Vietnam War, tunnel warfare
Vietnam Tunnel War material
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Vietnam Tunnel War media
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When Vietnam became a French colony again after the Second World War, the Communistic Vietminh started to dig tunnels close to Saigon. After the French army left (they were defeated at Dien Bien Phu) the tunnels were maintained in case the plausible war with South-Vietnam would start.
Ho Chi Minh, leader of North-Vietnam, ordered to expand the tunnels after the Americans entered the war between the North and the South. The tunnels would be used by the Liberation Front for the Liberation of South-Vietnam (by the Americans shortened to Vietcom or VC, often pronounced as Vietcong).
Ho Chi Minh
The tunnels were a complete underworld, it was al there; kitchens, hospitals, workshops, sleeping areas, communications, ammunition storage, even some entertainment.
The life was harsh though: the spaces were cramped, the air was of poor quality, it was moist and there were lots of insects and rats. Above all that living in a tunnel meant no sunlight all day, operations were at night during the cover of dark.
Defense and attack of the tunnels
The tunnels eventually became a target for American forces because the enemy could hide in it and strike everywhere in the range of the tunnel complex (hundreds of miles) without a single warning and then disappear again.
The conventional warfare techniques weren't effective in the tunnel war. A new way was found in training physically small volunteers into tunnels specialists. Only using a handgun, knife, flashlight and wire (for guidance) they trained themselves in tunnel-exploration and tunnel-warfare. They are best known as "Tunnel Rats"
The tunnels itself were protected by booby-traps, snakes and trap-doors against intruders. Smoking the enemy out wasn't easy because of the ventilation system or water traps.
When the US soldiers found an entrance they would usually try to blow up the tunnel, but because of the hard clay ground and the numerous bends in the tunnels, the effects of explosives were minimal.
A "Tunnel Rat" in a tunnel opening
From the beginning a method to clear out or to destroy tunnels were to bomb them by air. This method eventually was sort of successful considering it left the bombed area looking like a part of the moon. But at the time capacity for B-52 Stratofortress carpet bombing was available to really make a difference in the Tunnel War, it was too late.
A B-52 Stratofortress on a bombing run