Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The tunnels of Cu Chi

After three weeks in Vietnam, my wife Kim and I have returned to Manatee County with a bunch of new memories and experiences.

One of the most unforgettable was going underground to explore the tunnels at Cu Chi.

The famous complex of tunnels was constructed by Vietnamese communist forces in the jungles near Saigon during the war.

During my service in Vietnam, I never got any closer to Cu Chi than Long Binh, the huge U.S. Army base north of Saigon.

What's it like going through the tunnels today? Even though the tunnels have been expanded to allow tourists to descend through them, they are claustrophic. You have to crouch to get through the dimly lit, narrow passages.

I went into every tunnel I was allowed to enter save one, where the entrance appeared about the size of a cracker box. But there is a whole network of deeper tunnels that we didn't get to see, not that I wanted to.

At the end of the tour, there are displays of what I called "animatronic Vietcong" and souvenir shops.

What the displays don't show is a balanced picture of the fight around the tunnels.
One of the most storied examples of American heroism during the war was the tunnel rats who went into the underground system armed with little more than a .45 pistol to look for insurgents.

Faced with a dangerous enemy, booby traps, and claustrophic conditions, the bravery shown by the tunnel rats was amazing.


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