No visit to Saigon is complete without a trip to see the Cu Chi Tunnels. Some 250km of tunnels were constructed in the Cu Chi province alone over a 25 year period. In the later years of the war they helped facilitate communication and coordination between the Viet Cong (VC) controlled enclaves, isolated from each other by South Vietnamese and American land and air operations. Some of the tunnels contained whole living spaces, and were 3 layers deep. The deepest layer was used for escape and most lead to the Saigon River.
They made the tunnels and entrances intentionally narrow to prevent the larger Americans fitting inside. We got a demo from one of the staff who dropped into a completely hidden trapdoor. They even created hidden entrances under water from the river.
Below the trap door top lies directly in front, look closely for the string handles.
Air ventilation was created using bamboo and disguised as mounds of earth. Traps were created at ground level to catch out unsuspecting soldiers and also within the tunnel for anyone who managed to infiltrate it.
The conditions in the tunnels were poor, often people spent weeks or even months underground. The Americans tried to gas them out, destroyed crops and bulldozed villages. They even sent down special soldiers called tunnels rats. German Shepard’s were used to sniff them out but the VC just started using American soap and spread American clothing round the area to confuse the dogs. They used rubber sandals which they made with the tread in reverse so that the Americans thought they were going in the opposite direction.
An incredibly interesting visit to a site that really showed the tenacity of the VC and what they were prepared to suffer for their cause. This area was badly bombed and now only a small section of tunnel is open to the public which gets progressively smaller as it nears the 100m end.