Friday, July 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Tunnel Rats

Title: Tunnel Rats

Author: Jimmy Thompson
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $27.99

ISBN: 9781742374895

Release Date: July 2011

Pages: 252


The thrilling story of the young Australian Army engineers of 3 Field Troop who was the first allied soldiers to risk their lives in the darkness of the Vietcong tunnels of South Vietnam.


'All I could do was prod the earth with my bayonet and shine the light to see if I could find anything. It doesn't matter how small the tunnel is you never know what's around the bend ... You don't know if it's abandoned, you don't know if it's booby trapped and you don't know why the tunnel is there in the first place.'

They were young, they were Australian, they were Army engineers and they were the first allied soldiers to risk their lives in the darkness of the Vietcong tunnels of South Vietnam. Staring death squarely in the face every day, not only did they follow their enemy down into these unknown underground labyrinths, but matched the Vietcong's jungle warfare skills and defused thousands of their clever booby traps.

Off duty, it was a different story. The bad boys of 3 Field Troop were a boozing, brawling, bonking bunch of larrikins, who cut a swathe through the bars and brothels of Saigon, fought American Military Police to a standstill, built a secret casino and booby-trapped their own HQ to teach their officers a lesson.

Thrilling, inspiring and action packed, this is the true story of the unsung heroes of Australia's war in Vietnam. Living up to their motto of 'We Make and We Break', they created the legend of the Tunnel Rats.


Jimmy Thomson is a journalist, author and screenwriter whose credits include the ABC-TV series Rain Shadow. His most recent book is Snitch: Crooked cops and Kings Cross crims by the man who saw it all.

A graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, as a young captain Sandy MacGregor commanded 3 Field Troop in Vietnam, where he won the Military Cross. He served in the Army for thirty years, finishing as a colonel in the Reserves.


When I read the blurb for Tunnel Rats I just had to pick up a copy of this book. After watching the Tour of Duty television series back in the eighties I wanted to read about the soldiers who had the unenviable job of searching the hundreds of dark and dangerous underground tunnels made by the Vietnamese soldiers.

Thomson and MacGregor have captured the mood and terror that these young Aussie soldiers went through performing such a task back in the Vietnam War in the sixties. The brave Diggers courage and ingenuity described in the pages of this book is absolutely amazing. Faced with so many hidden dangers, and running the daily risk of being killed by a booby-trap or bayonet, the courage these young soldiers displayed was unbelievable.

This book was a real eye opener to the horrors of war.

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