27 February 2015


“I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic circuit using stone knives and bearskins.” Commander Spock, First Officer/Science Officer, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) (City on the Edge of Forever)
During our stay at Charlie Base Camp, we took an average of one casualty per day, all but the three at OP 6 from booby traps. In turn, all booby trap casualties came during the morning road sweep. None that I recall were fatal, but our people were being hurt badly.

The road sweep ended at OP 6, where we met the other sweep coming south from Phu Loc (6). The trash situation at OP 6 had not worsened, because we policed our trash and brought it back to the base camp with us. But we could not get the trash left by 3/5 cleaned up. Nearly every day, we spotted an actual or suspected booby trap in the trash mound left by the last company that had manned the OP.

We were discussing the problem at the officers’ meeting one night. “It’s too bad Mr. Spock isn’t here,” Chip commented. “If he can construct a mnemonic circuit using stone knives and bearskins, he could find a way to neutralize the booby traps.”

Star Trek had premiered on TV while we were all in college. It was being re-run on Armed Forces TV out of Saigon, and we could sometimes pick up the audio on the radio. We all agreed that we needed Mr. Spock, and talked about what a “Spock neutralizer” might look like. The conversation continued for several days.

One morning a few days later, the road sweep dropped off a 55 gallon drum at OP 6. After destroying a suspected booby trap, the trash was pretty well spread out. For the rest of the day, the Marines who were not on watch policed up some of the trash and put it in the drum. At Noon, two marines carried a case of C-Rations down to OP 5. When the road closed for the night, the OP was closed and the troops headed back to the Base Camp. The drum was left in place.

The next morning, we found that the drum had been booby trapped. The engineers blew it in place, spreading the trash, and then dropped off another empty drum. The Marines on the OP followed the same routine for four days, with the same results.

The first day that First Platoon was on the OP for the full day, the engineers blew up the drum from the day before. They dropped off another drum, although if anyone had been watching carefully, they might have noticed that it took four Marines to get it off the truck. This drum was already full. We had packed it with “grade three ammo” (unserviceable ammunition which was corroded, dented, or from lots that had been re-called), as well as several old claymore mines, the remainder of the Korean War era 60mm mortar rounds, frag grenades, two 20 pound satchel charges,some rolls of barbed wire, loose brass and links from the machine gun positions, and other assorted goodies. That morning, it had then been filled with gasoline and sealed, except for a small hole in the lid, through which protruded wires attached to blasting caps inserted into the satchel charges.

The box of C-rations that went to OP 5 was empty except for 400 meters of communications wire that fed out of the box up the sleeve and down the trouser leg of the Marine carrying it. His “escort” walked behind him making sure the wire stayed on the ground.

A few pieces of trash were placed on top of the drum during the day. When the troops left OP 6, an engineer attached the blasting cap to one end of the slash wire. A few minutes later, the Marines from OP 6 met up with the Marines coming down from OP 5. As they moved away, Chip and two Marines remained hidden in the scrub at the side of the road.

About 15 minutes later, they saw a group of 20 or so people leave the ville that was about 200 meters east of OP 6, the same ville into which the attackers on 12 January had fled. At least one carried a weapon. When they were about 2 meters from the drum, Chip hit the hell box and the Spock neutralizer neutralized the bad guys.

I was in a tower at strong point Delta, about six clicks away, when the device was lit off. There was a towering plume of flame, clearly visible to me. The resulting hole was about three feet deep and two to three maters wide. "Fascinating!"

After that, the booby trapping incidents at OP 6 completely died off. I think Mr. Spock would have approved.

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