This Faculty-Led Field Program will be led by history Professor Dr. Michael C. Connolly. Dr. Connolly has been teaching in the Department of History and Political Science at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine since 1984.
Located approximately two hours (about 70km/43 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi is famous for its 200-kilometer (124mile) network of underground tunnels. These tunnels were created and used by the Viet Cong forces during wars against both the French and Americans. This trip will take the group to visit Ben Duoc tunnels, a bit further than the frequently visited tunnels at Ben Dinh but less crowded and a bit more authentic. There is also the memorial temple near the tunnel that’s worth paying a visit. Here meet an ex Việt Namese guerrilla that will share his own memories with the group (with advance arrangements)
Before visiting the tunnel system, watch a video explaining their history and construction. From the mid-1940s onward, the tunnels were used as a base from which the Viet Cong could launch strategic attacks and then seemingly disappear into thin air. The tunnels had well-hidden entrances and thick roofs, which were capable of withstanding the weight of tanks and the impact of bombs. Unknowingly, the Americans even built a base camp on top of an existing tunnel network and suffered extensive casualties before they discovered their mistake. Most of the tunnels are only about two feet wide and five feet high. However, some of the passageways and tunnel rooms (meeting room, kitchen, dining room and hospital), while still small, have been enlarged for easier access. Plan to get a little dirty if you want to crawl through the narrow passageways of the lower tunnels, which have not been enlarged. Feel free to bring a flashlight to assist in navigating these lower levels. Participants will also get the chance to taste the staple food (cassava) and local tea, that the Việt Namese soldiers relied on.
After exploring the tunnels, the group will enjoy lunch at nearby restaurant in the Cu Chi area before heading back to Saigon to experience the War Remnants Museum—one of the best museums in the city.
The Museum of War Remnants (previously known as the Museum of American & Chinese War Crimes and then the Museum of War Atrocities) is housed in the former U.S. Information Service building. Many of the atrocities documented in the museum were well publicized in the West. Please be prepared, the exhibits here are likely to jolt the senses; many of the photographs are grisly and shocking. In the museum yard, U.S. armored vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs, and infantry weapons are displayed. This eye-opening Field Program will provide a backdrop for contemplating how images of conflict are captured and conveyed, and for reflecting upon the ethics of recounting the stories of war.
“I really enjoyed going through some of the Chu Chi tunnels and getting an actual sense of what it would be like to have to use/inhabit them during the war.” – Matthew R., Spring ’17 Student Voyager
“It was great to learn more about the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective and to experience the conditions of the war firsthand.” – Natalie B., Spring ’17 Student Voyager
- Casual clothes are recommended for getting dirty while crawling through the tunnels!