Friday, October 24, 2008

Vietnamese IED

Posted for R. O.

During the summer of 1968, I was a member of a Mobile Advisory Team assigned to Thoung Duc District in Quang Nam Province, I Corps RVN.
We were responsible for working with the Regional Force and Popular Force units in the district as part of the effort to “Vietnamize” the war. While the district was geographically large the population was small and the was only one RF company and 10 PF platoons. All units lived in the only town in the district of the same name. The most interesting feature of the town was a large European style Catholic church in the middle of the ville.

The other interesting demographic was that the Catholics there were nearly all North Vietnamese, either those who had fled the north in 1954 or their descendants.
The total US advisor population was a small district team of three officers and two enlisted plus the MAT (two officers and three NCOs).

The town was isolated from friendly territory and the only way in or out for any one was by helicopter or Caribou. We did have another semi-friendly adjacent element in the area, as the An Duc SF camp adjoined the district compound on one side. The other major force in the area was the 2nd NVA division which occupied most of the district to our west to the Laos border.

Part of the district team was the captain responsible or the Phoenix program. He had a pot of money to do various things and one of those things was to pay the locals of weapons/ammuntion turned, no questions asked. At times we would accumulate a small cache of B40 rockets, 82mm mortar rounds and NVA hand grenades and other miscellaneous stuff before the District Senior Advisor (also a CPT) would get pissed and make the Phoenix CPT haul the stuff up to the SF demo pit and blow it up.
The town and the district compound were on a ridge nestled in the Y of the junction of two good sized rivers. Just across a bridge at the smaller river, we had a small air strip where the Air Force periodically brought supplies for both us and the Vietnamese via Caribou.

One day we were at the bridge replenishing our water supply, when the Phoenix CPT and a small group of boys ages 8-12 approached. A couple of the boys had what looked to be a metal canister about one foot square on the end and about 30 inches long slung on a pole between them. That sort of container normally was filled with nuoc mam, that wonderful aromatic fermented fish stuff the Vietnamese loved. According to the Captain, it was some sort of bomb/explosive device and he wanted us to take it back to the compound so he could study it.

So being the dumb-ass Lt that I was at the time, I complied with my instructions from a senior officer and we loaded the thing on the 2 ½ ton truck and drove back to the compound. It probably weighted about 35-40 lbs. Once there we place the device in the normal spot of the captain’s other toys (next to the shitter), and headed back to the river of another load of water.

Well shortly after we reached the river there was a loud explosion on the compound from the area where we had put the device. We rushed back to the compound to assess the damage. Fortunately, it was siesta time and no one had been wandering around the compound. While there was a fair amount of damage to the latrine and one adjacent building, there was only one casualty, a Vietnamese 1LT who had his room in that area and the wall fell on him as he rested. We got a Medevac, but he didn’t make it.

It is interesting to speculate if the device had a time fuse or was command detonated. If it had a time fuse, which would seem unlikely, unless the bomb was intended to have a random effect, I was both stupid and lucky as it could have gone off while I was in the close proximity.

Now if it was a command detonated device, it would have been relatively easy for the NVA to maintain observation as there were high ridge lines on the far sides of each river. Was the Captain specifically targeted? He was known for buying up stray munitions and things and taking the stuff back to the compound. He was also known for his tinkering with some of the more primitive items. This all could have been observed over time. I have never heard of such a device being used in Vietnam by the NVA, but I don’t thing it was beyond their capability.

Anyway that is my story of a Vietnam IED

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