Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Tunnels of Cu Chi

I have watched a number of war movies about Vietnam, the ones that everyone has watched, mostly. To name:
1- Full Metal Jacket.
2- Platoon
3- The Deer Hunter.
4- Apocalypse Now.
In none of them the Vietcong tunnels have been mentioned to the extent they actually existed during the war. There's a short scene in Platoon that one of the guys goes into a tunnel and comes out of another entrance and two other soldiers get caught in a booby trap. That's all. When I found The Tunnels of Cu Chi and went through it, I was quite stunned by the way Vietcong treated Americans. I then found another movie in the Internet called Tunnel Rats which the name suggests it could be about underground fighting. I have to watch it first although it's mentioned that it has been a failure but the book is just amazing. It shows how brutal Vietcong guerrillas were towards Americans, not that Americans didn't do anything as bad. Then I realized that the said tunnels now is a tourist attraction in the country! 
Here's some of the interesting parts of the book:

Vietcong soldiers (if the term soldiers could be used for them and I will have a separate post in that regard based on what we were taught in CFLRS) in used tropical animals in the tunnels against Americans. Snakes, Spiders, you name it and there're horrible and scary stories about them in the book. In addition to that the animals themselves were a threat to American soldier because they didn't know what to do with them or what to expect from them. To name Rats were available to a large extent in tunnels and we all know how scary they could be at times. In one instance, and this is what an American serviceman indicates in the book, he turns his flashlight on in the darker-than-night cave-like tunnel and sees a big Rat standing on his back feet (in the book another term is used for back feet which I can't recall) and showing its teeth! He flips out and crawls up the tunnel while firing his rifle. He gets out with all the difficulty he has. The tunnels are all made for the slim body of Vietnamese and of course its difficult for Americans to go up and down easily although at times they intentionally widen parts of the tunnel to lure the Americans in. He gets out, all frightened and starts throwing all sorts of explosives in!
It appears during the book that the tunnels are very well structured and almost immune to all different types of explosives. It's because of the type of soil that Vietnam, generally, has and that is Clay. It's indicated that Vietnam is generally a peasant land and at the time, at least, the majority of population lived in small villages and hamlets and they soil gave them everything they needed. Perhaps not now that every country seems to be industrialized because of the cheap labour they have to make the goods Western countries encourage their citizens or habitats to buy on daily basis even if they don't need them!
Hundreds of book probably have been written about Vietnam War and the good thing is that at least a number of them, I hope, are neutral and tell the truth of that devastating war. Unfortunately something similar to that, as I've indicated earlier, has never been available during Iran-Iraq War, the useless war which destroyed two countries and threw them back years. It is mainly because in Iran, and I'm sure about Iraq but probably the same, all the media is under the government's control. So only the news which had advantage for the warlord government get permission to be broadcasted. 
(Photo: This a scanned copy of the first two pages of the book shows a typical structure of a Vietcong tunnel system. Some people spent as long as 5 years in this rat hole!)

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