Strolling with death: Australian Army ammunition technicians in Vietnam DPR/TV/1426

Accession Number F04513
Collection type Film
Measurement 14 min 34 sec
Object type Actuality footage, Television news footage
Physical description 16mm/b&w/silent
Place made Vietnam: Phuoc Tuy Province
Date made 22 July 1971
Access Open
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

Australian Army ammunition technicians, like Warrant Officer Class Two "Rocky" Lane of Boondall, Qld, have a task which is an almost constant hand-in-hand stroll with death. Warrant Officer Lane, in South Vietnam, is entering a Vietnamese Popular Force compound to remove an old, defensive booby trap, which years of tropical exposure have made unsafe. Warrant Officer Lane learns from the Popular Force soldiers that the trap, outside their barbed wire defences, had been there so long no one knew whether or not it was also fitted with an anti-lifting device. Warrant Officer Lane and his teammate, Staff Sergeant Bill Thornton of Denman, NSW, are led to the spot. The two men form an Explosives Ordnance Demolition team. Their job - to locate and destroy unserviceable ammunition and explosives. This time it's a mortar bomb, rigged with a trip wire and an electrical switch fastened to the barbed wire. The other end of the wire could lead to a second booby trap, so Staff Sergeant Thornton checks it out. Then a careful search with hands and bayonet for any possible anti-lifting traps, before the wires can be safely cut and the mortar itself removed. Teams such as this are highly trained and well paid, but few people would envy them the job. They must collect ammunition which has failed to explode - such as artillery rounds, rockets, grenades, mines - plus captured enemy material, and destroy them. Success! Now the bomb must be carried carefully to a sand box and driven to the demolition range in a vehicle fitted with an armour plated wall between the front seat and the still highly dangerous "passenger". At times, the experiences of the Australian Army ammunition experts read like fiction. WO2 Lane once waded chest deep through a muddy Vietnamese stream, trying to locate a 500-pound aerial bomb with his feet. He felt something attach itself to his hip, but brushed it away thinking it only a leech. Days later, the mark that appeared proved conclusively that his "leech" had been a water snake. To finish their task, the Australians pack condemned explosives with plastic charges and attach fuses. The fuse is fired and the Army experts retire to a bunker to await the result. With a demolition this size, a 10 minute fuse has been set to allow ample safety margin.

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