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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vietnam 3 - The Cu Chi Tunnels

During their struggle against the French colonialists, the Viet Minh excavated a tunnel system, which was vastly expanded after the U.S. invasion and stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. Out of these tunnels now the Viet Cong fought a guerrilla warfare against the U.S. troops killing many GIs through sniper fire. To put it into perspective : Down in the tunnels were combatants wearing pyjamas and sandals and were armed with old Russian carbines facing the whole American war machinery with carpet bombing B-52's, helicopters, tanks, bulldozers, Agent Orange and napalm. It took the Americans quite a while to figure out, where the raiders came from and whereabouts they disappeared so quickly. Eventually they discovered the tunnels and tried to flush out the VC with water or gas, what failed by the use of well functioning trap doors. The Americans even founded a laboratory in Maryland to develop various methods to defeat the VC inside their tunnels, but they all failed miserably as well and that was it, when the so called Tunnel Rats entered the picture. These men had a small frame and a slightly crazy mindset. I mean, who in his right mind would travel to such a remote place to creep into a tunnel with a knife and a revolver for head to head combat - mindboggling indeed ! However the VC adapted promptly and secured the entrances with mines, booby traps and bamboo made Punji sticks. At first many unexperienced Rats perished after having entered the tunnels, but later on they were better schooled and some even developed a passion for a tunnel fight, albeit they were not able to defeat the Viet Cong until they pulled out of Vietnam. The Viet Cong were communists and frowned upon unnecessary personal possessions. They had a strong comradeship, but were merciless with those , who collaborated with the enemy and their ability to suffer from the hardships inside the tunnels was remarkable. The tunnels were sometimes multi-leveled with hardly any oxygen, were hot and full with a terrible stench, but nonetheless some Viet Cong spent up to five years inside with very little food. " The Tunnels Of Cu Chi have become for the Vietnamese Communists a symbol of their tenacity and endurance during the war against the Americans from 1965 to 1973." wrote Tom Mangold & John Penycate in their book and it is a thrilling read. YouTube has some interesting videos on the subject too.

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