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Article The Cu Chi Tunnels

Discussion in 'Vietnam War' started by Frisco-Kid, Jan 20, 2005.


  1. Frisco-Kid United States

    Frisco-Kid Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    In APR/MAY03 I returned to Vietnam for a 10 day visit. I went with my wife, Kath, and another couple, James and Sue. James is a Vietnam Vet who served with the 101st Airborne Division [1/327] from MAY67-NOV67, when he volunteered to be trained as a LRRP [Long Range Reconaissance Patrol]. After his LRRP training, he was attached to the 4th Infantry Division doing recon patrols in the Central Highlands.

    We flew into Tan Son Nhut International Airport, where I had landed for my first tour in JUN66, on the outskirts of Saigon [now Ho Chi Minh City]. We spent our first 2 days in the Saigon area. While there we took, probably, the most popular tour in the area: The Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi is about 6mi. from Saigon-proper, but is pretty much a suburb of the city now.

    We were taken there in a van from the tour company that we hired. The driver was also our guide. All of the tour guides for the tunnels are government approved. Upon arrival, we were taken inside the Visitor's Center where we were shown a 20min. film about the tunnels. Most of it was pure Communist propaganda, siting the ingenuity, bravery, and tenacity of "the peaceful citizens of Cu Chi after being attacked by the invading Americans." I almost got up and walked out.

    After the propaganda film we looked around the Center. They had a couple interesting exhibits, including a collection of some of the weapons used by both sides in the Cu Chi area. Also, a side-cut model of the tunnels.

    Image link broken do you have another copy Frisco?

    That's my hand in the picture :mrgreen: .
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2018
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  2. Frisco-Kid United States

    Frisco-Kid Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    We were next taken across the road to where the part of the tunnel system open to tourists is.

    The Cu Chi Tunnels became legendary during the VN War for giving the VC control of a large rural area this close to Saigon. At it's height, the tunnels stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. In the Cu Chi district alone, there were over 40mi. of tunnels. The network, parts of which were several stories deep, included innumerable trapdoors [spider holes], specially constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapons' factories, field hospitals, command centers, and kitchens.

    The tunnels made it possible for the VC to communicate and coordinate with each other, even though there were ARVN and American units isolating them from each other. They also allowed the VC to mount surprise attacks wherever the tunnels went-including inside some US perimeters-and disappear into their spider holes without a trace. They could pop up on an American patrol, shoot it up, and disappear. A scary place to be sure. After ground operations claimed large numbers of US casualties in the area, they bought in other technics of warfare. During the war, Cu Chi became probably the most bombed, shelled, gassed, defoliated, and generally devastated AO in the country.

    More later.

    [​IMG]

    James was small enough to get inside a spider hole, but it was still tight.
     
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  3. Frisbee

    Frisbee Mi Sergeant MI.Net Member

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    Cu Chi was a very scary place and I'm glad I didn't spend too much time there. When I first arrived in Vietnam and joined my company of the 101st we were in the Cu Chi area opcon to the 25th ID. The very first action I saw was when the VC attacked my company and a sister company setup in a joint NDP. The VC seemed to come from out of no where and went undetected by both companys LP's. They used a part of the tunnel system to get into their attack position. I posted a pic of myself in the gallery taken in the Cu Chi area.
     
  4. rotorwash United States

    rotorwash Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    In a fictional book titled "The Thirteenth Valley" (can't remember author) about the 101 moving into the A Shau (Farnie would have been there) he writes about discovering a tunnel. After pouring CS into it with a Mighty Mite for two days, they finally check it out again only to discover Charley has been slowly working a 500 pound bomb towards their location. They blow the bomb and leave. Not an implausible situation.

    RW
     
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  5. Frisco-Kid United States

    Frisco-Kid Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    BTW: You guys know that if you click on the thumbnail picture you get a bigger image, right? Just checking.

    Unlike Bill, I never fought in the Cu Chi AO [thank God]. One element or another of the 25th ID spent practically the whole war in and around Cu Chi. The Australians also spent some time in and around the area. This, and the surrounding area, became known as The Iron Triangle.

    These tunnels didn't just happen during the VN War; they dated back to the '40s and '50s when the Viet Minh were fighting the French. However, they were greatly expanded by the VC as they fought us. When the 25th ID first moved into the area, the first thing they did was to build a large base camp in the area. What they didn't know was that they built it on top of an existing tunnel system. It took them months to figure out why they were being shot at while in their tents at night.

