Deadly Punji Stick Traps and the Vietnam War.
Above Photo: Punji spikes outside a US Special Forces camp (lzxray.com)
When I first saw the grainy texture of the above Vietnam War photo, I couldn’t work out what it was – it looked like an Impressionist painting.Then I looked more closely and saw it was a field of Punji sticks.
Punji sticks were a weapon used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, often as a booby trap. They were thin, sharpened stakes of bamboo or wood placed at an angle in the ground and frequently used in areas where US troops were likely to be passing.
They could be set in fields, or camouflaged as traps, and dug into pits, so that when the trap was walked on, the soldier’s foot would fall onto the spikes, which were sometimes smeared with excrement, toxic plants or poison from toads. They they were so sharp they could pierce a GI’s boot.
Even though usually not fatal, these traps slowed down troops and tied up time and sapped morale in the field, adding to stress as soldiers moved through the jungle.
They also necessitated medical evacuation of wounded soldiers by helicopter, which presented an attractive target for Viet Cong soldiers lying in wait.
They were sometimes used as part of an ambush, so that when the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army attacked, soldiers diving for cover would throw themselves into camouflaged fields of punji sticks, lying on either side of the trail.
Punji sticks were also used defensively in and around outlying US bases and protected village hamlets.
Punji sticks also make an appearance in the modern-day sections of BACK, when a group of backpackers encounter dangers in the jungle left over from the Vietnam War.
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 and MIAs in Laos, see:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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