Though combat and disease and exposure to chemical agents are the most well-known threats faced by U.S. servicemen in the Vietnam War, a less-well-known threat facing our troops was that of booby traps.
These traps, sometimes elaborate, sometimes brutally simple, were often maliciously designed to injure and maim troops rather than kill them, as wounded troops are typically more detrimental to morale and unit strength than dead ones.
A video recently posted to YouTube details the five scariest booby traps that American soldiers faced during the Vietnam War.
The first trap used the highly venomous snakes found in the southeast Asian jungles, most commonly the bamboo pit viper, sometimes referred to as “Two-step Charlie,” as a soldier could literally fall over dead a mere two steps after being bitten by the highly toxic snake.
The Vietnamese would deliberately place these snakes in their tunnels, drop pits and supply caches, or would nail them by the tail to tree branches, ready to strike at the first unsuspecting soldier who might follow.
Second, known as “keepsake, lose hand,” was the tendency of retreating Vietnamese to rig explosives to various items that soldiers would inevitably grab as a keepsake or spoil of war.
This sometimes involved attaching grenades to Vietnamese flags that U.S. soldiers were only too happy to grab and take down, or rigging up seemingly innocuous items like lighters and pens with flammable or explosive materials, taking off the hand of the soldier that grabbed it.
Third on the list of frightening booby traps in Vietnam is that of the punji stakes, sharpened sticks of bamboo hidden in a variety of locations, ready to impale unsuspecting soldiers.
Sometimes rigged to elaborate tripwires, whips, and even rubber bands, these sticks would suddenly shoot out of a hiding place to maim or injure the person unlucky enough to trip the wire.
Often, the stakes would simply be firmly set at the bottom of a disguised drop pit, sometimes smeared with feces to ensure disease in the wounded soldier that fell in on top of them.
Another terrifying surprise left for American forces was that of the “tiger trap,” a spiked and barbed device suspended in mid-air and attached to a tripwire, ready to drop on top of whoever might walk underneath it.
Perhaps even more frightening than that were the spiked logs, typically 8-10 feet long, embedded with massive spikes, rigged to swing down out of trees and take out multiple soldiers at one time.
Analogous to the medieval mace, the Viet Cong even developed 24-inch diameter concrete balls, also embedded with barbs and spikes, designed to swing out trees and crush the skulls and bones of the poor unfortunate souls who tripped hidden wires.
However, the Vietnamese were not the only ones to use booby traps in Vietnam, as U.S. forces eventually decided to fight fire with fire, developing their own trap to injure and kill their enemies.
Project Eldest Son saw U.S. soldiers modifying and tampering with AK-47 rounds, machine gun cartridges and mortar shells to backfire and explode in the hands of the user.
This sabotaged ammunition was secretly placed in VC ammo stashes, or simply left in obvious spots where the Vietnamese were sure to find them.
Vietnam was a frightening and deadly place for American troops to fight, making the poor treatment many of them received at the hands of liberals upon returning home all the more heart-breaking.
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