Le Thi Ma:
During the Cedar Falls search and destroy operations, the Americans sent in their tanks and armored vehicles to destroy this area. The technique employed by the inhabitants of Cu Chi was to use unexploded American bombs we unscrewed the detonators first of all, used a saw to cut the bombs in halves, scraped the powder into two large cauldrons bigger than this one here, melted the powder down into a thick liquid, poured the thick substance into a container like this one until it is completely filled, then we made a detonator and inserted it here, and then placed these mines along the routes we knew the tanks were going to take.
When the tanks ran by, they would hit this thing here and cause the mine to explode, causing them to turn over and become demobilized. So the technique was to use unexploded American bombs and American gunpowder against them. So, in preparing for the battle, we made use of these mines. When the Americans poured in their troops, bombs and artillery shells softened the whole area first. The bombers and the artillery poured down bombs and shells like rain. Along the Song Be, or the Saigon River
, the enemy used boats to bring in their troops.
When the troops swept into the village, they began to destroy, to burn down all the houses, to raze the orchards, and then to herd the population into a certain area. As for the guerrilla fighters, they went down into the tunnels in order to avoid the bombs and to fight the Americans at the same time. After that, they relocated the entire population to Thu Dau Mot, which used to be called Binh Duong
and which is a part of the present Song be province.
They relocated the people into their strategic hamlets. Only the guerrilla fighters stuck it out by living in the tunnels. At that time, when they were herding the population, bombing and shelling the area, and shooting wildly, a number of civilians died. But I don't know how many died. There had to be civilians killed because these people were frightened and ran out into the open and the American troops who came ashore from the boats shot and killed a number of them. Those who remained in the area had to live in the tunnels to cling on to the enemy and fight them with explosive devices like this and with grenades.
These people followed the Americans closely and then threw the explosives and grenades at them. The guerrilla fighters also used rifles to shoot at the enemy. We would take pot shots at them. There were so many ways to fight. If you could not fight pitched battle then you can fight them in small ways, killing a couple of guys at a time. During this search and destroy operation, they relocated the entire population and stationed their troops here for twenty days. This was from January 7 when they first poured in their troops and then occupied this place for twenty days.
After they had removed the population, they used tanks to bulldoze the whole area clean. This is to say, they plowed everything to the ground. Everything was razed. Nothing was left on the ground. After the operation, the population which had been removed, started to come back to their old land. This was twenty days after the start of the operation and just about the time the enemy troops were with drawing from the area. Those of us who remained behind, stayed in the tunnels. We did not have any food supply then.
We had to dig manioc to eat. Sometimes we cooked this root, but most of the time we had to eat it raw. We also had to eat leaves in order to survive during those twenty days. After the enemy withdrew from the area we still clung on to the area but we lived in the tunnels. We dug a square shelter which looked that the one over there and placed logs above it and covered it completely.
We placed boards at the bottom of the shelter and lived down there in order to avoid bomb and artillery shells when the enemy troops were not around. We also dug tunnels leading away from the shelters so that when the enemy troops came we could run out of there. This was both to evade the enemy and to fight them. When the enemy poured in their troops we would try to evade them and getting into the tunnels. But when we knew for sure where they were going to put down their camps, we would then cling to them and attack them. There were several ways to attack them by mines and by grenades.