Jimmie "Popeye" Sanders on a return trip and tour of the tunnels in 1994.
Cu Chi - Tunnels and underground warfare
When: 1940's - 60's
Built by: People of North Vietnam and Viet Cong
During the war in Vietnam, thousands of people in the Vietnamese province of Cu Chi
lived in an elaborate system of underground tunnels. Originally built in the time of the
French, the tunnels were enlarged during the American presence. When the
Americans began bombing the villages of Cu Chi, the survivors went
underground where they remained for the duration of the war. The secret tunnels,
which joined village to village and often pass beneath American bases, were not only
fortifications for Viet Cong guerillas, but were also the center of community life.
Hidden beneath the destroyed villages were hospitals where children were born and
surgery was performed on causalities of war; underground were schools and public
spaces where couples were married and private places where lovers met. There were
even theatres where performers entertained with song and dance and traditional stories.
45 miles north west of Ho-Chi-Minh is the town of Cu Chi, one of the most famous
battlegrounds of the Vietnam war. It is here between the early 1940's and mid 60's that
the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong built the main sections of tunnels that
became a vital catalyst in their victory over the Americans and South Vietnamese. It is
also claimed to be the most bombed and devastated area in the history of warfare
after the Americans used all their firepower to destroy them. At their height during
the war they stretched from Ho-Chi-Minh right to the border with Cambodia in the
west. At Cu Chi alone there were 250 km of tunnels.
These places as better described as underground towns rather than just tunnels. The
network reached several stories deep and housed up to 10,000 people who rarely saw
daylight for years, coming out only at night to tend to their crops. The tunnels
included first aid posts, storage rooms for weapons and food, kitchens, dorms and even
classrooms and small theatres. Countless couples were married and had children
underground. What makes thetunnels even more amazing is that they were dug with
hand tools and yet had primitive technologies like underwater trap doors and vents to
disperse cooking smoke.
After building a base camp unwittingly right on top of these tunnels, the Americans
became aware of them and tried to figure out how they could be destroyed. Special
volunteer soldiers selected for their bravery were used as "tunnel rats", armed with
only a knife and a pistol for hand to hand combat. Because of the tunnels' formidable
defences the American casualties were too high and so the bombing started. The
Vietnamese showed incredible resilience to survive in these cramped and humid
conditions, especially as they continued to suffer horrific casualties. Less than half of
the 16,000 people who fought in the tunnels survived and thousands of their relatives
were killed in the area.
Information contributed by Frank (Doc) Reilly.
It is with deep regret and sorrow that I report Jimmy "Popeye" Sanders has passed away
due to cancer associated with Agent Orange. I dedicate this page to him and his wife.
Rest in peace Popeye. Your war is finally over. God Bless you.
James E. Sanders
PINEHURST - James Eugene Sanders, 54, of 500 Long Leaf Drive Southwest, died Thursday, Oct. 6,
2005, in his home.
Mr. Sanders served two tours of duty in Vietnam with the Army. He was a retired captain with the
Pinehurst Fire Department with 19 years of service and was a retired paramedic/EMT. He was also an
avid skydiver and Harley rider. He was a scuba diver, providing search and rescue services for the fire
department, and was trained as a graphic artist. He enjoyed extreme sports and lived life with
A graveside service will be held Monday at 2 p.m. at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring
Lake. The service will be officiated by Chaplain Archie Barringer. Burial will be with military honors.
Mr. Sanders is survived by his wife, Stephanie Mahon Sanders of the home; a daughter, Kathryn
"Alise" Sanders of Wilmington; three stepsons, Christopher Matte Orwin, Richard James Orwin and
Patrick Michael Orwin, all of the home; his mother, Freda K. Sanders of Gray's Creek; three sisters,
Sandra Aman of Hope Mills, Cheryle Moston of Olivia and Carolyn Usategui of Gray's Creek; a
brother, Steve Allen Sanders of Gray's Creek; six nephews; and three nieces.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society, 11 S. Boylan Ave.,
Raleigh, NC 27603.
Pictures Of Jimmie While In Nam. These Are Two Of His Wife's Favorites
Jimmie Profiling With His M-60 and M-79 Grenade Launcher
Jimmie Standing In Front Of A Loach.
Sign Reads "10 More Days To Deros (Leave Vietnam) Eat Your Heart Out."
A Few Recent Pictures Of Popeye And Stef In Happier Times.
Song Is "All Along The Watchtower" By Bob Dylan 1967