Called Operation Cedar Falls, it was similar to the previous Operation Crimp, however on a larger scale with 30, troops instead of the 8, For the Viet Cong, life in the tunnels was difficult. They recognized the advantages that the Viet Cong held with the tunnels, and accordingly launched several major campaigns to search out and destroy the tunnel system. These specialists, commonly known as " tunnel rats ", would enter a tunnel by themselves and travel inch-by-inch cautiously looking ahead for booby traps or cornered PLAF.
There was no real doctrine for this approach and despite some very hard work in some sectors of the Army and MACV Military Assistance Command, Vietnam to provide some sort of training and resources, this was primarily a new approach that the units trained, equipped and planned for themselves. A booby trap with punji sticks. Called Operation Cedar Falls, it was similar to the previous Operation Crimp, however on a larger scale with 30, troops instead of the 8, For the Viet Cong, life in the tunnels was difficult. Eight thousand troops from the U. Rarely would anyone be sent in to search the tunnels, as it was so hazardous. These specialists, commonly known as " tunnel rats ", would enter a tunnel by themselves and travel inch-by-inch cautiously looking ahead for booby traps or cornered PLAF. A general order was issued by General Williamson, the Allied Forces Commander in South Vietnam, to all Allied forces that tunnels had to be properly searched whenever they were discovered. They began training an elite group of volunteers in the art of tunnel warfare , armed only with a gun, a knife, a flashlight and a piece of string. A captured Viet Cong report suggests that at any given time half of a PLAF unit had malaria and that "one-hundred percent had intestinal parasites of significance". Ultimately it proved successful. The tunnels were often rigged with explosive booby traps or punji stick pits. However the Australians pressed on and revealed, for the first time, the immense military significance of the tunnels. Most of the time, soldiers would spend the day in the tunnels working or resting and come out only at night to scavenge for supplies, tend their crops, or engage the enemy in battle. The Viet Cong had been so well entrenched in the area by that they were in the unique position of locally being able to control where and when battles would take place. Air, food and water were scarce and the tunnels were infested with ants, venomous centipedes, scorpions, spiders and vermin. Sickness was rampant among the people living in the tunnels, especially malaria, which was the second largest cause of death next to battle wounds. Despite this revamped effort at fighting the enemy on its own terms, U. Among the documents were maps of U. This approach proved ineffective due to the design of the tunnels and the strategic use of trap doors and air filtration systems. But by that time, they had succeeded in protecting the local North Vietnamese units and letting them "survive to fight another day". The two main responses in dealing with a tunnel opening were to flush the entrance with gas, water or hot tar to force the Viet Cong soldiers into the open, or to toss a few grenades down the hole and "crimp" off the opening. They recognized the advantages that the Viet Cong held with the tunnels, and accordingly launched several major campaigns to search out and destroy the tunnel system. Towards the end of the war, the tunnels were so heavily bombed that some portions actually caved in and other sections were exposed. However, an Australian specialist engineering troop, 3 Field Troop, under the command of Captain Sandy MacGregor did venture into the tunnels which they searched exhaustively for four days, finding ammunition, radio equipment, medical supplies and food as well as signs of considerable Viet Cong presence. Sometimes, during periods of heavy bombing or American troop movement, they would be forced to remain underground for many days at a time.
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