    Back to the tour. After we crossed the road and were shown a couple spider holes, we proceeded down a path through the woods. I'm guessing this was all new growth, given the devastation that was inflicted on theis area. James, being the LRRP of the group, was in the lead. Unbeknownst to us, the trail was rigged with trip wires. James hit 3 of them before we got 50yds., to his embarassment. These were just loud pops from detonator caps but, I must admit, the first one almost made me hit the dirt.

    The trail brought us to the next exhibit; a tank that, I assume, had hit a mine. I think it was brought here from somewhere else. I had to wonder if anyone was killed in it. I hoped not.

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Frisco-Kid United States

    Frisco-Kid Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    After leaving the tank, we were taken to a couple of other exhibits. One of them was a very interesting array of various booby traps. Everything from punji stake foot traps, to tiger traps [a camoflaged pit with sharpened bamboo poles in the bottom], to a model of 2 VC working on a 250lb. bomb, trying to get the explosives out of it.

    Their was also a mannequin model exhibit of a male and female VC in their black pajama and scarf "uniforms."

    [​IMG]

    Which ones are the REAL dummies? :mrgreen:
     
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  7. Frisco-Kid United States

    Frisco-Kid Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    As we proceeded, we could hear gunfire. If you've ever heard it, you recognized it immediately as AK-47 fire. Now THERE was a blast from the past. Reminded me of how naked I'd been feeling since I got there, not being armed.

    We get to a large cabana with a souvenier display and some benches in it. It's the visitor's center to the firing range. There's a couple of range cadre there. Visitors have the opportunity to fire an AK-47........for a fee. $1.00 per round! We all decide to shoot up a 30 round clip; about 7 rounds each. Down range about 75yds. are 5 silouettes [sp] of various animals.

    James is the first to shoot and pops off 7-8 rounds. You need to hit a small circle on each target to knock it down. Nothing drops. Sue is next. She squeezes off a few rounds, but not her share. She's a little gun shy. No targets fall. Kath, my wife, is next. She flinches on the first couple of rounds, but then really gets into it and shoots up about $13.00 worth, but the targets are safe. They've all pretty much been hit, just not in the right place. I'm up last. I'm thinking that I don't like us shooting a ZIP, ZERO, NADA, in front of these commies. I take aim at the first target and tip it over. Do the same on the next 3. By now the commies and other spectators are taking notice. I aim at the last target and....CLICK. No more rounds. Thanks, Kath :mrgreen: . The cadre get excited, pat me on the back, and takes me to the souvenier stand in the shade and gives me a free baseball cap with the Cu Chi Tunnels logo on it :cool: .

    At the souvenier stand are some other tourists; an Irishman and his wife, and, I think, a German couple. When they hear us talking, discovering that we're Americans, the Irishman asks if James and I are VN Vets. When we tell him we are, we go through about a 15min. question/answer discussion. They are all very interested in the war. They're very grateful for our in-put and candor; not judgemental that I could detect. I was glad to tell them a little bit of our perspective, knowing the communist propaganda that they've probably been exposed to.

    [​IMG]

    Back in the day, the guy standing behind me would have been the target. Lucky for him I didn't have a flashback :mrgreen: .

    More later.
     
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  8. Frisco-Kid United States

    Frisco-Kid Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    After the firing range we stopped and was served tea at a pic-nic area. Now there's something I thought I would never experience-the Communists waiting on ME. Yes, "What a long, strange trip it's been." :mrgreen:

    As we made our way back, we were shown some fighting trenches and entrances to the tunnels.

    After being unable to pacify the area by ground operations, the area was covered with Agent Orange, burnt to a crisp with napalm, and pummeled with bombs and arty. The intense heat of the napalm would interact with the wet tropical air in such a way, it would create cloudbursts and extinguish the fires. The VC pretty much remained safe in their tunnels.

    The Cu Chi Tunnels is where Vietnam's famed Tunnel Rats were born, after trying everything else. These guys were often involved in fire fights underground, and sustained heavy casualties.

    The next step was using specially trained dogs to find trapdoors and VC. The enemy started puting out pepper in the area to distract them. They also started bathing with GI soap, smelling like people that the dogs related with friendlies. Most importantly, the dogs weren't able to recognize booby traps. So many dogs were killed and maimed, their handlers began to refuse to send them into the tunnels.

    Finally, the area was declared a Free Fire Zone; you could pretty much shoot anyone in it, random arty shells were fired into at night, and pilots were told to drop unused bombs and napalm on the area before returning to base. But, the VC stayed put. Finally, B-52 bombers carpet-bombed the whole area, I think in the early '70s. Most of the tunnels were destroyed by the Arc Light bombing. It was too little too late for alot of dead Americans. Also, by then the US was on their way out by trying to put the Vietnamization of the war in place.

