Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Firing My First Gun in Cu Chi


Despite the fact that I was born and raised in America, the land that romanticizes guns more than anywhere else on Earth, I had never fired anything stronger than an air rifle before this trip.

There’s only one time that I’ve ever harbored the desire to fire a gun. I was 23 and had just been dumped.  By text message.

“Please,” I sobbed over the phone to my friend Lisa, “Can’t we just go to a shooting range and fire some guns or something?”

“Kate, that is a great idea!” she squealed.  “Let’s do it!”

For some reason, we never went through with it.

Until Cu Chi.

Cu Chi, located a few hours outside Saigon, was a major point of battle during the Vietnam War, and it was the home of a major Viet Cong base.

What makes Cu Chi unique is the tunnels underground – the Viet Cong would hide in them for months at a time.  When you see how tiny they are, you’d be shocked that anyone could fit through them, let alone live in them!

The boys went in.

This is probably my favorite picture of Ste ever taken.

And then Mike and Ste actually got lost underground. They had no idea what happened – it just involved a wrong turn and a panicked, “It’s a f*cking dead end!”

Eventually, the boys made it out, mildly traumatized.  A word to the wise: do not even think of doing this if you have even the slightest hint of claustrophobia.

Next, we were shown several homemade weapons, traps, equipment and tanks.

By now, I was used to hearing the pro-Vietnamese angle – but the two other American girls on the tour clearly were not.  “Someone should really tell our guide there are Americans here,” one of them sniffed.  “He’s being really rude.”

(My thoughts: B*tch, the Germans don’t whine when they go to Normandy!)

Then it was time to shoot some guns. We were charged $1-3 per bullet, depending on the gun, with a minimum of 10 bullets.

I chose the carbine rifle, since it was one of the smaller and cheaper ones.  I had my noise-canceling earphones on and I grabbed the rifle, which was fastened to the table.

And then I fired my ten shots.  POW!  POW!  POW!

The feeling?  Not bad. Pretty cool, even.  I won’t be rushing out to buy a gun – not now or ever – but I did feel like a badass for about two minutes.

I wouldn’t quite call myself Rambo…but if ever I need to fire a rifle again, please let it be while I’m wearing these short shorts.

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42 Responses to “Firing My First Gun in Cu Chi”
  1. Melvin says:

    The gun didn’t suite you… 😉

    But I must admit that I’ve also shot a few rounds there. But let’s better stay with:

    Peace, Love & Harmony!


  2. Earl Squirrelson says:

    Thats pretty cool, tho no way in hell would you see me going into one of those tunnels!!!

  3. Anthony says:

    “(My thoughts: B*tch, the Germans don’t whine when they go to Normandy!)”

    Pissed myself laughing! (not literally).

  4. WOW, you call Communist propaganda the “pro-Vietnamese angle” at a VIET CONG base, then have the audacity to compare our soldiers to Nazis in France when some American girls rudely don’t drink the koolaid you’ve become immune to? Have you no decency? Or at least some knowledge of history or sense of perspective?!

    PLEASE don’t become a modern day “useful idiot!”

    • GERMANS, Alexa. I guess all Germans are Nazis to you, huh?

      Here’s another example. Do Japanese tourists go to Pearl Harbor and whine about how their American tour guide is “so mean” when they talk about the attack? Of course not!

      I’m honestly starting to think you’ve lost your mind.

      • Let me break down your own analogy for you in as many ways as I possibly can so you can grasp what it literally means. “(My thoughts: B*tch,[classy] the Germans don’t whine when they go to Normandy!)”

        This statement says Germans visiting Normandy are equivalent to Americans at Cu Chi. At Normandy, who were the German forces? Oh, that’s right NAZIs. At Cu Chi, the American forces were American soldiers.

        You were at a Vietnam battlefield. Normandy is a WWII battlefield. The Viet Cong fought American soldiers. The French fought the NAZIs.

        According to your own logic, Cu Chi is to Normandy, as American soldiers are to Nazis. Please explain what other possible conclusion could be made from your statement!

        Today’s Americans come from the same democratic traditions as they did during the Vietnam War. Today’s Germans do NOT come from the same Nazi traditions as they did in WWII. But somehow you equate our Vietnam history to German’s WWII National Socialism (NAZI) history!

        And how is it any less offensive to compare the Viet Cong’s Cu Chi tunnels to the attack on Pearl Harbor?! But let’s take that new example and compare them. Is Pearl Harbor an amusement park where you can play around and shoot Japanese guns? Do they show old propaganda videos and refer to the Japanese as “Japs”?? NO!

