Booby trap

From Academic Kids

This article is about an antipersonnel trap designed for use against humans. For other uses, see trap.

In warfare, a booby trap is an antipersonnel device, such as a landmine or grenade, placed in building or in a noncombat area that has a psychological draw for enemy soldiers.

A booby trap is distinguished from a land mine by the fact that it is an improvised weapon, perhaps made from an artillery shell, or a grenade, or a quantity of high explosives, whereas a land mine is manufactured for its specific purpose. A booby trap may be buried in the manner common with land mines, or not, though as a rule it is concealed in some fashion, and set to be detonated by means of pressure or a trip wire. During World War II retreating British and Canadian soldiers in France in 1940 made booby traps from artillery and mortar shells, burying them in roads behind them as they retreated, or hanging them from trees concealed by the leaves and rigged with tripwires concealed in the grass around the tree.

Booby traps can also be applied as defensive weapons against unwelcomed guests or against non-military trespassers, and some paranoid people set up traps in their homes to keep people from entering. These civilian booby traps might use a non-lethal method, such as a strong electric shock, rather than explosives. As laws vary, the creator of the trap can sometimes be immune from prosecution since the victim is technically trespassing or may be held strictly liable for injuries caused. In some jurisdictions some types of traps are specified as illegal.

A booby trap does not necessarily incorporate explosives in its construction, though they commonly do. Massive objects, such as a heavy log, or a boulder, arranged in such a manner as to fall down and crush the unfortunate person who disturbs the trigger mechanism, are also booby traps. So is a concealed pit with sharpened stakes in the bottom (often refered to as Punji sticks).


During World War II, scales in warehouses and factories were rigged with explosives. Allied soldiers securing an area would be tempted to step upon the scale to compare their weight with that of their compatriots, and would thus perish.

During the Vietnam War, motorcycles were rigged with explosives by the Viet Cong and abandoned. US soldiers would be tempted to ride the motorcycle and thus trigger the explosives. As well, Viet Cong soldiers would rig Rubber Band Grenades and place them in huts that US soldiers would likely torch. Another popular booby trap is the Grenade in a Can trap. This involves a primed grenade in a container and a string attached, sometimes with the grenade's fuze mechanism modified to give a much shorter delay than the four to seven seconds typical with grenade fuzes. The Viet Cong soldiers primarily used these on doors and attached them to tripwires on jungle paths.

The Viet Cong also used far simpler, but also effective, low technology booby traps in the form of punji sticks hidden in pits.

During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Palestinian fighters used booby traps widely. The largest use of booby traps was in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield where a large number of explosive devices were planted.

The Palestinian fighters had made their own preparations. Booby traps had been laid in the streets of both the camp and the town, ready to be triggered if an Israeli foot or vehicle snagged a tripwire. Some of the bombs were huge—as much as 250 lb (110 kg) of explosives, compared with the 25 lb (11 kg) a typical suicide bomber uses. On Day 2 of the battle, when the town had been secured but the fight in the camp was just beginning, an armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozer rolled along a three-quarter-mile (1.2 km) stretch of the main street to clear booby traps. An Israeli Engineering Corps officer logged 124 separate explosions set off by the vehicle, which was undamaged. In the camp, the explosive charges were even more densely packed, and tunnels had been dug between houses so that Palestinian fighters could move around without exposing themselves on the street. [1] (

According to Palestinian fighters who survived the battle in Jenin this tactic failed because of the Israeli usage of the armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozer to clear out explosives and detonate booby traps. Furthermore, some of them admitted to the Times that some of the booby traps they planted are continuing to kill innocent Palestinian civilians who accidentally set them off.

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