Cu Chi Tunnels are located approximately 70km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City
centre in Cu Chi Rural District.
Characteristic: Cu Chi Tunnels consist of more than 200km of underground
tunnels. This main axis system has many branches connecting to underground
hideouts, shelters, and entrances to other tunnels.
District is known nationwide as the base where the Vietnamese mounted their
operations of the Tet Offensive in 1968.The tunnels are between 0.5 to 1m
wide, just enough space for a person to walk along by bending or dragging.
However, parts of the tunnels have been modified to accommodate visitors.
The upper soil layer is between 3 to 4m thick and can support the weight of
a 50-ton tank and the damage of light cannons and bombs. The underground
network provided sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, hospitals, and other
social rooms. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels provides a better understanding of
the prolonged resistance war of the Vietnamese people and also of the
persistent and clever character of the Vietnamese nation.
place that’s physically invisible, the Cu Chi Tunnels have sure carved
themselves a celebrated niche in the history of guerilla warfare. Its
celebrated and unseen geography straddles – all of it underground –
something which the Americans eventually found as much to their
embarrassment as to their detriment. They were dug, before the American War,
in the late 1940s, as a peasant-army response to a more mobile and ruthless
French occupation. The plan was simple: take the resistance briefly to the
enemy and then, literally, vanish.
French, then the Americans were baffled as to where they melted to,
presuming, that it was somewhere under cover of the night in the Cuu Long
Delta. But the answer lay in the sprawling city under their feet – miles and
miles of tunnels. In the gap between French occupation and the arrival of
the Americans the tunnels fell largely into disrepair, but the area’s thick
natural earth kept them intact and maintained by nature. In turn it became
not just a place of hasty retreat or of refuge, but, in the words of one
military historian, "an underground land of steel, home to the depth of
hatred and the incommutability of the people." It became, against the
Americans and under their noses, a resistance base and the headquarters of
the southern Vietnam Liberation Forces. The linked threat from the Viet Cong
- the armed forces of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam -
against the southern city forced the unwitting Americans to select Cu Chi as
the best site for a massive supply base – smack on top of the then 25-year
old tunnel network. Even sporadic and American’s grudgingly had to later
admit, daring attacks on the new base, failed for months to indicate where
the attackers were coming from – and, importantly, where they were
retreating to. It was only when captives and defectors talked that it became
slightly more clear. But still the entries, exits, and even the sheer scale
of the tunnels weren’t even guessed at. Chemicals, smoke-outs, razing by
fire, and bulldozing of whole areas, pinpointed only a few of the
well-hidden tunnels and their entrances. The emergence of the Tunnel Rats, a
detachment of southern Vietnamese working with Americans small enough to fit
in the tunnels, could only guess at the sheer scale of Cu Chi. By the time
peace had come, little of the complex, and its infrastructure of schools,
dormitories, hospitals, and miles of tunnels, had been uncovered. Now, in
peace, only some of it is uncovered – as a much-visited part of the southern
tourist trail. Many of the tunnels are expanded replicas, to avoid any
claustrophobia they would induce in tourists. The wells that provided the
vital drinking water are still active, producing clear and clean water to
the three-tiered system of tunnels that sustained life. A detailed map is
almost impossible, for security reasons if nothing else: an innate sense of
direction guided the tunnellers and those who lived in them.
Some routes linked to local rivers, including the Saigon River,
their top soil firm enough to take construction and the movement of heavy
machinery by American tanks, the middle tier from mortar attacks, and the
lower, 8-10m down was impregnable. A series of hidden, and sometimes
booby-trapped, doors connected the routes, down through a system of narrow,
often unlit and invented tunnels. At one point American troops brought in a
well-trained squad of 3000 sniffer dogs, but the German Shepherds were too
bulky to navigate the courses. One legend has it that the dogs were deterred
by Vietnamese using American soap to throw them off their scent, but more
usually pepper and chilly spray was laid at entrances, often hidden in
mounds disguised as molehills, to throw them off. But the Americans were
never passive about the tunnels, despite being unaware of their sheer
complexity. Large-scale raiding operations used tanks, artillery and air
raids, water was pumped through known tunnels, and engineers laid toxic gas.
But one American commander’s report at the time said: "It’s impossible to
destroy the tunnels because they are too deep and extremely tortuous."
halls that showed propagandas films, housed educational meetings and
schooled Vietnamese in warfare are largely intact. So too are the kitchens
where visitors can dine on steamed manioc, pressed rice with sesame and
salt, a popular meal during the war, as they are assailed with true stories
of how life went on as near-normal, much of the time. Ancestors were
worshipped there, teaching was well-timetabled, poultry was raised – and
even couples trusted, fell in love, were wed, and honeymooned there. But
visitors have it easier: those re-constructed tunnels give the flavor of the
tunnels but not the claustrophobia and the sacrifice of the estimated 18,000
who served their silent and unseen war there with only around one-third
surviving, the rest casualties of American assaults, snakes, rats and
Now the unseen and undeclared No Man’s Land is undergoing a revival, saluted
as a Relic of National History and Culture with its Halls of Tradition
displaying pictures and exhibits. The nearby Ben Duoc-Cu Chi War Memorial,
where the reproduced tunnels have been built, stands as an-above ground
salute to a hidden war.
Ben Duoc Monument was built in Cu Chi District, about 70km from
Ho Chi Minh
Characteristic: The Ben
to the War Martyrs is a harmonious architectural complex. The monument was
built according to the design of a traditional Vietnamese temple.
is dedicated to the war martyrs from 40 cities and provinces, who laid down
their lives on the battle fields in
- Cho Lon - Gia Dinh during the anti-French and US resistance wars for
national independence and freedom.
It has a three-entrance gate. In the main shrine are worshipped 44,357
martyrs and heroic mothers whose name are carved on marble plates and gilded
with gold. On the ground floor, a mini-mock up, pictures, and many other
show pieces about the hard life and battles of the army men and local people
during the wars are displayed. There is also a nine-storey tower, 39m high,
surrounded with gardens with flowers that blossom all the year round and
with diverse kinds of ornamental plants.
Since its establishment in 1995 the monument has welcomed thousands of
visitors, both domestic and foreign, especially on Martyrs' Day - July 27th
- who come to enjoy the local scenery and show their respect to the national