The war in Vietnam was raging and the United States had only just begun sending regular combat units as opposed to advisers the year prior. The tunnels also required someone with a lot of courage since there was a high possibility the Viet Cong would find the tunnel rats before the tunnel rats found them. Bats also roosted in the tunnels, although they were generally more of a nuisance than a threat.

It was after this that the Americans began to appreciate how significant the tunnels were to the Viet Cong in their guerilla tactics. Tunnel rats were all volunteers as they soon realized that if a person really didn't want to do the job, he would just report the tunnel as a dead end. During the 1979–1989 Soviet war in Afghanistan, such tunnels were used by Mujahideen fighters. Many tunnel rats reportedly came to dislike the intense muzzle blast of the relatively large .45 caliber round, as the .45's loud report could often leave one temporarily deaf when fired in a confined space. Viet Cong would also wait for a soldier to come out a trap door then kill them with stakes, guns, or knives. The Rat might have a radio, but once you get deep in the tunnel complex, the chance of it working was remote, and as such, many Rats preferred not to bother with the extra accoutrements. The Soviet 40th Army therefore fielded their own tunnel clearance and demolition units, which were given the task of clearing the tunnels of enemy combatants, disarming booby traps, and destroying the underground complexes. Later during an international press conference, MacGregor referred to his men as ‘Tunnel Ferrets’, but an American journalist, who had never heard of ferrets before, decided to call them the ‘Tunnel Rats’ and so the name stuck. U.S. military aircraft attacked targets throughout North Vietnam from March 1965 to October 1968. "Tunnel rats," as American soldiers who worked in the Cu Chi tunnels during the Vietnam War were known, used the evocative term "black echo" to describe the experience of being in the tunnels. In the years following the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Vietnamese government preserved the Cu Chi tunnels and included them in a network of war memorial parks around the country. Viet Cong would tie a bamboo pit viper to the ceiling or bushes and it would strike and bite troops in the neck, face, or hand as they walked by.

Vietnam tunnel rats. Inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution, he joined the Communist Party and traveled to the Soviet Union.

Rats, spiders, scorpions, and ants also posed threats to tunnel rats. In the end, not much of importance was found but the Viet Cong continuously hit troops with small surprise attacks. If you ever see a flashlight coming your way, you can fire away, but more than likely, you are already a dead man.1, January 7, 1966. Whenever a tunnel was found either the Tunnel Rats were sent in or a call for volunteers from front line troops would go out. Some tunnels had special holes in the wall where Viet Cong would wait for soldiers and then thrust stakes through the hole impaling the troops. While bat swarms, spiders, and Vietnamese fire ants were not fatal, they were a very frequent and unwelcome nuisance in an already dangerous task. After reading about the tunnel rats it’s clean that these were some of the bravest men that fought in the war. Three men wearing fake beards and wigs stood inside the, In 1883, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, famous frontiersman, army scout, and buffalo hunter, opened the. Typically, a tunnel rat was equipped with only a standard issue M1911 pistol or M1917 revolver, a bayonet, a flashlight, and explosives. Soldiers couldn’t fire off more than three shots in a row because Viet Cong would know that you were empty and had to reload after six shots. Sometimes, tunnel rats would run into Viet Cong in such close proximity that you couldn’t use your weapons and instead had to use hand-to-hand combat. One tunnel rat wrote that it wasn’t unusual to destroy more than 100 enemy bunkers during each operation. It was October 5, 1892. Tunnels like the Cu Chi system were spread throughout south Vietnam. The trap doors were also very well camouflaged making it very easy for the enemy to escape undetected. Sometimes while on the mission, a Tunnel Rat would meet a Viet Cong soldier, and would then have to engage in exceedingly close combat. Several of these tunnels had sharp U-bends which could be easily flooded to trap and drown intruders. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. The tunnels were frequently incredibly hot and humid, cramped, sometimes as small as 2.6 feet tall by 2.5 feet wide, and full of unpleasant stagnant air, prompting many tunnel rats to don gas masks in an attempt to make breathing easier.9 Even exiting a tunnel was not safe, as a tunnel rat could travel some distance while underground, then emerge elsewhere, potentially startling a nearby American soldier, which could lead to him being shot. Their standard military pistols weren’t ideal because the blast was so loud it would deafen them momentarily after firing. I remember reading about how the Vietnam was a huge turning point in U.S history. Once he cleared that area, the second tunnel rat was sent in. Tunnels were often booby trapped with hand grenades, anti-personnel mines, and punji sticks. In addition to their regular role, tunnel rats had to be extremely good at hand-to-hand combat. Tunnel construction occasionally included anti-intruder features such as U-bends that could be flooded quickly to trap and drown the tunnel rat.

The photo of Sgt. The stakes were placed in the tunnels and camouflaged so soldiers wouldn’t see them. Read another story from us: Booby Traps of the Vietnam War. It didn’t take long to figure out that the odds of a tunnel rat dying were much higher than a soldier carrying out regular operations.

