Upon arrival in South Vietnam, American troops often remarked on the country’s natural beauty. For many, South Vietnam looked like a tropical paradise with its shimmering rice paddies, white sand beaches, and blue coastal waters. But once deep in the Vietnamese bush, American G.I.’s quickly discarded their first impressions. They realized that South Vietnam was anything but a paradise – it was a horrifying place, rife with unseen peril.
Although South Vietnam possessed all sorts of natural dangers, including malarial mosquitoes, man-eating tigers, and fast-flowing rivers, nature itself did not pose the gravest threat to the safety of American troops. Rather, it was what the Vietcong did with nature that made South Vietnam so dangerous.
In the 1960s, the Vietcong remade rural South Vietnam into a weapon of war. The guerrillas achieved the weaponization of the countryside through the widespread use of booby traps.
The Vietcong hid booby traps from trees, along roadways, under foot paths, next to water wells, inside rice caches, alongside doors and gates, and even beneath the bodies of fallen comrades. Anywhere that an unsuspecting G.I. might step, sit, stand, or lie became a potential site for a booby trap. Continue Reading »