Dien Bien Phu - Anti-aircraft Gun?

#1
Hello All,

I'm a regular on PPRuNe, but this is my first post on ARRSE.

I live in Saigon and I've just come back from a battlefield tour at Dien Bien Phu. A fascinating tour in an off-the-beaten track part of Vietnam and well worthwhile if you are interested in military history. We only saw two other tourists while we were there. When I asked where they were from, one said, "Ve are ze losers!" I then noticed the Armée de Terre T-shirts - a couple of Algerian-war vets.

Just at the end of the carefully preserved French-built Bailey Bridge across the Son River:

[ IMG_0544a.jpg

is this:
IMG_0546a.jpg

I've never seen anything like it before. The brown plate partially obscured in the centre is a seat.
Is this the mounting for an AA gun?

On a separate note, we found lots of empty small arms cases lying around the various French outposts and much to my surprise, some live 9mm Parabellum rounds. Is a 55 year old round still 'live' and would it be more or less dangerous than a new one?


I42
 
#2
US M45/55 Maxon Quad .50 Mount. Its on the remains of an M20 trailer.
 
#4
Goldbricker,

Four minutes. Well done and thank you. I knew this would be the quickest route to an answer. Four .50 cal - that's some serious fire-power.

M55%20trailer.jpg

PF,

In (b), I presume you mean 'yes' as in 'more' dangerous?
 
M

Mark The Convict

Guest
#5
If the round did somehow go bang, the case would probably split down one side. If it was in your pocket at the time, you might get some minor burns and a few flecks of brass.
 
#6
Unless the round is obviously corroded it is unlikely to be dangerous. If you went to fire it it may or may not go off. It's unlikely to go off of its own accord.
 
#10
If the round did somehow go bang, the case would probably split down one side. If it was in your pocket at the time, you might get some minor burns and a few flecks of brass.
Wouldn't that depend on what type of round? According to Wiki, there are some nasty types around: .50 BMG - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Better to get someone else to carry them in their pockets...
 
#11
I would be more concerned about rummaging around in an area where uncleared munitions were located. If the cases were left there or had migrated in to place who's to say what other nasties are there.
 
#12
I was a bit disappointed that some of the stuff and the DBP museum was kit that had clearly been from the US war, not the French one. All the same, it's an interesting place.

Out of interest India-Four-Two, did you find the round yourself, or did you have a guide who found it? Our guide 'found' an unfired 9mm round, and gave it to me for a look. When I'd had a quick scan of if and chucked it in the bushes he got very miffed and spent ten minutes looking for it again. Before we moved on he carefully placed it under a well Winthropped stone.
 
M

Mark The Convict

Guest
#14
Wouldn't that depend on what type of round? According to Wiki, there are some nasty types around: .50 BMG - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Better to get someone else to carry them in their pockets...
That occurred to me , but he said 9mm, which could only do so much damage. There's a pic around here of some fool who used a .50 round as a punch to drive a pin out of a tripod. The round fired and flensed most of the flesh off his hand. Noice!
 
#15
Vietnam is snided with ordnance of many types, from the Ffrench indo war to the Vn (American) war.

A 9mm round is unlikely to go off in your pocket, but it depends whether or not moisture go into it and whether it is still wet inside or if it was wet and dried out again.

The percussion cap in the base is the thing to watch, if it remained sealed and its contents remained dry during the period it was lying around; And if the main propellant also remained dry then the round is probably viable.

So if you fell over on your pocket and say the bunch of keys in your pocked compressed the percussion igniter enough the round might go off in your pocket. If the case is badly corroded it will probably burst.

The problem with UXO and SAA that is found post conflict, is that it rarely comes with a custody record, so you have no idea what happened to it in the years it was kicking around. Just leave them alone when you find them.
 
#16
I would be more concerned about rummaging around in an area where uncleared munitions were located.
OM, this is one of the French outpost hills where the trenches and dugouts have been rebuilt with bricks and concrete, there is a road to the top of the hill and you have to pay to get in. Hundreds of people must go up there each year. We were hardly rummaging around.

oyibo,
That's a thought. I didn't see who found it. I'll have to ask my friend. I agree about the museum. In the pile of aircraft wreckage, there is a blue wing, which is probably from a French Bearcat, but most of the pile is clearly parts of a Skyraider of American war vintage. Come to think of it, what would the French have needed an AA gun for? The Viet Minh didn't have any aircraft. Perhaps that was moved in too.

Interestingly, on one of the other outpost hills, our guide asked us not to step off the path. Not to avoid UXO, as you might think. The place was littered with syringes thrown away by local heroin addicts!
 
#17
,

The problem with UXO and SAA that is found post conflict, is that it rarely comes with a custody record, so you have no idea what happened to it in the years it was kicking around. Just leave them alone when you find them.
I recall the first time I did a battlefield tour of the Somme, I saw a couple of shells by the side of the road (apparently the farmers just stack them there and the French Army comes by once a week or so and collects them), and thought, "Hmm that would make a neat souvenier for the Legion branch", followed about a microsecond later by, " Errr...no...let's not..."
 
#18
OM, this is one of the French outpost hills where the trenches and dugouts have been rebuilt with bricks and concrete, there is a road to the top of the hill and you have to pay to get in. Hundreds of people must go up there each year. We were hardly rummaging around.

oyibo,
That's a thought. I didn't see who found it. I'll have to ask my friend. I agree about the museum. In the pile of aircraft wreckage, there is a blue wing, which is probably from a French Bearcat, but most of the pile is clearly parts of a Skyraider of American war vintage. Come to think of it, what would the French have needed an AA gun for? The Viet Minh didn't have any aircraft. Perhaps that was moved in too.

Interestingly, on one of the other outpost hills, our guide asked us not to step off the path. Not to avoid UXO, as you might think. The place was littered with syringes thrown away by local heroin addicts!
The French army had two sections of M-55 (a total of 4 systems IIRC) in DBP; they belonged to the 1° Groupe d’Artillerie Antiaérienne Coloniale d’Extrême-Orient (1°GAACEO). They were used in the direct fire support role against Vietminh human waves and they proved extremely useful. The hint to use them in the ground role probably came from the veterans of the French "Bataillon de Corée" who had endured chinese human waves while deployed to Korea a few years before.

This is the badge of the 1°GAACEO.
 

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#20
If the mount came from the French. It could as easily be a system from Nationalist Chinese Army Stocks captured in 49, US or ROK stocks captured in Korea or even Lend lease Soviet aid. Viet Minh used weapons from a variety of sources.
 

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