Land mines in the Vietnam War

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Since the outbreak of the First Indochina War in 1946 and later the bloodier Second Indochina War of the 1960s and 1970s, countless numbers of land mines have been planted in what is now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Many of these devices that did not detonate at some point or another remain a very dangerous menace that continues plaguing the country and surrounding areas.

Ordnance and use of mines[edit]

French mines[edit]

The French made limited use of mines in the beginnings of the independence war in Indochina.[1]

American and South Vietnamese mines[edit]

The M14 mine blast-type anti-personnel mine used by the United States during the Vietnam War was known as the "toe popper."[2] Earlier examples of the toe-popper were the Soviet-made PMK-40[3] and the World War II "ointment box."[4] The United States also used the M16 mine, a copy of the German "Bouncing Betty".

North Vietnamese mines[edit]

The North Vietnamese forces made extensive use of a variety of homemade booby traps including the old French trou de loup set with Bengali punji sticks.

The North Vietnamese termed the smaller mines đạp lôi (đạp lôi "step-mine") or mìn muỗi (mìn muỗi "mosquito mine"). Their equivalent of the American toe popper was a booby trap made from an empty .50 caliber machine gun shell filled with gunpowder or other explosive powder and scrap metal. The casing is sealed in wax and placed in a bamboo cylinder with a nail in the bottom, which is then buried in the ground so only the wax on top is showing.[5] When a person steps on the wax top the casing is pressed in to the nail which then blows scrap metal into the soldier's foot. Dap loi is rarely fatal but can blow a toe off and causes very painful wounds. Its most prevalent use was during the Vietnam War by Vietcong guerrillas attempting to find simple methods to slow the advancing U.S. forces down.[6][7] The MD-82 mine[when?] was a Vietnamese copy of the M-14 "toe popper."



American landmines caused extensive casualties and amputees within among the Vietnamese civilian population.[8]


Landmines were a leading cause of American casualties. In 1965 alone, 65–70% of US Marine Corps casualties were caused by mines and booby-traps.[9][10]

After the war[edit]

After the Fall of Saigon in April 1975 and the end of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese government was left with the legacy of both Vietnamese and American mines. The US government has recently given some financial assistance for humanitarian mine action.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Landmine Monitor Report - Page 514 1999 - "Use - Mines were used in all phases of the war in Vietnam, including by the French forces in the 1950s.7" [footnote] "7. International Committee of the Red Cross. Landmines, Friend or Foe? Geneva, March 1996"
  2. ^ John L. Plaster SOG: the secret wars of America's commandos in Vietnam 1997 "Mining a back trail was easy using the M-14 "toe popper," a mine that was the diameter of a soda can but only one-third as long ... Designed to injure one foot — hence its nickname — the toe popper was compact and carried by the dozen."
  3. ^ The Rotarian - Feb 2011 - Page 34 Vol. 189, No. 8 "The M14 blast-type anti-personnel mine used by the United States during the Vietnam War was known as the "toe-popper." Earlier examples of the toe-popper were the Soviet-made PMK-40 and the British-made "ointment box."
  4. ^ Marvin G. Jensen Strike swiftly!: the 70th Tank Battalion from North Africa to Normandy to Germany 1997 "(Shermans with drums protruding in front with heavy chains that "flailed" the ground, exploding mines close to the surface.) Also there were "ointment box" mines, so called because that was what they resembled."
  5. ^ Lawson, Don (1981). The United States in the Vietnam war. Crowell. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-690-04104-0. "Dap loi were made from empty .50 caliber machine gun shells that were filled with new powder and chunks of scrap ... They included carefully concealed land mines, grenades triggered by hidden trip wires placed alongside jungle trails or on.."
  6. ^ "Thí dụ, chế tạo đạp lôi từ đạn súng trường, súng máy; cải tiến pháo thu được của địch để làm mìn, v.v… Đạp lôi - vũ khí lợi hại của chiến tranh nhân dân." đạp lôi (photo)
  7. ^ "Mìn muỗi ngòi nụ xùy. 24. Mìn lá kiểu Bến Tre"
  8. ^ What Can You Do to Help Our World?: Dreams Turned Into Reality - Page 35 Barbara Wolf, Margaret Anderson - 2012 "At first, the foundation's concentration was on Vietnam because land mines in the Vietnam War resulted in 20% amputee casualties within the Vietnam population. Returning American veterans appealed to Dr. Burgess to help the victims."
  9. ^ Landmines: A Deadly Legacy - Page 18 Physicians for Human Rights (U.S.) - 1993 - 510 pages - Full view Vietnamese forces, which used several dozen types of improvised or simply manufactured mines, proved that advanced technology was not needed to deploy landmines with deadly effectiveness. In 1965, one year for which detailed statistics are available, 65–70% of US Marine Corps casualties were caused by mines and booby-traps....
  10. ^ Congressional Record - Page 20595 Congress -""Fact is, anti-personnel land mines were the leading cause of our casualties in Vietnam," Muller said, "and they are the leading cause of casualties for our peacekeepers through NATO and the UN," not to mention the peril they now pose "
  11. ^ Landmine Monitor Report - Page 726 2003 Total US humanitarian mine action funding to Vietnam was $3.638 million in US fiscal year 2002. ... in April 2002 for assistance in clearing mines and UXO along the route of the Ho Chi Minh Highway.90 International NGOs working in mine ..."