The road was named for Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Viet Minh and Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV); construction began on his birthday (9 May 1959).
The road was built at enormous sacrifice by the Vietnamese and their allies in the Lao & Khmer peasantry. During most of the Second Indochina War, it was a primary target of US bombing raids. After creating a puppet state in Saigon, the US military sealed off the 17th parallel between the two sectors of Vietnam; so PAVN forces bypassed the DMZ and cut through Laos and Cambodia. The US military thus intervened militarily in Laos (against the pro-Communist Pathet Lao) and in Cambodia (against the Khmer Communist Party, or Khmer Rouge).
The USA dropped an astonishing volume of high explosives on Cambodia in the hopes of shutting down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The National Liberation Front (NLF, or "Viet Cong") was supported by supplies from the Ho Chi Minh Trail.