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Booby Traps
© 2006 RogueTurtle.com

Avoiding the Traps of Others
What's my name?

There are three main reasons that people set out traps for other people. The first is that people who are up to no good have something to protect. The classic example here is the marijuana grower who sets up booby traps to discourage you from finding his illegal fields. It is not beyond imagination that urban gangs would also set up traps to protect their sensitive locations inside a city environment.

The second reason for setting up booby traps is when someone is on the run and the trap set is to slow down pursuit. This has been the basis for countless Hollywood movies. It is not found too much in real life because it assumes that the "bad guy" on the run will stop and take the time to set up a booby trap. It's possible, but not very probable. It's more likely that he'll just keep running.

The final reason people may set up booby traps is because of mental illness or a criminal mentality such as exhibited by the middle-eastern crazies who hate everyone in America. Once again, the booby traps will be set primarily to avoid detection until their "big" plans are completed. These people, more than the two groups first mentioned, have access to the most sophisticated equipment to make these traps. They have time to set up complicated plans and the skill to make it work.

And here you are, Joe Citizen, trying to get by and take care of your family. For your efforts, you inadvertently wander into an area that has been booby trapped by someone else. You have several problems: Recognize the traps; avoid the traps; disarm the traps; escape and evade out of the area.

When I was in Vietnam, I was not a grunt in the bush. I flew over the top of all that action, using my gunship to kill everything that walked or crawled. I was a Spooky crewmember. I didn't have to walk down the jungle trails and avoid the booby traps. But, it doesn't mean that I didn't pay attention. Every day our crew faced the very real threat of being shot down into that same jungle. This reason alone made me study everything I could find about what threats could be found in the jungle. Uncle Sam sent me to school to study up on this subject too. I got good grades.

Today's grunt, working in Pakistan and Iraq, is daily facing the same problems, only this time without the jungle. The bad guys are setting traps at an unprecedented rate. They own the home team advantage and set up traps all over the place. I'm too old for this training now. I'm hoping one of you younger guys will jump in to let us know what the "current" crazy is up to, and how he does it.

The booby trap is set to tell you to "GO AWAY and LEAVE ME ALONE." Whoever set it does not want your presence on his turf and is willing to kill anyone who trespasses in his area. The problem with booby traps is that they kill without discrimination. It will kill a child as fast as an adult. In a survival situation, the LAST PLACE you want to be is inside the turf of someone who is that fanatical about his own protection. GET OUT NOW!!!!!!!!!!

The principle of AVOIDANCE is still the same as when I went to Vietnam. "If you didn't drop it there, don't pick it up." Best advice you can get. In a booby trapped environment, assume EVERYTHING is set up to kill you. Watch where you step, and take no souvenirs. Walk in each others footprints, find a way out, and boogie.

The military training manuals all showed the following examples of where you can typically expect to find a booby trap set up for you. Essentially, its EVERYWHERE!


FIRST INDICATION: RECOGNITION

The first indication you may have that you are inside a booby trapped area may be the result of plain old dumb luck. A trap may be exposed by the work of Mother Nature, or the near explosion of another booby trap. A trapped or mined area may still have whole or partial remains of past victims scattered around. It may be that one of your own careless party members set one off and is now dead or dying.

Many of the booby trap indicators mirror those of mines. These include areas where the locals do not enter, such as abandoned buildings and attractive items that are usually left alone.
  • Electrical wires, batteries, booby traps, and store items (clothes pegs, mouse traps, steel tubes, and springs).
  • Isolated boxes and containers along routes.
  • Abandoned vehicles, military equipment, weapons, uniforms, and papers.
  • Trip wires, string, and cables.
  • Disturbed soil and sand.
  • Dust.
  • Footprint trails that stop suddenly.
Source: GlobalSecurity.org

FREEZE...DON'T MOVE...DON'T PANIC

That's what the bad guys want you to do (panic). If you panic and rush out of the area you will probably rush headlong into an even more deadly area set up ahead of time by the bad guys.

STOP. Look around you. What do you see? Do you see other traps? Is one way out of the area just "too good to be true"? Can you back out of there the same way you came in?

MOVE SLOWLY. You can't stay there. One leader must decide which way to go. If you continue forward, you may be approaching the area that the bad guy wants to protect...and he may still be home. Best bet: Back off and get out of the area.

DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING. If possible, walk only on the footprints you left coming into this area. If that's not possible, go S-L-O-W-L-Y. There is no rush unless someone is shooting at you. Follow your gut instinct. If a route out looks too good to be true, it probably is. You safely walked in, so it should be safe to assume you can reverse course and back out safely too.

