One of the most talked about wars in history is the Vietnam War or the Resistance War Against America. Thanks in part to movies such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, the war has been immortalized and brought to everyone’s consciousness.I didn’t really know much about the war and the few facts I have came from watching documentaries in National Geographic. Seeing the contraptions the Viet Cong made to defeat the Americans; being close to the suffocating and tight spaces of the tunnels; and hearing the stories told by our tour guide who just happens to be one of the survivors of the war, brought history back to life.
The tunnels are a network of underground passageways of more than 120 miles which served as hospitals, living quarters, arms cache and defenses during the war. People lived underground in the tunnels during the bombing of Vietnam. Much of the original tunnel system was destroyed during the bombing raids but a few still remain to this day, open for tourists.
The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a lengthy and costly conflict that pitted communist Northern Vietnam with South Vietnam, with the United States as its principal ally. The tunnels did not go unnoticed by the Americans and among the most important operations to render the tunnels useless were Operation Cedar Falls and Operation Crimp. More than 3 million people died in gruesome ways during the conflict, including 58,000 Americans. The American troops finally withdrew in 1972 partly because the war was very unpopular back home in the US and citizens were demanding that the American troops be pulled out.
Cu Chi Tunnels is almost a 3-hour ride from the Ho Chi Minh. The ride to the tunnels was uneventful, save for the little side trip to the magnificent Cao Dai Temple. As the tour guide was telling us all about the Vietnam War, I can just imagine just how uncomfortable it must be for American tourists to hear his stories. Fortunately, it seemed that there was no American on the bus, only Filipinos, Vietnamese, French and Spaniards.
The tunnels were quite small and most of them were full of contraptions during the war. This was because the Viet Cong wanted to stop Americans from entering their underground refuge. Some American soldiers got skewered and lost limbs. Some had to be evacuated to the hospital with the contraptions still on their feet.
There was also a shooting range in the tunnel area where guests can try their hands on various guns. Bullets cost VD 85,000 each and there is a minimum requirement of 10 rounds.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see much of the tunnels because it suddenly rained. For fear that my SLR might get wet, I decided to just stay in the covers and didn’t go in the tunnels anymore. However, some of my friends did and got some pictures too.
I must say that being in the tunnel grounds made me realize just how difficult life must have been not only for the Vietnamese but also for the troops. You could literally lose your life in a split second. How hard it must have been for mothers with their little children! The constant air raids, the sound of gun fire! All those things can drive anyone crazy.
The visit to the tunnels got me thinking that war has an impact not just on the current generation but also on future generations and this is why we must learn from history so that we never repeat our mistakes.
Tip: Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Day Trip costs VD 190,000. Entrance fee for Cu Chi Tunnels is VD 110,00