The Cu Chi tunnels

October 23rd, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Imagine a complex of tunnels that could house up to 11,000 people. Well that is what the Viet Cong built during the War. You get to understand how very different tactics are needed in a classic war, and a guerilla war.

Making the tunnels would have been gruelling work, and living in them not much better. They were often just 1.2 metres high if that, and infested with critters.

This is how they got air to the tunnels below. They would use termite mounds as cover for air holes. Bear in mind in some areas there were three layers of tunnels, and the third layer could be 10 metres below the ground.

There are 121 kms of tunnels in total. regardless of your views on the Viet Cong, that is an incredible achievement – and one that many say was reasonably influential in their ability to remain potent.

A solider showing one of the entrances into the tunnels. Pretty damn narrow hole, and under the leaves could easily be undetected.

You can see how narrow it is. Imagine walking through the bush and having armed soldiers spring out of the ground.

This is half of a pit trip. The grass covers swings when you step on it, and the bamboo spikes below would be lethal. Nasty.

One of the tunnels wen went through. You don’t spend much time underground, which is a relief as you are crouched over the whole time.

The VC made rubber sandals out of the discarded tyres left  by the US forces.

The tour through the area takes around 90 minutes and is absolutely fascinating. Regardless of your political opinions on the war, it is a fascinating example of how to fight a guerrilla war.

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40 Responses to “The Cu Chi tunnels”

  1. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    The Marxists are using the same tactics in NZ politics.

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  2. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    Commie war tourism disgusts me.

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  3. Nostalgia-NZ (5,206 comments) says:

    If ever the Americans had paused for thought before invading either Iraq or Afghanistan and considered their futile efforts in Vietnam against a hidden enemy they might have understood the extreme difficulty (impossibility?) of winning a conventional war against ‘rebel’ governance.

    I remember the arguments that the Viet Cong would eventually invade Australia and NZ. Instead we saw no such invasions despite the ‘strategic’ withdrawal and as DPF reports Viet Nam is now a productive and more open country trading with the rest of the world.

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  4. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    It was the Viet commies who dealt to those Khmer Rouge psychos….so some good done at least.

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  5. Ender (105 comments) says:

    The punji stick pit traps were only lethal if you were lucky. Very effective psychological weapon

    [DPF: Yes, they would leave the bodies behind rather than try to re-use the trap, so it would be a deterrent]

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  6. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    @ Nostalgia-NZ (1,441)
    it wasn’t as simple as that. It was also thought that communists used tactics as in a cult. They would promise better things and then democracy would disappear and propaganda would take over so no matter how bad things were change would never come. There was the past example of Stalinism but also East Germany etc.

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  7. TheContrarian (1,085 comments) says:

    Did you go through the tunnels, DPF? Very claustrophobic – I managed it but wife couldn’t stomach it

    [DPF: Yes, I was first in!]

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  8. fish_boy (152 comments) says:

    The lesson to be learned from Vietnam is where the local regime is corrupt, incapable of reform and faced with a popular, nationalist grass-roots rebellion then all the military aid in the world will not save it, and it is better to allow the regime to fall, and let history “play out” whilst striving to moderate, stablise and befriend the revolutionary regime that takes power. It is a lesson that the warmongers and chickenhawks of the Republican right appear to have not learnt, be it from failing to understand the Arab spring to threatening war with Iran.

    It should have been clear even in 1961 that given it’s animosity to China Vietnam is a natural U.S. ally in the region, and had Ho been allowed to unite Vietnam then by now the USA and Vietnam would be firm friends and many millions of innocent Vietnamese victims of the imperialist aggression of the United States would still be alive. Indeed, the pointlessness of the Vietnam war is more and more obvious in histories light now the US is seeking allies to help “contain” China.

    Our Vietnam vets – now genial looking aging old duffers that everyone wants to love – can airbrush history with the connivance of our cartoon MSM all they like, but it is troubling to me that clearly the US military, and those of it’s client states like NZ, engaged in a giant criminal act, slaughtering millions of people, in an unjust war of which we were guilty of the crime of waging aggressive war.

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  9. backster (2,172 comments) says:

    The Hobbits were building them long before the Viet Cong, ask Pete.

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  10. Nostalgia-NZ (5,206 comments) says:

    hj (3,142) Says:
    October 23rd, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Yes I agree. At least with East Germany there wasn’t a western attempt to invade and ‘put things right’ if only because of fear of the USSR.

    fish_boy (146) Says:
    October 23rd, 2012 at 10:07 am
    The lesson to be learned from Vietnam is where the local regime is corrupt, incapable of reform and faced with a popular, nationalist grass-roots rebellion then all the military aid in the world will not save it, and it is better to allow the regime to fall, and let history “play out” whilst striving to moderate, stablise and befriend the revolutionary regime that takes power. It is a lesson that the warmongers and chickenhawks of the Republican right appear to have not learnt, be it from failing to understand the Arab spring to threatening war with Iran.