In the early stages of the war against the French colonial forces, the Viet Minh created an extensive underground system of tunnels, which was later expanded and improved by the Viet Cong. A company of American soldiers brutally killed most of the people—women, children and old men—in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968. But as the number of US casualties from Vietnam rose, American public opinion shifted from support to dissatisfaction, ultimately leading to the United States pulling out of Vietnam, but not before the United States military had learned valuable lessons about guerrilla warfare. The "Diehards" of the U.S. Army's 1st Engineer Battalion, whose exploits are featured in Mangold and Penycate's book, later claimed a special place for tunnel rats in American military history during their rotation through the Cu Chi District of Vietnam in 1969.[10]. However, when they approached the bombed area, known as the Ho Bo woods, they found nothing but empty fortifications and some rice, evidence that there were once many more men there. Face to face encounters with Viet Cong soldiers also occurred, but these terrifying battles in the confines of an underground tunnel simply depended on who could fire fastest. Snake traps were a particularly surprising attack. By the time of Operation Crimp, these tunnel complexes included hospitals, storage facilities, barracks, training areas, and the Viet Cong headquarters, running from Saigon down to the Cambodian border. However, according to Sapper Jim Marrett, a former Tunnel Rat, there was a surprisingly lower casualty rate than one might expect among the Tunnel Rats—most war casualties occurred above ground. But whatever the reason may have been for these young soldiers, no one can doubt their guts in doing such a terrifying task. Like Liked by 1 person

Even with these difficulties, the majority of tunnel rats were very successful. For the next 77 days, U.S. more, Operation Rolling Thunder was the codename for an American bombing campaign during the Vietnam War. The tunnels had several levels with a trap door separating each level.
The tunnels were often booby-trapped with mines, hand grenades, and punji sticks. In the dark tunnels, Vietnam War tunnel rats needed every one of their senses so they had to settle for lesser quality pistols. The bravery of these men led to the discovery of several Viet Cong facilities, including their headquarters. The Vietnam War tunnel rats were created in an effort to take down the Viet Cong. The Viet Minh commissioned volunteer villagers to dig the tunnels using hoes and baskets. Several intelligence reports pointed to the presence of a key Viet Cong headquarters in a large underground bunker within the Ho Bo woods, about 2.5 miles west of the Iron Triangle and around 12 miles north of Cu Chi, Binh Duong Province. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. The Viet Cong units appeared from different positions, infiltrating the units at will and causing a number of casualties. By the 1960s, the tunnel complexes included hospitals, training areas, storage facilities, headquarters, and barracks. It was soon discovered that the enemy troops had a very complex network of underground tunnels. Ho Chi Minh first emerged as an outspoken voice for Vietnamese independence while living as a young man in France during World War I. Even with pistols, the tunnel rats had to follow certain guidelines to try to stay alive. In all, at least 45,000 Vietnamese men and women are said to have died defending the Cu Chi tunnels over the course of the Vietnam War. While in the tunnels, soldiers were breathing air heavily saturated with Agent Orange.
Someone would have to enter the tunnels.4, And thus, the “tunnel rats” were born. [9] Tom Mangold and John Penycate, authors of one of the definitive accounts of tunnel warfare during the Vietnam War, reported that the U.S. tunnel rats were almost exclusively soldiers of European or Hispanic descent, many of whom were Puerto Rican or Mexican American. Despite being many feet underground, the tunnels were fully functional. There weren’t generally more than 100 tunnel rats on the ground at any given time.

These horrific tunnels used by the Viet Cong were a prime example of guerilla warfare, and proved effective against the Americans. 5 Little Known Facts about Easy Company “Band of Brothers”, German WWII Warship Karlsruhe Discovered 80 Years After Controversial Sinking, Gravestone for Dambusters Dog Replaced Due to Racist Name, Operation Vengeance: Original Footage of Yamamoto’s Last Flight, Predators of the Seas: Life Inside a U-Boat – In 41 Images, Footage taken at The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier: The crowd starts to get loud & the Sentinel calls them out, Repelled 30 Taliban: 400 Rounds, Launched 17 Grenades, Detonated a Mine, and Used His Tripod as a Weapon, Total Victory Lost – Why the South Lost Civil War at Chancellorsville not Gettysburg. Poisonous snakes and scorpions lurked in some, and rats, spiders, ants, and bats were determined to make the job even more difficult. The men of the 3 Field Force, an Australian combat engineering unit that served in Vietnam from 1965-1966, have made a convincing argument that they were the first allied troops to enter the tunnels. The standard pistol was woefully unfit for this mission because the loud blasts from the muzzle were amplified by the walls of the tunnels and would deafen the Tunnel Rats momentarily after each shot. They were also some of the most courageous soldiers to fight in Vietnam. An intense bombardment of the target region preceded the operation with the aim of neutralizing the strong defensive positions suspected to be guarding the headquarters.