Cu Chi means “The Beautiful Garden" and once was home to extensive orchards and fertile farmland. The area was very popular as a picnic location for the inhabitants of Saigon City.
 
 The first tunnels were dug in the late 1940s by the Vietnamese people during their war of independence from French colonial authority. The tunnels were dug by hand, only a short distance at a time to a depth of no more than about 10 metres. In the early 1960's the USA increased its military presence in Vietnam supporting the South in their fight against communism.  The communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops (communist supporters in the South) gradually extended the tunnels over a distance of some 250 km, from the outskirts of Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border.  They added another two levels, 1 at 20 metres in a labyrinth of corridor tunnels with deal ends and booby traps and a third at 30 meters to escape the shelling from US and the
SVA (Southern Vietnamese Army)
 
They could not spend to much time in level three as there was not enough oxygen for long periods of time.  Levels 1 & 2 had ventilation shafts every 20 meters and were disguised as termite mounts, and hills and even inside hollow tree trunk remains.  Specialised American and SVA units or "Tunnel Rats" as they often referred to would use sniffer dogs to hunt out the shafts and pump them full of poison gas.  The VC counter measured this by taking turns in smoking US brand cigarettes at the base of the shafts and have old GI uniforms, aftershave, magazines, toothpaste etc piled up at the base of each shaft so that the dogs would just pass the by thinking they were American.

Every day life for the VC was hard .in the tunnels, as they were infested with ants, poisonous centipedes, scorpions, spiders and vermin. More often than not the VC would stay in the tunnels by day working or resting and only come out at night to tend their crops, get supplies or engage the enemy in battle.

During the Tet offensive in 1968, the tunnels was the main base for the Viet Cong. They could launch surprise attacks on the American troops, move undetected, or run and hide if things would get out of hand. They were also used as hospitals, communication channels, weapon storage, and for all other purposes. By effectively using the Cu Chi tunnels, the Vietcong created mayhem to the US commanders. Effective use of these tunnels meant in practice that the Viet Cong could determine when and were would they fight against their enemies. If they thought that they could not win in a certain situation, they would quickly retreat and appear on another place. 
When US and Australian troops patroled into the area they had no idea of the tunnels’ existence. Two major Operations "Crimp and Cedar Falls" involving over 8,000 troops from the United States 1st Infantry Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade and troops of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), in an attempt to defeat the Viet Cong in the Cu Chi district was, to that date, the largest American operation in Vietnam. Operation Crimp started in January 1966 by dropping 30 tons of bombs from B 52s on the area. In 1967, Operation Cedar Falls, which was on a much larger scale.
The present preserved Cu Chi underground system has been preserved in two areas at Ben Dihn and Ben Duoc.
The underground tunnel system is situated within the Cu Chi battlefield and was once the headquarters for the Gia Dinh Regional Party and Military Command.
 
Digging the tunnels by hand Preparing the booby traps
The soil was taken out at night and put into shell holes Bringing supplies to the tunnels
A woman's mortar team were based in the tunnels Entertainment tunnel style
Mayhem caused by an invisible enemy The search for the tunnels continue
An entrance is found Send in the tunnel rats
They try to gas them out They try to sniff them out
A member of the Air Cavalry calls it in A B-52 delivering it's deadly cargo
Nearly 40 years later we go looking for the tunnels Jack keeping to the foot path
An air vent disguised as an ant hill- we must be close now.  Air vents were spaced out at about 20 metres apart. Watch out for those booby traps
Jack points out a Vietcong Bunker They would fire at the patrols ankles, wounding rather than killing. This created more mayhem as they needed medics, evacuation etc
Where's the entrance hatch Found it! (after the guide showed us where it was
Wow looks like it will be a tight fit On your way Jack-Jay will follow
Just as well they have made them bigger for the tourists It's hell on your knee's
Inside the bunker and the snipers slit The snipers step to bring them in line with the slit.
Where to now? Booby traps were in every corner of the rooms as it was the first place a tunnel rat would take cover away from the entrances.
They have war rooms There is even an operating theatre down here.
The kitchen only cooks and heats water early in the morning and then kept warm by using thermos flasks The smoke is slowly released through several chambers and blends in with the early morning mist.
They made weapons from shrapnel shards They made bombs from captured or unexploded bombs
They ate a lot of this in the Tunnels-Tapioca Boiled Tapioca and peanuts ground in sugar and salt
On our way back we stopped off at the Cu Chi War Cemetery The wall mural shows the Vietnamese people at war with the US. This panel depicts making improvised explosive devices in the tunnels workshop.
Just one section of vast amount of war dead buried here Another sector of war dead Vietnamese
A male Vietcong A female Vietcong
A soldier of the Northern Vietnamese Army An unknown Vietcong