Sunday, June 26, 2011

Item From the Past: Cu Chi Tunnels

Once the bane of American forces in Vietnam, the Cu Chi Tunnels, or at least a carefully restored and de-booby-trapped section of the tunnels not far from Saigon, are now a tourist attraction, and have been for years. We visited on June 26, 1994, entering with a guide and a small number of other visitors. We didn't go very far underground or stay long, but it was still a claustrophobic experience, even in some rooms -- a command post, a "hospital," and so on -- in which you could stand up.

The tunnels we saw were enlarged for tourists. The Viet Cong hid in, or mounted surprise attacks from, much narrower ones. Just large enough for men to shimmy through, and fairly small men at that. Our guide illustrated this by entering one of the small entrances feet first with a hatch on his head, and then disappearing into it by closing the hatch.

This is an astonishing account of the men of the 3 Field Troop, Royal Australian Engineers, who entered the tunnels -- which were numerous enough practically to be an underground city -- to take on "the Viet Cong (VC) at his most dangerous -- in tunnels and with booby traps."

Not far from the re-created tunnels was a surface exhibit: a wrecked ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) tank.

An M48 Patton, if I remember correctly. I'm amazed that it didn't get picked apart for scrap at some point, though maybe that's fairly hard to do.

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At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dees, The wrecked tank is an M-41 Walker bulldog. This was a bit smaller and lighter than the M-48 and many were supplied to the ARVN.

Jay Stribling

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Dees Stribling said...

Thanks, now I know. I'm sadly deficient when it comes to identifying most tanks.

If you are ever up here, we will take you to Cantigny. It has gardens and flowers, of course, but also about 20 tanks on display outside the First Division museum.


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