Chapter 12: Booby Traps

Through all this foliage, our eyes constantly searched for trip wires or prongs sticking out of the ground. Each of us tried to follow in the steps of the man we followed. If he didn’t suddenly explode, we could assume that where he stepped was a safe spot for our foot.

The jungle was full of terrible death traps waiting for an unsuspecting soldier. In a previous mission, we were searching an idyllic looking orchard when one of our men heard the frightful click of a Bouncing Betty mine being activated under the weight of his foot. He heard the click and froze on the spot and started screaming in terror for help. If he removed his foot or even shifted his weight, the Bouncing Betty would launch out of the ground and explode at hip level. It would blow off his legs and rip open his torso, spilling his intestines and pulverizing his manhood. If he wasn’t instantly killed, he was destined to live a life as a paraplegic or worse.

War is terribly callous, and in this particular instance, the bulk of my unit moved on, leaving a medic and a small contingent to try to save the soldier or call a medevac to rush him and his body parts to the nearest Aid Station. That was about the only choice we had. I never heard if they figured out a way to save him, but I did hear an explosion just a few minutes after we moved out of the area.

The VC were experts at creating booby traps. They knew that death or injury by a booby trap had a long-lasting psychological impact on soldiers. Some of their barbaric booby traps consisted of things like punji stakes, bear traps, crossbow traps, spiked mud balls, double-spike caltrops, scorpion-filled boxes, and the use of deadly viper snakes.

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