Vietnam War Scrap Metal Turned Into Spoons in Laos.
Above Photo: A Super Sabre aircraft fires a salvo of rockets during the Vietnam War (USAF).
Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history. According to UXO Lao, over 2 million tons of ordnance was dropped on the country between 1964 and 1973 in nearly 600,000 bombing missions, and it is believed that up to 30% of all ordnance dropped on Laos failed to detonate. UXO Lao estimate that 80 million cluster bomblets still remain unexploded long after the war.
Besides aircraft munitions, there were tank rounds, anti-tank rounds, RPGs, mortars, rockets, artillery shells, bullets, fragmentation grenades, mines and many other types of ordnance fired, thrown or otherwise left in the jungles of Laos.
There were also hundreds of planes and helicopters shot down over the country, as well as equipment left behind from Special Forces missions, incursions into Laos by the South Vietnamese Army (for example, the Lam Son Offensive), and of course the enormous amount of equipment used by the North Vietnamese Army, the Viet Cong, the Pathet Lao and the forces of the Royal Lao Government and Vang Pao’s CIA-backed Hmong army, as well as Thai troops in Laos.
Cuban engineers working on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and weapons and supplies left by the Chinese forces and engineers garrisoned in the north of Laos.
Russia, China and the US were the main suppliers of weaponry in Laos, but possibly Cuba too, and there is still a considerable amount of UXO, wrecked aircraft, weaponry and equipment quietly rusting in the Laotian jungle.
Many of the larger pieces are (supposed to be) protected by the government from scrap dealers, but many villagers make a living from finding smaller items of war scrap in the jungle. Some of it is sold to a village near Phonsavan, called Baan Napia, which specialises in sorting through the scrap and melting usable aluminium down to make spoons.
I recently visited the village and watched as they sorted through bags of war junk to find usable items, which they then smelted down.
Below are some photographs of the scrap metal and war remains I saw there, as well as photographs of how they make the spoons. I insisted they used war scrap in the making of my spoons, as I’d heard (as with any dwindling resource) such villages will spin out their supply with non-war metal too.
First I noticed a few sacks of war debris which had been collected in the jungle. I didn’t want to put my hand in to rummage around, but I did pick out a few non-lethal pieces of weaponry as shown below.
I also saw this interesting piece of equipment, which I was subsequently told was an M127A1 Signal Illuminant White Star Parachute, used for surface to air distress signalling.
Making the spoons
All of this scrap, or the aluminium, at any rate, is then melted down to make spoons. I have put some photos below to show the heating, aluminium-melting and moulding processes (American English is ‘mold’, but I’m using Brit English here).
First, they workers melt the aluminium by putting the scrap into long spoons and thrusting it into the fire to melt.
When the aluminium is molten, they take out the spoon, pour the molten metal into holes at the top of wooden moulds, let the aluminium cool. I have added photos below…
Once the aluminium in the mould has cooled, the mould is broken open and a new aluminium spoon is retrieved.
And there you have it, the most expensive cutlery in the history of the world, costing billions of dollars and millions of lives.
Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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