START OF LEGEND NEAR DMZ VIETNAM
Since 1964-1965, while the Village Vinh Linh Quang Tri in the demilitarized zone (DMZ Vietnam) had complicated, the issue of “Militarization for people, being sheltered for whole area” became the strategy for the existence of this land. As soon as the first American bomb was dropped onto this land, the system of shelter and ditches had been ready.
It was the establishment of A-shelters, basket shelters, tent shelters and the system of ditches going everywhere in the Vinh Linh basaltic land.
DMZ Vietnam to Vinh Linh Village – Photo: Vietnam Drive
A-shelter is made of wood with two parts and leaned against each other on top of the shelter, its foot stretched like A-shape. Tent shelter is rectangular of the square hole, the top of the hole was strengthened by wood and covered by soil, and the door of the shelter was connected to the ditches. This kind of shelter was located near the residence area, close to roads, fields and the sea so that people can easily find shelter when there was alarm. Sometimes, when there were so many bombards and artilleries, shelters became health stations, schools, kindergartens and storehouse of food. The system of ditches connected house-to-house, village-to-village, and commune-to-commune.
By the middle of 1966, in the whole Vinh Linh, there were 1,300 shelters and the total length of ditches was 1,300 kilometres equal to half of the length of the country. The land split itself to protect people. As the enemy madly poured in this land with heavy weapons; shelters on the surface of the land were unable to protect people, the local Party and people got a new decision: going deep into their homeland.
SYSTEM OF UNDERGROUND SHELTERS FOR VILLAGES IN VINH LINH – THE MIRACULOUS LEGEND OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
The underground shelters for villages as the tunnels first appeared in Vietnam in 1947 at resistance zone Phu Tho Hoa (Tan Binh – Ho Chi Minh). At that place, there were shelters deep under the ground connected by ditches. Then in 1961 – 1965, the tunnel at Cu Chi appeared in all 5 communes.
By the end of 1963, Mr Tran Nam Trung from Southern Central Committee dropped by Vinh Giang commune (Vinh Linh) on the way from the South to the North. After studying topography and the geological features of the land, he recommended Vinh Linh to dig the tunnel as Cu Chi had. Because shelters on the surface of the ground were often destroyed by bombs and taking his opinion into consideration, the Party saw the tunnel would be the safer shelter in the basaltic land in Vinh Linh Quang Tri. The Party of the area decided to assign the Military Headquarter of the area, the border line police force and the Party of Vinh Giang commune to study the situation for the trial of digging tunnels.
Then the trial force (mainly guerrilla and well-digging workers) dug a tunnel of 50 meters long and 6 – 7 meters deep at Tan My village. This was considered the first tunnel in Vinh Linh.
From the first trial tunnel, not long after that, most village especially in the East of Vinh Linh as Vinh Giang, Vinh Quang, Vinh Thac, Vinh Hien, Vinh Hoa, Vinh Kim, Vinh Nam where there is basaltic land, started digging tunnels.
By the middle of 1966, there were dozens of tunnels in Vinh Linh. However, those tunnels are short and not very deep in the ground so they were called small or medium tunnels.
A family underground at Vinh Moc Tunnels – Photo: Vietnam Drive
Lessons from the successes of failures of the war were not only the sweat but also blood as well. For the first experiment in the increasing war, the system of small and medium tunnels had not met the safety for fights and shelters. Sometimes, there were great losses of lives. For example, Don Due tunnel (Vinh Hoa) was collapsed by bomb on February 26th, 1967 and 4 people died: Tan Ly tunnel (Vinh Quang) was collapsed on July 27th, 1967 and 22 people died; Binh Minh tunnel (Vinh Hien) was collapsed on September 10th 1967 and 39 people died.
The more the American imperialism tried to destroy the stronger will for existence and victory by the people of this land was. With the slogans: “Each hamlet, each village is fighting stronghold”, “the whole Vinh Linh started so march deep into the ground. Every house, hamlet and people dug tunnels”.
By the end of 1968, almost 70 villages of 15 communes in Vinh Linh got tunnels. Tunnels at that time were not simply the shelter and fighting post as Cu Chi tunnel. They became the existing environments. The living ”submerged” deep 30 meters down into the ground.
If counting typical tunnels in Vinh Linh Quang Tri, there were 114 village tunnels with the total length of more than 40 kilometres. This has not counted 2.000 kilometres of ditches and the system of thousands small and medium tunnels.
The advantages of the village tunnels were that there were more wells, doors, they were longer and deeper. All these factors made tunnels stronger and easy to rescue people in case of being collapsed.
