ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on December 1st, 2008 at 7:12 pm

A Profile of the Chinese Tunnel

» by in: USFK

One of the quitisential landmarks of any combat arms soldier serving in the 2nd Infantry Division and a subject of much debate on how it got there is the Chinaman or Chinese Tunnel in northern Kyeongi-do:

The tunnel is located between the old Camp St. Barbara area and the Korea Training Center along an old dirt road that was once incredibly Highway 37. The dirt road snakes along the side of some steep hills before passing through a steep cliff face where the Chinese Tunnel is located:

This tunnel was used for years as the main route for all US military equipment traveling through the area. Fortunately now there is a sturdy, modern highway bridge that passes across the river thus avoiding the need to the use bridge for most US military equipment:

However up to this decade heavy track equipment was required to continue to use the tunnel instead of the bridge due to the weight restrictions of the bridge.

This is the view before entering the tunnel looking down the Hantan River towards the west:

The Hantan River may look shallow in this picture but I have seen this river in the rainy season nearly reached the top of the modern highway bridge pictured above.

Here is how the tunnel looked back in the early 1960′s:

The road from this vantage point looks nearly the same today other then the guard rail that has been constructed. Nothing over the years has changed with the interior of the tunnel as well:

Having passed through this tunnel more times then I can remember in a Bradley going to gunnery at the Korea Training Center; I can say from experience that this tunnel is just high enough for the Bradley to pass through and I could actually touch the top of the tunnel with my fingers from the top of the Bradley.

Here is what the entrance of the tunnel looks like from the west side:

I have heard this tunnel called both the Chinaman Tunnel and the Chinese Tunnel and along with the multiple names, I have also heard multiple explanations on how this tunnel received it name. Here is the list of the various reasons I have heard over the years:

  • The Chinese Army was trapped during the Korean War and dug the tunnel to escape.
  • The Chinese dug the tunnel when the bridge across the Hantan River was destroyed during the war.
  • The Japanese used Chinese laborers during the colonial period to dig the tunnel.
  • That it was not made by the Chinese but in fact was made by Koreans before the war but was mislabeled the Chinese Tunnel by GI’s during the war.

I have no idea which story is correct and I have Googled around trying to find information substantiating who built the tunnel but have never been able to find out.

Anyway here is something old 2ID veterans will not recognize on the west side of the tunnel:

The tall building is a hotel that was built along this dirt road well off of the main Highway 37 for some reason. Here is what the dirt road that passes through the tunnel and past the hotel looks like:

Next to the hotel there is actually a small bridge that a few years ago I was in a convoy when a M1 Abrams tank fell off the side of the bridge and into a ditch. Fortunately no one was seriously injured in the accident. Besides the hotel there is only a few scattered farms located along the long dirt road such as this ginseng farm:

Here is a Google Earth image of the dirt road looking East up the Hantan River valley:

On the East side, the dirt road ends at an intersection, which going straight leads to the old Camp St. Barbara area and taking a left goes across an old bridge that links to the new Highway 37:

The bridge looks old and rickety but it is actually sturdy enough to support heavy tracked vehicles:

Here is the intersection I mentioned earlier leading to Camp St. Barbara area:

If you know more about the history of the Chinese Tunnel and how it got its name feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below because I would really like to know what the actual reason is on how this tunnel received its name.

  • Bones
    12:30 pm on December 1st, 2008 1


    Thanks for Pics….I remember that tunnel very well…..not to mention that bumpy ass road that

    lead to it. If you were NOT in full battle rattle, yo ass was going to the Hospital.

  • Bruce
    1:15 pm on December 1st, 2008 2

    During my 1st tour in Korea in 60-61 I was a truck driver. I drove between Cp Casey and Cp Kaiser several times a week doing through the tunnel. It was SOP to blow your horn just before entering it, so someone coming from the other way would know to stop. I really enjoyed driving in that area. Going east through the tunnel, then turning left just before the KTC would take you up to Cp Kaiser the back way. This area has some great scenery. A part of the back road to Kaiser went through a area called Greek Valley. I never could find out why it was called that.

