Cu Chi Tunnels

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

  The district of Cu Chi lies 70 km to the northwest of Saigon. A major river and road pass through this district, making it a desirable supply route. It was also the termination point for the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The construction of the tunnel system actually began in 1948 by the Viet Minh attempting to hide from French air and ground attacks. Initially each village built its own tunnel to serve as an underground communications route. Over the years the separate tunnels were connected and fortified. By 1965, there were over 200 kilometers of connected tunnel. Eventually sleeping chambers, kitchens, wells, and even hospitals were constructed underground and added to the tunnel network.

The tunnels were utilized by the NFL (National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam)Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communists).  The impressively well-camoflauged tunnels were used as hiding spots for the guerrilla soldiers, communication and transport routes, caches for supplies, and living quarters. They allowed for troops and supplies to not only be hid but to also move covertly.

The tunnels were extremely narrow and cramped. Soldiers had to crawl their lengths on their bellies. Those tunnels open to tourists today have been enlarged to accommodate wider Western frames. The chambers underground are claustrophobic, hot, humid, and dank. They must have been miserable places to spend hours at at time. Nevertheless, the Cu Chi tunnels were an invaluable resource for the Viet Cong forces and a constant frustration for the Americans throughout the war. The important role the tunnels played in the success of the guerrilla tactics cannot be over-stressed. Most of the tunnels were eventually destroyed by carpet bombing toward the end of the war. But by then they had already succeeded in prolonging the conflict, increasing the monetary costs and number of casualties for the Americans, which eventually led to their final withdrawal.

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