Cu Chi Tunnels: A Claustrophobic Tour Through Enemy Lines

by Michael Ujifusa

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong successful resisted the most powerful military in the world by living underground in an enormous 250 kilometer-long system of “bunkers” and tunnels. Located two hours outside of Saigon, the Cu Chi Tunnels are a small segment of this massive hand-dug network that has been preserved by the Vietnamese government.

The tour of the tunnels gave an intimate look into the lives of the Vietcong. Our tour guide was a Vietnam War veteran who provided colorful commentary about how the Vietcong lived during the War. He showed us several different traps that had been preserved, most of which involved gruesome bamboo skewers. He also told us about a variety of guerrilla tactics used by the Vietcong to wreak havoc on US soldiers, both physically and mentally.

The most interesting/terrifying part of the tour was actually walking through the tunnels. The Vietcong were certifiably insane for living in these tiny claustrophobia-inducing tunnels for nearly two decades. The tunnels were small and uncomfortable, we all had to hunch over in order to pass through. However the worst aspect of the tunnels was the lack of oxygen. I felt like I was suffocating or seconds away from being buried alive. It took less than a minute of being in these cramped, hellishly hot tunnels for my body to go into “get-the-fuck-out-of-here” mode. How these people lived in these tunnels while being constantly shot at and bombed by B-52’s for 18 years is beyond me. A testament to their sheer will and how impossible winning the war in Vietnam really was.

What entertained me the most about the tour was the shooting range at the end. For a nominal fee, you could shoot a variety of weapons with the assistance of military personal on hand. I am sad I didn’t have the Dong* to get 10 shots out of an AK-47. What a bizarre story to tell,

“Yeah, some communist soldiers let me shoot a M-16 on the modern ruins of their former underground bastion.”

*Dong, Vietnam’s currency