    Here is a picture of the rear gate into Kaiser that the road leads to.


    And Cp St Barbara that is very close to the east end of the tunnel.

  • Bruce
    1:17 pm on December 1st, 2008 3

    I forgot, I was at Cp St Barbara on my 2nd tour in 69-70.

  • Mark
    6:33 am on December 2nd, 2008 4

    As a BSFV driver in '92, it only took me once to learn that if you're following an M1, let him get through before you follow.

    Also, that love motel on the west side is where Korean men take their mistresses and prostitutes so that they are more secluded and discreet in their affairs.

  • Bob Walsh
    7:23 am on December 2nd, 2008 5

    I can ask a friend who is the Pocheon vice mayor for more info. His family settled in the area in 1953 and owns a bunch of land on the south side of the river just across from the tunnel. When his family settled there in the 50's, land could be had for practically nothing.

    See: for info and contacts on my friend. He is also head of Pocheon county's SF association, and is a good man to know. His brother Tae-Il runs a BBQ place on the west side of the road just before you hit the "38 Seon" rest stop on highway 43. Feel free to drop in for a dose of militant pro-Americanism.

    When I went back to Korea for the first time in nearly 20 years, just last year, the vice-mayor's brother and I took a 4-wheel drive all around my old stomping grounds. I was in shock at how things had been built up. Bridges everywhere, and Jeongog, north of Casey, was a veritable metropolis. Paved roads everywhere, and we took one all the way to the top of Kamaksan (Hill 675). That was a treat, as that road (and the one going up 754 near Casey) were the maximum test of any driver's off-road skills.

    I guess with all of the sunshine breaking out, the ROKG felt comfortable letting people build, and put in a lot of infrastructure to support it. Back in the day, everything north of Casey was 'tactical'.

    If I had not retained a lot of terrain association, I'd have gotten lost on several stretches I used to drive daily.

    My friends in Pocheon were quite adamant that the previous administration didn't really understand what was likely to happen in the case of even a peaceful reunification, in terms of having swarms of NORK's come down and steal everything that wasn't nailed down….

    I was also really surprised at how Sanjang lake has been built up into a tourist Mecca.

  • Bruce
    8:32 am on December 2nd, 2008 6

    This is a story about the tunnel that was in the Stars and Strips around 1970. What the real story is still in question.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    8:21 am on December 3rd, 2008 7

    Bob I will have to drop into the BBQ restaurant the next time I am in in the area. Yes if that was your first time in the area in 20 years then the changes must have been a shock.

    Bruce, great link with the S&S article that repeats one of the stories I heard that tunnel was constructed during the Japanese colonial period.

  • Matt
    10:05 am on December 3rd, 2008 8

    I drove through the tunnel in 2006 on a hiking trip I did up in that area with some of my KATUSAs and had them ask at the hotel how the tunnel got built. The "official" explanation from the hotel employees is that it was done by the Japanese, per the S&S article you had a link to above. This is a nice area now that it's being developed more and the people are really nice.

  • Shawn
    11:25 am on December 3rd, 2008 9

    A Katusa told me that the restaurant at the junction of old 37 and new 37 on the Camp St Barbara side serves dog. Don't know if that's true or not. I was stuck at the training area in 1996 after a very heavy storm closed the road because that Hantan had flooded. After a few days they allowed the 113 series vehicles to convoy out using the bridges. Not sure why we didn't just all go back to Casey via Chorwon East. So, yeah, the Hantan will rise. The first day of the flood we couldn't even walk across the small vehicle bridge at the training area from the tentage area to the motorpool because the pedestrian bridge had let go and been swept away.

  • Bob Walsh
    12:59 pm on December 3rd, 2008 10

    The other weird things for me on that visit:

    All of the foreign guest workers on the farms. Kang Taeseon told me that nowadays Korean farmers don’t want to have to pick up anything heavier than money. And a big banner across Highway 43, advertising a matchmaking service to hook guys up with Vietnamese women (“They don’t run away!”).

