4 terrifying things you didn't know about 'tunnel rats'
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn't dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a "tunnel rat" didn't have much in the way of defense as they crawled in to clear these tunnels.
In 1946, Viet Minh (a predecessor to Viet Cong) resistance fighters began digging the tunnels and bunkers throughout the countryside to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.
Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a "tunnel rat", bravely searches a tunnel's entrance during Vietnam War. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100 miles of tunnels from which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.
The numerous 'spider holes,' as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called, were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.
So, check these four terrifying facts you didn't know about the guys who were tasked with flushing these tunnels — the "tunnel rats."
4. The shorter the better
Many of the "tunnel rats" from Austraila, New Zealand, South Vietnam, and America volunteered for the dangerous position.
However, the brave troops that were picked of the job were commonly the shortest grunts in the platoon — for obvious reasons.
3. Most "tunnel rat" dogs didn't work out
It's well-known that dogs are great at detecting IEDs in modern warfare, but they weren't too good at sniffing out the many booby traps placed by the North Vietnamese around tunnel entrances.
2. Their rate of fire
If a soldier took enemy contact, their training taught them to adjust their rate of fire. Instead of firing multiple shots, the troop would commonly fire single shots to confuse the enemy, leaving them puzzled as to how many rounds they had left.
1. To wear a gas mask, or not to wear a gas mask
When entering a tunnel, many troops decided against wearing gas masks as they obstructed breathing and vision. Although crawling into a wall of gas was a possibility, many "tunnel rats" chose to take their chances.
This "tunnel rat" decided to enter this enemy-built canal wearing a gas mask.
Check out Simple History's video below to learn more about the dangerous job these brave tunnel rats had.