        But that is the way it is handled at Cu Chi and in Vietnam. Do you know why? Because it is a COMMUNIST country. They don’t have the freedom to be fair, respectful, and truthful to each side as America and other countries do. Their government has official statements denying any atrocity by their side. We’ve had government investigations and organizations dedicated to examining war crimes. We have free elections with political parties. They jail political dissidents who want democracy: “Vi Duc Hoi is sentenced to eight years for “spreading anti-government propaganda” after he posted articles on the internet calling for democracy. ” (Great resource for you, also see:
        Vietnam: Intensifying Repression of Human Rights

        There is NO equivalency, between the US and Vietnam – or Nazi Germany!

        I really hope you do know the other side of the story about the atrocities committed by the Viet Cong, although I really can’t tell from your posts. They don’t even have to be “pro”American stories – find out about what the North did to the South, before, during, and after the Vietname war. Perhaps instead of being so one-sided and reflexively anti-American, you could prove me wrong and post some criticism of Communist Vietnam, past or present. Would also LOVE to hear some of the claims made by your tour guides that you did NOT believe.

        I hope you understand the human rights situation there, but again, there is no evidence of that. Maybe a post standing up for independent bloggers who have been jailed would be a good start: Vietnam: Stop Cyber Attacks Against Online Critics

        Or if you’re forced to write like this because it is not safe or so as not to cause any trouble while you are abroad, just let me know offline and I’ll lay off.

        • Lisa says:

          For me, The Germans: Normandy parallel certainly equates the actions of Americans (and American Soldiers) to the Nazis, and I found that offensive. I also think that history is about dissension and dialogue – why can’t these girls “complain” (or question) by the propaganda and one-sided view other tourists were spoon fed?

          You also wouldn’t see the Japanese at Pearl Harbor playing around in destructive rubble and smiling and taking photographs, but then again, maybe they have more decorum than you & your friends.

          I think it’s problematic too when you portray the issue of the Vietnam War in a black/white perspective and seem to take your knowledge of it from your personal experience of visiting the country rather than multiple perspectives and primary sources. I also think it’s offensive that you are shooting a weapon that was most likely pried from the dead hands of an American..perhaps a man who wanted to do the right thing and die for his country or a frightened 18 year old that didn’t even want to be there and was fighting for his life in that moment.

          It may be easy overseas to villify America (esp. in Vietnam). The difficult thing is to be open-minded about 1) dissenting comments on your blog and 2) learning about the Vietnam War (roles of North and South), our country’s actions, and those who have lived the actual experience.

          • Erica says:

            Jesus Christ, you guys are getting way too worked up over an offhand comment in a fucking blog, especially one that’s written by someone who is supposedly one of your closest friends. We get it. You don’t agree on politics. It’s never going to change. So why pick a fight about it? Why look for something to get angry about? It’s so childish to start a big argument with your friend who’s halfway across the world and supposed to be a bridesmaid in your wedding.

            Like I said before, Kate wasn’t saying that the Vietnamese point of view is the right one, it just exists as their point of view. I don’t know how one sentence snowballed into this nonsense. And to travel to another country and be unwilling to accept that their POV might not sync up with yours is what’s truly ignorant. That’s why I myself would never really want to visit any of these places.

            Regarding the whole Vietnam War debate (which is beyond ridiculous by the way, as there was no call for this debate to even come to fruition) As the old adage goes: There’s three sides to every story: In this case, there’s the American view, the Vietnamese view, and the truth. We’re never going to know the ins and Outs of this war because we weren’t alive. Bottom line. Drop it. Both sides are going to gloss over their negative contributions and villainize the other side. It’s a fact of life. No one wants to be seen as the bad guy. But these girls should have understood that while they’re in Vietnam, they’re probably not going to hear about how flipping great Americans were during the effing Vietnam War! You can’t assume that everyone will share your world view, particularly in another country. It’s just ethnocentrism at its worst.

          • Earl Squirrelson says:

            Bloody hell, over reacting a little??? One line Kate typed has invoked this sort of response, Alexa and American Soldier you both need to chill the fuck out, if you dont like it then piss off and stop spoiling Kates blog. Thats right, Kates Blog!!

            you both need anger management classes!!!

            Oh and Erica, you said it best!!

          • Is this the Erica I went to high school with? If not, you know way too much about me, mind your own freaking business. Sorry, I can’t let an “off hand” comment that is that offensive stand. Especially when one of the first comments reacting to the blog is someone laughing about it! I can be friends with people while still calling them out when they do something wrong, in fact, that’s part of being friends, being able to check each other and be honest.