    I agree with this.

    But not about our vets.

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  11. Christopher Thomson (376 comments) says:

    Fish-boy; clueless and ignorant.

    But dont let the anti-american media fantasy get in the way of reality.

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  12. Wayne91 (142 comments) says:

    That tunnel was made bigger for us westerners and yet when I crawled through it I also found it claustrophobic. THe people are just getting on with life. Fascinating Place.

    I am not anti American in any way, however they and we had no right to be over there. 100’s of thousands of innocent people were mass bombed and napalmed. What is the justification for this?

    Having said that, I have enormous respect for our vets. I dont blame them at all.

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  13. Longknives (4,746 comments) says:

    “Our Vietnam vets – now genial looking aging old duffers that everyone wants to love – can airbrush history ”

    You really are an unpleasant little stain aren’t you Fish_Boy? I imagine you actively participate in the Anzac Day protests? screaming insults at our elderly War Vets….

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  14. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    @ fish-boy.
    the kmer-rouge proved that fears of communist ideology weren’t unfounded. It’s one of the hall marks of extremists that they will quickly cast of the known status quo for the unknown (like the Green Party and it’s embrace of te tiritti with only a foggy notion of what tino rangitiratanga means).

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  15. fish_boy (152 comments) says:

    The reality that our veterans who fought in Vietnam did so as part of an enormous war of aggression and were part of a massive war crime has to complicate how they are viewed today. The media and the vets may nowadays connive to, as I said, air brush the political realities from our involvement but that political reality is the central fact that colours everyone who was contemporary to the war views on the veterans and still has significant impact today. For us, this troubling moral conflict is perhaps the merest glimpse of the sort of moral dilemma the Germans must feel when thinking their veterans and WWII.

    Oh and as for ANZAC day, I prefer not to engage in jingoistic pagan religious ceremonies so I stay in bed. And anyway, what the hell were we doing invading the Ottoman empire, a nation with which we had no possible quarrel? We got our arses kicked right outta there, and deservedly so.

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  16. Nostalgia-NZ (5,206 comments) says:

    We were rallying to war as those, who thought themselves to be at the time, part of the British Empire. Can’t change it fish_boy. You’re welcome to stay in bed on Anzac Day fish_boy, courtesy of the men and women who fought for us. I’m sure none of them would put a price on what they did for others to pay. In fact as history shows they kept things pretty quiet when they came home, lucky those that did. Far from getting their arses kicked, they excelled. They weren’t different to us, they were us.

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  17. tom hunter (4,843 comments) says:

    The lesson to be learned from Vietnam is where the local regime is corrupt, incapable of reform and faced with and faced with a popular, nationalist grass-roots rebellion

    You obviously did not bother to read upthread, where it was pointed out that exactly the same comparison could be (and was) made with the South Korean “regime”. It took thirty years but it did reform – unlike it’s Northern cousin. Presumably you would have been opposed to stopping the communists in the case of the Korean War as well, and for much the same reasons.

    In addition it was explained that the popular, nationalist grass-roots rebellion was so stuffed during the Tet Offensive by the US and South Vietnamese forces that it never came back. As a result when South Vietnam eventually fell it was to standard military conventional forces out of North Vietnam: tank armies equipped and trained by the USSR – the other side of the “imperialist war of aggression” that does not exist in your world. Had the US failed to defend South Korea in the decades after the Korean War the same thing would likely have happened.

    And had Ho been allowed to unite Vietnam then by now the USA and Vietnam would be firm friends

    As you yourself point out, they are, with both countries seeking to “contain” China. But back in 1961 communism was seen as one gigantic wave of global revolution – and more importantly saw itself that way. Any tensions between Vietnam and China were well hidden by “brotherly solidarity” and were not obvious at all. Hell, it took until the end of the 1960’s to see the cracks between China and the USSR. I’m willing to hold the US accountable for fighting stupidly (thanks mainly to Democrat SecDef McNamara and General Westmoreland), but I don’t seen any moral or ethical problem fighting nasty, brutal little communists wanting to impose their shitty system on people. It was the right thing to do in Korea and it was the right thing to do in Vietnam.

    It is a lesson that the warmongers and chickenhawks of the Republican right appear to have not learnt, be it from failing to understand the Arab spring to threatening war with Iran.

    Gosh, I didn’t see the Democrats listed there. Strange when a hard-lefter like “fish-boy” will otherwise unload about how un-left the Democrats are. Even stranger when the latest war the US got itself into was led by a Democrat, and was one where few – other than conspiracy theorists – argued that the US was failing to support a popular uprising.