A survival situation dictates that you try to AVOID all confrontation at all costs. You are not a member of a large military contingent who will back you up with air support and artillery. You are a leader of a family group trying to live peacefully. You do not have trained soldiers, only very scared and possibly injured civilians. While your gut may want "pay back", your responsibility is to get these people out of danger as quickly as possible.

The shortest route out may not be the safest. Depending on who set up these traps, there should be a way through them. Nobody has enough time or explosives to booby trap everything. The people who set up the traps had to get out too. You just have to be observant and cautions. If you are not sure it is safe to step there...don't step there.

The use of explosives is only one of many types of booby traps that can be set up. In the woods, you may find that the use of the "twitch up" and "deadfall" is scaled up to trap humans. The most common trigger for these types of traps is the TRIP WIRE. That same wire you bought to snare small animals is great to stretch out as the triggering device to release a world of hurt on you. Thin, strong, and dark colored to blend into the ground, trip wires are very hard to see. They are usually set about ankle height. Human beings tend not to study the ground in front of them like cautious animals do. Animals tend to never look up. Humans seldom look up. All these directions have danger though. Ask yourself this: The last time you went into a store, did you examine the type of door closure that sits in the upper hinged corner of the door? Was there a hand grenade stuck in the mechanism? Didn't look, did you.

The following was taken from USARV GTA 20-1 (August 1967). Each soldier arriving in the Republic of Vietnam was issued this GTA (General Training Aid), which measured 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, and required to keep it on his person at all times. Source: RJSmith.com

USARV GTA 20-1


MINES AND BOOBY TRAPS CAN KILL SO BE ALERT - STAY ALIVE.
IF POSSIBLE, DON'T BE IN TOO MUCH OF A HURRY.
NEVER TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED, IT MIGHT LOOK HARMLESS BUT IT MIGHT BE A KILLER.
EVIDENCE OF OLD CAMOUFLAGE MAY INDICATE MINES AND BOOBY TRAPS.
SUSPECT ALL OBJECTS THAT APPEAR LOOSE OR OUT OF PLACE.

ALWAYS LOOK FOR TRIP WIRES.
NEVER BUNCH UP AND BECOME A GOOD TARGET FOR COMMAND DETONATED MINES.
DESTROY MINES AND BOOBY TRAPS IN PLACE OR MARK, REPORT, AND LEAVE THEM ALONE.

BEFORE CUTTING TRIP WIRES, CHECK BOTH ENDS FOR BOOBY TRAPS.
OBJECTS SHOULD NOT BE DISTURBED WITHOUT CHECKING FOR BOOBY TRAPS.

ONLY THE ENEMY'S IMAGINATION LIMITS HIS USE OF MINES AND BOOBY TRAPS - REMEMBER THAT.
BE ESPECIALLY CAREFUL IN AREAS WHERE YOU ARE EXPECTED TO SLOW DOWN, BUNCH UP OR BECOME A GOOD TARGET.
YOU CAN LEARN A LOT FROM THE LOCAL PEOPLE, SEEK THEIR HELP IN LOCATING MINES AND BOOBY TRAPS.

TRAILS AND ROADS SHOULD BE SUSPECTED. CHECK REFILLED HOLES, AREAS COVERED WITH STRAW OR GRASS, LITTERED WITH DUNG, PAVEMENT REPAIRS, AND OTHER SUSPICIOUS SPOTS.
REPORT MINES AND BOOBY TRAPS IMMEDIATELY.
ALWAYS CHECK YOUR AREA FOR EVIDENCE OF MINES AND BOOBY TRAPS WHEN YOU SET UP YOUR DEFENSE.
PROBE GINGERLY WHEN MINES ARE SUSPECTED; DON'T DEPEND SOLELY ON MINE DETECTORS.
SINCE THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE AREA YESTERDAY, DON'T ASSUME THERE IS NOTHING THERE TODAY.

Your best defense against mines and booby traps is...

Alertness
&
Caution




While stating the obvious, many of the items listed above are for the military people only. (The blue items don't really apply to the survival situation.) I personally would not seek out the help from the local people...I'd just pass on through as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. You can't "report mines", except to each other; there's no one to report to. And, probing for mines takes more training than we have, so don't do it.

If you pull into a town and everyone who sees you quickly goes the opposite direction and (disappears), it is a good sign that there are bad guys in the area and that you are about to be ambushed or attacked. Move out fast and get ready for a fight.

