Just The Facts

12 Ways Tunnels Shaped Warfare

From antiquity to Gaza, tunnels let insurgents take on a powerful enemy

The Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam.(Credit: Aleksandar Todorovic - Shutterstock.com)

Takeaways


  • #Tunnels let small #insurgent forces take on a powerful enemy and change the rules of engagement.
  • In Judea in 132-136 A.D., Jewish rebels used tunnels to launch raids on superior Roman forces.
  • In the #Vietnam War, the Viet Cong dug more than 200 miles of tunnels at Cu Chi.
  • Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen may be constructing tunnels in response to US #drone attacks.

1. By providing concealment, tunnels are a labor-intensive but cheap alternative to battlefield engagement.

2. In more than 2,000 years of warfare, tunnels have mattered most for their impact on the psychology of combatants.

3. The value of tunnels is magnified in asymmetric conflicts: a small insurgent force takes on a more powerful enemy. Tunnels let the insurgent change the rules of engagement.

4. In the 1st century A.D., Germanic troops dug tunnels and ambushed their Roman opponents from seemingly unoccupied ground.

5. In the Bar Kokhba revolt in Judea in 132-136 A.D., Jewish rebels used tunnels to launch raids on superior Roman forces.

6.
In 256 A.D., Sassanian armies dug a tunnel under a Roman fortress. When the Romans dug a counter-tunnel, the Sassanians filled their tunnel with sulfur dioxide gas, the first instance of chemical warfare.
 

7. In WWI, British miners dug 22 mines under German trenches and detonated 19 of them in June 1917, killing 10,000 German soldiers.

8. In the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong dug more than 200 miles of tunnels at Cu Chi, from which they launched attacks and then disappeared.

9. The Chu Chi tunnels are a symbol of the determination of the Viet Cong and patriotic struggle, now promoted as a tourist site by the Vietnam government.

10. Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are thought to be constructing tunnel networks in response to US drone attacks.

11. In 2006, Hamas used a tunnel to attack an Israeli army post, kill two soldiers and take one hostage. The operation lasted six minutes. The hostage was traded five years later for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

12. Tunnel tactics have rarely, if ever, fundamentally altered the course of a war — but they have always been effective in sowing fear.

Source: Gerard DeGroot, The Enemy Below (Washington Post)

 

 

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