Resilient Cu Chi Tunnels of Vietnam

- By Vishwanath Pai M

Cu Chi is the name of the place and the underground tunnels of Cu Chi are the most complex part of a network that-at the height of the Vietnam war in the mid sixties-stretched from the gates of Saigaon (today Ho Chi Minh City)to the border with Cambodia. These hundreds of kilometers of tunnels connect villages, districts and various VC (Viet Cong) guerrillas support bases. They once consisted of living quarters, do-it-yourself ordnance factories, kitchens with concealed chimneys, hospitals, cleverly designed conical bomb shelters, theatre and movie halls.  These tunnels in Cu Chi were originally dug as hiding places for the Viet Minh, the nationalist guerillas who fought the colonial power, France, in the 1940s and 1950s. As with their successors, the Viet Cong (VC), Communists dominated the independence movement. With the cease fire in 1954 came the agreement between the world powers and Viet Minh at Geneva, Vietnam was provisionally divided into two halves and the Northern half was ruled by the Communists and the southern half was an independent republic set up with generous aid of the Americans based in Saigon. The atrocities of Southern rulers increased on suspected communists in the region and several hundred were killed. So the communists resumed again the guerilla war on the South in 1960. The first thing the VC did was that they started further digging of the already existed tunnels. The army of Republic of South Vietnam supported by America could not sustain the assaults of VC guerillas and in 1965 American army arrived to fight these guerillas. Even the American military with its mighty devices, bombs, intelligence inputs and manpower could not succeed and they pulled out in 1973. The North Vietnamese troops took control of Saigaon in 1975 which was the base of Southern rulers and both parts of Vietnam united.

When I was reading through the book a French student sitting next to me became so curious and requested me to give a brief history of the tunnels. She was studying in Australia; so her English was good and I could converse with her. By the time we were discussing, our guide started addressing us in the bus. The bus was passing through the thick plantation and he said we are nearing the main entrance of tunnel. 

Entry point to the tunnel covered by leaves

A small girl enters through the tunnel entry

References: The Tunnels of CUCHI by Tom Mangold & John Penycate

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