Punji traps in Vietnam,

I read a lot of military.history book. Oddly, I’ve never read of an account of someone in the aftermath of a pundit trap. As a simple weapon, you’d think there were thousands. Still, I may have read fifty books on the Vietnam War and not one mention of treating wounds of Punji stakes.

I got to wondering if it was either rare, but well remembered for the sheer barbarity of it, like an iron maiden.

Or, which is far worse, it happened with such frequency that it wasn’t worth mentioning. Today it rained, today we pushed through some leaves, eat.

I’m watching a documentary where an elderly Vietnamese woman is saying that you got a point for trapping an American this way. If you used explosives, you had to hit three targets to score.

So, Punji pits, were they common? Did they work?

Damnit, can a mod edit the title?

Edited title to fix spelling.

General Questions Moderatpr

Punjab traps I assume are found in India. Pundit traps are commonly seen on cable news channels. Punji sticks I have seen in a documentary shot in Vietnam. I didn’t see a trap, instead they were stuck into the front face of an earth berm to form a sort of stockade.

Points, like a video game? Collect points like Green Stamps – V & C Red Stamps :slight_smile: – to redeem for prizes? “Only two more points for a bicycle!” :confused:

One got Colin Powell

So they were (kinda) effective against at least one US soldier.


If they are not hidden then they are just sticks.

My uncle stepped on one while he was in Vietnam. He had pretty much the same experience as Powell. The infection marked the end of his combat career.

Yikes. I didn’t realize they could do that much damage (going right through Powell’s foot) that casually. Has boot design changed to help prevent this, like with a metal shank in the sole?

In May 1966, the US Army introduced a new “jungle boot” that had a stainless steel plate in the sole.

I’ve read a lot of Vietnam books as well and only remember reading about a couple of accounts. One account was in Frank Miller’s book. He took a punji stick all the way through his calf, but that wasn’t even the interesting part.

He was with 5th Special Forces and spent a lot of time sneaking around large groups of the enemy with about 5-6 Montagnards. They found a vacated enemy position once and behind it was thousands of punji sticks, like a 30 ft wide bed of them. They were deep in enemy territory where they shouldn’t be expecting any attack, why so many?

Later, they came across a dead NVA, went on and did whatever they were doing then came back by the dead enemy, only he was gone and a large paw print was nearby. That’s when they figured out they were in tiger country. The NVA had apparently spent the night at that position and put up the punji sticks to keep tigers away while they slept.

I’ve always read that they were smeared with human feces.

I was an Infantryman in VN in 1968-69 and saw many booby traps, Most were trip wires connected to some type of explosives such as mortar rounds or gernades. I only saw on punji pit and it looked to be very old (and unused). I suspect they were more widely used earlier in the war.

Ok, thanks. So it’s a Punji trap, a hole with sticks in it.

ETA: Except this photo caption disagrees with you.