Today we were given a glimpse of a civilisation, a struggle and a nation and ingenuity all built on one determinant: a sense of purpose.
About 40 kilometres from Ho Chi Min City are located two tunnel systems used by the Vietcong, the North Vietnamese army during the conflict with the US, from 1960’s until the signing of The Paris Peace Accords in 1973. Over 200 kilometres of tunnels were dug with hand tools and bamboo baskets.
At Ben Duoc, recreated for our benefit, are tunnels, and mock-ups of the bobby traps and pits. As our guide demonstrated how each trap worked we could only wince at the unimaginable pain they would inflict.
An M70 tank, victim of a NVA delayed mine, was on display, and various place where unexploded munitions were ‘recycled for us against the US Forces.
Entire villages and military forces waged war from below ground; ingenuity was stretched to the limit. And every facet of this resourcefulness was on display; even the sandals worn by the NVA with treads that in soft earth would give the impression of someone walking in the opposite direction.
As we walked through the trees and jungle, past bomb craters, an area all of which was once laid flat by napalm, the pathways were strewn with bomb shrapnel forming hard tracks for our progress.
Again this was another closeness to Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. The film opens and Captain Willard, drunk in a Saigon hotel room reflects:
“Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger”.