But the tunnel rats’ time underground was to one veteran named Sapper Jim Marrett, “the least of [his] worries.”, In a personal essay for The New York Times, Marrett wrote that as dangerous descending into the tunnels was, “Most of our casualties were aboveground, when we engaged in the other part of our job: finding and disarming mines and booby traps.”. There weren’t generally more than 100 tunnel rats on the ground at any given time. They were armed with M1911 or M1917 pistols, … Bats and other creatures used the tunnels as roosts, providing yet another distraction from the task at hand. By the onset of the Vietnam War in the 60s, the tunnels included several hospitals, storage facilities, training camps, and barracks. I swear I could hear my heart beating.” –Jack Flowers, “Rat Six”, 1st Infantry Division. The stakes were placed in the tunnels and camouflaged so soldiers wouldn’t see them. Viet Cong would tie a bamboo pit viper to the ceiling or bushes and it would strike and bite troops in the neck, face, or hand as they walked by. Destroying the tunnels wouldn’t be easy. The Vietnam War tunnel rats were a group of soldiers from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand whose job it was to search out underground tunnels to flush out or kill any Viet Cong, gather intelligence, recover arms, and then destroy the tunnels. A tunnel rat might therefore choose to enter the tunnels wearing a gas mask (donning one within was frequently impossible in such a confined space). Someone would have to go down into the tunnels to gather information and better inform their attack. In the years since the Vietnam War ended tunnel rats have suffered from a high percentage of Agent Orange injuries and diseases due to soldier's exposure to the chemicals on the ground, or that leeched from topsoil into the tunnel environment.

Aside from intentional dangers, there were the natural ones as well.

One in three of us was either killed or wounded during our tour.”
They were called Tunnel Rats—an unofficial designation for the volunteer combat engineers and infantrymen from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand who ventured into the labyrinth.

With pistol ready, a G.I. Sometimes stakes were also coated in poison from plants or animals or human feces. Soldiers quickly learned to scan the ceilings with their flashlights. Marrett recalled of his company’s tragedies, “…given what we were engaged in, it’s a wonder that number wasn’t higher.”. The Soviet 40th Army therefore fielded their own tunnel clearance and demolition units, which were given the task of clearing the tunnels of enemy combatants, disarming booby traps, and destroying the underground complexes. It also wasn’t unusual for a tunnel rat to quit after a few runs because it was just too intense. These diverse facilities, coupled with sophisticated ventilation systems, allowed VC guerrillas to remain hidden underground for months at a time. [9] Tom Mangold and John Penycate, authors of one of the definitive accounts of tunnel warfare during the Vietnam War, reported that the U.S. tunnel rats were almost exclusively soldiers of European or Hispanic descent, many of whom were Puerto Rican or Mexican American. They Thought Killer-Turned-Writer Jack Unterweger Was Reformed — Then He Started Killing Again, Benito Mussolini's Death: How Italy's Fascist Dictator Met His Grisly End, What Stephen Hawking Thinks Threatens Humankind The Most, 27 Raw Images Of When Punk Ruled New York, Join The All That's Interesting Weekly Dispatch. Usually, the weapons of their own devising were sawed-off shotguns and makeshift bayonets. In their 1985 book, ... Cross-sectional diagram of Vietcong tunnel system used by the communist insurgents during the Vietnam War.

[12][13], SAMOOR ("Weasel"), a formation within Israel's Yahalom elite combat engineer unit, is charged with many of the same missions that tunnel rats performed during the Vietnam War. Marrett reportedly spent weeks in the bush locating and disarming mines, “During that period 36 of us were killed and around 200 were wounded, giving us a casualty rate of 33 percent, high even by Vietnam War standards. [7] "A few of the OSS-ordered World War II era suppressed High Standard HD .22 automatics made their way into Tunnel Rat hands. The tunnels could be destroyed above ground, but often because the tunnels were so complex and snake-like, an above-ground demolition was not enough to dismantle the labyrinth entirely.
Bats also roosted in the tunnels, although they were generally more of a nuisance than a threat. Any time ground troops found a suspicious hole, the Vietnam War tunnel rats were called in and it was their job to investigate, collect information, and then destroy the tunnel. One in three of us was either killed or wounded during our tour.”. When the United States and its allies realized the complexities of the tunnels and the operations the Viet Cong could carry out, it became their mission to find, clear, and destroy the tunnels.

Military intelligence indicated that the Viet Cong were operating out of a large underground bunker. But what began as a fairly rudimentary system of tunnels quickly became a sophisticated labyrinth beneath Vietnam when it was later utilized by the Viet Cong to combat the U.S. and allied forces. But these weapons were very few in number and wanted by a number of other special units.

One tunnel rat wrote in an article, “In the tunnels, your adrenalin was pumping like a river. For other uses, see. [3] Tunnel rats were given the task of destroying them, gathering intelligence within them, and killing or capturing their occupants—often in conditions of close combat. Even with pistols, the tunnel rats had to follow certain guidelines to try to stay alive. Here’s a look at some of the other dangers Vietnam tunnel rats faced: Some of these dangers are self-explanatory but let’s take a look at some of the others. Rats, spiders, scorpions, and ants also posed threats to tunnel rats. In addition to trying to avoid surprise attacks and booby traps, Vietnam tunnel rats also had to avoid getting lost in the myriad of tunnels. "Historical Vignette 062 - How Army Engineers Cleared Viet Cong Tunnels," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, https://www.usace.army.mil/About/History/Historical-Vignettes/Military-Construction-Combat/062-Viet-Cong-Tunnels/, http://www.historic-firearms.com/m1917-revolver.html, http://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=2423, http://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=2724, "Underground Combat: Stereophonic Blasting, Tunnel Rats and the Soviet-Afghan War", "Taliban using ancient well and tunnel system", "Taliban Secret Weapon: Ancient Irrigation Trenches", "Israel's 'tunnel rats' brace for new guerrilla war", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Tunnel_rat&oldid=979951936, Articles with dead external links from December 2017, Articles with permanently dead external links, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 23 September 2020, at 18:41. The Viet Minh commissioned volunteer villagers to dig the tunnels using hoes and baskets. The experience for tunnel rats was intense. Their standard military pistols weren’t ideal because the blast was so loud it would deafen them momentarily after firing. Tunnels were often booby trapped with hand grenades, anti-personnel mines, and punji sticks.