War Stories

Fast Eddie and the Mechanical Ambush

by Jim "Doc" Hall
July 1970

Fast Eddie and the Mechanical Ambush
by Jim "Doc" Hall

The term "stand to" held a number of related meanings in Vietnam. The most common (at least in my era and among my group) meant that you were the person with the last guard watch of the night. Your watch normally was over when the sun came up. So you would "stand to" until first light and then wake up the whole group to begin the day.

Now it was normal procedure while in the field for a group at a given position to share one watch with a luminous dial. It was not uncommon for someone on their watch duty to be so tired that they would end up setting the common watch forward 5 minutes or so in order to end their watch earlier and wake up the next guy on duty. This was known and accepted. About the only person this ever affected was the guy on "stand to" since the end of his duty didn't have a set time but was rather determined by first light. So his watch could be extended by the 5 minutes that someone set the watch up (or maybe even multiple 5 minutes if more than one guy was so tired that he cheated a bit). But normally "stand to" was pulled by a different guy every night so it all evened out and because you would have "stand to" periodically you didn't want to make a habit of everyone setting up the common watch too drastically.

July 1970 we got a request to send in one of our E-5's to Camp Radcliffle to attend classes to learn how to set up a "mechanical ambush". (This was just a way of saying booby trap without calling it a booby trap.) The idea was that you set up a claymore and attached it to a trip wire that stretched across a trail.

One end of the trip wire was attached to a tree or bush while the other end was attached to a piece of plastic (as I remember it was the handle of a plastic spoon from our c-ration sundry pack)

The plastic spoon handle was then inserted between the jaws of a wooden clothes pin (of which our Sgt. brought back a supply).

In the top jaw of the clothes pin the wire leading to the claymore was twisted. In the bottom of the jaw was twisted wires leading to a battery.

When someone tripped the wire it pulled out the plastic and all the wires made contact which set off the claymore. It was a booby trap plain and simple but Geneva Convention considerations had to be made so it was called a "mechanical ambush."

Anyway, they called for an E-5 from our platoon to come to the rear and learn the technique so we could begin to utilize this in the field.

Our candidate turned out to be "Fast Eddie". Now he was called "Fast Eddie" for a reason (namely because he wasn't) but he was the most expendable E-5 we had at the moment so off he went to the rear.

A few days (to a week) later a resupply bird came in and with it came Fast Eddie. He sure enough was able to learn the technique (it was pretty simple after all) and he was able to teach the rest of us how to do it.

But more interestingly, Fast Eddie returned with a story. I was with a group of guys sitting around waiting for the results of our 1st " mechanical ambush" (I think) when Fast Eddie told the story about having to pull guard duty in the rear while he was there. The gist of it was that Fast Eddie had "stand to" guard and he was just in wonder that this day the sun didn't come up until "almost noon"!

Fast Eddie really did believe that the sun didn't come up until almost noon back there! This may be the only time that I can remember having a good belly laugh in the field.