The tunnels depicted below were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, and also served as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort.
The tight tunnels limited the use of most American weapons. They were often dug just tall and wide enough for Viet Cong fighters, generally smaller than the average U.S. infantryman, to crawl through. When corn-fed Nebraskans tried to crawl through it, they were typically limited to pistols and knives.
Even worse for the Americans, the Viet Cong were masters of building lethal traps in the tunnels. Poisoned bamboo shoots, nails, razor blades, and explosives could all greet an attacker moving too brashly through the tunnel networks.
This led to the reluctant rise of the ‘Tunnel Rats,’ American soldiers who specialized in the horrible task of moving through the underground bases, collecting intelligence and eliminating resistance. The claustrophobia and the physical dangers often drove the Tunnel Rats insane.