The Inspiration for this post was a movie...This one,
Saturday, September 19, 2020
Friday, September 18, 2020
Yesterdays Post got me going down the Rabbit hole again and I decided to do more research in to the Tunnel system. I had touched upon it yesterday and I decided to explore a bit farther and found more information on the Tunnel system.
I clipped this page from This Source
"Bill" an Aussie tunnel rat emerging from a tunnel. Click photo to enlarge. Note the "Australia" badge and the name written on the bush hat. Photo from Vietnam Remembered.
"Non gratum anus rodentum"
"Not worth a rat's arse"
"Couldn't Give a Rat's Arse"
|This diagram is of a smaller local tunnel system. See VC Tunnels for it's big brother|
|Tools of trade for a Tunnel Rat|
Knife of type that would be carried
Colt .45 Auto (above)
Smith & Wesson .38 (lower)
HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
Friday 7th of January 1966. The 1st Battalion of the 28th Infantry, itself part of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Inf Div - "The Big Red One"- was engaged in operation "Crimp". The first search and destroy sweep into the VC held area's Northwest of Saigon. Operation "Crimp" was intended to be a massive strike against the VC in South Vietnam; in and around the Ho Bo woods just west of the Iron triangle.
Even as the men from the 1st Batt 28th Inf touched down on LZ (landing zone) "Jack" they could see their comrades in the 1st Batt 16th Inf were already in trouble and engaging the enemy in small fire fights. The men quickly de-assed their helicopters and moved into the nearby tree line hoping to find, engage, and destroy the VC that had been harassing the soldiers of the 16th Inf.
Just inside the tree line at the edge of a rubber plantation, the men of the 28th discovered a large trench - but no enemy. Where had they gone? How could the VC who had been firing at the men of the 16th Inf just disappear apparently into thin air? As the Batt moved forward it began to find large caches of rice, and enough food to feed a Regiment. As the operation continued, over the next couple of days foxholes, trenches, and caves were discovered. Still no enemy were being engaged in running fire fights, or surrendering, and all the time US casualties were mounting through sustained enemy sniper fire.
By the 10th of January the 28th had reached the banks of the Saigon river. So far during the 3 days of the operation only a couple of brief glimpses of the enemy had been seen. Late in the afternoon of the 10th word came through via the radio that elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Aussies to the north had made contact with the VC and - found tunnels.
The next day the 11th of January the 28th began to retrace it's foot steps. It had finally dawned on the Battalion Commander LTC Robert Haldane what had happened - they had literally walked right over the VC! Searches were begun for the tunnel entrances but nothing much was discovered. By now hot and tired, and waiting for further instructions some of the GIs began to sit down for a quick rest.
Sergeant Stewart Green did the same, but only momentarily, as he suddenly leap to his feet cursing that something had bitten him on the ass. Thinking he'd been stung by a scorpion, or worse, bitten by a snake, Green searched through the layer of dead leaves that covered the area looking for the creature that bitten him. Only to discover it was a nail sticking up from the ground. Upon further careful inspection it was discovered that the nail was part of a small wooden trap door - Haldane's men had found their first tunnel!
THE TUNNEL SYSTEM:
Originally the tunnels were started during the war against the French, but which were rapidly expanded upon when the American's arrived. They were constructed by volunteer(!) village labourers using simple hoe's and baskets. The Laterite clay in which the tunnels were dug has a dull reddish appearance and dries rock hard during the dry season. During the wet season it is very soft and much easier to work. Because of the very nature of the Laterite clay's ability to dry rock hard it made a very good (if a somewhat difficult substance to work) soil in which to carve out a tunnel.
The passages themselves were not cut in dead straight lines, rather they were made with corners that had between a 60 - degree and a 120 - degree angle to them. In other words the corners were constructed with no less than a 60 - degree angle and no more than a 120 - degree angle. This made shooting in a straight line impossible, and helped to deflect explosive blasts from grenades that might be thrown down.
