Authors: Tom Mangold
“A striking viewpoint of a neglected but crucial aspect of the warÂ â¦Â Full of humanityÂ â¦Â A wonderfully rounded history.”
New York Post
“An important contribution to the literature on the Vietnam WarÂ â¦Â an exciting storyÂ â¦Â required reading for anyone who wants to understand the American experience in Vietnam.”
“A claustrophobic but fascinating tale of a little-known campaign of the Vietnam WarÂ â¦Â This book is fraught with moments of heroism. The authors interviewed many of those who fought on both sides, and the individual stories convey fear and suspense.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Comprehensive, readable, and consistently absorbingÂ â¦Â a fascinating full-scale profile.”
2005 Presidio Press Mass Market Edition
Copyright Â© 1985 by Tom Mangold and John Penycate
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Presidio Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Random House, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., in 1985.
Captain Nguyen Thanh Linh
Major Nam Thuan
Major Nguyen Quot
Viet Cong guerrillas
Viet Cong with dud US bomb
Tranh Thi Hien
Dramatic performance in tunnel
Cu Chi Base Camp
Major General Ellis Williamson
General Fred C. Weyand
Captain Herbert Thornton
Tunnel rat entering tunnel
Lieutenant David Sullivan
Sergeant Arnold Gutierrez
Helicopters near Ben Suc
Pham Van Chinh
Lieutenant General Jonathan Seaman
Rome Plow bulldozers
Insignia in the jungle
Brigadier General Richard
Viet Cong nurses
Dr. Vo Hoang Le
Tunnel rats at VC hospital
Mrs. Vo Thi Mo
Rat Six and Batman
Tunnel rat sign
Sergeant Pete Rejo
Tunnel rat team
Cobra attack helicopter
B-52 bomb crater
Copyright has been credited in good faith. The publishers apologise for any inadvertent error, and will be happy to include a correction in any future edition.
Â Â 1. Duong Thanh Phong, Ho Chi Minh City
Â Â 3. Tom Mangold and John Penycate
Â Â 4. U.S. Army
Â Â 5. Colonel Jim Leonard
Â Â 6. Arnold Gutierrez
Â Â 8. Jack Flowers
Â Â 9. Major Randy Ellis
10. Pedro Rejo-Ruiz
11. Major Denis Ayoub
When she dug the tunnels, her hair was still brown.
Today her head is white as snow.
Under the reach of the guns she digs and digs.
At night the cries of the partridge record the past.
Twenty years, always the land is at war.
The partridge in the night cries out the love of the native land.
The mother, she digs her galleries, defenses,
Protecting each step of her children.
Immeasurable is our native land.
The enemy must drive his probes in everywhere.
Your unfathomable entrails, Mother,
Hide whole divisions under this land.
The dark tunnels make their own light.
The Yankees have captured her.
Under the vengeful blows she says not a word.
They open their eyes wide but are blind.
Cruelly beaten, the mother collapses.
Her body is no more than injuries and wounds.
Her white hair is like snow.
Night after night
The noise of picks shakes the bosom of the earth.
Columns, divisions, rise up from it.
The enemy, seized by panic, sees only
Hostile positions around him.
Immeasurable is our native land.
Your entrails, Mother, are unfathomable.
In 1968 one of the authors covered the war in Vietnam for three months for BBC Television News. Ten years later we were, together, the first BBC journalists to be granted visas by the newly victorious Communist government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to visit Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) to film a special report for
. It was on this visit that we were introduced to Captain Nguyen Thanh Linh, who had commanded the guerrillas of Cu Chi district in the tunnels. At the former military headquarters at Phu My Hung, our first introduction to the tunnels and some of the men who fought in them took place.
Subsequently we were given permission to return to Vietnamânot as journalists but as authorsâto study the tunnels and the tunnel war in greater detail. The Foreign Ministry in Hanoi not only cleared us to visit the tunnels of Cu Chi whenever we wished, but gave us unusual access to senior commanders in the People's Army who had formerly served with the Communist forces in South Vietnam.
We were invited for several briefings at the headquarters of Military Region VII in Ho Chi Minh City, which covers Cu Chi district. We met officers who had never spoken to Western visitors before, and we were allowed unlimited time with Colonel Nguyen Quang Minh, formerly a staff officer in the People's Liberation Army (as all Communist forces fighting in the South were called) and today the chief military historian of Military Region VII. (The official Communist history of the war is still in preparation.) At further briefings in Cu Chi town, Song Be, Tay Ninh, and other regional headquarters, People's Army officers quoted at length from a still-secret account of the war called “Summary Report on Experiences in the Anti-U.S. Struggle for National Salvation on the Battlefield in Eastern South Vietnam and the Southern Part of Central Vietnam (Zone B
Original maps of the tunnel system and drawings and diagrams of the construction processes were also supplied in Ho Chi Minh City by Military Region VII.
In the villages and hamlets of Cu Chi and adjoining districts we met numerous former tunnel fightersâsome still in uniform, many now back on the land as farmers. Other important civilians we interviewed were located and brought to meet us in Ho Chi Minh City. We met the city's party chairman, Mai Chi Tho, brother of Le Duc Tho, who signed the cease-fire agreement with the United States for North Vietnam. Mai Chi Tho was responsible for the political direction of the war in the Saigon area, and reported personally to the Communist headquarters in South Vietnam.
All the interviews were made on the basis of full attribution. Each was tape-recorded, and later translated and transcribed in London.
Surprisingly, there were greater difficulties in locating the relevant American veterans. The character of those who fought in tunnels precludes clubbiness or fondness for joining veterans' associations. Many of these lonely men found life after service discharge an anticlimax. Restless by nature, many had changed jobs leaving little trace. Few stayed in touch with their former comrades. Of the GI tunnel fighters who survivedâprobably one of the most exclusive ex-servicemen's groups in the worldâonly a few dozen could be found after extensive inquiries, and of these, a small number were still too traumatized by their experiences to tell their stories for publication. Most, however, agreed to meet us and discuss for the first time since Vietnam their combat experiences in the tunnels.
This is a story about heroes on both sides.