Terminology is a funny thing. If you are trapping an animal, it is considered sport to "set a trap or snare". Trapping for food is considered a necessity when you are starving. Trapping for pelts is less glamorous, but "almost" acceptable behavior. But look at what happens when you set a trap for a human being:
  • It could be considered premeditated attempted murder, even if it doesn't go off.
  • If it goes off, then whoever set it, or directed it to be set, is guilty of premeditated murder.
  • The name changes to "setting a BOOBY TRAP". I guess the person in the trap is the "booby".

But, still they do it. There are many stories of booby traps set up for Law Enforcement people by drug gangs trying to protect marijuana fields. They are not deterred by the possible legal penalties if caught, just as they don't fear execution for a murder charge.

In times of national emergency, it is only fair to consider that these same people will try to take over and force their will onto as many people that they can control. Without laws and police, anarchy will take over and street gangs will own the neighborhoods. Only force and the restoration of Law and Order will get them out of there. For this one reason alone, I recommend leaving the area and going to your PREVIOUSLY PRE-PLANNED shelter.

It's the route to and from the area that could be a problem. On a freeway with thousands of cars, it will be difficult if not impossible, for a bad guy to set up booby traps. Only the crazies would try. The possibility of car bombs has to be considered, but in the USA, right now, it's unlikely. Statistically, the odds are in your favor.

Trying to evacuate on foot presents the greatest hazard to a survival group. While your mobility is far greater than being stuck in a car on the highway, you are slowed way down. You don't have the metal and glass protection (however questionable) of your vehicle to protect you. You are exposed to the elements. You are now in an environment that can be very scary. Your options for the direction of travel are almost unlimited. You can even go up into buildings, or down into their basements. You can't do that in a car. But...Americans don't feel right without their cars. Never have, never will. That means that being on foot IS NOT NATURAL FOR AMERICANS. We are out of our element, we feel vulnerable. That's only because it's true.

DISARMING TRAPS

NO!


Why? If it is in your nature to protect the world from itself, then by all means, disarm every trap you find. This means you face death or disfigurement every time you do it. Is it worth it? My personal feeling is NO, IT'S NOT WORTH IT. But, I have an alternate plan. Since stealth and camouflage is the way a booby trap works, all you have to do to defeat it is to POINT IT OUT. A great big arrow pointing at a trap, with the words "TRAP" painted on it, should suffice. It may take a while, but it makes my conscience feel a lot better. I won't risk my life or others needlessly. I won't risk your life either, if I can help it. I may not disarm the trap, but I will point it out for you to see and avoid. That's just me, though. Don't count on this service from anybody else.

The military and law enforcement agencies all have departments called "EOD", which stands for Explosive Ordinance Disposal; people with the training and equipment to disarm these bombs and traps to make the area safe again. Let them earn their pay. Point out the traps, and then get the heck out.

ESCAPE AND EVADE OUT
"Boogie"


The difference between a strategic retreat and a rout is "panic". As one general put it, you can attack to the rear, too. The options for MOVEMENT are OVER, UNDER, AROUND, OR THROUGH. But, move you must, because to stay around inside an area that is packed with booby traps will eventually be fatal. Therefore, your movement must be in a carefully selected direction.

Forward: To advance further into the unknown takes guts. The only way I can consider this to be a safe move is when the movement in any other direction is more dangerous than moving forward.

Sideways: It is possible to slip around the outsides of a problem area, keeping the known problem area well in sight; and at the same time make slow but steady progress away from the dangerously booby trapped area. My personal preference is sideways since you don't actually give up any ground you've already covered. But, if it's not possible, it's not possible. Don't cry about it, just do it.

Backwards: Sometimes this can be the most strategic move. By withdrawing out of a dangerous space you are actually inviting your enemies back into the same dangerous area. They may not want to go there, so that forces them to go around the outside of the area, thus wasting time. You can cleverly use this extra time by moving farther away - or my personal favorite - set up an ambush for them when then come out into the open again. But, without trained troops, the ambush is best left to professionals. Sorry. Leave your ego behind and keep moving your family out of danger.

Once you are safely out of the booby trapped area, don't relax. The bad guys probably know of, or will soon find out, your entry into their turf. Keep moving and keep alert. Remember the reasons for booby traps: If they were set to protect their turf, then they worked and you are gone, no longer a threat. If they were to stop you from pursuing them, then they worked since you weren't after them in the first place. And, since nobody was killed or maimed, the crazies may be frustrated, but they won't go after you...it's too much trouble. They'll just wait for the next bunch to pass through.

CONFRONTATION: What could have gotten you into trouble is if you decided to confront the bad guys, making your entry into their area a "personal matter". If you shoot at them, or stab somebody, it's personal. For that, the bad guys will probably pursue YOU as a matter of general principle.

