Booby Traps and Vietcong Tactics

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When comparing the belligerent forces of the Second Indochinese conflict it is clear that the anti-Communist forces in the South held the major advantages over their Communist counterparts in the North. Based on personnel strength, the anti-Communist forces, known as the Free World Military Forces, outnumbered the Communist forces, composed of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong by more than 2:1; a force of almost 2 million against one consisting of less than 800,000.1 In addition to a trained military personnel edge, the Free World Forces boasted the modern military machine that was the US Armed Forces. Finally, the powerful American economy which again, supported the South, could not be matched by the North. Given these, how could the North possibly stand a chance at conquering the South and defeating their capitalist ally, the United States? However, for what the North lacked in firepower, they more than adequately countered with ingenuity and creativity.2 One of the militants fighting for the North Vietnamese cause, the Viet Cong, engaged in guerrilla warfare against it’s Southern enemies.3 Specifically, the Viet Cong skillfully and successfully employed hundreds of thousands of booby traps to weaken the attacking American Forces.4 The production of both explosive and non-explosive booby traps coupled with the efficacy of the techniques employed by the Viet Cong when using these weapons allowed the North to gain a significant upper hand when combatting the United States Armed Forces in Vietnam.5 Furthermore, for all the success that the booby traps had in wounding and killing, these found success in inflicting psychological trauma in the enemies of the Viet Cong and of the North Vietnamese. Ultimately, these practic... ... middle of paper ... ...ades (56%) or small mines manufactured from either stolen or salvaged US equipment (19%).34 Arguably the most common and most hated explosive booby trap used by both the North Vietnamese and US troops was the “Bouncing Betty”, first used by the German army in the Second World War, then known as “S Bombs”.35 A US Marine named Brad Reynalds recalls his experiences with “Bouncing Betties” whilst serving with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, “Probably the most feared booby trap was the Bouncing Betty. These weren't designed to kill you, just cut you in half. If you stepped on one, you would probably be paralyzed for life, lose your legs, or the family jewels. In my case, it was half my ass.” 36 Though powerful and effective, the primary function of these explosive traps were to warn North Vietnamese forces about advancing US troops rather than inflict casualties .37
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