"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Scouts, Dogs, and Booby Traps

Dog Handler - Vietnam War

by Tony Chliek

Many times when we went out on patrols from FSB STUART, a Kit Carson scout led our patrols. 

Kit Carson scouts are former Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldiers that were our guides and interpreters. 

The scouts walked point with one or two of the regular point men and because of his first hand knowledge of enemy tactics, he was able to locate mines, booby traps, ambushes and snipers long before we ever could.

Other times, a dog handler and his German Shepherd would accompany us on patrols. 

The dog was great because he could smell trouble, literally. He could pick up the scent of the enemy and lead us right to them. We captured numerous VC because of both the Kit Carson scout and the dog.

One day we were patrolling through a heavily wooded area around a village and the Kit Carson found a suspected VC hiding. He gave up without any difficulty. We made him walk point with the Kit Carson and our point man. 

We figured if he lead us into an ambush, he would be the first to go. As we walked along, the VC started pointing out a lot of freshly dug punji pits right on the trail we were following. (Maybe he knew where they were because he dug them).

Punji Pit Trap - Vietnam War
Punji pits like the ones he uncovered are extremely nasty booby traps. The simplest pit type was a hole about 20 to 30cm deep. 

The floor of this trap was then set with punji stakes, which could easily pierce the canvas and leather jungle boot. 

For added misery the spikes could be smeared with poison or human excrement to induce blood poisoning, or worse. 

There were many variations, which allowed the spikes to attack the sides of the leg. This was particularly favored after the introduction of the reinforced-soled jungle boot.

On another patrol one day, I stepped into a small punji pit. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack because I knew exactly what had happened. Fortunately, the bamboo stakes were old and rotted so they just crumbled when my foot and leg hit them. I didn't even get a splinter.

Another booby trap I encountered was a trip wire. Trip wires were connected to all types of booby traps like the hand grenade in the picture below.

Trip Wire Booby Trap
One day we were dropped off in the Ho Bo Woods for a “Reconnaissance In Force” (RIF) patrol with one other company. Enemy activity had been spotted so we were sent there to see if we could find them.

Ho Bo Woods weren't exactly what you would call woods any more. The area used to be a stronghold for the VC and NVA so the woods had actually been leveled to eliminate hiding places.

While patrolling the area, my foot got caught on something. I looked down and saw it tangled in a wire. I froze and called out that I was tangled in a trip wire. 

Now you figured the guys would back up, since there was the possibility of an explosion, but no, a couple of guys immediately came over to check it out. They followed the wire and discovered that it wasn’t connected to anything.  It was probably an old trip wire, or maybe a piece of wire that was just lying around. I spent a lot of time looking down after that.

Another day we were patrolling around one of the villages close to our FSB. We were walking on the berm that separated the rice paddies like the guys in the picture.

All of a sudden I dropped straight down into a hole in the water that was over my head. Since I was carrying all that equipment, I sunk like a rock. 

Walking the Berm
I reached up to try and grab something to pull myself out and someone grabbed my hands and pulled me up. My head went right back into my helmet which had been floating on the surface of the water. 

With some help, I was able to climb back out of the hole. 

It seemed I had fallen into a small well that was overgrown with the grasses that grew on the berms. Since it was overgrown, I just didn’t see it. 

This incident got quite a laugh from everyone ...

About Tony Chliek:

Tony Chliek
I was drafted into the United States Army on May 6, 1968 at the ripe old age of 19 years, 6 months and 2 days. 

Government policy at the time was to draft all men into the military at 19 ½ years of age if they hadn’t already joined, or had a deferment of some kind. 

I almost joined earlier that year, but backed out to take my chances with the draft. Well, that was it, I became the property of the United States Army.  

I graduated from AIT with the rank of PFC, issued my orders for Vietnam.

I was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi. After that week at Cu Chi, I was assigned to the 2nd platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 12 Infantry, 25th Infantry Division; B 2/12.

Also by Tony Chliek:

A Hot LZ

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog.

1 comment:

  1. Tony, I too am a Vietnam vet. I enlisted when I was 19 after dropping out of college. I took my AIT at Fort Gordon ( airborne infantry ). After jump school I volunteered for Special Forces and after completing training (and 4months in the 7th SFG at Fort Bragg ) I received my orders for the 5th SFGA, Vietnam. Assigned to A-105 Nong Son in I corp. When we went on ops it was 2 Americans and anywhere from a squad to a company of CIDG. (civilian indigenous defense group). We always put them out on the point and we Americans stayed back in the column and tried to blend in. I was small enough and dark complexioned, so I was hard to distinguish from the "zips". You never knew about the loyalty of those CIDG. They were known to play both sides of the war. Unlike the methods taught in airborne infantry of staying off the trails even cutting your way through the bush, we usually stayed on the trails. They were the same trails Charlie used so we could pretty much could count on them not being booby trapped. If they were those point guards were sure doing a good job finding them. I don't remember anybody running into one. One thing I've always felt gave me an advantage in looking back was seeing first hand the difference in the way the regular Army was teaching grunts to fight a guerilla war, and the way we were taught in Special Warfare School. There was a decided difference. It has always grieved me to think about how many young men were killed or maimed for life due to the way the straight legged brass handled that war. When I watch movies like "Platoon" or "Hamburger Hill", or documentaries on the war, it really bugs me. It was a Special Forces war. We were the only unit the United States had that was specifically designed for guerilla warfare. The conventional military people didn't like us. Tried to abolish Special Forces more than once but John Kennedy saw the need for such a unit and saved us. Special Forces had originally come directly under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense, but after the assassination of Kennedy it was turned over to the Department of the Army. They wouldn't let anybody reach a rank of over full bird colonel. Well, enough of Vietnam for now my comrade. Thanks for posting. Sometimes it feels good to talk to others who were there.


Feel free to comment.