Today was just as interesting as the days before it, but with a more somber tone. At the Cu Chi Tunnels, we were able to see what a Vietnamese village looked like in the adapted to the country’s war with the Americans. In the jungle, there were homes, schools, farms, and ammunition storage buildings. There were bomb shelters built into the ground. There were tunnels built for the movement of troops. These tunnels were a great advantage to the Vietnamese in the war as they were able to keep out of sight and fight when they had the clear advantage.
There were generally three levels of tunnels: the first level may only be three meters deep and contained the living quarters of the soldiers, which contained barracks, kitchens, ammunition rooms, and dining halls. The smoke from the kitchen was redirected to be released into the air away from the actual tunnel in case it was noticed by enemy troops. The second level was another three meters deep and the third was a another three. These levels had the same purpose. They were not inhabited but they allowed the residents to live in the tunnels for extended periods of time by providing air pockets so the soldiers could breathe. They also helped to redirect poisonous gases that Americans would release into the tunnels. Finally, some would be connected to rivers and used as escape routes from the tunnels. Combat tunnels were also made in the jungle. These were isolated from the larger tunnel systems in case they were killed. The small holes used to get in the tunnel were covered and camouflaged. The actual combat portion of the tunnel was usually part of a mound with little slits for the occupants to shoot out of. Finally, the Vietnamese also set many traps for Americans, usually in the form of bamboo spikes at the bottom of a hole that a soldier would fall into.
We didn’t spend much time on it, but we also learned that an average 300 Vietnamese die annually from bombs left over from the war. Many bombs didn’t explode on landing, but rather spread a multitude of smaller land mines around the area. Many of these mines have survived the war and the years after. They have the power to deliver serious damage to even a tank. With this said, they are a serious danger to those living in the countryside today.
Finally, we went to a Vietnamese cemetery. Most of its occupants were from the Vietnam War in Cu Chi. We held a beautiful ceremony for those who had died in the war. Even though the cemetery held exclusively Vietnamese soldiers, you couldn’t help but feel sympathy and sorrow for the victims of such a war. We were able to offer incense to many of fallen soldiers. It was a beautiful place and it really brought my whole understanding of the Vietnam War and war in general to a whole new level. We, as human beings, will probably never understand war. But we can understand its effects and become more cognizant of its negative consequences. After today, it is clear that by the end of the week, I will have gained at least some of this understanding.
Thank you for reading,