Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
by Brad Reynolds
The dry season was hot and humid. It was like standing in a sauna all the time, until night came. Then, you would freeze when the wind started blowing off the South China Sea.
During the dry season, you had to worry more about booby traps because the VC knew the Americans would head for shade every chance they got. It was hard to convince the new men in country to stay away from the shaded areas until they saw some of their buddies blown to bits. It's no wonder booby traps were the Number One Killer in Vietnam.
There were many booby traps our outfit had to deal with like pungi stakes that were put in tall grass facing the trail. When the VC opened fire on us, men would dive into the tall grass just to be torn apart by the stakes.
We also had to watch out for the Tiger Pit. These were holes approximately three to four feet in diameter and five to six feet deep. The stakes inside the pit would vary from one foot to three and four feet high. These pits were usually on a main trail heading into a village. I have come as close as I ever want to from falling into one. A hell of a way to die.
Then they had the Foot Trap. This was a hole about knee deep with stakes that were placed at an angle pointing down so they could penetrate the canvas part of your jungle boot. It was a painful experience because you would have to let someone reach in and cut the stakes loose from your leg and from the side of the hole.
There was another trap that I saw only once while I was there. It consisted of two pieces of wood with spikes at the end of the boards, and when you stepped on it, it acted like a bear trap, slamming against the calf portion of your leg. Pulling the boards and spikes out was extremely painful--you didn't have time to be gentle while receiving incoming rounds.
The booby traps that did the most damage were the command detonated ones. These were made from unexploded bombs, mortars or grenades. The VC would rig them up with some type of firing device and explode them when they wanted to. I�ve seen as many as 20 trucks go over a portion of the road, and all of a sudden, the next one would be blown off the road.
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.