Vietnam War Scrap Metal Turned Into Spoons in Laos.

Vietnam War Scrap Metal Turned Into Spoons in Laos.

Above Photo: A Super Sabre aircraft fires a salvo of rockets during the Vietnam War. 

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.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

A team from UXO Salavan recovers a bomb from a river on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

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.

Chinese tank buried on ho chiminh trail with unexploded aircraft bomb vietnam war

An unexploded bomb along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Attapeu Province – and a half buried Chinese tank

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.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

An unexploded cluster bomb still lies where it was dropped on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with a tree growing up around it.

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.

Air america plane crash in the laotian jungle Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

Air America crash in the jungle at Ta Fa, 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.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

Unexploded RPG rounds and mortars, discovered by a team from UXO Sekong along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Laos.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos sepon UXO

Unexploded Wartime shells and mortars discovered along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Sepon, Savannakhet, by UXO Lao operatives.

Many of the larger pieces are 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.

road building problems in laos massive vietnam war unexploded bombs discovered

Massive unexploded bomb. A problem faced by road construction team in southern Laos, especially along the Ho Chi Minh trail.

I recently visited the village and watched as they sorted through bags of war junk to find usable items, which they then smelted down.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

Ready for the smelter: 40mm grenades fired from a grenade launcher during the Vietnam War.

40mm vietnam war grenades Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

Before they were spoons: M79 grenade launcher and the same ammunition (Jesse Tostado 212warriors.com)

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.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

A sack full of war debris ready to be sorted and smelted for spoons.

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.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

Part of a 70mm Folding Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR), part of a tail fin from a mortar round and an M-16 bullet clip.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

How the rocket might have got there – a Super Sabre aircraft fires a salvo of 2.75-inch (70mm) FFARs (you can see them in flight, to the left of the aircraft).

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.

 M127A1 Signal Illuminant White Star Parachute Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

M127A1 Signal Illuminant White Star Parachute

 M127A1 Signal Illuminant White Star Parachute unexploded ordnace made into spoons in the laos jungle

…Showing a loaded date of March 1970.

Making the spoons

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

The woman smelter’s work station is partly constructed using a cluster bomb casing.

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.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

You can see an upturned long-handled spoon/aluminum holder to the right, near the fire.

phonsavan laos Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

You can see the spoon in the fire on this photo.

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…

Adventure backpackers meet the Vietnam Was in Laos, ho chi minh trail phonsavan ban napia spoons village war scrap

The wooden moulds, with molten aluminium coming out of the top.

Once the aluminium in the mould has cooled, the mould is broken open and a new aluminium spoon is retrieved.

the world's most expensive cutlery Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

Breaking the Mould. War scrap to spoons.

And there you have it, the most expensive cutlery in the history of the world, costing billions of dollars and millions of lives.

Vietnam war secret war in laos POWs MIAs wartime mysteries and jungle war secrets Vietnam and laos POWs MIAs left behind unexploded ordnance Vietnam war plane crashes weapons cluster bombs war debris made into spoons in the jungle village industry laos

From swords to ploughshares: The world’s most expensive cutlery.

See the trailer for 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.

For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:

Approximate location of the Spoons Village, Ban Napia, Laos

© Peter Alan Lloyd

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews 

UK: Amazon.co.uk: BACK Parts 1 and 2 

US: Amazon: Back Parts 1 and 2

Smashwords: Back Parts 1 and 2

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modern-day Vietnam War novel of backpackers and the Vietnam War

Front cover of BACK Part 1.

modern-day Vietnam War novel of backpackers and the Vietnam War

Front cover of BACK Part 2.

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2 Comments

  1. Laurens Wildeboer

    I would love one or a few of the spoons…but I have mentioned that previously…

    Reply
  2. Richard Wilson

    That would be a part of me if I could get one of the Spoons, I was a River rat that took the larp and seals up and down the rivers PBR’s

    Reply

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