  • Bruce
    12:25 pm on December 3rd, 2008 11

    For you guys that were in this area in the early years, I am sure you will enjoy looking at my Camp St Barbara web page. It has pictures of the area from the 50s up through this year. It has pictures of the Camp, the Village, the roads, even have recent pictures of the Village, the road and towns from Munson, old Munson-ni, across 37 to where it meets 43. Hundreds of pictures.

    I also have many of Camp Kaiser

    I have some recent ones of Unchoen, old Unchon-ni, and a few of the Camp, but would love to add more if anyone has any.

    Beautiful Area

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    2:45 am on December 5th, 2008 12

    Bruce, nice pictures. I have recent pictures of the Camp Barbara area as well I will get posted soon.

  • Bruce
    10:16 am on December 5th, 2008 13

    I am looking forward to seeing them. I hope you can email me full size copies that I can put on my web page, with credits of course.

    I would love to walk that back road from St. Barbara to Kaiser again. Some great scenery!

  • A Profile of Camp St. Barbara
    1:20 pm on December 10th, 2008 14

    [...] finishing my tour along the old stretch of Highway 37 that runs through the Chinese Tunnel, I then proceeded down the road to check out the old Camp St. Barbara [...]

  • Ron Buzil
    9:53 am on November 18th, 2009 15

    I passed through the tunnel many times in '75-'76. We (1st Bn. 9th Inf) were at Camp Hovey and did frequent training and mortar gunnery at Nightmare range. I just happened to stumble on this page and discussion as was fascinated with the history of the tunnel. At least in our unit and at that time we called it the Chinese Tunnel. Thanks for the information. It was fun remembering those days.

  • Will
    1:15 pm on May 17th, 2010 16

    I was in the area with the 12th Marines Sep-Dec 1987. Looking at Google Earth, it's crazy how much stuff is north of Camp Casey now. We came by the USS Dubuque, I believe at Incheon. We spent most of the time sleeping under the stars, frozen stars later in the fall, though it was blistering hot in Sept. We were in tent city at Watkins Range for the weekend and gave most of our money to the girls in town there.

    A funny thing that happened–in the field one time a 7-UP truck showed up above us pulling an old M114 155mm howitzer and had several pallets of ammunition on its flatbed. A bunch of guys jump out wearing civilian clothes and emplace the gun on a prepared concrete pad–no need for an aiming circle. They start shouldering shells off of the truck and firing right over us forcing us to take an administrative moment and join them at the top of the hill. After they expended their ammo they loaded up and left and we went back to tactical.

    Those halcyon Cold War days before Gulf War #1…Our only fear was nuclear war. Now we fear 8 tours of IEDs.

  • Lady Death
    10:45 pm on May 31st, 2010 17

  • George Ewing
    2:16 am on July 6th, 2010 18

    Was with the 40th Replacement Company 40th Infantry Division. In Oct. 1953 the 40th constructed a camp, I believe S/E of the bridge, There was no bridge there; the engineers soon built a pontoon bridge about November. Tanks would go through the river. We had no shower point for awhile, had to be trucked somewhere else. Took PTA baths with river water and our steel pots. The 40th was deactivated in, I believe May 1954. I ended up at 8th Army Headquarters 21st. Finance Disbursing Section in Seoul until rotating.

    Have quite a few photos of this area from 1953.

  • Bruce
    9:28 am on July 6th, 2010 19

    George Ewing:

    I would love to add any pictures you have to my web page. I have pictures of many of the camps from near the end of the War, to present ones.

    Here is the one on Chinese Tunnel, and camps in that area.

    You can send any pictures you have by email to the address on the page.


  • Jerry
    12:11 am on November 18th, 2010 20

    I nearly drowned on that river near the tunnel. A Typhoon had hit Korea and flooded the river. BTW we helped build the tank wall on the south or east side of the river.