            Eric, I’m sorry you don’t understand that comparing American soldiers to Nazis is offensive to some people. Kate’s blog allows for comments, and she graciously does not moderate them. She must know that not all comments will agree with her. Mine did not. If you don’t like my comments, then piss off and don’t respond to them!

        • miko says:

          Unless you have experienced anything remotely similar to what your country has done to the people of other countries, You should just shut the hell up.

          • Lisa says:

            Erica, I’m not “worked up” at all. I’m asking Kate to be more open minded and consider other perspectives, but she hasn’t responded to that. Or the context in which that gun was put into her own hands.

            Miko, your tone doesn’t help the dialogue at all. But if you’d like to contribute something even remotely intelligible, we we would be happy to listen.

          • Erica says:

            How is Kate not considering other people’s perspectives? She already knows the American view because that’s what we grew up hearing and learning. What she seemed to take issue with is that these girls refused to accept or even consider that the Vietnamese had their own unique perspective on the War that differed from what they had been told. I think being so sheltered and close-minded about another culture when you are a VISITOR in that country is completely ignorant and unacceptable. And to openly complain about it? Like I said before, ethnocentrism at its worst. The views of America do not, and furthermore SHOULD not, be expected to carry over into any other culture outside of our own.

            I don’t think she cares that you and Alexa have differing opinions… if she didn’t then you guys wouldn’t be friends. The comment she made that you found offensive was intended as an innocent joke and was not a literal comparison between Nazis and American troops. Although I can’t speak for her, I’m sure she’s sorry that you both took it that way and found it offensive, but there’s got to be a better way to respectfully disagree and not lower ourselves to low blows and personal attacks.

          • Lisa says:

            Erica, It won’t let me respond to your post below, so I’m writing it here.

            “There’s got to be a better way to respectfully disagree and not lower ourselves to low blows and personal attacks.” Please indicate ANYTHING my comments that were a “low blow” or “personal attack,” because that is COMPLETELY false. I shared my opinions in my comments about what I found offensive, asked questions about the context, and shared my distaste with taking images of “playing” on a battlefield. Like Kate, I’ve said all I wanted to say about this post.

          • Erica says:

            “You also wouldn’t see the Japanese at Pearl Harbor playing around in destructive rubble and smiling and taking photographs, but then again, **maybe they have more decorum than you & your friends.** ”

            Yeah, there was nothing personal or attacking in that last snotty addition to that sentence. It was clearly not an implication that you were looking down your nose at Kate and her friends. And the tone of that sentence shocked me because that’s not the Lisa I know. You’ve never been judgmental so I’m just wondering what this change is.

          • Lisa says:

            Ok Erica, you clarified that it wasn’t a personal attack but you interpreting it as “snotty” and “judgmental.” I’m sorry if you felt that way, but the tone of writing (as opposed) to spoken text is up for interpretation. Kate and I are talking off blog, so I have no need to discuss this further with you. I just don’t appreciate being told I am delivering “low blows” and “personal attacks” – and I thought you of all people would understand that.

    • Ed S. says:

      Actually, based on the placement of the comment, it appears the other two visiting American girls are whom Kate is applying the German/Normandy analogy.

  5. Im not with going into any of those holes he almost looked like a soldier popping out to snipe someone. You know you enjoyed the badass feeling while shooting the gun but im with you no need buying one.

  6. My husband insists we buy a gun before our six-week road trip of the national parks this spring. I’m dreading it as I’m terrified of guns and have never so much as touched one before!

    You look like a natural.

  7. Erica says:

    Damn Alexa, take a chill pill. You’re getting way too worked up over an innocuous comment and essentially looking for a reason to get all wound up and upset. Would you have preferred Kate say “I’m used to all of the Anti-American slander these slanty-eyed gooks are spouting off!”? Kate’s not agreeing with their side of things, she’s simply acknowledging and accepting that this is the mindset of the country she is visiting, which is an incredibly mature and enlightened thing to do. And comparing American soldiers to Nazis? Not so much. I didn’t read it that way at all, it was just an easily relatable reference to draw a comparison, and I’m sure Kate didn’t mean anything by it (although I’m sure some Vietnamese would liken the actions of American soldiers to that of the Nazis, and just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean it’s not a valid belief they hold). Even this xenophobe is put off by your ridiculousness.

    • Right. Comparing American tourists complaining about Cu Chi propaganda about our soldiers to German tourists complaining about Normandy tour guides talking about Nazis – is sooooo “innocuous,” “ridiculous,” and “easily relatable.”

      Kate can acknowledge that Vietnam has one view of the war, but why does she have to mock anyone who doesn’t buy it? That is neither mature nor enlightened.

      • Anthony says:

        Hey Alexa, I was the guy who laughed and it wasn’t to disrespect or mock any Americans or Germans etc, it was because I can completely relate.

