Chu Chi

  • Category: Book Reports
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  • Grade: 99
Book Report: The Tunnels of Cu Chi

The book that I read for my book report was The Tunnels of Cu Chi by Tom Mangold and John Penycate. The reason that I chose this book was because I am very interested in various aspects of certain wars and I definitely am intrigued by tunnel warfare of the Vietnam Conflict. Imagine being in a war and coming across a tunnel in the middle of the jungle. You have no idea what is in the tunnel but you think it may be the enemy. Your commander asks for volunteers to go in and investigate. Do you volunteer or not? That is the question that some U.S. Servicemen were faced with in the heat of the moment. They had no idea what they were getting into but with the adrenaline pumping many went for it. They are now known as "tunnel rats" and this book is the story of what they went through during their time in Vietnam.
This book is one of the best books that I have ever read on Tunnel Warfare ever. Every war has something that was unique to it, WWI it was trench warfare, WWII was the German Blitzkrieg and the atom bomb, and in Vietnam it would have to be the tunnel warfare. The U.S. Special Forces units, trained in above ground combat, had to basically start from scratch when it came to the tunnels, all of their manuals had to basically be rewritten with this new found combat style. "Tunnel Rats" were a breed of their own. These were men who needed a sense of adventure in a land of many unknowns and these men, no matter their rank, were highly regarded among their comrades. The tunnels themselves, even though very simple looking, were quite effective in their construction. The tunnels were designed to withstand direct 500 lb. bomb hits, CS riot gas, water flooding and destruction from above ground vehicles moving overhead and had the ability to detect by sound incoming aircraft from many miles away. The tunnels were cities under the ground; they had everything that you can imagine, makeshift hospitals where doctors did everything from delivering babies to amputating limbs and performing brain surgery with such tools as handsaws and home made drills. They also contained conference rooms, sleeping quarters, printing offices, and munitions factories. Some of the Viet Cong soldiers were to have spent up to 5 years in the tunnels without leaving for much more than a few hours. There were over 200 kilometers of tunnels in all, connecting all the hamlets in a village and other villages as much as 20 km away.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that enjoys books about war or someone who is interested in mystery stories. Even though this is no mystery novel, just reading about some of the things that happened with the tunnels keeps you on your toes like a good mystery; you never know what to expect next. Some things that you would think could never happen; for instance finding complete printing presses or large pieces of field artillery fully assembled in the tunnels. You would never expect it but it happened very frequently. This was the primary reason that U.S. Special Forces units on search and destroy missions had a very difficult time trying to find the enemy, they buried everything and then pulled it out in the security of the night and had it back in the ground by morning. Every aspect of everyday life that we take for granted on the surface was considered in the design and construction of the tunnel system. All of the little things, from how they cooked to the various booby traps that were designed are all quite inventive and interesting. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and the Viet Cong soldiers were very intelligent in this aspect which also makes this a very interesting book. You never know what you can come up with when there is a problem that needs to be solved, and as you can see by innovations in the tunnels, sometimes the most complicated problem can be solved by the simplest of means.
        The title of the book, The Tunnels of Cu Chi, comes from the name of the district that all of these tunnels were found in. During the Vietnam War, both sides divided up the land into districts, and the districts were sometimes even divided up into smaller areas. The tunnels that were mostly talked about were in the Iron Triangle in the Cu Chi district. This district was also known as Military District IV by the Viet Cong forces. The Iron Triangle was one of the most fortified areas of Vietnam, by both the Viet Cong and the United States forces. The Americans would build large bases on the ground that would easily out gun and out man any North Vietnamese forces, yet having the VC directly beneath you at all times made it quite difficult to even keep your base secure from VC guerrilla attacks. Quite often they would come up in the middle of the base late in the night, cause some havoc above ground, and be back in the ground before morning not leaving a trace of how they arrived or even left. There were tunnel complexes in other districts throughout Vietnam but the most important strategic and complex tunnel systems were found in the Cu Chi district. The strategic importance of the district was that it could and eventually would be used the starting grounds of a direct attack on Saigon during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
        Now, knowing some of what "tunnel rats" encountered in their time in Vietnam, do you still make the same decision that you made in the beginning of the report? I myself changed my mind from when I started reading the book to when I finished it. I decided that I would have done it, it would be a great sense of adventure but you have to be on your toes at every moment because your next step could also be your last. This is definitely one of the best books that I have ever read and I definitely recommend it to anyone.
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