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Return to Vietnam

A veteran, his daughter, their journey

Down the rabbit holes in Cu Chi

November
16

We went to Cu Chi again today, this time with the rest of our group of Rockland County Vietnam veterans, Rotary Club members and friends. We ended up at a different tunnel tour – no shooting range at this one, but we got an excellent demonstration of how the Viet Cong guerrillas disappeared down these tiny tunnel holes.

You have to see it to believe it. Click on the video link below.

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When you crawl through just a small segment – enlarged for American tourist benefit, but still extremely cramped, dark and damp – of these handmade tunnels (including underground hospitals, kitchens, you name it), you get a shocking sense of “the enemy’s” will in the Vietnam War. How do you fight people who are willing to literally live underground, indefinitely? It’s almost as bad as fighting suicide bombers. The Vietnam veterans in our group just shook their heads, and we moved on…

This entry was posted on Friday, November 16th, 2007 at 11:52 am by Nicole Neroulias. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Vietnam veterans, Vietnam veterans

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2 Responses to “Down the rabbit holes in Cu Chi”

  1. Butch Sincock

    I think you misunderstand the “Cu Chi Tunnels.” They could NOT sustain “thousands of people willing to live underground, indefinitely.” Tunnel complexes, in scattered locations throughout this region and others in the former South Vietnam, could conceal dozens of guerrillas underground for relatively short periods of time. The tunnel complexes, some with two or three progressively deeper levels, lacked capacity to bring in fresh air or dispose of human waste. While water and rations could be brought in, storage space was limited and sustaining life underground required regular resupply from the surface. Virtually all of the underground “rooms” are actually bunkers whose ceilings, while they may be cleverly camouflaged, are on the surface. The Cu Chi Tunnel complex visitors see is what GI’s commonly refer to as a “bunker complex” characterized by numerous rooms whose reinforced ceilings were at the surface and connected by trench lines or, as in this case, crawl-space tunnels. At the perimeter of such a complex the bunkers would be fighting positions. In the interior, the bunkers could serve a variety of functions including command & control, medical, storage, cooking, etc. The bunkers were most susceptible to discovery and destruction, leaving only the connecting tunnels for refuge. These tunnels could be cleverly “booby-trapped” and otherwise engineered to make exploration by US forces difficult. However, they still lacked the capacity in space and logistics (water, rations, waste disposal) to sustain even a small force for any period of time. The tunnels, now a major tourist attraction, is somewhat of a myth that perpetuates the idea that guerrillas were largely responsible for the eventual communist victory, when in reality the role of the guerrilla was diminished (as were the number of guerrillas) as the war progressed and the communist fighting force was increasingly made up of North Vietnamese Army regulars. In fact, most of the communist military activity from 1972 to 1975 was characterized by the use of conventional infantry supported by armor (tanks).

  2. Nicole Neroulias

    Good points.
    I meant that the Viet Cong guerrillas were willing to live that way indefinitely to defeat the Americans and South Vietnamese military forces, not that they actually could or did. Psychologically, when you crawl through just a small example of the tunnels, it’s a striking thought. And as for “thousands,” I meant people who felt that it was a worthwhile way to live indefinitely, not that did so at any given time.

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About this blog
"Return to Vietnam" chronicles the journey of Col. Andonios Neroulias USA (Ret.) of Briarcliff Manor, NY, joined by his daughter, staff writer Nicole Neroulias, to the country he fought in 40 years ago. They are traveling with Vietnam veterans and Rotarians from Rockland County and other parts of the country. Check this blog for daily posts, photos, recordings and slideshows about their experiences.
About the authors
Nicole and Andonios Neroulias

Nicole Neroulias grew up in Briarcliff Manor, NY, and graduated from Cornell University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has covered religion and city news in Cyprus, Connecticut and California, where she earned several fellowships and prizes, including a national Religion Newswriters Association award. She joined The Journal News in early 2007 and also teaches journalism at Columbia.

Col. Andonios Neroulias emigrated from Greece in 1956 and was commissioned an officer through the ROTC program of the City College of NY. From 1967-68, he served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry (Tropic Lightning) Division, whose main base was in Cu Chi, known for its intricate Viet Cong tunnels. Among his military awards are the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He is retired from the U.S. Army Reserve and lives in Briarcliff Manor, NY.
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