Today Mom, Aunt Jackie and I went on a day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels about 60 km outside of Saigon. The Viet Minh (later called Viet Cong) began digging the tunnels for resistance against the French and Japanese before and during WWII. They used them to move undetected, store goods and even had entire living quarters including hospitals, machine shops, dormitories (if you can properly call them dormitories) and mess halls underground. (Above left: Our friendly guide Trung demonstrates ducking and hiding into a tunnel.)
The VC used the tunnels to avoid stand up fights with superior American firepower. Instead, whenever Americans or the ARVN (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam) would roll into an area the VC would escape into their tunnels and pop out once and a while for harassing fire. When the Americans left they would exit and reassert control over the local villages. The last time I was here I read a fascinating book about the tunnels called "The Tunnels of Cu Chi" that details the underground war from both Vietnamese and American perspectives. It seems that although a few individual American units figured out how to detect the tunnels and flush out the enemy, American military leadership didn't realize the importance of the tunnels and these lessons never got disseminated widely enough to make a difference. There's a good management lesson there. (At right: Trung demonstrates a booby trap.)
Conditions in the tunnels were absolutely filthy, claustrophobic and miserable. Judging my short 20 meter jaunt through one of the tunnels they were hot as blazes too. Forget about politics -- the fact that people spent years living and fighting from these tunnels is a testament to sheer human will. These people were way motivated. (At left: Aunt Jackie, yours truly and Mom with a few local cadres.)
I spotted these two local women on the roadside peddling coconuts. I bought a few. We communicated with hand signals because their English was terrible. I mean, they sounded like they were from New Jersey or something.
You can learn more about Cu Chi in this concise Wikipedia entry.