Bangalore Torpedoes, Shaped Charges

 

The Bangalore torpedoes we used in Vietnam were metal tubes four-feet long and several inches thick, filled with high explosive.  We used them alone, or tied together in a line with C-4 cord to collapse tunnels.  They could also blow openings in hedgerows where there might be booby traps.

Once we tried to use Bangalore torpedoes to clear a path into an enemy hideout.  A squad moved cautiously into the heavy brush, as far as they dared.  Then they backed out, leaving the four-foot bombs behind as they went, linking them together with C-4 rope.   At edge of the woods they ignited the fuse, and came running back to the protection of our lines.  We watched the thin smoke creep up the fuse and into the brush to where they had left the first tube.  Nothing happened.  We waited five minutes, and then sent the men in again.  They carefully worked their way back along the enemy trail, and found that while they were running for cover, Charlie had removed the C-4 rope from each of the tubes, and taken the fuses and the torpedoes with them.  They had pulled the fuse out right under our noses!  Rather than donate more explosives to the enemy cause, we called in air power.

Another form of high explosive we occasionally used was shaped charges.  They worked well collapsing tunnels also.  We had discovered a tunnel entrance when helicopter rockets removed the surrounding bushes.  Paths leading to the opening suggested there was more below than just a small hideaway.  But all we could see looking down was a dirt floor some six feet below, and a tunnel going off to one side.   A large shaped charge was flown in, and we set it up facing down the hole.   This charge came in funnel form, with the explosive force directed forward away from the center of the cone.  We wedged the charge into the tunnel opening, attached the fuse and backed away to a safe distance.  In a moment, the ground shook, and a cloud of smoke and dust obscured the entire patch of bamboo.

When the debris settled we moved forward and looked down the new hole, which was considerably bigger than the old one.  What a difference!  The blast had exposed two more levels below the first.  Some sort of trap door at the bottom of the first floor had been blown away, and we could see connecting tunnels going off in several directions.  I pity anyone inside.  The sudden compression would have killed anyone nearby, and would have destroyed the eardrums of anyone several hundred yards further down the tunnel.  Even tunnel hand grenade victims emerged with bleeding ears, mouth and eyes.  Imagine how much worse this was!

As we watched, we saw water rise quickly to flood the lower levels.  We had also blown open an entrance to a nearby stream.  An unexpected benefit of the blast was the discovery of hidden weapons and explosives, exposed when surface branches and vines were blown away.

 

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Bangalore Torpedoes, Shaped Charges:  Tales Of A War Far Away
Copyright 1995 Kirk S. Ramsey
Last modified: March 02, 1995