The tunnel systems (where the water table permitted) had several levels, each level was separated by a watertight trap door which would seal the rest of the system against gas, flooding, etc. The trap doors themselves were virtually undetectable and could fool a person into believing that the tunnel finished in a dead end, when in reality it led into a huge system of other passages. These passages would in turn lead to underground ammo dumps, kitchens, air raid shelters, hospitals, store rooms, workshops, latrines, and even theatres for the performances of political plays.
The VC also dragged the bodies of their dead comrades underground in order to inter them in temporary graves when it became impossible to bury them above ground due to the presence of American/Australian troops. Once they had been dragged underground they were buried in the foetus position in the tunnel walls and covered with a thin layer of clay.
A SPECIAL BREED OF MAN:
Originally called "Tunnel Runners" by the 25th Inf Div, and "Ferrets" by the Australian Army, the term "Tunnel Rat" soon became their official accepted name. The US Army soon realized that trying to destroy the tunnels was a short-sighted policy that wasn't going to work. Moreover this was also a loss as the underground networks could yield vital intelligence on the VC in the form of plans and documents.
A chemical officer of the 1st Inf Div, Capt Herbert Thornton a Southerner, was charged with setting up the first tunnel team.
The kind of man that Thornton sought for his tunnel team had to be a special breed. He had to have an even temperament, an inquisitive mind, a lot of common sense (in order to know what to touch and what not to), and to be exceptionally brave.
All of Thornton's men were volunteers, most (not all) were small men of slight build who could squeeze through the tight trap doors and crawl along the narrow passages with relative ease.
It was a very stressful, nerve racking job, pushing the rat's mental state to its limits. Crawling through narrow, pitch black tunnels, sometimes for hours looking for a heavily armed enemy who would if he got the drop on you not hesitate to kill you. Occasionally under the strain a mans nerves would break and he'd be dragged from the tunnel screaming and crying. Once this happened he would never be allowed down a tunnel again.
If going down into a tunnel posed a threat, then coming up again could be just as dangerous. Upon emerging from a tunnel a rat would often whistle "Dixie" just to let the troops on the surface know he was on their side. A little guy stripped to the waist and covered in dirt could easily be mistaken (particularly if he was oriental looking) for a VC and shot by his own side.
TRAPS AND CREEPY CRAWLIES:
Going down into a tunnel system was a very risky business fraught with danger. Usually armed only with a pistol or a knife and a flashlight. The tunnel rat would descend into a pitch black, claustrophobic, dank hell, to play a deadly game of hide and seek with the enemy. Carefully probing the floor, sides and roofs of the tunnels became second nature to the tunnel rat as he gently inched and probed his way along. Feeling for wires or tree roots that didn't quite feel right, knowing that anyone of them could detonate a booby trap and blow him to smithereens.
Tunnel entrances were sometimes mined or covered by concealed firing positions. On other occasions an entrance would drop into a punji stake pit which would be covered by two rifle men, one either side. Another way in which the unsuspecting tunnel rat could meet his death was by garrotting him or cutting his throat as he came up through a connecting trapdoor. Besides the booby traps the tunnels also held other nasty surprises. Living along side the VC was a whole plethora of animals which had also made their homes in the dark confines of the tunnels. Bats (the cave dwelling nectar eating bat and the black bearded tomb bat) would use the tunnels as a roosting ground during the daylight hours.
A tunnel rat crawling through a tight tunnel would wake them from their rest causing them to fly right at him, getting tangled in his hair and running and crawling all over him. Snakes were also encountered underground. Two of the most deadly being the bamboo viper and the Krait. Sometimes the VC would deliberately tether a snake in a tunnel to use it as a sort of natural booby trap.
