Saturday, January 28, 2006

Cu Chi Tunnels

So,did a bit of an excursion to the Cu Chi tunnels. Cu Chi is a county near Saigon (Ho Chi Min City.) It was known as a beautiful "wilderness" with many rubber plantations, and farming. It was a place for city folk to escape the city. It also was a place for city folk to escape Saigon politics. Followers of Ho Chi Min would leave the comfort of the city and flee to the country-side to live off the land and fight the devilish Americans. There were more than 200 km of tunnels in the area that let the Vietnamese forces attack US/South Vietnamese bases in the area. Unfortunately, the area was bombed heavily during the war, with craters still visible and only the odd mature tree left (chemical weapons pretty much wiped all vegetation out during the war, though it's coming back, or was replanted.) 
History is written by the victors, and in this case, the Vietnamese are proud as peach about driving the US forces away. The site of the Cu Chi tunnels shows the life of the southern "Freedom fighters." It was quite impressive. The Vietnamese really show the women's involvement because the men were usually else where. The women tended the fields by day, and killed Americans by night.
The tunnel network was ingenious, and understandably the American forces could do little against them aside from bomb the hell out of the area. One of the tunnel entrances they showed us was maybe 15cm by 30 cm (6"x12") Barely noticeable by anyone walking by. No wonder the guerrillas seemed to disappear into thin air. The traps they used were nasty too, and the guide proudly noted how effective they were. There was a blown up tank,which made me glad to no longer be part of an armoured unit. 
The tunnel system was definitely a major part of the Vietnamese strategy in the area. The ventilation ducts were disguised as termite mounts and the scent covered up by using the clothing of US soldiers. The US tried using hounds to find the tunnels. The guide also pointed out that most of the American "Tunnel Rats" (the unit that went into the tunnels) were Mexican-American because they were small and could maneuver the 40cm by 60cm tunnels, not like the "big fat" American soldiers. (Of course everyone looked at me for reference at this point. lol) You will see in the picture that I could barely maneuver the 60x120cm tunnels made for tourists. I managed only about 30 of the 100 meters too. Being a little claustrophobic, the tight squeeze was too much for me to take beyond the first exit. It was quite something. I'll post pictures when I'm back in Korea, so stay tuned.


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