An Underground Network

Away from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and its numerous artifacts of the “Vietnam War” (“American War” to the Vietnamese people), we continued to seek more information. Our day trip took us about 70 km northwest of HCMC to the Cu Chi district and its intriguing network of tunnels utilized from the 1950s until the Vietnam unification in 1975.

Here, the Viet Cong lived in these tunnels for over 20 years. The underground system was over 200 km long, with three levels, and the community was over 16,000 people. Insects, disease, and close living quarters contributed to many casualties.

Our guide offered three questions that we should think about during the tour:

1) How could they cook underground to avoid detection?

2) How did they communicate?

3) How did they use the toilet?

Throughout the tour we saw exhibits showcasing the Viet Cong’s use of booby traps. Looking at these in action, I cringed to think about the possibility of walking into one. We walked past a mangled US tank, bomb craters, and spent US artillery shells.

The memorial park, a huge tourist attraction, has enlarged some exhibit tunnels to allow for larger tourists to go through. We saw firsthand why–one woman went down in a manhole, only to realize that her hips did not come out as easily as she went in. Sadly, she struggled for a solid 10 minutes, only to be freed by several men that had to yank her out–and I mean YANK!

[Luckily], our guide took us to an original tunnel, 50 m in length, and a five minute crawl (1 m x 1 m). We jumped in. It was hot, dark, dirty, and a sense of claustrophobia set in. And the 50 m cramped crawl was excruciating for this man (my thigh muscles really revealed this the day after). Never could I have imagined spending 10 more minutes in there, let alone years!

Reflecting on our experiences in Cu Chi and the numerous museums in HCMC, we began to understand the fortitude and resilency of the Vietnamese people during their many battles with a host of imperialistic powers.

And to answer the questions, they whispered on the 2nd and 3rd levels, cooked in the morning and filtered the smoke out over several rooms/meters, and utilized spent US bombs as toilets, only to dump the waste in the Saigon River later.

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2 Responses to An Underground Network

  1. Momma Lou says:

    I feel that woman’s pain. That would have been me!

    • Brooke says:

      I turned the other way because everyone was staring at this poor woman stuck in the hole. I wanted to cry, it must have been absolutely mortifying for her.

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