This story’s been sitting for a while, but it’s a worthwhile reminder that high explosives, while maybe not a diamond’s rivals in the “forever” department, have a durability that can have ill and tragic effects.
In this case the HE takes the form of a mortar shell like the one illustrated here. The headline at the link is, “Mortar shell left from Vietnam War explodes, killing 4 children; 5 other people injured.” No idea whether it was an American, ARVN or enemy round. And at this remove of years, it doesn’t really matter, does it?
Mortars are the infantryman’s artillery. Little considered by civilian shooting-sports enthusiasts, this simple muzzle-loading, usually smoothbore, usually gravity-fired weapon is one of the greatest casualty producers in warfare. Unfortunately, unlike jet fighters or snipers with rifles, unexploded projectiles of all kinds can lay in wait far beyond the constraints of human senses and patience.
HANOI, VIETNAM – December 2. A mortar shell left from the Vietnam War has exploded in a southern village, killing four children and seriously injuring five other people.
Hieu Nghia village official Le Van Giang says three children aged 4 to 11 died at the scene Sunday afternoon and a 6-year-old boy died at the hospital. The blast seriously injured two other children and three men.
Giang said the shell exploded when the children who found the shell from bamboo brush were playing with it. A villager found the shell five years ago when dredging a canal.
The village in Vinh Long province was a communist stronghold during the war.
Vietnamese government figures show unexploded ordnance have killed more than 42,000 people since the war ended in 1975.
That’s rather a high body count — 42,000 people. (The US losses in 10 years of active warfare were under 60,000). But the enemy were big fans of mine and booby-trap warfare, and the friendlies fired so jeezly much ammunition that tons and tons of ordnance sit just waiting for an opportunity to renew the old quarrel, long after its principals wrote it off as settled. France and Belgium, where occasional loss of life still comes from World War I and II hardware that’s been in the ground 70 to 100 years, show what the future holds for Vietnam, or at least for some unfortunate Vietnamese. It’s just amazing the body count today isn’t higher.
You do know what to do if you ever find one of these things, right?