    Of course one could make a good argument about failing to understand the Arab spring if one pointed to the incoherence of the Obama Administration supporting (or at least rapidly getting into position to lead from behind) popular uprisings in Libya and Egypt but not in Iran and Syria.

    But that would require a degree of nuance that “fish-boy”‘s general spray can’t achieve. Now begone back to your treasured state, high-rise apartment little Marxist.

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  18. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    wayne91″ They and we had no right to be there.”

    Anymore than communists have any right to force their totalitarianism ,extermination and destruction on others.Lenin,Stalin,Mao etc all mass murderers,principally of their own citizens.FFS.

    We hear very little news from Vietnam of the oppressive and corrupt nature of it’s “liberating” government,doesn’t fit the MSM picture.America evil,liberation good.

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  19. Wayne91 (142 comments) says:

    Kowtow – Now that youve used the term “mass murder” I guess it could be applied to what the Americans did in Vietnam. And it is not justified no matter who does it or why.

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  20. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    wayne,you’ll bag the Yanks ,but you don’t mention the commies and how many they murdered. Yet you want to claim to respect and not “blame” our vets?

    Come on,our artillery killed people. Maybe “innocent” people. How is that different to “Yank” murders?

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  21. Wayne91 (142 comments) says:

    Kotow – it is estimated up anywhere from 1 to 3 million people lost thier lives in the conflict. If our soldiers deliberatly targeted women and children then I could and would not respect that.

    Personally I have a lot of respect for America, particullary for what they did for us in WW2. Far more respect than those communist murderers you mentioned earlier. I find myself defending America to people who are Anti-American for the sake of it. I just cant condone or support what they did in Vietnam

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  22. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    One reason the Americans lost was there was no corresponding antiwar movement in North Vietnam or media focus on losses (ie 100% propaganda), so they were fighting by different rules.

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  23. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    re wayne I can’t condone or support the spread of totalitarian communism.

    And hj that’s what the media ,academia and the left did in the so called anti war movement,they were supporting the spread of communism,and still do.Today it’s Greens,environmentalists etc same people different “causes”.

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  24. Reid (16,457 comments) says:

    The tunnel engineers were the North Koreans. They advised the Viet Cong and designed the network, they are the best in the world. The North Koreans have 60,000 artillery pieces in tunnels, pointed at Seoul capable of causing 100,000 casualties an hour. Just one of the issues in Korea. But google that NK-Vietnam tunneling connection, it’s quite interesting.

    I can’t condone or support the spread of totalitarian communism.

    I think I’d quite like totalitarian communism provided I was the totalitarian kowtow. I suppose I’d have to put you in a gulag wouldn’t I.

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  25. Nostalgia-NZ (5,206 comments) says:

    hj (3,148) Says:
    October 23rd, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Different rules is right, one was the greatest military power in the world and the other wasn’t.

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  26. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    Different rules is right. The Americans fought with their hands tied behind their backs and in terms of previous wars were extremely restrained.That’s one of the reasons the commies won.

    And thet are still the world’s greatest military power,thank God.

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  27. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    kowtow :”The Americans fought with their hands tied behind their backs and in terms of previous wars were extremely restrained.That’s one of the reasons the commies won.”

    Yes, all that napalm bombing and the use of agent orange showed considerable restraint. Yeah right!
    You only need to look at those tunnels to realise that the “commies” won because they outsmarted their opponents. No amount of military hardware could beat the determination of the Viet Cong.

    Now you just keep believing that the American’s fought with ‘their hands tied behind their backs’.

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  28. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    kowtow: “And thet (sic) are still the world’s greatest military power,thank God.”

    Yes indeed. Which goes someway to explaining their $US 60,000,000,000,000 debt.

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  29. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    bc?
    Boring communist.

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  30. tom hunter (4,843 comments) says:

    Now you just keep believing that the American’s fought with ‘their hands tied behind their backs’.

    You’re thinking tactical not strategic. The US was not willing to sink the Soviet supply ships and would not even take out the air defense systems around Hanoi for fear of hitting Soviet advisors, an approach epitomised by Lyndon Johnson picking the bombing targets himself. It was the equivalent of fighting against Nazi Germany without hitting their oil supplies and harbours. This was all part of the “graduated application of force” so beloved of McNamara and company. So yes, they did fight with their hands tied behind their backs.

    Which goes someway to explaining their $US 60,000,000,000,000 debt.

    I think you mean the current $16 trillion in debt, and the military indeed only goes “someway” to explaining that – far less in fact than things like Medicare and Federal welfare, especially in the last four years when $5 trillion has been added even as the US military continues to shrink from it’s Cold War peak, along with it’s share of the economy and Federal spending, which peaked in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It’s estimated that both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost about $1.4 trillion since 2001 – during which time the US government has spent $31.5 trillion.

