When I was a child, I'd sit in my Granddad's kitchen listening to him reminisce about his days in the army. He was a jungle warfare expert, y'see, and a career soldier. He'd hidden under tables as a kid while the Germans bombed London, grown up fighting in the street gangs of the same city and eventually joined the armed forces. He'd never become a high-ranking officer, but had always loved his time as a foot soldier, serving in Korea, undertaking assignments in Vietnam to assess the results of experimental ammunition rounds and engaging in guerilla warfare with some truly horrific traps. He eventually remained based in Malaysia, training U.S. forces in the best tactics money could buy.

He'd tell lovely stories and describe the most intricate traps. His favorite trick was to purposefully alter a round of ammunition and put it in the middle of a magazine, and then leave that magazine lying around in the jungle. The enemy, you see, was under-funded and under-trained. While my Granddad could supposedly hear the difference as a botched round went into the chamber, and only fired three or four round bursts, the enemy heard nothing and kept their finger on the trigger. He said they used to congratulate each other when they heard the modified round explode in the chamber, fully aware that by blinding or harming the enemy's face with the shrapnel that came out, they'd removed another combatant from the fight.

He told me about the logs they hollowed out and placed wooden stakes in, pointing forwards. Then they'd hoist it up into a tree (stakes downwards), drop a piece of rope through and set up one of those rope traps that pulls a person into the air. Obviously, it didn't just suspend them, though - they weren't there to take prisoners, after all. Instead, it'd pull the leg up into the hollowed out log, using the momentum to ram the stakes into the person's legs and essentially shred muscle. I guess if that person was lucky, what with the enemy being a guerilla force and everything, they'd get cut down and carried back to a friendly village. Otherwise it must have been a case of putting them out of their misery and carrying on, perhaps with that dodgy rifle magazine the unfortunate victim had picked up earlier.

Chat with my Granddad about the Americans, and he'd likely talk about his time in Vietnam. Dressed in full U.S. gear - so that were he killed/captured he could be ignored by the government - he was assigned to a unit to come in behind successful engagements and measure the effect of different types of ammunition on the enemy. The unit he was with came under fire from a sniper, and despite knowing the rough location of the assailant, they couldn't get at him. He asked for two men, willing to hunt the enemy down, but the officer in charge declined his offer. Instead, they napalmed the area. The sniper didn't shoot at them again so, he supposed, it had worked. It wasn't clean enough for him, though. He never really respected the American forces, citing all the usual tales of their military's gung-ho attitude as the reasons. They lacked finesse, he said.

His worst story was about the recruits who'd come to his training camp. He told me about the lake that only had about three or four feet of clear water at its surface before you hit the bed. The problem was, the bed was pure mud, varying in depth. The camp officials had established that the proper bank was steep, and troops could quickly get into trouble if they tried to cross by standing up. The purpose of using it as a training tool was to get troops used to crossing shallow rivers while keeping their gear dry. My Granddad would tell the troops that they were supposed to strip, bag everything up and then use that bag as a buoyancy aid - lying down as soon as you got into the water and crossing to the other side.

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