Cu Chi Tunnels Tour Photos and Vietnam War History

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour Location & Significance

The Cu Chi Tunnels tour is located about a 1 hour drive to the NW of present day Ho Chi Minh City. However, at the time of the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh City was named Saigon and it was the capital city of South Vietnam. The complex of underground Cu Chi tunnels was spread out over a 75 sq mile area.

Strategically, the Cu Chi tunnels may have been the turning point of the war. This is due to the utility of the tunnels being used to hide underground troop movements, supplies, hospitals and army headquarters.

The Cu Chi tunnels allowed the North Vietnamese to prolong the war and drain the resolve and resources of the US military. These types of tunnels could be found throughout most of Vietnam.    

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

The Viet Cong were experts at camouflaging the entrances to the Cu Chi tunnel network. Below, our guide demonstrates how to enter the tunnel and close the door.

Photo Cu Chi Tunnel Entrance

Once sealed, the tunnel entrance is essentially invisible to the untrained eye.

Cu Chi Tunnels Living Conditions

The North Vietnamese army endured great hardship living underground. Unfortunately, the Cu Chi tunnels network needed to be shared with unsavory creatures such as poisonous centipedes, snakes, insects, spiders and of course rats.

The Viet Cong endured rampant disease and suffering in order to prolong the war effort. It is estimated that 100% of the underground army had intestinal parasites of some significance. Additionally, half of the troops had malaria at any given time.

US Anti-Guerilla Tactics For Cu Chi Tunnels

Above ground the US Military had become aware of the Cu Chi tunnel network and especially it’s effectiveness. Due to the unconventional nature of the Viet Cong resistance strategy, the US was not sure how to counter it. Efforts to enter the Cu Chi tunnels and engage with the Vietnamese fighters underground proved ineffective.

This was in large part due to the obscurity of the tunnel crawlspaces and the extensive use of deadly booby traps and trapdoors. Additionally, when encountered underground the North Vietnamese would fiercely engage the intruders.

Photo Trap Doors located at the Cu Chi Tunnels

There were many booby traps and trap doors implemented by the Viet Cong fighters around the entrance doors to the Cu Chi Tunnel network.

Similarly, efforts by the US military to gas the Cu Chi tunnel network or drop grenades down the entrance doors of the tunnels also proved ineffective.  The Vietnamese resistance fighters had extensive ventilation networks set up to enable the flow of fresh air into the tunnels.

Photo of Ventilation System disguised as Termite mound. Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

What appears to be a termite mound in this photo. was actually part of the elaborate tunnel ventilation system. The ventilation system installed by the Viet Cong at the Cu Chi Tunnels kept a steady supply of fresh air flowing into the tunnels. As a result, efforts by the US military to gas the tunnels were ultimately ineffective.

Unsurprisingly, the strategy that the US Military fell back on was carpet bombing. Bombs, bombs and more bombs were dropped from miles high onto what was once a lush jungle landscape. By the end of the war it was a pock marked moonscape devoid of all vegetation.

Eventually, the extensive bombing campaigns began to succeed in neutralizing the effectiveness of the Cu Chi tunnels. However, by the time that finally happened the American public had lost the will to keep supporting the Vietnam war.  Thus, the tunnels had been a means to an end for the Vietnamese.

The Size of the Cu Chi Tunnels

The average westerner would be too big to enter and travel through the Cu Chi tunnels. Physically, the size of the Viet Cong soldier was considerably smaller which enabled them to effectively use the tunnel network.

In the photos below I am able to enter one of the actual tunnels. However, I would surely get stuck if I had tried to continue into the network.

Photo Attempting To Enter the Cu Chi Tunnels network

The cramped nature of the tunnels would have made it extremely difficult for movement by intruders. As part of the Cu Chi Tunnels tour we were permitted, but not required, to try and enter one of the original tunnel entrance doors.

Directly in front me lying on the ground is the tunnel door. It is simply a small wooden frame elegantly covered with leaves that make it invisible when put in place over the entrance way.

Photo Entering the tunnel network - Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Entering the tunnel network during Cu Chi Tunnel tour.

Entering the tunnel network on Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Photo Entering the tunnel Network on Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

This was as far as my size would have permitted me to go.

Cu Chi Tunnels for Tourists

Fortunately, there was a section of the Cu Chi Tunnels Tour that tourists could enter and travel through. Realistically, this may have been a former supply tunnel because it was much larger than the majority of the real tunnels.

The tourist tunnel extends for 20 or 30 meters and it is about 20 feet underground. The tunnel is also well lit, which is not a convenience that the Viet Cong army would have been able to enjoy.

Photo Tourists Tunnels, on Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

The Cu Chi Tunnels Tour features a special section that is safe for tourists to enter, although tunnel amenities would have been more limited than this in the real tunnels during the war..

The Real Cu Chi Tunnels

Photo Real Cu Chi Tunnels Size and Dimensions

However, in this photo you can see that the actual Cu Chi tunnel network was much smaller than the tourist tunnel.

Limited Resources at Cu Chi Tunnels

The Viet Cong did not have the resources to provide the same standard of equipment to it’s troops as the US military. However, what the Vietnamese lacked financially was made up for with innovation.

The shoes of the Viet Cong army were sandals that were constructed out or recycled rubber from car tires.

Photo Sandals of Viet Cong TRoops at Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

At the end of the Cu Chi Tunnels tour we were introduced to the limited resources of the Viet Kong. This photo shows a work station where the sandals were made from recycled car tires.

Sandals made at Cu Chi Tunnels

Here is the finished product….

Limited Food Resources at Cu Chi Tunnels

The Viet Cong troops living underground would work in the tunnels during the day and emerge in the evening. Under the cover of darkness the Viet Cong could engage in military maneuvers and also tend to their agricultural plots. In addition to the logistics issues already mentioned, the Viet Cong army also needed to grow their own food.

Photo Cassava Root at Cu Chi Tunnels

Rice was not always available and a staple of their diet was the cassava root. Samples of the cassava root were available as part of the Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Conclusion

Well, I don’t have much to say here as the conclusion is pretty obvious. In the end, size doesn’t matter as much as the reason why you are fighting. This is the story of David and Goliath, although in the biblical story the only fatality was Goliath. Unfortunately, the death and destruction caused by the Vietnam war would reach gigantic proportions.

 

Additional resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Liberation_Armed_Forces_of_South_Vietnam#Names
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%E1%BB%A7_Chi_tunnels