Scorpions were also used as booby traps, the VC would take boxes of them into the tunnels. The box would be rigged with a trip wire, the tunnel rat tripped the wire and the scorpions would fall on him stinging him in the process. Being stripped to the waist and slowly crawling along on their stomachs also exposed the rats to bites from fire ants that inhabited the underground labyrinths. Other nasties to be encountered in the tunnels were real rats, and spiders like the Giant Crab Spider. Sometimes whole chambers were crawling with a thick black mass of tiny spiders the size of a thumb nail, giving the illusion that the walls were moving!
TOOLS OF THEIR TRADE:
It was soon discovered early on that to fight in the tunnels the tunnel rat had to do away with most of the infantry mans basic load. In fact the total lack of equipment carried by a rat was a distinct advantage, which greatly increased his chances of survival. The basic tools of the tunnel rat were the knife, the pistol, and a flashlight.
The pistols that were carried by the tunnel rats were varied, the .38 Smith and Wesson was a favourite. Other tunnel rats procured their own personal firearms to suit their own needs. One of these was Master Sgt Flo Rivera who acquired and used a 9mm German Luger. The one weapon everyone agreed about was the Colt .45. It was too big, with a silencer it was to cumbersome and when it was fired underground without a silencer its bark was deafening. Making it impossible to hear the enemy.
One of the tunnel rats golden rules was you never fired more than 3 shots underground without reloading, as the VC would know you were out of ammo.
The flashlight was the standard Army issue type and every rat carried one. These were carried in a way so as not to make themselves a nicely illuminated target. If the bulb in the flashlight went it had to be changed. This was practiced so it could be done in pitch darkness by touch alone, and done quickly, lying prone, squatting, or kneeling down.
THE TUNNEL EXPLORATION KIT:
Due to the specialised nature of tunnel warfare, priority was placed with ENSURE (Expedited Non-standard Urgent Requirements for Equipment) program for the development of special "Tunnel Exploration kits". Six kits were requested by USARV on the 29th of April 1966, and then passed on to ACTIV (Army Concept Team In Vietnam) on the 7th of August. ACTIV then distributed the six kits, two went to the 1st Inf Div at Di An, a further two were dispatched to the 25th Inf Div at Cu Chi. Of the remaining kits one was given to the 1st Cav at An Khe, whilst the last remaining kit went to the 173rd Airborne Bde at Bien Hoa.
Tests on the exploration kit in Vietnam soon revealed its short comings. The silenced .38 cal pistol was not liked because of its length with the suppressor, and because it lacked balance and was awkward to handle. The special aiming light was found to be unnecessary given the tight confines and short ranges the tunnel rats were operating in. The huge pistol holster was also a failure as it was too big and unwieldy to be used in the tight confines of a tunnel. The head mounted miners lamp fared no better! This was obstructed by the baseball cap's visor and could be shorted out by switch malfunctions rendering it useless. Furthermore the lamp tended to slip down over the wearers eyes. The earpiece part of the communication system was also troublesome as it kept falling out of the wearers ear!
USARV requested 250 tunnel kits on the 21st of March 1967, but because of a mix up in the ordering quantity (500 instead of the original 250) and year end budget problems, immediate funding was slow in coming. Natick labs were not asked to produce the sets until the 30th of September, this situation was further frustrated by problems in the communication equipment for the kits. Eventually the requested 250 sets were delivered to Dover AFB between the 22nd and the 29th of May 1968, and from there immediately flown to Vietnam.
With their patch with it's nonsense Latin motto "Non gratum anus rodentum - Not worth a rats ass" the tunnel rats were among the bravest in Vietnam, doing a job that not many others could, or would care to do.
