best they could
Some have tried
To ease my troubling mind
And I can't help
But wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
well I've been
All around this land
Just doing the best I can
Trying to find out
What I was meant to do
And the faces that I see
They're as worried
As can be
And it looks like
They're wondering too
And I can't help
But wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
So now I had
A buddy from home
Till he started out
To roam
Last I heard he was out
By the Frisco Bay
And sometimes
When I've had a few
His old voice
Comes singin' through
And I'm going out to see him
Some old day
And I can't help
But wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
where I'm bound
So if you see me
Passing by
And you sit
And you wonder why
You wish that
You were a rambler too
Nail your shoes
To the kitchen floor
Lace them up
And bar the door
Thank your stars for the roof
That's over you
And I can't help
But wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
Once again.
And I can't help
But wonder
Where I'm bound
Where I'm bound
Can't help but wonder
Where I'm bound
STEPHEN: Thank you.
Thank you.