Let's say you're a U.S. soldier during the Vietnam War and you dodge all the snakes and bombs and snake-bombs -- you finally come face to face with your enemy. You both raise your weapons. You pull the trigger. Click. Your M16 just (unsurprisingly) jammed. The enemy's Chinese-made AK-47 has no such difficulties. He pulls the trigger... and his own face explodes.
You, our lucky young friend, are the unwitting beneficiary of Project Eldest Son.
In 1967, the U.S. Studies and Observations Group enacted a plan to covertly place ammo booby trapped with high explosives into stockpiles used by the Viet Cong and the NVA. Green Berets would carry the faulty ammo with them, slipping bullets into enemy ammunition caches or inserting them into rifles found near fallen enemy soldiers. The trick was to insert no more than one explosive bullet at a time -- that way, when the booby trapped gun made it to the front lines and exploded in an enemy soldier's face, it left no sign of tampering behind.
Sgt. Herman Kokojan
"Can't trust any gun, then. Guess it's back to snake-slingshots."
They rigged mortar rounds in a similar manner. The purpose of the operation, however, was not to rack up huge numbers of enemy casualties but to undermine the enemy's faith in their Chinese-built weaponry. Much like you learned your lesson when that knock-off designer watch gave you contact dermatitis. Never trust a Rolecks.
Rigging Old Graves to Shoot You in the Face or Blow the Whole Place Up
Heinrich Volschenk/iStock/Getty Images
Body-snatching was a popular career choice among ne'er-do-wells during the 18th and 19th centuries. Budding young doctors needed bodies for practice and possibly also for horrific puppet shows, but donating your body to science wasn't a thing yet. So graves needed protecting. Here's what an 18th-century graveyard security system looked like:
Museum of Mourning Art
No one used toilets, but they'd perfected the Looney Tunes coffin.
That's a cemetery gun. Now, you're probably thinking, "How clever! It must have had some type of pressure-sensitive trigger that set it off if a robber tried to dig up the grave." To which we say that's very cute and naive of you -- this was the 18th century, remember, and apparently the value of innocent life wasn't invented until sometime in the 1950s.
The cemetery gun was secretly set up at night (so criminals wouldn't know which graves were trapped) and was rigged with tripwires that both swiveled the gun in the direction that was tripped and also fired at what tripped it -- be it grave-robber, random animal, or unlucky grieving relative who worked a swing shift. An alternate method of grave protection was known as a grave torpedo.
To preemptively strike against the army of the dead.
Sadly, no, there weren't torpedoes being fired from coffins and skittering about beneath the cemetery like explosive graboids. The grave torpedo came in two forms, one substantially more insane than the other. The first was basically a shotgun rigged to blow once the coffin's lid was removed. Understandable. The second rigged your dearly departed grandma with the equivalent of a goddamn anti-tank mine. This version of the grave torpedo was equipped with a metal plate backed by a large black-powder charge. Digging up the grave (or walking over it fatly) would set off the charge and disturb the holy crap out of that cemetery's peaceful slumber. As an advertisement for the device put it: "Sleep well, sweet angel, let no fears of ghouls disturb thy rest, for above thy shrouded form lies a torpedo, ready to make mincemeat of anyone who attempts to convey you to the pickling vat."
Most of them probably never worked, and those that did have likely long since been dismantled or decayed. But still, the next time you're touring an old graveyard, step lightly: you could be playing a game of necrotic Minesweeper.
For accidental booby traps, check out 6 Real People Who Turned Their Homes Into Death Traps. And then check out If Everyday Objects Went to War.
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