Thursday, September 17, 2020
I shamelessly cribbed this from the American Rifleman magazine. This caught my interest besides it talking about the mighty 45 and the Tunnel rats of Cu-Chi in Vietnam. My Dad did as his duties as El-Cid in 25th Infantry Div go into the tunnels in 1968. He told me one of their tactics before climbing into the tunnel was to throw CS grenades into the tunnel hoping to disorientate "Sir Charles" to allow us to slip into the tunnel before they realized that we were in there. Another purpose of the CS was to see of any of the CS fumes would waif our from other openings in the area so they would put people on the openings, to see if someone jumped out or they would throw more CS into those openings to further disorient "Sir Charles" because the VC didn't have gas mask and the tear gas would cause major discomfort for the VC and allow the soldiers to close in. Climbing in the tunnels was risky because the VC would booby-trap the tunnels, my Blogpost I had posted several weeks described some of the booby-traps that the VC would use to "discourage" snoopers.
I cribbed the following article from "American Rifleman"
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
I Remembered hearing about the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 when I was reading a book about "Louis Pasteur" and he was embarrassed and angry about how the French had their butts handed to them by the Prussians. He also visited his son who was wounded fighting the Prussians near Paris if memory serves. I started doing some research on the cause of the war and down the rabbit hole I went :)
Throughout the centuries, the European continent has hosted many wars of conflict, laying waste to its countryside, and killing thousands of its citizens. These outbreaks of violence came about over religion, power, and petty disagreements in wars lasting over one-hundred years in some cases. Even though the human suffering was horrific during these battles, warfare was conducted in an almost elementary approach with strategy as an afterthought. This approach begins to change with the founding and successful expansion of the Prussian Empire across central Europe. The Prussians brought new methods and techniques to the art of warfare through its professional application of strategy as a science and an art. The Prussian Empire during the 1871 war with the French was controlled by the then Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck even the Emperor of Prussia referred to Bismarck due to the power arrangements of the empire. Bismarck had the goal of uniting all Germans under one flag and destroying the threat the French posed from the West.
The adversaries of the Prussian Empire were their neighbors to the west; the second French Empire led by the elderly Napoleon III the nephew of Napoleon. The French, up until the late 18th Century relied on its ability in win wars employing strategy called élan. Using this strategy the French believed that they were superior in their ability to mass its infantry on the enemy and win the day. The French believed so much in élan that it led to a false state of security in matters of defense and innovation.
Bismarck used diplomatic pressure by attempting to put a low nobility German Prince on the vacant Spanish throne. Prince Leopold, a prince from the royal House of Hohenzollern would be the instrument used by Bismarck to execute the diplomatic phase of DIME. If the Prussians could get Leopold on the Spanish throne, they could essentially box the French in on all sides. This action almost created a potential trading block allied to the Prussians.
On July 2, 1870, that the Spaniards were about to crown Leopold, this led to an outcry in France. The French were caught sleeping to the threat and acted very slowly to recognize the danger being created by Bismarck. Further endangering the French to this maneuver was the fact Napoleon III tried to look the other way and not engage. The citizens of France immediately took to the streets throughout France in protest. This action caused French society to consider this an insult to France leading to the population and political leaders demanding war to protect their honor. French military leaders were also worried about the possible influence that Prussia may be able to bring in Spain with a fellow compatriot of theirs on the throne. The Prussians were truly using diplomatic actions and strategy of science by turning the tables on the French by making them confront the possibility it will be them facing a two front war by boxing them in between Spain and Germany. This action was a stroke of pure genius by Bismarck even before any fighting begins against the French. Bismarck’s actions caused so much pressure on French leadership that Napoleon III looked weak and out touch with reality. The French press and politicians vilified the Emperor for allowing their country to be slighted by Bismarck and the Prussians.
The Kaiser in response to the fury caused decided to attempt a sort of reconciliation with Napoleon III by sending the French leader a letter offering peace. The crafty old Bismarck intercepted the letter and changed the wording blaming the French for causing upheaval. This letter became famously know as Ems Depesche, Bismarck actions were the information piece of using statecraft in DIME. This aroused nationalist outrage in Germany and France causing the French to declare war on the Prussians. By using the information actions within DIME, Bismarck forced Napoleon III hand.
