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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Real Cu Chi Tunnels
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.
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.
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.