Each village tunnel includes one main tunnel going through the residency area or through hills (the length of the main tunnel is dependent on the usage and function of the tunnel). From the main tunnel, there are branches connecting house shelters, kitchens, storage, wells, and doors. Most tunnels were made with the vault over the head and the flat platform. The average height is 1.6 – 1.9 meters and width of 0.9 – 1.3 meters.
It is noted that tunnels in Vinh Linh Quang Tri go in Z-shape to make it strong in zigzag points. At the entrances or exits of tunnels, tunnels often have sudden turns, which help to prevent bombs or ammunitions getting inside tunnels.
The system of tunnels in Vinh Linh is in fact for village living under the ground. The village here got its full meaning: homes, meeting hall, health post, the place for local authorities, schools, kindergartens, store house, kitchens.
In order to set up “a miracle in the ground”, people of “the firing land” – Vinh Linh had to spend a great deal of materials, labour, time and even lives.
Maternity Under Ground – Photo: Vietnam Drive
The work of digging tunnels was extremely difficult and dangerous: digging under the storm of bombs and ammunition. If any sign of new soil were detected, the enemy would immediately drop tons of bombs on that place. Bombards like caused losses to many places where people were digging tunnels.
Many simple or modern tools were mobilized for the “exploring the ground”. Hundreds of wood house were taken apart to support the tunnel arch. The song of that time still sounds here and there at the moment”
“Regardless of collapsed or destroyed house
Accepting the difficulties to win the fight against
American army for a better life in the future”.
The process of digging a tunnel started with a drawing and the estimated measurement on the ground. The n people dug wells of 50 meters apart. Each group of 4 – 5 people started the ground exploration by digging wells to a certain depth. Then they patiently dug the tunnel towards each other side direction. The theory seemed easy but reality was not. People meeting each other on the ground every day would find it difficult to get in contact deep in the ground. They looked like people from different planets looking for communication signals.
Sometimes they dug the tunnel longer than expected but did not see their partners on the other end. They beat on the wall of the tunnel; silently listen to the echo of the ground. Somewhere on the left, the right or above, in the darkness of the motherland, people were longing for seeing each other. The search for their partners in the ground reflected something ancient but full of the strong faith of Ho Chi Minh generation on independence and freedom of an immortal nation.
Such are difficulties and constraints. With the hard work, creativity and great efforts, Vinh Linh military forces and people had made a huge construction for three years (1966-1968): digging 3.759.270m3 of soil to set up a system of tunnels under the ground in the fierce war.
Each tunnel was a miniature of each village in the ground. The main tunnel was the village path; shelters were houses. The community hall would be the meeting hall in the tunnel for 40-80 people’s meeting. It was the place for people to gather for discussion and art performance. In addition, there were wells, kindergartens, and nursery house and health station.
It is certain that living under the ground is not easy most tunnels had to save kerosene and fat for light. As a result, there was the shortage of light in the tunnel except for meeting, patient and childbirth.
Cooking had to be done in the tunnel. Smoke was not allowed to appear on the ground and the sky because the enemy could detect the location and dropped tons of bombs. Vinh Linh people created Hoang Cam cooker, which can limit smoke rising apparently above the ground (there were small tunnels to disperse smoke before letting smoke uprising on the ground).
There were more than 60 babies born in the tunnels. There were special shelters in the tunnel for birth delivery and children care. In the utmost difficulties of life, the smiles of children were still heard as a symbol of the immortality of people in this land.
Road to Vinh Linh Quang Tri nowadays – Photo: Vietnam Drive
The singing voice would never be choked. In every village, there was the art team. The whole Vinh Linh was full of singing because there was one slogan “The singing voice outweighed the noises of bombs”.
The tunnels in Vinh Linh were not only the residence and activities of villages but also the working places for local governments and the military forces.
The area Party of Vinh Linh and the Administration Committee was in the concrete tunnel in Vinh Tien – Nam Ho (Ho Xa Township), Nam Hung (Vinh Nam), Hien Dung (Vinh Hoa). Commune authorities often selected crowded village with sizable tunnels for their working place. For military purpose and secrecy, the army force had their own tunnels at Tram village (An Du Nam), Cua Tung (Vinh Quang), Tung Luat (Vinh Giang), Team 7 (Thuy Trung – Vinh Trung), Khe Ho (Vinh Ha), Mui Si (Vinh Thach). In addition, all other tunnels dug by people are local soldiers in the area, sometimes with a big number.
In addition, the village tunnels in Vinh Linh are the food and arms storage places. They could store dozen tons of food and goods supply from the North to the South and Con Co Island.
After 1972, two-third of Quang Tri province was liberated. The system of village tunnels became valuable historical remains which remind of the heroic and brave time of local people and military forces of heroic “Steel stronghold”. They become “the ancient castles of so many miracles about people who founded them and about the time that they were born in”.
Quang Tri Management Board of relics and tourist sights.
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