The Emperor of France looked like fool and a laughing stock in European circles of power because the Prussian got the best of him. Napoleon III realized his position and his country appeared weak and it was his time to try his hand as strategy as a science. Since he did not want a war, he tried to check the Prussians growing power by using back door political moves, and at the same time quiet the growing opposition in the streets of Paris. These secretive moves would be the Emperor’s ends and ways to achieve the ends and ways, on statecraft of diplomatic and, informational actions to further his cause. He first dealt with his critics at home by trying to roll back the powers of the Parliament. When this body of politicians tried to check his moves toward more power, he simply jailed the leaders of the movement. The Catholic
Church was another obstacle in the quest of power by the Emperor and again he jailed Church leaders and drove the rest out of the country. Both groups became targets of an informational campaign to align them with the communist threat, and to show the French people that they were political agents and enemies of the Republic.
With the streets of Paris now cleared, Napoleon attempted to demonstrate his foreign diplomatic prowess by purchasing the Duchy of Luxembourg from the then owner, the King of the Netherlands. With the purchase of the Duchy, the Emperor wanted this land as a buffer from the ever-growing threat of the Prussians. This land grab also put the Prussians at a huge strategic disadvantage by funneling them and their efforts into deadly killing zones once war did begin with the French.
Bismarck quickly met this challenge by simply putting intense pressure on the Dutch Royals not to sell the Duchy of Luxembourg to the French. The Prussians communicated the danger of selling this land through diplomatic channels by threatening hostilities if the sale took place. The Dutch quickly got the message from the Prussian that their existence might be in jeopardy if the sale took place. Using attempted diplomatic strategy would have been a masterstroke of genius by Napoleon if it could have succeeded. By using this type of strategy, the French leader failed to appreciate the ability of Bismarck to checkmate his moves with his own strategy. Bismarck showed just how cunning he could be by releasing the messages on the possible sale of Luxembourg from the Dutch to the French with revised sentences. The changing and doctoring of the messages showed that Napoleon and the French people are not be trusted in Europe. The Prussians appeared to be the victims of further French aggression, marginalizing their efforts for German unification. With just a few faked sentences and threatening messages added from Bismarck he achieved his prewar Ends, Ways, and Means through information warfare aided by technology.
The disaster caused by the Prussians exposing the attempted sell of the Duchy of Luxembourg caused major domestic problems for Napoleon at home. He had to send Soldiers into the streets of Paris again and have them fire on protestors marching on his palace. The French labor unions and communist parties also did battle with Napoleon’s troops exposing further damage caused by the attempted failed purchase of Luxembourg. These violent uprisings caused a knee jerk response by Napoleon by jailing and exiling thousands of innocent French citizens.
The French people were demanding war, and seeing the chance to look like the bold leader when Napoleon declared war of the Prussians. Napoleon had several goals for his ends, ways, and means to deal for the last time with Prussians. Most important was to look strong, check the growing Prussian Empire, and maybe win a small war. Napoleon attempted to use the strategy of the military inside DIME and was met with disaster due to no planning for the war. The ultimate task for the French would have been to fight a war using the military and to put the citizens on a war footing by using their economic means to attack the Prussians. The French found out it is much easier to chant shout slogans like on to Berlin as a strategy than to execute the mission.
The French failure in the 1871 War with the Prussians goes back several years without a clear strategy of preparations in the mobilization of its military. The mobilization of armies clearly failed in the realm of strategy as a science. No longer could militaries win wars by just valor and élan, however, this was the approach the French tried to use and failed.
French Soldiers 1871
The French failed to invest in weapons technology and found themselves vastly outgunned and outranged by their enemy even before the battles had begun. The Prussians simply killed the French in the rear areas of the battlefield by using their advanced artillery. There were not any safe areas for the French to regroup, refit and rest during the fighting. They had no safe places except the French capital of Paris to adjust their strategy of art. The distances to the front caused further delays and false starts due to the poor communication nodes that the French failed to update as technology advanced.
