Punji stick
The Punji stick or Punji stake is a type of booby trap
Booby trap
A booby trap is a device designed to harm or surprise a person, unknowingly triggered by the presence or actions of the victim. As the word trap implies, they often have some form of bait designed to lure the victim towards it. However, in other cases the device is placed on busy roads or is...

ped stake. It is a simple spike, made out of wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

 or bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

, generally placed upright in the ground. Punji sticks are usually deployed in substantial numbers.

Punji sticks would be placed in areas likely to be passed through by enemy troops. The presence of punji sticks may be camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

d by natural undergrowth, crops, grass, brush or similar materials. They were often incorporated into various types of traps; for example, a camouflaged pit into which a man might fall (it would then be a trou de loup
Trou de loup
In medieval fortification, a trou de loup was a type of booby trap or defensive obstacle. Each trou de loup consisted of a conical pit about 2 m deep and 1.2 to 2 m wide at the top...


Sometimes a pit would be dug with punji sticks in the sides pointing downward at an angle. A soldier stepping into the pit would find it impossible to remove his leg without doing severe damage, and injuries might be incurred by the simple fact of falling forward while one's leg is in a narrow, vertical, stake-lined pit. Such pits would require time and care to dig the soldier's leg out, immobilizing the unit longer than if the foot were simply pierced, in which case the victim could be evacuated by stretcher
A stretcher is a medical device used to carry casualties or an incapacitated person from one place to another. It is a simple type of litter, and still called by that name in some cases....

 or fireman's carry
Fireman's carry
A fireman's carry or fireman's lift is a technique allowing one person to carry another person without assistance, by placing the carried person across the shoulders of the carrier....

 if necessary.

Punji sticks were sometimes deployed in the preparation of an ambush. In the preparation of these stakes, the stake itself would be sharpened and, in some cases, rubbed with toxic plants, frogs or even feces, to cause infections in the wounded enemy. Soldiers lying in wait for the enemy to pass would deploy punji sticks in the areas where the surprised enemy might be expected to take cover, thus, soldiers diving for cover would impale themselves.

The point of penetration was usually in the foot or lower leg area. Punji sticks were not necessarily meant to kill the person who stepped on it; rather, they were designed to wound the enemy and slow or halt his unit while the victim was evacuated to a medical facility.

In the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, the Viet Cong
National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam
The Vietcong , or National Liberation Front , was a political organization and army in South Vietnam and Cambodia that fought the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War . It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized...

 would also use this method to force the wounded soldier to be transported by helicopter to a medical hospital for treatment, which was viewed as being more damaging to the enemy's cause than death.

Punji sticks were also used in Vietnam to complement various defenses, such as barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...



The term first appeared in the English language in the late 19th century, after explorers encountered the sticks in the Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...


See also

  • NLF and PAVN strategy, organization and structure
  • NLF and PAVN logistics and equipment
  • NLF and PAVN battle tactics
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