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Booby traps of the Viet Cong


By Sakhal

Despite of their name, booby traps are a fearsome weapon and the Viet Cong made of them their speciality. The most complex components of these contraptions were grenades and mines and, of course, the great skill to dissimulate the triggering mechanism. Most part of them produced an explosion very close to the victim, to who caused severe damage in the flesh and other organic tissues, also encrusting earth and other wastes that exposed the wounded to massive infections. The injuries forced almost always an operation to evacuate the casualties, which caused the entire unit to lose a precious time or forced it to move slower and with more caution due to the fear of other similar traps hidden in the surroundings. This article shows a sample of some of the most wit modalities employed in the two wars of Vietnam.

Canned grenades

Frequently the Viet Cong employed grenades in the craft of these traps. In the illustration it is shown one of the simplest triggering mechanisms. The grenades were placed, with the safety pins removed, inside empty cans of an adequate size. Pulling the cable extracted the grenades out of the can; with the subsequent movement and the falling the grenade was activated and exploded. Placing a grenade in each end of the cable increased the effectiveness of the trap.

Spiked balls

In occassions it was used this artifact worthy of the most ferocious tribal fights. It consisted of a heavy ball of clay or mud with attached - and well sharpened - punji stakes, tied to a tree by what resembled an inofensive wild vine. When triggered by pulling the lower cable, the terrible ball quickly ran its trajectory hitting its victim.

Booby traps of the Viet Cong


Grenade in the stream

Frequently, specially in the Mekong Delta, American and South Vietnamese patrols had to move along streams, creeks and swamps. Many times the places that offered an easier wading were sowed with traps. In the illustration the trap consists in a grenade firmly attached to one of the sides of the riverbed, with a well tensed cable that goes from the trigger to the opposite flank of the riverbed.

Bow and arrow

This artifact was used by the aboriginal tribes of the mountains to hunt animals. The Viet Cong adapted it to the necessities imposed by the war. It consisted in a concealed cavity in which a bow was placed with its ends fixated to the sides of the cavity. An arrow was placed in the bow string, which was tensed by a cable. The simple launching mechanism was activated when someone stumbled with the triggering cable, laid across the route that a patrol should follow, thus releasing the bow string.

Stakes in a pit

Members of the Viet Cong installed a series of traps based in stakes, called in their argot punji traps. The punji was a simple stake sharpened in one of the ends. They were used by the indigenous since remote times to hunt wild animals. The Viet Cong used them to hunt humans instead. Sometimes they used large steel nails fixed in a wooden board, but bamboo canes, either in their natural state or hardened by fire, had almost the same effectiveness. In the simplest version this kind of traps were composed of a shallow pit in whose bottom the stakes were buried by their blunt end up to half of their length, more or less. The dimensions of the pit should be such to allow it to be concealed by means of small branches and foliage, achieving an innocent appearance. Regarding depth, it should be enough to make the foot of the victim to fall with enough force to have the sole of the boot trespassed by the stakes. A more refined version that made harder to extract the foot consisted of a larger pit that, apart from the stakes in the bottom, had more stakes attached to the sides of the pit with the spikes facing downwards.

Hidden mines

Apart from traps made with stakes and grenades, many mines were used in Vietnam. The favourite place to hide them were the proximities of a fallen tree or a trunk crossed in the way.

Booby traps of the Viet Cong


Between January 1967 and June 1970 booby traps and mines caused an 11 percent of the dead and a 15 percent of the wounded, while punji stakes caused a 2 percent of the wounded, among the personnel of the United States Army; similar numbers should be taken into consideration for the South Vietnamese Army and other combatant forces. The 11 percent of the killed in action would represent around 4000 men during the given period. Therefore, the simple and cheap booby traps demonstrated to be the most effective weapon regarding their cost.

Categories: Small Arms - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-12-14


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