    We had to move a bulldozer across the river and couldn't find a place suitable. The KATUSA SGT with me told me he knew the way across the river and told me to move over. We got 3/4 of the way across when the current got so strong it picked up the 42 ton Dozer and put us in a hole. There was about 6 inches of cab sticking out of the river. Lucky for us it was big enough for the two of us to stand on. We were out there for about 5 hours before we were rescued.

    We also worked up there when the 2ID did their annual training excersise

  • George Ewing
    7:10 pm on May 28th, 2011 21

    In an earlier quote I mentioned being with the 40th Replacement Company 40th Infantry Div. in this area in 1953. We could see the tunnel from our camp.

    A buddy, Ron Fear from California found a skull which turned out to be Chinese. We were told a convoy of Chinese were bombed with napon by UN forces during the fighting, the remains bulldozed over the cliff, later retrieved and this skull was one of the missing Chinese. To my knowledge, in 1953 there was no known name to this tunnel, perhaps the bombing of Chinese troops could have been an influence on this name.

  • gary Honeysett
    6:49 am on May 31st, 2011 22


    We were attached to the 7th Admin Co. (Camp Casey 1967). We ( 7th Division Bayonet Chorus) were headed to Camp Kaiser by bus, through the ‘Chinese Tunnel’ for a performance. Our busdriver (US military soldier) almost sent us over into the ravine after passing through the tunnel and moving to the edge of the road to allow another vehicle to pass us. Needless to say, on the return trip, our commanding officer, Lt. Wilkins, relieved that driver of his duties, and replaced him.
    Thank GOD!!!!!!!!!

  • Steve Powell
    9:12 am on December 27th, 2011 23

    Wow these pictures sure brought back some good memories. I was at Camp Pelham, in Son-u-Ri In 70-71. We did our field excercises at Camp St, Barbara.I remember going through the Chinese tunnel several times.The story I always heard was the Japanese made the Koreans build it during their occupation of Korea.Great pictures.

  • Mad Ranger
    7:36 am on April 8th, 2012 24

    I passed thru the Chinese Tunnel countless times in 1974 while serving with the 1/23rd Infantry at Camp Hovey. Send me your email and I will forward a pic of the east entrance taken from my jeep in Oct ’74.

    On my second tour in 1978 while assigned to the 2nd Aviation Bn at Camp Casey (H-220) they lost a UH-1H helicopter that was sitting on an island just east of the tunnel following a precationary landing. Recovery teams did not beat the monsoon rains and resulting flooding of the island that snatched the helo downstream.

    It would appear that equipment losess in the vicimity were combined-arms to use perhaps an archaic term (joint ops as well!).

    I was looking for data on the tunnel while writing about the Tall Ranger (deceased) with whom I served on the first tour. Well Done. Now to research the Turkish Pass on the north end of Areas India!

  • vince
    5:40 pm on May 22nd, 2012 25

    I served at Kaiser arriving in febuary of 68. we were then sent to “phase line papa” to build fortifications. spent the whole summer and winter living in a tent. B 2/17 mech commo.

  • GaryUno
    9:21 am on January 4th, 2014 26

    When I was stationed at Camp Kaiser with the 2/17 Mech in 65-66, I heard that a ROK unit was ambushed just North of the Chinese Tunnel and a couple of ROK soldiers were killed. Never heard many details of the incident and things operated on a need to know basis in those days. Always wondered if anyone else knows anything about the attack?

  • Jim
    12:58 pm on January 7th, 2014 27

    When I was at the Chinese Tunnel in 1953 there were the remains of a convoy of Chinese trucks that had been hit by napalm. They carried loads of ’03 Springfield rifles that the US had given the Chinese Nationalists to fight off the commies. Nothing left of them but the actions and barrels and the trucks had the tires burned off and anything aluminum was melted. Even the engine cylinder heads and pistons were melted and the aluminum had run down into the oil pans. Sadly the pictures I took were lost over the years.


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