Are There Still Tunnels In Vietnam?

credit: manhhai / Flickr

During the Vietnam and Indo-China war, various military tactics were used by Vietnamese soldiers that had never been seen before in war. To efficiently travel through the dense jungles of Vietnam and out of sight of their enemies, the Vietnamese soldiers used a complex network of underground tunnels. Are there still these tunnels in Vietnam today?

Yes, there are still tunnels in Vietnam from the time of the Vietnam War. Some tunnel sites have been turned into war memorials, such as a portion of the tunnels of Củ Chi, and can be visited by the public. The tunnels were able to withstand various attacks from the American military.

Are There Still War Tunnels In Vietnam?

The Vietnam war is known to have been a brutal war fought in the deep jungle. American and Vietnamese soldiers had to find ways to survive in this harsh environment.

Though the American army was equipped with better weapons, the Vietnamese soldiers were better accustomed to the environment. They devised an ingenious way to give the Americans a very hard fight.

They built a complex and vast network of underground tunnels that spanned over hundred and fifty miles over the Vietnamese land. It turns out that these tunnels played an integral role to the Vietnamese soldiers in their fight against the American forces, despite the Americans having more military power.

Typical viet cong tunnel complex
U.S. Army Typical viet cong tunnel complex

The tunnels were used for various purposes by Vietnamese soldiers:

  • Hiding places for soldiers
  • Safe movement
  • Communication network
  • Storage of weapons and food
  • Hospitals
  • Barracks

It is hard to imagine what these tunnels must have looked like. Fortunately, if you find yourself in Vietnam, specifically in Ho Chi Minh City, you can visit some of these tunnels.

Can You Visit The Underground War Tunnels In Vietnam?

Following the war’s end in 1975, the Vietnamese government tried to preserve the tunnel networks and established them as memorials.

Replicas have also been built so tourists, who tend to be bigger than the average Vietnamese, can go into the tunnels and experience them for themselves.

The sites that can be visited are the Củ Chi Tunnels and the Vịnh Mốc Tunnels.

Can You Visit The Long Củ Chi Tunnels In Vietnam?

The tunnels of Củ Chi are one of the most popular attractions when visiting the capital city of Vietnam. The tunnels span an impressive seventy-five miles, which one could easily get lost if unfamiliar with the layout. Some sections were used as the base of operations for many Vietnamese campaigns throughout the war.

Two sites of the vast network of tunnels of Củ Chi are open to the public: Ben Duoc and Ben Dinh. The Ben Dinh is the most popular for tourists and is closer to Ho Chi Minh City.

What Does Going In The Vietnam Tunnels Feel Like?

Unless they had a lamp, torch, or other artificial light sources, soldiers in the tunnels would be immersed in complete darkness.

Interior of the Cu Chi tunnels
Jorge Lascar / wikimedia Interior of the Cu Chi tunnels

Today, tunnels for tourists are equipped with low-power lamps so you can see where you’re going. Some tunnel sections are so big that a short person can stand upright, while others are much smaller and require you to crawl.

The bigger sections would be used as hospitals, storage, or command centers, while the small and narrow sections were mainly used for traveling.

It is safe to say that some tunnels are not suited for people who tend to be claustrophobic. Many tourists avoid going into the deeper and narrower tunnels once they see the small and dark entrance.

Other Activities At The Củ Chi Tunnels In Vietnam

Tourists can do a range of activities at the Ben Dinh site besides crawling around the tunnels of Củ Chi. You can see displays of the various kinds of booby traps that Vietnamese soldiers placed around tunnels.

These booby trap designs resulted in gruesome injuries and deaths—picture hidden pits filled with spikes and venomous snakes in your mind.

Other attractions at the tourist site include; a shooting range where you can practice with AK-47s, souvenir vendors, monkeys, and a restaurant where you can taste the foods that Vietnamese soldiers would eat.

Can You Visit The Bigger Vietnamese Vịnh Mốc Tunnels?

Tourists can also visit remnants of the Vịnh Mốc tunnels. This network was located on the border of what was North and South Vietnam.

Tourists staying in the old Imperial city of Huế can go on organized tours to the Vịnh Mốc tunnels. These tunnels are perhaps better suited for some tourists, as one can stand upright.

How Deep Are The Tunnels In Vietnam?

Sections of the tunnels were built at different depths depending on their purpose. Generally, the tunnels were narrow, no matter how deep they were. The depth range varied from just a few feet to fifty feet.

Tunnels closer to the surface tended to be smaller and used by squads to get around or surprise the enemy. The deeper tunnels fifty feet below ground were more populated and would have various levels filled with resting areas, hospitals, and storage rooms.

Soldiers dug deep water wells to get their water; their surface would be camouflaged and covered with vegetation.

Did Americans Destroy Tunnels In The Vietnam War?

Fighting against a well-organized group who hid in impregnably concealed tunnels proved to be a nightmare for the American forces.

A Viet Cong soldier crouches in a bunker with an SKS rifle. A connecting tunnel is in the foreground
National Archives and Records Administration A Viet Cong soldier crouches in a bunker with an SKS rifle. A connecting tunnel is in the foreground

Even if a bomber’s airstrike would accurately hit the area, the tunnels could remain intact following a bombardment. So, American forces had to think of other ways to destroy the enemy’s tunnels.

Here are some of the methods that the American army engineers came up with to fight the tunnel soldiers:

  • Bulldozers. American forces tried to collapse the tunnels using heavy machinery, but they proved ineffective. Deploying this heavy machinery in the dense jungle was a nightmare, and it could not even destroy surface tunnels.
  • Flooding. Flooding the tunnels was ineffective as the Vietnamese soldiers dug wells and irrigation systems that could hold the water.
  • Toxic Chemicals. The American army tried to make the tunnels inhospitable by pumping them with various chemical agents.
  • Various types of explosives. Block, liquid, and other explosives were used to destroy the tunnels. Some worked better than others, but they were not always successful.
  • Tunnel rats. American soldiers had to go into the tunnel when all else failed and fight the enemy. These soldiers were named ‘tunnel rats.’