Tunnel Rats in Vietnam

The tunnel rats were American and Australian infantry soldiers whose task was to carry out underground search and destroy missions during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong guerrillas had built a complex system of tunnels in which they hid themselves and their weapons when their were under attacks. They were extremely dangerous, with numerous booby traps and enemies lying in wait.

When one of these tunnels were discovered, tunnel rats were sent in to kill any hiding enemy soldiers and to plant explosives to destroy the tunnels. Equipped with only a standard issue .45 caliber pistol and a flashlight, tunnel rats were usually short o small men in order to fit in the narrow tunnels. It has been claimed by Mangold and Penycate that the tunnel rats were almost exclusively phlegmatic and collected White or Hispanic soldiers with steel nerves. The successful application of tunnel rats took place in January 1966 during Operation Crimp, a combined US-Australian action against the Cu Chi tunnels in Binh Duong Province.

Tunnel Rats in Vietnam

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Comments

  1. Merle Johnston says:

    A couple of things Mangold and Penycate got wrong. In the 1st Inf Div the tunnel rats were exclusively combat engineers not infantrymen. The original tunnel rats were the demo teams attached to the infantry units in the bush.
    The smaller Hispanic soldiers on the teams didn’t happen until mid 1967 when they moved the tunnel destruction to the chemical platoon at the 1st Engr HQ.
    I’ve read their book a couple of times and have always been irritated that they bought into that whole “little man” BS.
    Most of us who were there from ’65 to ’67 know better but no one ever asked us to verify any of the story before they went into print.
    “Jon Jon”,
    Demo team, third squad, 1st platoon, Co. B, 1st Engr Bn. Dec. ’65 to Jul. ’67.

  2. Kyle Workman says:

    I remember somewhere in December of 1965 while on S&D with the 1ST Infantry Division we came upon a tunnel. It started as a square hole in the ground with each corner having a short tunnel for troops to get in when bombs were falling. It looked like a beach Hut except it was in the middle of the bush. Being the Pointman and being small I took the lead in the tunnel and found that it stopped about 30feet in. Being from West Virginia and being in coal mines most of my life the tunnel was no big deal at that time. I traveled back to Vietnam in 1990 and went to the tunnels of Cu Chi. They had made them larger and the rooms larger to accomodate the larger Visitors. At that time I was a Grunt with 1/26 Infantry, Charlie Company.

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  1. [...] main headquarters. They covered more than 120 miles. During the battle, specialized sappers, called tunnel rats, were sent in on search and destroy missions to anihialate any hiding enemy soldiers and to plant [...]