In March 1971, Nguyễn Ðức Thọ – much like artist Bùi Quang Ánh– was stationed in (Sepon or ) in Laos. Situated in the eastern part of Province, was part of the front line of Operation Lam Sơn 719, approximately 26 kilometres from the Battle of Bản Đông.
In the Lam Sơn 719 Campaign, US and (ARVN) forces used helicopters carrying airborne soldiers to reach high positions, using superior firepower to take over the surrounding areas along Route 9 from Khe Sanh into Laos in an attempt to cut enemy movement to South Vietnam along the . The intended result was to prevent military supplies from communist North Vietnam reaching their forces in the (RVN).
Thọ captured the defensive capabilities of the People’s Army of Vietnam () when fighting against the ARVN and US forces (fig. 1).
Created on 19 March 1971 at high point No 495 in, Laos, the artwork depicts air defence soldiers with a 12.7mm Soviet-origin DShK heavy machine gun waiting for the enemy. After learning of Operation Lam Sơn 719, North Vietnamese forces implemented an emergency strategy, occupying high points in the area in advance and installing camouflaged units with heavy machine guns waiting to target low-flying helicopters, aircraft and ground forces.
During the Lam Sơn 719 operation, American helicopters flew more than 160,000 sorties and ARVN helicopters a further 5,500. More than 168 helicopters were destroyed and 618 damaged (according to the US-based Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association). Operation Lam Sơn 719 collapsed in the face of heavy opposition and the’s determined resistance. The remained open.
As an aside, high point 495 atwas on the northern bank of the Sepon River (Sông Xê-pôn). The Sepon River forms the border between Vietnam and Laos, separating Quảng Trị Province from Province on the Laos side. Due to the remoteness of the region, many places had no names, so high point 495 was just a location number marked on military maps.