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 Vietnam 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.

The Vietnam War Remnants Museum

October 21st, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The War Remnants Museum in Saigon ranges from the interesting to the horrific. It is hard not to be affected by the photos of those deformed by Agent Orange.

They say that winners in war get to write the history books, and that is true here.  The museum naturally highlights the excesses of the South Vietnam forces and the US and French, while not mentioning the 720,000 South Vietnamese civilians who were killed, including at least 100,000 executions.

However let’s not pretend there were not atrocities on all sides. Unlike WWII where there was pretty well defined good and evil, Vietnam was not treated well by its French colonial masters, and both the US and South Vietnam bear some responsibility for reneging on the 1954 Geneva Conference accord to have a national referendum in 1956. To be fair to them, they had never accepted the referendum, but that was the basis on which there was a truce.

Vietnam seems to have been a choice between worse and worst when it comes to the leadership of both South and North Vietnam. Having said that when we look at South Korea, their leadership used to be pretty malignant also, but they have matured into a reasonable democracy  Vietnam remains a one party state – nominally communist – but in the China sense, rather than the USSR sense. The Government may be communist, but from what I have observed very few of the locals are.

The museum courtyard has a number of planes that were used by the US in the war.

You don’t realise how big those choppers were until you see one up close.

If you ever want to be convinced why chemical warfare is wrong, then tour the museum. There is a whole section showing the effects on not just those alive at the time, but future generations. It is heart-breaking.  War is sometimes a necessary evil, but chemicals should not play a part – whether targeted directly against humans, or on the crops.

A chart of combatants by country and year. Note New Zealand down the bottom.

As I said at the beginning, the museum is obviously slanted to reflect the views of the Vietnamese Government. However that doesn’t mean it isn’t a must see if you are in Saigon. If nothing else, a stark reminder of the brutality of war.