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#1
Old 03-31-2015, 11:10 AM
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Were snakes a big problem for soldiers in Vietnam?

Hello Everyone,

I was just wondering if snakes were a huge problem for soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam. I'm sure there were plenty of venomous snakes in the area. Did we lose soldiers due to snake bites? Did medics carry anti-venom?
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#2
Old 03-31-2015, 11:24 AM
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Studies indicated only 25-50 snakebite incidents occurred annually in US forces. Of these, only a few necessitated intensive therapy...

...The most common venomous bite was from the arboreal white-lipped bamboo viper, but such a bite was never lethal for an American soldier (Berlinger and Flowers 1973) (fig. 69).


From here. From the reference above apparently fear of snakebite was pronounced, but all out of proportion to its actual occurrence or lethality. Quoting some more:

The authors found, upon interviewing troops in Vietnam, that the majority believed that poisonous snakes were to be found in abundance there and that few persons survived a bite. Soldiers from rattlesnake infested areas in the United States harbored little fear of these reptiles but were deathly afraid of the "bamboo vipers" of Vietnam. In actuality, the "bamboo viper" is a small snake which seldom injects sufficient venom to inflict a serious bite, whereas rattlesnakes are capable of producing death or permanent injury in victims. Almost all of the persons questioned had heard of the "cigarette snakes" (when you are bitten you only have time for one cigarette); or the "two-step snake" (no explanation necessary), but were not cognizant that only one snakebite death had occurred in US forces since United States involvement there*.

*As of 1973 when the article with that quote was released.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 03-31-2015 at 11:26 AM.
#3
Old 03-31-2015, 12:34 PM
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That's interesting, because I had always heard tales of the deadly "two step" snakes. Interesting that there was no such thing!

I should have guessed - on TV shows when I was a kid, the western US was full of deadly creatures. Everyone "knew" scorpions, black widow spiders, tarantulas and rattle snakes were all instant death machines. (It's so pathetic to see Bond "menaced" by a tarantula in Dr No. And on top of that, they used photo tricks - Connery wasn't even in the scene with the spider.)

How did these creatures ever get that reputation? Scorpion stings are not pleasant, a black widow bite can make you so sick that you hope for death, but generally you won't die from either. And tarantulas were never fatal. Rattlesnakes - yeah they can be fatal. One out of four.
#4
Old 03-31-2015, 01:03 PM
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Nah, Vietnam may be a buggy, snake-infested hellhole, but it's no Australia.
#5
Old 03-31-2015, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
How did these creatures ever get that reputation? Scorpion stings are not pleasant, a black widow bite can make you so sick that you hope for death, but generally you won't die from either. And tarantulas were never fatal. Rattlesnakes - yeah they can be fatal. One out of four.
They got the reputation because people died from them. People have varying levels of sensitivity to venom and there were no genuinely effective treatments until relatively recently. In addition, some number of bite/sting victims were allergic and died due to anaphylaxis, for which there also was no effective treatment until recently. Not to mention that although "only" one out of four people may die from a rattlesnake bite (in this age of modern medicine) that statistic ignores the number of bite victims that lose digits or whole limbs to tissue damage. Check out some brown recluse bites for additional hilarity. Pre-antibiotics, the open sore from such bites was, alone, an invitation to death by sepsis.
People had good reason to develop fear of venomous creatures.
#6
Old 03-31-2015, 01:20 PM
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I'll take my chances with the snakes.

http://lairweb.org.nz/tiger/maneating13.html
Quote:
Stories from Vietnam:
Tiger attacks increased during the Vietnam war; this was due to the frequency with which bodies lay unburied. Despite claims to the contrary, tigers will scavenge and feed at old kills, be they their own, or someone else's. Having developed a taste for human flesh they would then attack soldiers quite readily. The first stories illustrate some of the many tiger encounters experienced in during the Vietnamese war.

Last edited by aceplace57; 03-31-2015 at 01:21 PM.
#7
Old 03-31-2015, 01:22 PM
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There has NEVER been a recorded death from a tarantula. Never.

