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Punji stake pit exhibit, from the National Museum of the Marine Corps

The Punji stick or Punji stake is a type of booby trapped stake. It is a simple spike, made out of wood or bamboo, generally placed upright in the ground. Punji sticks are usually deployed in substantial numbers.[1]

Punji sticks would be placed in areas likely to be passed through by enemy troops. The presence of punji sticks may be camouflaged by natural undergrowth, crops, grass, brush or similar materials. They were often incorporated into various types of traps; for example, a camouflaged pit into which a man might fall (it would then be a trou de loup). They were often smeared with human feces to increase the risk of infection.

Sometimes a pit would be dug with punji sticks in the sides pointing downward at an angle. A soldier stepping into the pit would find it impossible to remove his leg without doing severe damage, and injuries might be incurred by the simple fact of falling forward while one's leg is in a narrow, vertical, stake-lined pit. Such pits would require time and care to dig the soldier's leg out, immobilizing the unit longer than if the foot were simply pierced, in which case the victim could be evacuated by stretcher or fireman's carry if necessary.[1]

Punji sticks were sometimes deployed in the preparation of an ambush. Soldiers lying in wait for the enemy to pass would deploy punji sticks in the areas where the surprised enemy might be expected to take cover, thus soldiers diving for cover would impale themselves.[1]

The point of penetration was usually in the foot or lower leg area. Punji sticks were not necessarily meant to kill the person who stepped on it; rather they were designed to wound the enemy and tie up his unit while the victim was evacuated to a medical facility.[1]

In the Vietnam War, the Viet-Cong would also use this method to force the wounded soldier to be transported by helicopter to a medical hospital for treatment, which was viewed as being more damaging to the enemy's cause than death.

Punji sticks were also used in Vietnam to complement various defenses, such as barbed wire.[2]

Etymology

The term first appeared in the English language in the late 19th century, after explorers encountered the sticks in Bengal. The language from which the term comes is Hindi in which panja means both hand or foot.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Michael Lee Lanning and Dan Cragg, Inside the VC and the NVA, (Ballantine Books, 1993), pp. 120-168
  2. ^ Lieutenant General John H. Hay, Jr., "TACTICAL AND MATERIEL INNOVATIONS," US Army, Vietnam Studies, (DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY: WASHINGTON, D. C., 1989) weblink: http://www.army.mil/CMH/books/Vietnam/tactical/index.htm#Contents







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