The Cu Chi Tunnels

The ingenuity of the Viet Cong may not have been more evident than at the Cu Chi Tunnels.  Located a mere 60 kilometres from the South Vietnamese capital city of Saigon, these tunnels provided the Viet Cong with access to hundreds of square kilometres of South Vietnam.

In order to combat better-supplied American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War, Communist guerrilla troops known as Viet Cong (VC) dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon.  Soldiers used these underground routes to house troops, transport communications and supplies, lay booby traps and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underground to safety.  To combat these guerrilla tactics, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces trained soldiers known as “tunnel rats” to navigate the tunnels in order to detect booby traps and enemy troop presence.  Now part of a Vietnam War memorial park in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the Cu Chi tunnels have become a popular tourist attraction.(http://www.history.com/topics/cu-chi-tunnels)

We visited these tunnels and experienced how intricate and tiny they were.  The following pictures show how the small Vietnamese soldiers could slip into the tunnel entrances (the size of a typical piece of printer paper) and ‘disappear’.  The second set of pictures shows Harold demonstrating the same thing.  American soldiers were generally too large to enter and navigate the tunnels.

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There are sections of the tunnels you can still enter and move through.  The spaces are small, dark, and hot.

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The Viet Cong cleverly disguised their air and cooking vents by hiding them in termite mounds.

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An American tank still sits where it was disabled by an improvised mine.

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The Viet Cong were masters of guerrilla warfare.  Part of this included the use of vicious booby-traps to injure, kill, and ultimately terrorize their enemies.  Working examples of some of these booby-traps are on display.  Most of the supplies needed to make the traps, mines, and other items of sabotage were taken from both exploded and unexploded ordinance dropped by the American B-52s.

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During our visit to these tunnels, we talked about the sheer terror the American soldiers must have felt to never know where an enemy might pop up out of the ground or where a treacherous booby-trap full of spikes might be waiting.  Knowing that the Viet Cong operated above ground during the night meant that traps and treachery were always new come daylight.  Fighting in the vast areas above the tunnels this must have created panic and fear, wearing down the American soldiers day by day.

The Cu Chi Tunnels showed us a new side of the conflict in Vietnam.  That is, the subversive and vicious acts of guerrilla war and the terror it must have incited in the opponents. 

We’ve visited so many places in the world which commemorate conflicts throughout human history.  We learn from history that we don’t learn from history.

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