    You couldn't have gotten me down one of those holes if you held a .45 to my head. However, they had one tunnel that was enlarged to accommodate tourists. It went straight for about 100yds. with another exit at about 75yds.. Sue, James, and I decided to go through it. There was NOOO WAY you were going to get Kath down there. The day was hot on the surface but the tunnel was hotter, which surprised me. At 6ft. tall, 225lbs, I pretty much filled up the tunnel. James and Sue could duck walk through it; I had to crawl it. I bailed at the 75yd. exit.

    [​IMG]

    Note To Self: Do not crawl through VC tunnels in shorts. Hard on the knees :mrgreen: .


    P.S. For those who are wondering but are too polite to ask, my right hand was not injured in the war. It's the result of a lumbermill accident in Montana when I was 30yrs. old. Go figure; made it through 2 tours with hardly a scratch to mention, and do something like this years later :shock: . Don't feel too bad; it hasn't slowed me down much.
     
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  9. Frisbee

    Frisbee Mi Sergeant MI.Net Member

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    Frisco....great story and pictures... I have no desire to go back but I can understand why others do

    BTW......you cracked me up with the Psyco Vets baseball cap
     
  10. Bombardier

    Bombardier Admin & Arbiter Staff Member Site Admin

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    You Vietnam Vets never cease to amaze me with your gripping yet sometimes chilling stories. Thanks for getting involved here boys, I really enjoy reading your posts.
    Hey Bill I wondered what that meant on Friscos Hat ?
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
  11. Zofo

    Zofo Mi Lieutenant MI.Net Member

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    I've thoroughly enjoyed reading these Tom. There are some similar type things on Vet sites but as we sort of "know you" this makes it a lot more interesting.
    It seems strange that the area wasn't arc lighted way back when it was beginning to be a problem.
    Finally, I didn't notice your hand but had to go back and check afterwards :oops: God (and fate) move in mysterious ways!!
     
  12. Frisco-Kid United States

    Frisco-Kid Sergeant Major MI.Net Member

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    Glad you enjoyed, guys.

    BILL: I know what you mean; returning to Nam isn't for everyone. I didn't think it was for me, either. It took ALOT of persuading from James. I had to do alot of self-analyzing before I made the decision to do it. What do I think of the Vietnamese people - Do I hate them? NO. Do I have an axe to grind? NO. Do I feel that I need some sort of closure by going back? NO. Do I think it will stir up some bad memories? Probably, but that's okay; there were alot of good ones, too. Also, I decided that some of these had to be faced and the other people involved deserved to be remembered. I've never suffered from guilt over anything that I did over there. And, thank God, I've never been plagued with "Survivors Guilt." Always knew what my job description was and what was expected of me to do for my pay. Also knew up front that people around me were going to die; and possibly myself. When I finally made the decision to go, I decided it was going to be with an open mind and as a tourist. Decided that my main priority was going to be to have a good time. I did, and I've never regretted it. Hopefully, Kath and I will return later this year. I want bragging rights for "invading" Hanoi :mrgreen: .
    PSYCO VETS MOTORCYCLE CLUB: James and I got ours not long after Sid came out with them, comeplete with EXLRRP and FRISCO embroidered on the back. James wore his, most of the time, also. I wore mine ALL the time. The only comments it drew was about the jumpwings and 101st pin on it. I don't think the V'namese really caught the meaning of the logo :lol: .

    ANDY: Tha pleasure is ALL mine, mate. Glad to be able to share. I like being able to possibly educate people to what the war was really like [at least my little corner of it] and, more importantly, what we were/are really like.

    ZOFO: Since I didn't serve there [thank You, God], alot of the history of the place was taken from a visitor's brochure of the tunnels, Vietnam guide book that we brought with us from the states, and bits and pieces that I remember being told by guys that I've met that did serve there. That's why it probably sounded like mostly generic info :mrgreen: .
    I can only guess that it was because of the civilian population that kept them from doing an arc light early on. I assume that as the fighting dragged on, most/all of the general population eventually fled the area. It probably reached a point to where it was decided that anyone still in there was Victor Charlie; SMOKE 'EM.
    THE HAND: Don't Mean Nuthin', Bud. ;)
     
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  13. Zofo

    Zofo Mi Lieutenant MI.Net Member

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    Good man!!
     
  14. Bombardier

    Bombardier Admin & Arbiter Staff Member Site Admin

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    @Frisco-Kid I notice your images are broken do you have copies of the photos? If you do you can upload them directly to this thread and I will put them in their place in your post. Good to see you again mate :)
     
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