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The Tunnel Rats

The Communist guerrillas were avid tunnel builders. Faced with enemies who employed mobile forces and aircraft, they had gone underground for safety during the war against the French. By the time that U.S. combat units arrived in South Vietnam in 1965, large areas, notably to the north of Saigon, were riddled with hundreds of miles of underground passages leading to dormitories, hospitals, schools, and supply dumps. Entrances were carefully concealed, sometimes below the water level of a river or stream, and passages were boobytrapped or sealed off with hidden trapdoors to avoid penetration. Life inside the tunnels was never pleasant--the air was constantly stale, food rotted quickly in the humid atmosphere, and disease was rife--but they made excellent guerrilla hideouts and centers for revolutionary work.

U.S. forces were not aware of the tunnels at first. Indeed, when elements of the 25th Infantry Division arrived at Cu Chi in 1966, they constructed a base on top of one of the more elaborate complexes. However, it did not take long to discover the tunnels. At first, the response was to fill them with CS gas to flush the VC out, then to blow them up. But the intelligence value of materials inside the complexes soon persuaded U.S. commanders to send soldiers into them to recover bodies or documents and take on the VC face to face. These soldiers known as "tunnel rats," needed a special kind of courage to enter a dark, narrow, foul-smelling and claustrophobic passage, not knowing where the enemy was or what he would do, was something only a few men could even contemplate.

A U.S. "tunnel rat" is lowered into a VC tunnel complex by his colleagues in April, 1967. Underground complexes, such as those found in War Zone C during Junction City, provided excellent hiding places and munition stores for VC forces.

A "tunnel rat" is lowered into a well used by the VC.

A GI hands a detonator cord to a tunnel rat as he goes down to blow up a VC tunnel.

THIS PHOTO WAS SUBMITTED BY DONNA MARANO. The second photo of the Tunnel Rat going down the tunnel is my Dear Friend Arthur Tejeda.(above left) We came across the book it was published in one day while shopping. He turned white when he saw the photo. I regret to say he passed away on Valentine's Day 2003. He was wounded 3 times in Nam and was suffering with Agent Orange, and RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). He never let it get him down and kept on going until his body finally gave up the battle. He was a truly wonderful person, always put others first and helped anyone who needed help without expecting anything in return. He received 3 Bronze Star Medals for heroism in Viet Nam between Feruary,1968 to August 1968. He was loved in life and truly honored in full military honor and interned at Riverside National Cemetery. He also can be seen on the History Channel on the Modern Marvels Series, The Tunnel Rats of Viet Nam. He was my" Hero "and will always be. I am so proud to have shared a part of his life, I am a better person for knowing Him and think of Him and miss Him each day. I have attached a photo he gave me that was very dear to his heart if you would like to share it on your web site. Sincerely. Donna Marano