        I’ve been in that position many of times before, being the “bad guy” in a war museum because of the perception of my countries history. Generally there is two sides to a story and it’s good to keep an open mind but still stay true to your own convictions.

  8. An American Soldier says:

    When I first began to follow this blog I thought it was supposed to be about worldwide travel, not political and historical revisionist commentary. Fools who have never seen a war and can barely comprehend what one is about have little business casting poor and narrow judgment on a conflict that ended a decade or so before they were born. Do not piss on the graves of brave and honorable men who gave their lives for you to sound like an ignorant moron. Many of the comments on here seem to be from self imposed expatriates ignorant to the history and geopolitical societies of the regions they visit. That being said, just stick to your overseas drink and f*** fests, that seems to fit your definition of being “worldly”.

    • Erica says:

      Don’t American soldiers fight for the rights of their citizens to speak their minds? I guess not when it doesn’t jive with what they think.

      “Overseas drink and fuckfests” eh? You sure are a class act and truly a man of real honor!

    • miko says:

      And fools who haven’t experience having been occupied / invaded by another country needs to shut the hell up. Go back to your little bubble where you believe all that your country has done is for the good of the rest of the world

    • Dan, I know this is you.

      If you’re going to comment anonymously on a techie’s blog, you might want to make the effort to disguise your IP address. Just a hint.

    • Anthony says:

      I understand you’re patriotic and passionate mate, but with comments like that at the end-you’re really not going to get your point across.

  9. Laura says:

    Kate, Regardless of what I think on the issue, I like how you’re a straight shooter and say what you think. When I was in Laos and heard how the US was secretly bombing completely innocent villages and a friend of mine lost her grandmother that way, it made me want to cringe a bit. But just because they don’t like what Americans did back then doesn’t mean they’re against Americans now- which I think those girls probably misinterpreted in this situation as well. I’ve also been to Vietnam and can understand your point of view. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Beth says:

    This is crazy. Kate made one small off hand comment and now she’s being painted as a terrible person. You need to step back and recognize that Kate is worlds away. Your comments don’t help to start a discussion. They make Kate feel attacked. Disagreement is fine but broadly painting one of your best friends as some party-hearty lush is in no way productive or appropriate.

    I’m sure Kate would be happy to continue this chat with you when she’s in the same time zone.

  11. 1) I’ve said all I wanted to say and will not be commenting further on this post.

    2) Please don’t attack each other. Abusive comments have been removed in the past, and if I see anything more abusive than what’s here already, I will be removing them and possibly blocking you.

    3) Those of you who know me personally, please keep the discussion related to the post.

    4) If you’re going to post anonymously, at least humor me by encrypting your IP address.

  12. Erica says:

    Henceforth, this string of comments shall be referred to a “El Stempo’s Casa de Fuego Messageboard Wars Part Deux!”

  13. Candice says:

    Hahaha, don’t think I could ever do this. Maybe a BB gun.

  14. Gareth Sear says:

    Quality comments – this is what a blog should be all about – open up a small amount of dicussion – but don’t personally attack each other! Have enjoyed reading the comments. I know nothing of the Vietnam War apart from what I have seen on TV. As one commentor said, there are always three perspectives to EVERYTHING. Try to keep the balanced view. Communism is not necessairly worse than capitalism. But nothing is ever pure.

    Just a quick question: Were Americans conscripted to join the war in Vietnam? Is that democracy?

  15. Don B says:

    I thought this blog entry was (as usual) terrific.

    Also wondering whether the 21st century version of “The Ugly American” will be “The Sad, Insecure American”.


    An NRA life member with a sense of humor…

  16. Cam says:

    Yikes, now that’s a comment thread!
    Those tunnels gave me a panic attack. I don’t know how people could live underground like that.

  17. Yonatan says:

    Not Per Bullet, Per Round.. 😀 😀 Sorry, had to correct the inconsistencies there in your article, but besides that it was very interesting. Bullets are just merely a component of the entire cartridge . $1.00/round is bit expensive.. You should have asked them how much they would sell you a battle pack.. 😀

    Nice Guns.. That would be awesome to shoot guns in an Asian country, let alone Vietnam.. The funny thing is though, many of those guns don’t appear to be Russian-issued rifles.. I’m wondering if you are shooting some surplus rifles acquired more recently. Many countries purchase rifles from various sources. If I didn’t know better, I would say you were shooting an American M1A in that pic, but it could be another European gun that sure does strike a resemblance.

  18. Alic says:

    the story was amazing. a bunch of my friends and I were planning of going there. I hope we have loads of fun like you guys did.

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