US tunnel rats

I just learned some superficial facts about the existence of the “tunnel rats” of the US Army in Vietnam. I read that these soldiers were specially trained. Has someone more information to share about this interesting issue or can anybody tell me where to get info about it. Vietnam related literature in german language is almost non available. Thanx in advance!

I can speak for my experience in 196th LIB 1969… there wasn’t any training other than talking with the guys who were doing it before me. I have heard & seen much since returning home. So it appears to vary by Division and date of tour. For my platoon, we never used a 45… that first shot would render you near deaf. And you needed all your senses to have a chance. Our platoon leader had a nice 22 pistol that shot longs sent to him by his folks. So we could spray an area as fast as we could pull the trigger. Most of the time when we discovered a tunnel we would use a Kit Carson Scout or translator to try and talk anyone in the tunnel out… Then half the time we would start by tossing in a grenade if there was an imediate turn or bend in the tunnel. Some units tied a rope to the leg of the tunnel rat to pull him out, rather then sending another Grunt in behind him.

Some Aussie stuff here, mostly on the Newsletter link

More here

And a very sad but ultimately uplifting story of one tunnel rat’s post-war experience, which says a lot about the coping mechanisms of a man who survived a war and something vastly worse afterwards.

Watch this and you’ll be qualified to do the job.

Something you should note is that the tunnels were designed for Vietnamese bodies, not larger Caucasian ones. It really could be a problem in already confined spaces.

A mate of mine who was in Vietnam said when we were recently discussing Australian tunnel rats: “They were all ****ing mad. We’re sitting up on top of APCs pretending we’re not worried about the booby traps they’re going to set off and hurt us while we’re really shrinking away from them, meanwhile these stupid ****s are burrowing down these ****ing spider holes with a torch and pistol with no ****ing idea what’s down there. **** that for a joke!.”

I’ve wondered about that program.

How confident were you that the Scout was reliable?

In Regards to how confident was I in the Kit Carson Scouts… I can say they were invaluable. The Oldest was Called “Papasan” he was 54 years old, and could out-hump any GI pound for pound. Papasan was a school teacher and prior to the French Defeat he fought with the Viet Minh. Each evening while digging into our Night-lagger positions, the word would go around wether Papasan was still wearing his boots or not. Which meant “If they were still on, then keep yours on, and keep an extra keen watch. If they were off, then ours were off, and we slept a little easier that night. A full year and Papasan was only wrong once… we had been CA’d into a far off AO… and Papasan could not read the signs accurately in that area. Otherwise Great track record for sure. The FNG’s were always pestering Papasan at every break asking"Any VC?” and sometimes he would say “Beaucoup VC” and get a big laugh when he got a wide-eyed reaction. Later I was assigned a young defecting officer to watch. I was told if he did anything super suspitious to shoot him. He was my hootch partner for 6 months. He was fearless, and almost got killed by the backblast of a 90mm recoiless team we used once up in the mountains. Almost every member of the company had to carry an HE round for it. I came running the first time they were considering a target, Tho my Scout brought up the rear just as they fired… the backblast threw him back 5 feet, and he was around 10 feet from the backside of the weapon! I came to trust both of these men with my life, they foraged wild vegetables and edibles for us several times. They both knew they had no home! And were both ambushed by RVN troops on they’re way back to see their families near Chu Lia a year after I left country in late 1970 or early 1971 The handwriting was on the wall for all of South Vietnam by then… and RVN troops hated them as much as the VC did…Better they went quick, then to be recaptured by the NVA. KC Scouts were screwed once the GIs were removed from active field operations… Both of them will remain my Brothers…

Hell, I nearly forgot about this thread. Thanks for the first-hand information.

I went thru Infantry AIT in 1967 at Ft Gordon, Ga.
It was Airborne oriented and all attending were Airborne volunteers.

The last couple weeks were on the field as an operational company.

There was a well built VC village used for various aspects.
There was a network of tunnels made of concrete culverts.

They’d take little guys and toss them down there to crawl around-things were waiting for them…

I was glad I am a bigger guy and never had to worry about tunnels.

A truly frightening concept IMO.

I think a lot of TR training was OJT.
I don’t know how they got anyone to it.


nice book to refer to,… red this sometimes back,.

Not much help here (Very belated too) but I watched some of Battlefield Vietnam recently and one of the episodes, possibly involving The Iron Triangle, had some bits on the tunnel rats although it didn’t go in to much detail.

If your bored you could always play Vietcong and be a tunnel at yourself :wink: