In the tour of Cu Chi Tunnels, we got the chance to crawl the tunnels and see the Booby Traps. After the tour, one thought lingered on our mind: How they did it? You have to see it to believe.
A brief history of Vietnam War (1955- 1975)
The Vietnam War was a conflict between the communist of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The Viet Cong, mainly from North Vietnam were supported mainly by Soviet Union (now renamed Russia) and China, while the South Vietnam were supported by the United States. It was the most unpopular war the U.S had ever fought. The war ended with the unification of Vietnam under the Communist in 1975.
Cu Chi is a district in Ho Chi Minh city, made famous by the Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi tunnels was actually built in the 1940’s, its initial intention was to store ammunitions and supplies. Then the tunnels was much more simple and shallow. In the mid 1960’s when the Viet Cong was fighting a losing war against the Americans, the Viet Cong started their underground hidings, the tunnels was eventually developed into a deeper and much complex military base, some even has schools and hospitals in it.
There was a sense of suspense and excitement as we reached.
The ticket cost less than USD$1.00. But, as usual, we paid more for it due to the inclusive transportation and commission for the guide.
Our personal guide advised us to be there early to avoid the peak hour crowd, he was right, when we were about to leave, there were at least a hundred visitors trying to enter.
The introduction to the tour was a 20 minutes video clip on the Vietnam War.
The Cu Chi Tunnels crisscrossed Chu Chi and was estimated to be about 250 km long .
The Cu Chi Tunnels was dug in the night using mainly using bare hands. To dig without alerting the enemy, the Viet Cong manually and quietly transported the dug earth into a river nearby.
Life in the tunnels was very difficult for the Viet Cong. To survive, they could only got out of the tunnels at night to look for food. Inside the tunnels itself, the Viet Cong has to deal with poisonous insects and snakes, especially centipedes and scorpions. The place was very poorly ventilated, during the years of intensive Carpet Bombings, the Viet Cong had to stay inside for days and weeks, as a result, sickness was rampant, causing the death of many.
Our guide was the model for Cu Chi Tunnels leaflets.
Cu Chi Tunnels- crawling the tunnels
In the tour of Cu Chi Tunnels we got to ‘crawl’ part of the tunnels. The tunnels was dark, narrow, long, with sudden fall and rise of height, though the permitted crawl time is just a short 5 minutes with a distance of less than 10 metres, it really squeezes every bit of our muscles. Sacastically, according to the guide, this was the simplest and easiest to crawl after some modifications for the tourists. The whole place was rather humid and stale, having emerged from the tunnel one would feel like just taken a sauna bath. It’s a fun experience though, certainly a must-try- must-see for all . Note: wear simple and with sports shoe if possible.
The attached video was sepecially shared by Andy Teach.
This is a modified tunnel. The original one, of course, do not have such a comfortable stairs.
The hidden tunnels allowed the Viet Cong to spring many surprise attacks on the enemy as and when they want. By the time the Americans discovered the complexity of the Cu Chi Tunnels, it was already late into the war, many soldiers had died.
The Americans used dogs to scout for the Viet Cong, it proved to be very effective as the Viet Cong were very scared of it tracing their footsteps. But they finally found a solution in washing themselves using American soap, this confused the scout dogs.
It was said that a part of the tunnels was daringly dug and went through an American military base without the Americans knowing it.
To counter the threat from the Cu Chi Tunnels, The Tunnels Rats was formed. These were soldiers trained to seek and flush out the Viet Cong from the tunnels. Not very effective though, ultimately, it was the B52 Bombers Carpet Bombing of bombing every inch of the forested area which yield better results.
To make it visible to tourist , shelter was being setup at the outlet of some tunnels .
That area was bomb flat by American B52 bombers, even grasses fail to grow well till today.
Unable to find the Viet Cong and to counter the threat of Cu Chi Tunnels, the Americans launched Carpet Bombing. Since they do not know where the tunnels were, the B52 Bombers would dropped bombs on every inch of the jungle. It proved to be effective, as at the end of war, large part of the tunnels cave-in and was exposed.
The Viet Cong actually got most of their ammunitions from the killed enemy or from unexploded bombs . Making weapons through anything they could get from the jungle. Creativity was being stretched to the limit .
Do not underestimate a bush or thrash like this, it was actually an air vent for the tunnels. Bamboo poles or tree trunk which was hollow inside was also used to bring fresh air into the tunnels.
A deep well was dug. It was the main source of water for the Viet Cong.
Never fire a gun before? Try live firing at the range. At $40,000 Dong per bullet for firing from a M16 rifle, that’s about USD$1.80.
Today, Vietnam and U.S had a better relationship. May the world be like this, always.
Booby Traps- the lethal killer
The scaring experience of the tour, however, was not the tunnels itself, but the lethal booby traps invented and laid by the Viet Cong for its enemy.
The Booby Traps is a device hidden or concealed with the intention to cause surprise injury, pain or death to a person. In Vietnam War, the traps were made from simple tools of ordinary household things such as iron nail, sharp iron spike, sharp bamboo pole, food canned or even a rock. Some could pierced through the body while others triggered off explosion from a grenade or mines. Some were laid to kill just one person while some were made to kill a band of soldiers. Some were laid in the forested area while some were laid on/across an open road. Whatsoever, it was damn damn deadly!
The simple and easy to operate Booby Traps prove to be a cost-effective weapon, it was said that it caused a huge 11% death of Americans in the bloody Vietnam War, that was about 6,000 deaths, not including the injured from the traps.
Usually sharp iron rods or bamboo spikes oiled with man made or snake’s poison were used as the killer.
A vacant house is never safe. Enter this one and the wooden swing with spikes hidden behind the closed door would swing at the intruder with lethal injury.
Many of the Booby Trap devices was previously used in the jungle to kill animals, now is adapted by the Viet Cong to use in the war.
As the guide was explaining, we could imagined the trapped victim cried of pain …
The Booby Traps did not just killed the victims, the damaged done greatly demoralized the enemy. Pain, fear and unrest were aroused, causing much resentment to the war in American home soil.
The immediate effect of the booby traps was it slowed down the enemy, as they had injured man to carry. They also worried of more traps around, thereby instead of searching and destroy the enemy, they spent more time combing for potential traps.
In Vietnam War, no where is safe. Booby Traps were almost everywhere, it was laid on a fallen tree, across the stream, a log lying across the road, an abandoned house, an empty coke can or even in a thrash cigarette pack.
After the 1 hour tour, as always, we ended up at the souvenir shops. The retailing products were mainly books and DVD video on Vietnam War.