Bombs?  What bombs?

 

When I was working on the POW/MIA issue in Laos, I went out on a recovery mission as the team linguist. Information gathered had indicated that this crash site was one of the unaccounted-for planes. Once a site like this had been identified, we would send a team out to conduct an archeological dig. On this site, the investigative team had indicated that there was at least one unexploded 250lb or 500lb bomb resting in the impact crater.

Since a couple of years had passed between the time an investigation team visited the site and our recovery team actually arrived to dig up the site, this area was covered in undergrowth. We contracted with the local villagers to provide labor.  As the villagers were merrily whacking away at the undergrowth, I was trying to explain to the local chief that the villagers should be careful since we had reports of an unexploded bomb.  The chief indicated that there was no bomb. When I insisted that the reports stated that there was at least one bomb, the chief simply smiled and said “Bo pen yang” which means “no problem” or “it doesn’t matter.”

 

Sure enough, when the villagers had cleared the brush, there were no bombs in the craters. This relieved our Explosive Ordinance Disposal guy. So we got to work and spent the next 20 days or so digging at the site. We spent a lot of time in the impact crater.

 

On the next mission, another team was continuing the dig from where we left off. They advanced a couple of feet from our position deeper into the crater. A soldier planted a shovel and pressed down. He got the cringe-inducing sound of metal-on-metal. When they cleared away about 6 inches of dirt from the area we were walking around on, blissfully unaware, they found this…