Sunday, March 19, 2006

Chapter 8: Scouts, Dogs and Booby Traps

Kit Carson Scout

Many times when we went out on patrols from FSB STUART, a Kit Carson scout lead our patrols. Kit Carson scouts are former Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldiers that were our guides and interpreters. He always walked point with one or two of the regular point men and because of his first hand knowledge of enemy tactics, was able to locate mines, booby traps, ambushes and snipers long before we ever could.

Dogs and Dog Handlers

Other times a dog handler and his German Shepherd would accompany us on patrols. The dog was great because he could smell trouble, literally. He could pick up the scent of the enemy and lead us right to them. We captured numerous VC because of both the Kit Carson scout and the dog.

Punji Pits

One day we were patrolling through a heavily wooded area around a village and the Kit Carson found a suspected VC hiding. He gave up without any difficulty. We made him walk point with the Kit Carson and our point man. We figured if he lead us into an ambush, he would be the first to go. As we walked along, the VC started pointing out a lot of freshly dug punji pits right on the trail we were following. Maybe he knew where they were because he dug them.

Punji pits like the ones he uncovered are extremely nasty booby traps. The simplest pit type was a hole about 20 to 30cm deep. The floor of this trap was then set with punji stakes, which could easily pierce the canvas and leather jungle boot. For added misery the spikes could be smeared with poison or human excrement to induce blood poisoning or worse. There were many variations, which allowed the spikes to attack the sides of the leg. This was particularly favored after the introduction of the reinforced-soled jungle boot.

On another patrol one day, I stepped into a small punji pit. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack because I knew exactly what had happened. Fortunitly the bamboo stakes were old and rotten so they just crumbled when my foot and leg hit them. I didn't even get a splinter.

Trip Wires

Another booby trap I encountered was a trip wire. Trip wires were connected to all types of booby traps like the hand grenade in the picture below.

One day we were dropped off in the Ho Bo Woods for a “Reconnaissance In Force” (RIF) patrol with one other company. Enemy activity had been spotted so we were sent there to see if we could find them.

As you can see in the picture, the Ho Bo Woods weren't exactly what you would call woods any more. This area used to be a stronghold for the VC and NVA so the woods were leveled to eliminate hiding places.

While patrolling the area, my foot got caught on something. I looked down and saw it tangled in a wire. I froze and called out that I was tangled in a trip wire. Now you figured the guys would back up since there was a possibility of an explosion, but no, a couple of guys immediately came over to check it out. They followed the wire and discovered that in wasn’t connected to anything, that it was probably an old trip wire, or maybe just a piece of wire lying around. I spent a lot of time looking down after that.

Not a Booby Trap

Another day we were patrolling around one of the villages close to our FSB. We were walking on the berm that separated the rice paddies like the guys in the picture.

All of a sudden I fall straight down into a hole filled with water that was over my head. Since I was carrying all that equipment, I sunk like a rock. I reached up to try grab something to pull my self out and someone grabbed my hands and pulled me up. My head went right back into my helmet which was floating on the surface of the water. With some help, I climbed out of the hole. It seem that I had fallen into a small well that had overgrown with the grasses that grew on the berms. Since it was over grown, I didn’t see it. This incedent got quite a laugh from everyone.


Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog and read it all. I really hearing your story and its been a while since you've posted but I hope you continue some day.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that great historical perspective. I'm doing research and read everything start to stop. Thanks again.

BTExpress said...

It's my pleasure. If you have any questions that I might help with, please feel free to contact me.

BTExpress said...

Deb, I just came across something in my notes that may interest you. We called it the Vietnam War, but the Vietnamese called it the American War.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add my own thanks as well. I found your blog by accident while I was browsing the internet, but I'm glad that I did - it's the first time that I've ever read a soldier's perspective, and I found it a really gripping account.

As a British 22-year-old, your blog has helped me to understand what it must have been like to serve in Vietnam... I am grateful that I will never have to experience the things that you did.

Take care, and thanks again.

- Ryan, United Kingdom

BTExpress said...

Glad you enjoyed reading it and thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi im a high school student doing research on punji traps for my vietnam class project. I would like to incorporate your story into my project, and was wondering what your name is to give you credit and prove that i did not make any of it up. thank you.