this lanternless night,
bamboo stakes, dipped in excrement,
wait for brown boots


Boobytraps killed and maimed thousands of American servicemen during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong had limited supplies and money. One thing they didn't lack in, however, was ingenuity. They were able to fashion boobytraps out of almost anything. One of the most lethal of their boobytraps was the punji stake. Concealed underwater in rice paddies and beneath jungle foliage, they were crudely made bamboo stakes dipped in animal excrement. When an unsuspecting soldier stepped on one, the razor sharp point of the bamboo stake would pierce his foot. The animal excrement guaranteed immediate infection. Soldiers on patrol in the jungle were far from hospitals and infirmaries. Especially those deep in enemy
territory, experiencing day to day combat. If improperly treated, gangegreen would set in, eventually necessitating the removal of the
infected soldier's foot or leg. The pain from the wounds were excruciating.
They were the lucky ones. When fired at by the enemy in a boobytrapped rice paddy, soldiers instinctively dove for cover. Some of them landed on punji stakes, ripping open their stomachs, chests, or bowels. Death soon followed.





Vietnam Ruminations - Robert D. Wilson
Copyright Robert D. Wilson, 2003