The tunnel rats
were American soldiers who performed underground search and destroy
missions during the Vietnam war
. In the course of the war, the Viet Cong
created very extensive underground complexes. Whenever U.S. troops would uncover a tunnel, Tunnel Rats were sent in to kill any buried enemy and to plant explosives
to destroy the tunnels. A Tunnel Rat was equipped with only a semiautomatic M1911 handgun
and a flashlight.
The tunnels were very dangerous, with numerous booby traps and enemies lying in wait. Often there were flooded U-bends in the tunnels to trap gas. Guards manned holes on the sides of tunnels through which spears could be thrust impaling a crawling intruder.
Tunnel Rats were generally men of smaller stature, and were often of Puerto Rican descent.
The Tunnel Rats is also the name of a Punk Rock band from New Hampshire.