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Tunnel Rats


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#1 Bob Guercio

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 01:48 AM

Hi Guys,

I just saw the movie "Tunnel Rats" which really was not very good and I don't recommend it. However, I do have a question on the tactics used by the Americans in Viet Nam.

In this movie, soldiers actually go into the tunnels to flesh out the enemy. I don't understand why they would do this because you are playing in his ballpark. Why not just blow the tunnels to smithereens from above?

I don't believe that American soldiers ever went into the tunnels on Iwa Jima or Okinawa to flesh out the Japanese!

Bob
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#2 Elven6

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:17 AM

Uwe Boll, my homie! :P

The movie is inspired by the real life ventures of the Tunnel Rats during the Vietnam War. I assume they went in to clear them out in such a fashion to retrieve weapons, intel, etc. Also, to destroy these tunnels they would have to blow up the "weak points" or else they could easily be dug up again. I believe we have some Vietnam War veterans on this forum who may be able to explain this a bit better.

I believe the US Army did do similar things because the Japanese were held up in caves mostly. I remember the History Channel had a Xbox 360 game about the Pacific theater and in one of the missions (accompanied by documentary footage) the Marines were storming a cave to "flush out" the Japanese, horrible game by the way, if it weren't for work I would have killed myself!
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#3 Steve G

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:19 AM

Bob; Is this the relatively recent film I've been half mindedly eager for a look at? (Was it actually Tarrantino? :unsure:) Either way; What, in your opinion, is so bad about it? Either way; I fancy a look at it myself. It may just be a 'fun' film ;)

Regards; " Why not just blow the tunnels to smithereens from above? ". I'd have to ask, " How? ".

It's my own, extremely limited, understanding of these Tunnels that they had some pretty extensive chambers down there? I can't help likening this to rat or rabbit workings (in Europe). How would one destroy a scaled up version of those?

Talking simplistically; A grenade slung down an entrance would surely have only a most local effect? And an air raid? What sort of bombs would have the subterranean penetration ~ never mind the delivery accuracy to follow who knows what sort of directional twists, turns and levels as might be present?

Maybe I'm just showing my ignorance of the subject here? (I stand prepared to be ripped to shreds! :lol:) Only, the latest ~ last few years ~ thing I - as a professional flusher of things beneath ground - have heard of is a device which releases and then ignites a certain mix of gasses.

I don't think this was invented in those days. Either way, the scale of the appliance potentially required for blowing through human sized tunnels, in the 'jungle' situation, seems awe inspiring.

I'll be following this one with interest ~ as and when I get in here.
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#4 Elven6

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:23 AM

Bob; Is this the relatively recent film I've been half mindedly eager for a look at? (Was it actually Tarrantino? :unsure:) Either way; What, in your opinion, is so bad about it? Either way; I fancy a look at it myself. It may just be a 'fun' film ;)

Regards; " Why not just blow the tunnels to smithereens from above? ". I'd have to ask, " How? ".

It's my own, extremely limited, understanding of these Tunnels that they had some pretty extensive chambers down there? I can't help likening this to rat or rabbit workings (in Europe). How would one destroy a scaled up version of those?

Talking simplistically; A grenade slung down an entrance would surely have only a most local effect? And an air raid? What sort of bombs would have the subterranean penetration ~ never mind the delivery accuracy to follow who knows what sort of directional twists, turns and levels as might be present?

Maybe I'm just showing my ignorance of the subject here? (I stand prepared to be ripped to shreds! :lol:) Only, the latest ~ last few years ~ thing I - as a professional flusher of things beneath ground - have heard of is a device which releases and then ignites a certain mix of gasses.

I don't think this was invented in those days. Either way, the scale of the appliance potentially required for blowing through human sized tunnels, in the 'jungle' situation, seems awe inspiring.

I'll be following this one with interest ~ as and when I get in here.


Gassing a tunnel could have happened dating back to the days of the grenade, you just need to close off one end of the tunnel to allow the chemicals to spread. I'm saying this using my knowledge of Chemistry of course, not military. :lol:

Tunnel Rats 1968 was made by German film maker Uwe Boll, I think Tarentino made the recently released Inglorious Basterds (which looks horrible IMO).
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#5 Bob Guercio

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:28 AM

Bob; Is this the relatively recent film I've been half mindedly eager for a look at? (Was it actually Tarrantino? :unsure:) Either way; What, in your opinion, is so bad about it? Either way; I fancy a look at it myself. It may just be a 'fun' film ;)


It was produced in 2008.

I had to force myself to see it to the end so basically I was bored with it.

Bob
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#6 Formerjughead

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 04:16 AM

Well believe what you will:

Tunnel Rats Vietnam - Military Photos
Tunnel rat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There are several articles relating to the securing of caves during the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa during WW2; however, I have found no reference to them being called "Tunnel Rats".

The Japanese had caves. The Japanese were in the caves. The Japanese had to come out of the caves and the caves had to be secured, so that means the caves were either blown up or searched and secured.
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#7 Steve G

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 11:55 AM


Tunnel Rats 1968 was made by German film maker Uwe Boll, I think Tarentino made the recently released Inglorious Basterds (which looks horrible IMO).



:rolleyes: Of course! Thanks for reminding me. That's the two films I'd heard of, on here and thought I'd look out for.

Thinking back; I read a review / critique of " Tunnel Rats " and it didn't seem too clever? But the; One mans meat ..... Not to happy with the fact that Bob found it so dire as well though. It's starting to look like a pattern emerging :unsure:

Gassing? Yeppers. That's a thought. Though I have no idea if that would have been allowed under the Geneva, or what ever protocols of war were adopted in Vietnam. (I'm taking it we are talking about the Viet Cong tunnels here?)

