Booby Traps

Booby trapsóranging from punji stakes to an assortment of grenades, mines, and explosive devicesówere a common part of the Vietnam War, mainly because of the guerrilla nature of the conflict. More than one out of ten American battlefield casualties in Vietnam was the result of a booby trap of one kind or another. The most dangerous of the makeshift Vietcong weapons were: a bullet buried straight up with its firing pin on a bamboo stub, activated when someone stepped on the bullet's tip; hollowed-out coconuts filled with gunpowder and triggered by a trip wire; walk bridges with ropes almost cut away so they would collapse when someone tried to cross them; underground and hidden punji stakes; bamboo stakes connected to grenades and planted at helicopter landing sites; the "Malay whip" log, attached to two trees by a rope and triggered by a trip wire, which would sweep down on entire units; and boards studded with iron barbs and buried in streambeds and rice paddies. The common use of booby traps only further alienated American soldiers from civilian Vietnamese, whom they did not trust and could not distinguish from the Vietcong.