Bouncing Betties

We have been mostly discussing the effects of war on American soldiers, especially concerning The Things They Carried. However, as I read through the book I came across a sentence that reminded me of another topic,

“All around us, the place was littered with Bouncing Betties and Toe Poppers and booby-trapped artillery rounds, but in those five days on the Batangan Peninsula nobody got hurt” (O’Brien 33).

The topic was of all those Bouncing Betties, Toe Poppers, and booby-traps that were left over after Vietnam and all those that are still laying hidden to this day in Vietnam. Although some like the old “poppa-san” who was the soldiers guide in the book learned to navigate the booby-trapped land, some weren’t and haven’t been so lucky.

After all this time Vietnam is still cleaning up. Since the end of the war in 1974 o “over 40,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance (explosives)…” (landmines…).

While American soldiers returning from wars face a slew of problems at least their families are safe from injury and they could return to the safety of their homes. So much can not be said for the people of Vietnam.

“Unexploded ordnance and buried landmines pose an ongoing and daily threat to the people of Vietnam, particularly in the Demilitarized Zone, the “DMZ,” which once separated North and South Vietnam. These munitions continue to inflict almost weekly injury and death on the farmers and innocent children of small villages like those in Quang Tri Province. Entire families suffer when the breadwinners of their families are incapacitated or killed by rogue explosives. After heavy rains or plowing, children wander through fields collecting unexploded munitions like toys, oblivious to their lethal power. Poverty and starvation now compound the problem, as farmers let lands go fallow rather than risk hitting a rogue mine while harvesting their fields” (landmines…)

I found this side of the war to be the most saddening as I read more about people’s lives to this day being destroyed by relics of a war that was over 25 years ago. It seems hard to believe that this is possible and we do not often think about what is being left behind when everyone else goes home.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are agencies and organizations working to raise money for the victims and help clean up the landmines, not only in Vietnam, but other countries affected by this unfortunate problem.

“Groups like the grassroots PeaceTrees Vietnam are working alongside the Vietnamese people to reverse the destructive consequences of the war in Vietnam through healing, reconciliation and mutual cooperation. Through the support of donors and volunteers, PeaceTrees Vietnam and other like-minded organizations, sponsor the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnance and conducts environmental and community restoration projects, such as reforestation, landmine safety education centers for children and school renovation or resettlement activities” (Landmines…)

So to end on a relatively happy note PeaceTrees Vietnam motto is this, “Plant a tree…where a mine used to be,” and they have “removed over 1,500 ordnance items and planted over 8,000 trees” (Landmines…)


Landmines: War’s Lingering Menace

Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried.

Published in: on April 12, 2009 at 2:22 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This class and all of the readings that we have done have really caused me to look at different kinds of issues regarding war as well. It has really opened my mind to other sides. This entry is a good reminder of how every action has a consequence, and how unfortunately, people are still being affected by the actions of our ancestors. I would hate to think of not only the Vietnamese people walking on these land mines, but also any other people who would be visiting the beautiful country of Vietnam.

    Also think of the Vietnamese men who fought. They saw so much death and destruction on the battlefield. When the war was over and they got home, the last thing they wanted to have to deal with was their wives and children, their sisters and mothers, and their aunts and cousins being killed or injured by the landmines that were left in the fields of their homes.

    The whole war was a sad occurrence and the fact that people are still being killed and injured saddens me. It is good to know that there are people out like the PeaceTrees Vietnam group who are getting rid of the landmines and planting trees!

  2. Wow, I guess I’ve not ever really considered the unlimited amounts of unexploded ordinance that probably litter all the corners of Vietnam. To hear that over 40,000 people have been killed since the war from random events of collateral damage is incredibly disheartening. And you are very right, at least our troops had a safe place to return to when the fighting was done and over with, I can’t imagine living in a place where there was truly a chance that I might be ended by a war relic that just got left behind. We Americans are pretty lucky in that we have the luxury of simply forgetting about past wars and conflicts, while there are places on Earth where little reminders of a war that is quickly approaching its 30 birthday still devastate families with their giant consequences. Thanks for the light ending to your post though, it’s nice to hear something positive come from anything in this class!

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  4. This read was so interesting to me beacause I never realized that the people in Vietnam were still, to this day, dealing the with effects of war! It may seem, to ordinary citizens, that once a war is over, it’s over. However, this makes me think of another aspect, that the war may not be over for them. As I found out in the recent books that we read, such as O’Brian’s and Beah’s book, soldiers are still tourmented by the effects of war, long after the fighting is over. They expereince nightmares, flashbacks, a lack of trust and hope. It is sad that the people in Vietnam still have to deal with the dangeious landmines that were used in a war over 25 years ago. I reallly like the idea that they have about, planting tree whereever they remove a landmine. It gives me a sense of renewal, growth, and hope for that country.

  5. […] April 14, 2009 in Uncategorized Casualties of War […]

  6. I’ve long known about the “ongoing” struggle of people in previously, and currently, war torn nations. It is very sad to think about stuff like this. To think that there are thousands, if not millions, of land mines still thrown about into the wilderness of the Vietnamese jungles or the deserts of the Middle East horrifies me. There is really nothing one can do about it unfortunately. Thinking about it on a large scale it would take millions of dollars to fund the excavation and removal process of these ‘ancient’ mines. A large portion of which are still active and sending a squad of individuals into a minefield to deactivate and remove them would take hundreds of man hours as well. That is the problem with warfare. The fighting might be over and the last bullet may have been shot, but the effects of it last a lifetime; in this case, in the form of military grade land mines.

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