    If you’re really talking $60 trillion, then I think you’ll find that’s an NPV figure looking at the next 40 years and which is overwhelmingly driven by unfunded liabilities such as (in order), Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.

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  31. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    No kowtow, I’m not a communist (boring or otherwise). Just interested in how you rationalise the following:

    1) How the US dropping Napalm bombs and using chemical welfare with agent Orange meets your criteria of being (your quote) “extremely restrained”.

    and

    2) How the US being (your quote) “the worlds greatest military power” lost the war. [Other than some vague opinion like "they fought with their hands behind their backs"].

    Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

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  32. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Hi tom.

    Just to clarify, the figure of $60 trillion I quoted is the US National debt. This includes Households, Business, State etc as well as the Federal debt. The $16 billion you mentioned is just the Federal debt.
    According to the US Defense about $700,000,000,000 is spent on the military/wars. It sure does cost a lot being the worlds policeman!

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  33. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    Nostalgia-NZ (1,452) Says:
    October 23rd, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Different rules is right, one was the greatest military power in the world and the other wasn’t.
    ……………..

    not seeing the point Nostalgia-NZ ? The North Vietnamese weren’t taking many casualties (unlike the Americans), and on the other side the will to fight was seen to be crumbling. Thanks to a news media which was 100% under government control.

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  34. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    1) How the US dropping Napalm bombs and using chemical welfare with agent Orange meets your criteria of being (your quote) “extremely restrained”.

    Agent Orange was a defoliant.

    and

    2) How the US being (your quote) “the worlds greatest military power” lost the war. [Other than some vague opinion like "they fought with their hands behind their backs"].

    The North Vietnamese didn’t count the bodies. The Americans did. The North Vietnamese allowed zero opposition to the war.

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  35. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    hj “Agent Orange was a defoliant”.
    You neglect to mention that 400,000 Vietnamese people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children were born with birth defects from this defoliant, hj. I suppose that meets your definition of the US being ‘extremely restrained” too.
    Didn’t really answer question 2) either.

    I asked kowtow to justify his claims, hopefully he can come up with something better.

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  36. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    I was wrong about the power agent orange.

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  37. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    bc

    Note I said extremely restrained in terms of previous wars. You are taking quotes out of context and creating your own to your own advantage.As far as I’m concerned the sentence speaks for itself,unless you are thick or are looking for a fight.
    America can be said to have lost the war.That does not mean they are not the greatest military power in the world,then or now.
    There are many examples of similar set backs to great powers but such set backs do not prove alot in terms of overall power/greatness.

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  38. Wayne91 (142 comments) says:

    kowtow – “America can be said to have lost the war.That does not mean they are not the greatest military power in the world,then or now.
    There are many examples of similar set backs to great powers but such set backs do not prove alot in terms of overall power/greatness”

    Perhaps they are the greatest military power, and I would far rather have them as the greatest military power than say Iran, Afghanstan, Iraq etc etc.

    That doesn’t give them the right to do what they did in Vietnam – kill and maim hundreds of thousands of innocent people for what? Ideaology? Power? Reds under the bed? What did it acheive? You seem so dismissive of the atrocities. And before you go on about the oppresive regimes – yes they are just as bad if not worse. Doesn’t justify it.

    Every empire has its day – America seems to be contributing to its own demise trying to be the worlds policeman

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  39. kowtow (8,475 comments) says:

    wayne91

    No one is talking about “rights”, I’m certainly not. It’s called war. A dirty and ugly human occupation.Will always be. I’m not dismissive of human tragedy.

    You talk of atrocity. The atrocity is that of violent invasion and the failure of the world to stand up to communist aggression.

    If the fucking communists ,where ever they are didn’t have a creed of violent spread of their Marxist dialectic throughout the world ,perhaps the Americans would not feel the need to be the world’s policeman.I for one am glad that they have been and are as powerful as they are and that thier government is accountable to an electorate. How many of your Marxist states were evr similarly accountable?

    Every empire has it’s day. Too true,the Soviets have crashed and so too will your pals in Mainland China. The United States of America (with all it’s many faults),but a great democracy non the less,will outlast the lot of them.Thank God.

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  40. Dean Papa (784 comments) says:

    hahaha, you silly American fanboys! The Yanks lost this one, fair and square. No use blaming Jane Fonda (or Wayne Barnes for that matter!). But speaking of fighting a war with “their hands tied behind their backs”, maybe the Yanks should have dropped a nuke, or two, eh? Woulda, coulda, shoulda, eh? The problem was the Yanks never really could comprehend, or appreciate the culture and history of the place. It’s little wonder then they were left confused and bewildered by the experience. While it would be nice to believe America stands up for good throughout the world, the truth is they always put their own self interest first (or what they delusionally perceive to be self-interest). But don’t worry fanboys, the USA is still the greatest military power in the world!!

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