Anyway, in order to answer myself, or add to my own confusion, I guess I really should go take a look at FJH's links there.

Either way; I just like tunnels! :D
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#8 Auditman

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 04:17 PM

This subject was also covered in Platoon, when Willem Dafoe's character went into a tunnel for intelligence gathering.

I understand that some of these tunnels in Vietnam were like underground towns with stores, hospitals etc, with many firebreaks, and exits (often far apart and well camouflaged) so blocking off one for gas purposes may not be anywhere near effective

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#9 sol

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 04:47 PM

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#10 brndirt1

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 05:21 PM

Gassing? Yeppers. That's a thought. Though I have no idea if that would have been allowed under the Geneva, or what ever protocols of war were adopted in Vietnam. (I'm taking it we are talking about the Viet Cong tunnels here?)


The use of tunnel rats in Nam was not simply to clear the tunnels, but to attempt to capture both members of the Cong, as well as any documents or other intel. which may have been left behind. The use of a gas (like CS tear gas), was used but there were (many times) so many hidden exits that it was less than truly effective. There was a gas used in the tunnels of Vietnam, thousands of tons of CS gas (chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile) were used by the U.S. forces used it to bring Viet Cong into the open. The drawback to this application was that it is easily defeated by masks (which the north Vietnamese had).

The use of CS gas in war is now prohibited under the terms of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, of which America is a signatory. Domestic use of CS is legal in most if not all nations as the Convention applies to military use only. But its use was legal in the Nam era, and the North Vietnamese used it as well.

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#11 sol

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 05:24 PM

And how do you mean to just blow the tunnels just from above?

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#12 Elven6

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 05:28 PM

And how do you mean to just blow the tunnels just from above?


Perhaps the movie was his first experince with Tunnel Rats and maybe the movie portrayed the tunnels in a "linear" fashion? I haven't seen the movie yet (can't find it anywhere!) so apologizes ahead of time if I am wrong.
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#13 Bob Guercio

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 06:02 PM

Perhaps the movie was his first experince with Tunnel Rats and maybe the movie portrayed the tunnels in a "linear" fashion? I haven't seen the movie yet (can't find it anywhere!) so apologizes ahead of time if I am wrong.


I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "linear" in this context but here is my description of how they were portrayed.

The tunnels were interconnected in that as the soldiers were bellying along they had to make choices regarding which way to continue.

Combatants actually lived in the tunnels. Very narrow tunnels would occasionally exit into an underground room by my approximation to be 6 feet by 6 feet by 5 feet high.

There were many exits from the tunnel complex to the outside world.

The tunnels did not seem to be shored up in any manner so I would guess that cave-ins were frequent. The only time cave-ins occurred in the movie coincided with bombings although, in reality, I would think tunnels could collapse unexpectedly at any time.

Flooding was a problem so I imagine these tunnels crossed into underground acquifers. In one scene, a wooden dam had been built to hold back the water.

The tunnels were so narrow that it seemed to be impossible to change direction. If one wanted to go where he had come from, it was necessary to go feet first and keep your body in the same orientation.

The exits to the outside world were very narrow. If I were to guess, they were less than a two foot square. Probably closer to 18 inches by 18 inches.

That about exhausts my observations.

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#14 Elven6

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 07:38 PM

By linear I meant not as complex as they were in real life. If I remember correctly the movie was actually filmed in Africa.

But yes, the tunnels were narrow,that's why they would send in the shorter often white or Latino (?) G.I.'s. The Japanese caves of World War II were bigger so crawling in such a manner was not neccesary but they were "vast". I wouldn't be surprised if their are parts of caves Allied forces never found.

I'm trying to find the right words to explain but I don't think I can. =/
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#15 AndyBaldEagle

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 07:47 PM

I would suggest reading 'The Tunnels of C-Chi' which is very interesting, as far as I can recall its a history of part of the Vietnam War. I havent seen the movie/film, doesn't interest me that much

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#16 sol

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 08:00 PM

Just to show how this tunnels can be long: at Củ Chi there are 75-mile (121 km)-long complex of tunnels preserved by the government of Vietnam. More about this you can find here:

Củ Chi tunnels - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You can also on this videos:

YouTube - Cu Chi Tunnels

YouTube - Bite Me With Dr. Mike - Tunnels Under Vietnam
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#17 A-58

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 08:55 AM

Forrest Gump was a tunnel rat....
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#18 Bob Guercio

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 11:28 AM

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Multiple stories!

I guess they became like small, underground towns.

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#19 Paul Reed

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 12:12 PM

Just moved this to post-war so it doesn't get lost in the Barracks. Interesting thread.
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#20 brndirt1

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 07:47 PM

Multiple stories!

I guess they became like small, underground towns.

Bob Guercio


There was a special on History International about the tunnels in Vietnam, and there was one stat. which was absolutely astounding. There were three generations of Vietnamese who participated in the conflict, including the original contest with the occupation forces of the Japanese.

There were interviews with three families, and one of the females said she was born in the tunnel city which was composed of over 10,000 persons, the same as her mother and father, and never lived above ground for more than a day at a time until she went into the Army's service and left the underground city for the first time more than a day.

The soil of the area is really quite stable for tunneling, and doesn't need re-enforcement in most sections, but as a dense clay remains stable and non-collapsing in most conditions. Bombings have to be very near, or direct hits to collapse more than the upper levels.
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#21 Bob Guercio

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 08:31 PM

There were interviews with three families, and one of the females said she was born in the tunnel city which was composed of over 10,000 persons, the same as her mother and father, and never lived above ground for more than a day at a time until she went into the Army's service and left the underground city for the first time more than a day.



This is astounding but now that I think of it, there was a scene in "Tunnel Rats" showing a mother living in a tunnel with her two children.

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