The movement of troops to the front lines depended on the railroad first getting them to cantonment areas to form into battle formations. Often times, these areas turned into nothing more than masses of men drinking themselves into a state of drunkenness. Discipline further eroded due to reserve troops arriving with no clear chain of command and lacking training for modern warfare. The French had become little more than a peasant army that was over seven-five percent illiterate as the fighting started. This was due to a system set up previously that allowed a person of means to avoid any responsibility to defend his homeland of France.
French Officer Corp
Just the opposite of the uneducated peasants was a very educated officer corps in France that could have executed to a certain degree the strategy of science and art when deploying to their borders. Like many segments of French society during this time to include Napoleon and French politicians failed to grasp the needs and obligations of modern warfare. They failed to invest in new technologies of the day and adopt strategies that they could achieve. The only true strategy the French used was the need to rush to the border and attack with their faith in Elan. This strategy might have worked in previous war were only valor and fixed bayonets were needed but not in 1871. The French were facing an enemy in the Prussians that adopted a learning approach to execute both phases of science and art in in modern strategy.
Prussian and Bavarian Soldier 1871
The Prussians took a vastly different approach on how to best execute their strategy of uniting all Germans and to neutralize the threat posed by France. They had become a learning organization that fostered technologies that enabled them to better execute the strategy as a science and art through prewar planning and education. Such advancements as providing medical care, hot meals, and railroads usage allowed the Prussians to see their dreams of a homeland for all Germans become a reality.
Prussian "War Kitchen" as part of a medical train.
Providing something as simple as a hot meal to the troops in war provided a positive outcome on the fighting spirit and morale of the men doing the killing for Prussia. The Prussians knew this due to doing research and promoting strategy as a science by developing mobile kitchens. These kitchens were able to provide returning and arriving troops to the front a hot meal. The kitchens were also mobile enough to follow near to the troops for any major operation. The French had no such things as mobile kitchens to feed their troops on the battlefield. As the French Soldiers learned quickly by starting a fire to warm a meal, it almost certainly invited enemy artillery to attack them in their cantonment areas. Along with hot meals, the Prussians understood the need to have proper medical care for the troops fighting. They were the first in Europe to embrace the concept of marking medical wagons with the now excepted Red Cross emblem signify medical. Military doctors were given complete control of all medical operations when it came to the care of the wounded. The French did none of these actions in regards to medical operations on the battlefield.
Prussian Train Ambulance
Without any true strategy for fighting the Prussians, the French charged to the border without much guidance are even strategy. They learned quickly that it was not logical or even safe to race to the border with just their infantry. These mad dashes to the border allowed for the capture of the city of Saarbrucken for one day by the French. The French had to retreat across the border due to their inability of orders for advancement arriving and the failure to move the strategy as art. They failed to understand the early need for combined arms to wage war and left many troops isolated on the battlefield.
The result of these failures on the battlefield allowed for Bismarck to dictate the terms of the peace to the French. He quickly moved back into strategy as a science by ensuring that the threat from France would be forever neutralized. This included the partition and loss of the lands Alsace-Lorraine and the demand of payment from the French for the sum of five billion francs.
By successfully demonstrating both the understanding and the need to embrace the strategy of both science and the art phases, the Prussians won the war in 1871. In doing so, they were able to unite all Germans under the new German Empire. Additionally they neutralized the threat from the French to their new German Empire. The lack of strategy for both planning and fighting doomed the French to defeat for many years to come.
The new German Empire reputation was greatly burnished by the abject humiliation of France and the new country became a force to be reckoned with especially by England who had viewed the defeat of France with some interest and the New German empire started having expansionist goals outside of its borders of Europe and that greatly impacted Great Britain who was at the Zenith of her power and the Germans started building a Navy to challenge the Royal Navy on the High Seas. The defeat of France indirectly set the seeds of WWI 50 years later.
This new Blogger interface of sucks...it is a pain to manipulate pictures and import them.*Bleh*