Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi area just outside of Saigon was the center of Viet Cong activity during the war. As such, it was the subject of much military activity and the Viet Cong went to elaborate measures to hide from American soldiers.

One of the major methods was an elaborate tunnel complex that ran for literally hundreds of miles. In many cases, tunnels went up to and into American bases. Entrances into the tunnels were elaborately disguised and were so small that few American soldiers could enter them, even if they were found.

The Cu Chi tunnels are now a major tourist itnerary. Various parts of the Cu Chi area have been transformed into displays and exhibits about life for the Viet Cong soldiers and supporters. Tours are given by Army soldiers who demonstrate various parts of the tunnel system.

Before visiting the tunnels, a visitor center has a cut-away diorama of the complexity of the system, and tourists are shown a grainy vintage black and white movie praising the tanacity and dedication of the Viet Cong rebels. It was not subtle.

A tight fit
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
I was the only one of the Americans in our tour group willing to try to get into the tunnel. While I could just barely fit into the opening, when I crouched down, I got a minor panic attack. It took help from our guide to perform the rather gymnastic lift necessary to get out of the hole.

Other parts of the tour showed large craters from the constant aerial bombardment, different types and styles of pungee booby traps and pits, and all the various methods of concealing things like cooking smoke from detection.

There were also random pieces of destroyed military equipment on display and the opportunity to pose with cardboard cut-outs of black pajama clad insurgents. Please see my previous post here about my feelings about these types of displays.

Even accounting for differences in opinion over the war, it is hard to see the efforts of the Communist rebels and not be awed by their tenacity and ingenuity.

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