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