Once again, being stealthy, calm, and deliberate in your actions can save your life. You have NO IDEA how big a force was out there setting up those booby traps. Do you really want to hang around to find out?

OK? Have I made my point? The next couple of sections show how simple hunting traps, when scaled up to trap people, can be very deadly.

The simple Deadfall set for small animals can be set up for people. With a little more work, punjii sticks added to the deadfall can make even a near miss a deadly encounter.


"Punjii" sticks are slivers of bamboo sharpened razor sharp. They were very easy to make with machetes that were used by almost every peasant in country.



SPRUNG SPEAR TRAP:

This is a VERY dangerous trap, it should always be constructed and approached from behind the spring of the trap and only if you are confident that your cordage and other materials are strong enough.

A springy shaft with spear attached is suspended over a trail. A slip ring made of SMOOTH material is attached to a trip wire and acts as a release mechanism.

A toggle (a) and short line to a fixed upright hold the sprung shaft in tension. A further rod through the ring is tensed between the near side of the sprung shaft and the far face of the upright, securing until tripped.

Depending on the size of the spring, these pear points can range from just a couple of inches, to two feet in length. Many soldiers faced similar traps to these in the jungles of Vietnam. Bamboo is a great building material, and was used throughout the country for the dreaded punjii sticks. Again, the trigger for this trap is a trip wire.



BOW TRAP:

A bow trap is one of the deadliest traps. It is dangerous to man as well as animals To construct this trap, build a bow and anchor it to the ground with pegs. Adjust the aiming point as you anchor the bow.

Lash a toggle stick to the trigger stick. Two upright sticks driven into the ground hold the trigger stick in place at a point where the toggle stick will engage the pulled bow string. Place a catch stick between the toggle stick and a stake driven into the ground.

Tie a trip wire or cordage to the catch stick and route it around stakes and across the game trail where you tie it off. When the prey trips the trip wire, the bow looses an arrow into it.

A notch in the bow serves to help aim the arrow. In some cases, these were set up with more than one arrow. All the arrows were tipped with feces. The trigger is a trip wire.



Vet Cong Punji Trap

Covered with a light layer of twigs and leaves, you would step into this trap and your lower leg would be punctured by numerous punjii sticks poisoned by human feces.

Photos from www.downtheroad.org The Ongoing Global Bicycle Adventure

VC Tiger Trap

This is a long pit with a cover that pivots in the middle. It is large enough for an entire man to fall into the pit. The bottom of the pit was full of sharpened and poisoned punjii sticks.

Photos from www.downtheroad.org The Ongoing Global Bicycle Adventure


LEAVE IT ALONE

Anything can be booby trapped. If you see something that you've "got to have" as a souvenir, then the bad guys will let you have it...with interest. All you'll see is the gun (AK-47). When you pick it up, the grenade blows off your legs. Cute, huh? Works every time.



One particularly nasty middle eastern country has insurgents who use dolls filled with explosives. These are the same dolls that GI's pass out to school children. Of course, when they explode, the U.S. gets the blame. Our program of dolls for kids came to a screeching halt.

Kids are the hardest to train to "DO NOT TOUCH".

Human beings can come up with the most innovative methods of killing each other than any other species. It's a wonder we are referred to as a "higher species". There are times when . . . you finish it.

TRAIL TRAPS

The well laid out trail trap is set up as shown on the right. Walking down a trail, the lead person of a group will trip the wire on the #1 trap, time delayed, and is usually a loud explosive. The goal here is two-fold: First, the blast of this trap may kill some of the party; and Second, it may force the rest of the party to quickly jump off the trail, into traps #2 and #3. These are the main traps. #2 trap could be any type, from a Tiger Trap to simple punjii sticks hidden in the weeds. #3 trap would be something different, maybe something with a trip wire. The #4 trap in this drawing is the same as the #1 trap, only for patrols walking in the opposite direction.

How to foil the trail trap:

First and foremost, Move slowly: The lead person on the trail has to have his/her eyes open and spot the trip wire for the first trap. Without #1 going off, the trap doesn't work. If the first trap DOES go off, FREEZE. See where the danger is. DO NOT BLINDLY DIVE OFF THE TRAIL INTO THE BUSH. This is where the rest of the trap is set.

This requires discipline and training because a human's first response to a loud blast is to immediately dive for cover.

Urban-type trail traps include hallways where every door leads to an improvised explosive device. Or, it could be a series of explosive devices set to go off after a long time delay, with you thinking everything is OK. The most insidious device used now is one that goes off about 30 minutes after the blast . . . to catch all the on-lookers and rescue workers. There are some sick people out there.