Day 7: Củ Chi Tunnels

Today we visited the famous Củ Chi Tunnels. These tunnels were integral to Vietnam’s guerrilla tactics during the Vietnam War. Soldiers would pop up out of the ground and ambush American troops, then seemingly disappear. They had camouflaged entrances, which worked so well that when the attendant covered up one of the entrances we’d previously used I couldn’t determine exactly where it had been. The Vietnamese troops not only used these tunnels to fight, but they also lived in this underground network. The tunnels included living spaces and hospitals, as well as rooms to construct or store weapons and bomb shelters. American soldiers couldn’t really infiltrate the tunnel systems, because even if a soldier located an entrance and managed to squeeze in, the tunnels branched off and were full of dead ends and booby traps.

(Picture of typical uniform of Vietnamese fighters in the Vietnam War)

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To be honest the tunnels were way bigger than I thought they’d be. I had kind of pictured tiny tunnels you had to army crawl through with rooms barely large enough to crouch in. But the tunnels were definitely crouch-walkable, and the rooms were large enough for us to stand in. Although anyone with claustrophobia or who was afraid of the dark would not enjoy these tunnels. Just because they were bigger than I had imagined did not mean they were spacious by any means. After coming out of the tunnels I said I’d like to live down there. What I really meant was I would love to have a tunnel system in my back yard to use more or less like a treehouse. The tunnels were also hot and humid, not to mention being literally made of dirt, and in the brief time we spent in the tunnels we encountered multiple bats.

(Picture of well inside one of the tunnel rooms)

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In addition to crawling through tunnels we also watched a video about the Vietnam War. The language was a little jarring; being made by the Vietnamese the video was understandably quite anti-American. What kind of surprised me most was that the war is portrayed as almost entirely Vietnam versus America, whereas in America we portray the war as North versus South and we helped the South. “History is written by the victors.” This phrase is true when a country or people is conquered or destroyed. The Vietnamese were victorious by staving off invaders. So the victors did write history, but the losers also wrote their history. I believe that there being accounts form both sides is helpful because we can develop a more well-rounded picture of what actually happened. One can assume that the Vietnamese perspective emphasizes American involvement and brutality, while American accounts try to justify the war and minimize any accounts of American brutality and war crimes.

The Củ Chi Tunnels are a snapshot into how the Vietnamese fought force with ingenuity and determination, traits which eventually won them the war.

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