Are my lost boobies still killing innocent children?
|One of the things you hear most about today in news from Iraq is something called an IED. IED stands for Improvised Explosive Device and may consist of just about anything that will blow up, from a pile of mortar rounds to a 500-pound bomb. This ugly device is responsible for the majority of our war casualties.
I have a personal and profound distaste of IED’s.
Back in Vietnam we called them Booby Traps and Charlie, also known as the Viet Cong, was an expert in making these deadly devices.
Part of our duties as the long-range reconnaissance platoon was to find and disarm these nasty little boobies and they would be discovered everywhere and anywhere imaginable.
Some of the worst was those we had to disarm or bypass while searching underground tunnels. Sir Charles (aka Charlie) was an expert at disguising them and it took an expert to find them. Unfortunately that expertise always came with a price tag.
Many of our friends lost arms, legs, hands, fingers, eyes and even their lives passing on the secret techniques that Sir Charles used. But our enemy was also very adaptable. No matter how often we found his little surprises, he’d come up with new methods of hiding or disguising them.
The brave men who helped us the most we called Kit Carson’s or Chew Hoi’s (not sure of the spelling). These were deserters from the NVA or Viet Cong who came over to our side and taught us what to look for and where to look.
Sometimes the simple laying of three sticks side by side along a path with another pointed at an angle would tell his fellow Cong that down the trail to the left thirty meters was a booby trap…watch out for it! It’s for the GI’s not you stupid!
These booby traps came in different sizes and were often created to do different things.
Sometimes placing a small pungi pit along a trail so that a soldier’s foot would be trapped and pierced by sharpened stakes was just a means of getting the remainder of the patrol off the trail to a much more insidious and deadly surprise.
That deadly surprise may be an unexploded 500 pound bomb left over from an American B52 drop, booby trapped with a wire or command detonated. Once triggered the awesome explosion would wipe out the entire platoon. Or, even to funnel a company into the crosshairs of an ambush site where the enemy was waiting with multiple 51-caliber machine guns.
And, these booby traps were Charlie’s little angels…he simply loved using them.
This is another reason that being the first into an area was usually not the thing to do. But, it was the nature of our duties and training as recon to find and protect the line rats from these deadly killers.
Unfortunately, Sir Charles was not the only one who practiced these devious arts. On long range missions we always protected our rendezvous area with hidden booby traps, from claymore mines to our own especially designed surprises.
It is the memory and nightmare of these hidden devices that many old infantrymen today dream of. Sometimes, when the enemy found us accidentally we did not have time to collect or destroy our own booby traps.
I often lay awake at night and wonder if one of my long lost boobies has unintentionally killed or maimed some innocent person…perhaps a six or seven year old child…long after the war is over?
The thought is painful!