Tunnels The first characteristic of a tunnel complex is normally superb camouflage. Entrances and exits are concealed, bunkers are camouflaged and even inside the tunnel itself, side tunnels are concealed, hidden trapdoors, and dead-ends where used to confuse the attacker. Trapdoors were used extensively, both at entrances and exits and inside the tunnel complex itself. There where several different types of trapdoors, concrete covered by dirt, hard packed dirt reinforced by wire, or a basin type consisting of a frame filled with dirt. This latter type was particularly difficult to locate in that probing would not reveal the presence of the trapdoor unless the outer frame was actually struck by the probe. Trapdoors covering entrances were generally 100 meters apart.
Booby traps were used both inside and outside entrance and exit trapdoors. Tunnels found in the War Zones were generally better constructed than those found in other areas. In some cases these complexes were multi leveled, with storage and hiding rooms generally found on the lower levels. Entrance was often gained through concealed trapdoors and secondary tunnels. In the deeper complexes, foxholes were dug at intervals to provide water drainage. These were sometimes booby-trapped as well as containing puni-stakes for the unwary attacker.
Average tunnel size was 2-feet wide and 2. 5 to 3-feet high. They also used air or water locks that acted as firewalls, preventing blast, fragments or gas from passing from one section of the tunnel to another. A trained tunnel exploitation team was essential to the expeditions of VC tunnels since untrained people may have missed hidden tunnel entrances, taken unnecessary casualties from concealed mines and booby traps. To facilitate this, teams were trained, equipped and maintained in a ready status to provide immediate assistance when tunnels were discovered.
Hiding VC attempted to evade and avoid all contact with government forces for any one of many reasons and this was the normal reaction for a VC unit when confronted with a superior government force. Frequently however, GUN tactics or time / distance considerations made it necessary for the VC to evade by physically hiding in villages, or becoming one of the local population. This article is concerned with this one aspect of VC escape and evasion technique and is especially oriented to the situation presented when search operations were made more difficult because they were conducted in the presence of a friendly or passive populace. Protection of equipment was equally important, if not more so, than protection of personnel. In some instances elaborate steps were taken to hide equipment of all types; in other instances only the simplest steps were taken on the assumption that the obvious hiding places would be overlooked. Almost any place above or below ground in a village was a potential hiding place in which equipment of all types could be cached.
Weapons were buried in gardens, floors of houses, in animal pens (especially if the animals were cantankerous) or any place which could be prepared to hide the weapon. In many instances they were thrown into a rice paddy, stream or canal with or without a waterproof cover (locally produced plastic material, commonly used as a rain cape, provided an excellent waterproof cover for weapons which were to be stored underwater for prolonged periods). Munitions were hidden in haystacks (more than one haystack had exploded when it had been burned), buried, or hidden along with weapons. Weapons and equipment were also found concealed in false ceilings in dwellings with thatched roofs.
Both mud and thatch false walls provided equally deceptive hiding places. Treetops also formed an effective hiding place for small pieces of equipment. VC equipment, including flags and propaganda signs, which were found in obviously exposed places had to be treated as suspect. Experience had indicated that many pieces of equipment were booby-trapped and had resulted in death and injury to careless personnel who had attempted to recover those items. Ordinary precautions had to be observed in the removal of equipment which might be booby trapped. Hiding places for personnel were almost as limitless as they were for equipment, however, underground and underwater appeared to be the favourite personnel hiding places.
Personnel frequently attempted to hide underwater by completely submerging themselves while breathing through a hollow reed or a short piece of bamboo. Any canal, stream or rice paddy in or near the objective village had to be regarded as suspect. Mud banks along streams and canals were also used as hiding places but usually no breathing tube was used. The individual simply burrowed into the mud, covering himself and any exposed parts with the ooze. Since a standing man would sink to above knee-deep in the soft mud, a man could easily conceal himself in this manner and not be detected even at short ranges. Individuals also hid underground by being buried alive.
Again the reed was used as a breathing device and the man was simply buried in a spot where a new excavation need not be explained e. g. in a garden. More elaborate means of hiding personnel and equipment underground ranged from simple 'spider-trap' holes to elaborate reinforced underground rooms.
From the surface these underground installations or tunnel systems were most difficult if not impossible to detect. Critical points were entrances and emergency exits which were usually concealed in gardens, thickets, animal pens, below water surfaces or wells and streams, under piles of refuse, in or under any structure, and other similar locations. Primary entrances could also be found under fireplaces in dwellings, under food storage bins, water containers and even in conjunction with real or false latrines where there was an easily explained excavation. Any thicket, refuse pile, hay stack, structure (including shrines) or dwelling common to the locals had to be suspected of concealing an entrance or exit of an underground installation. While there were few instances of VC attempting to evade government forces by hiding in trees, this readily accessible but frequently overlooked hiding place had to be examined also. The technique of 'playing possum' was also encountered.
Of course, this was effective only after there has been an exchange of fire in the area but VC had been known to attempt to hide by playing 'dead' while retaining weapons and / or grenades so that if investigated closely, escape could be attempted.