Dig deep: Saigon house hides war tunnel

A house in Saigon's Cu Chi District boasts a 30-meter long secret tunnel where National Liberation Front guerrillas took shelter during the Vietnam War.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

The house belongs to Nguyen Van Tron. The 55-years-old said the tunnel system stored weapons used by North Vietnamese troops and served as hideout for National Liberation Front guerrillas beneath Saigon, renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the war's end in 1975.
Tron is the youngest child of 10 kids born to former National Liberation Front guerrilla Nguyen Van Ten, in charge of transporting weapons by road to inner Saigon.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

The tunnel is about a meter high and soldiers had to crouch to move along it. It was dug by Tron and his comrades during 1955 and took over 10 years to complete.
"They dug little by little at night, using hoes and shovels, then secretly brought the leftover soil to hide elsewhere," Tron recalled.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

The tunnel is 30 meters long, leading from the garden to inside the house. Its walls are covered in clay mixed with highly durable laterite able to withstand the destructive force of light bombardment.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

At the end of the tunnel lies a three meter square secret vault for soldiers and weapons. Here, Tran Hai Phung, commander of the Saigon-Gia Dinh Military Region, took shelter between 1967 and 1968 ahead of the Tet Offensive. The latter was launched on January 30, the first day of Vietnam’s Lunar New Year in 1968, and saw over 80,000 soldiers from the north and Vietnam National Liberation Front (NLF) launch surprise attacks on more than 100 cities and outposts throughout southern Vietnam.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

Tron exits the tunnel right next to the barn by his house. "In the past, the area was camouflaged with straw," he said.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

The tunnel vent is disguised as a termite mound. Tron's family has since made it bigger to boost visitor experience.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

The 100-square-meter house was completed in the 1960s with a red tile roof and brick-tiled yard. Tron has built another home next door for convenience.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

Furniture, wardrobes, beds, and a counter are kept the same as when in use. Some other items such as guns, sewing machines, and an ox cart have been assigned to museums. "These items are associated with my father's revolutionary activity and should be carefully preserved," he said.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

Depictions of the war decorate the walls.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

Tron's father (top right corner) on the ox cart he used to transport weapons. The photo was framed by the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and given to his family.

Vietnam, Cu Chi Tunnels, Tet Offensive, Vietnam War, Cu Chi District

The yard is littered with discarded U.S. bomb shells dropped in Cu Chi District along with the cart used to conceal weapons. Tron said his house welcomes many visitors and veterans.

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