Vietnam is blessed with proud traditions and arresting landscapes, fighting for the country’s independent is always one of Vietnamese’s salient traditions. The tenacious spirit of the people here can be symbolized by the tunnels in Cu Chi, where at first glance there is not much today showcase the bombing that convulsed the area during the war. To see what went on, we have to dig deep into its amazing underground system.
Located 70km (44mi) northwest of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Cu Chi tunnels is an underground defense system dug by the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (Vietcong) from 1948. The system is about 200km (125mi) long with ventilations in bushes, including countless trapdoors, constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens.
Cu Chi tunnels were often dug by hand, only a short distance at a time. It was gradually expanded during the Vietnam War, and at its peak, it linked Vietcong support bases over a distance of some 250km (155mi), from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border. Vietcong soldiers used these underground routes to house troops, transport communications and supplies, lay booby traps and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underground to safety.
To combat these guerrilla tactics, “Tunnel Rats” – trained American and South Vietnamese soldiers who would enter a tunnel by themselves and travel inch-by-inch cautiously looking ahead for booby traps, and scout for enemy troop presence. Despite this effort at fighting the enemy on its own terms, U.S. operations remained insufficient at eliminating the tunnels completely.
The “steel land” Cu Chi and its tunnels today is a famous peaceful and historical site in Saigon. Incense Travel can arrange a private touring the compounds with a Vietcong veteran, which provides a better understanding of the history of the tunnels, the hardship of life and the resilience of the Vietnamese during the war.