Black widow and scorpion bites are rarely fatal in healthy adults. They hurt like hell. In certain cases, yes, bites and stings can be fatal.

But, so can getting trampled by a ornery cow, or kicked by a horse. But horses and cows are not considered lethal killing machines of the west like scorpions and black widows.
#8
Old 03-31-2015, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I'll take my chances with the snakes.

http://lairweb.org.nz/tiger/maneating13.html
NEVER get out of the boat! Absolutely goddamn right!
#9
Old 03-31-2015, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
There has NEVER been a recorded death from a tarantula. Never.

Black widow and scorpion bites are rarely fatal in healthy adults. They hurt like hell. In certain cases, yes, bites and stings can be fatal.

But, so can getting trampled by a ornery cow, or kicked by a horse. But horses and cows are not considered lethal killing machines of the west like scorpions and black widows.
What answer are you looking for? People are teh stoopud? People learned to fear them because of painful, disfiguring, not infrequently lethal bites. Whether you consider their fears valid is a separate issue and not one that is arguable one way or the other.
#10
Old 03-31-2015, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
Scorpion stings are not pleasant, a black widow bite can make you so sick that you hope for death, but generally you won't die from either.
Emphasis added. That mostly hold true in the United States were there is only one medically significant scorpion and that only barely makes it over the border - mostly it is an issue in Arizona. But elsewhere ( like the Pacific coast of Mexico ) there is a slightly more diverse crew of nasty actors. Generally speaking very, very few scorpion species are dangerous ( less than 0.025% ), but some of the ones that are can pack a real wallop.

Props to Australia - they have none of those deadly species .

Last edited by Tamerlane; 03-31-2015 at 02:25 PM.
#11
Old 03-31-2015, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
Studies indicated only 25-50 snakebite incidents occurred annually in US forces. Of these, only a few necessitated intensive therapy...

...The most common venomous bite was from the arboreal white-lipped bamboo viper ....
ARBOREAL? You mean like, I'd be walking along and poisonous snakes would drop down onto me out of the trees? I totally understand the need for intensive therapy.

Also: Snakes have lips?
#12
Old 03-31-2015, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
ARBOREAL? You mean like, I'd be walking along and poisonous snakes would drop down onto me out of the trees? I totally understand the need for intensive therapy.

Also: Snakes have lips?
The better to kiss you with, my dear. o_O
#13
Old 03-31-2015, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
That's interesting, because I had always heard tales of the deadly "two step" snakes. Interesting that there was no such thing!
You will always have much longer to live than two steps, but there are several species of snakes in the world whose bites are close to 100% fatal without antivenin.

IIRC the only one of these native to Asia is the Krait (there are other species whose untreated bites kill well over half the victims). Here is an account of the death from a Krait bite of a world-renowned herpetologist who was careless. He succumbed in about 28 hours:

The Death of Dr. Joe Slowinski
#14
Old 03-31-2015, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I'll take my chances with the snakes.

http://lairweb.org.nz/tiger/maneating13.html
It is gathered that tigers in Vietnam are nowadays in a bad way, compared with in the days of the war.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indochinese_tiger

It would appear from the above, that the Indochinese variety of the tiger is highly endangered: doing -- very relatively -- better in Thailand and Myanmar, than in the three countries of Indochina proper, where it is teetering on the edge of extinction. While one would have to be a very extreme wildlife enthusiast, to welcome being killed and eaten by a tiger in the course of going about one's business: I cannot but feel sad about the current situation.
#15
Old 03-31-2015, 03:57 PM
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FWIW, the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)'s range includes Vietnam. Weirdly, if you'd asked me before I looked it up, I'd have thought that Russell's Viper would've been the big killer and that the King Cobra, like the Spectacled Cobra, (Naja naja) would've only been found in India and Sri Lanka. Russell's isn't native to Vietnam, though the wiki states that it's being found there more and more often. As a popular way to avoid American reconnaissance was to dig bunkers underground, I wonder just how bad a problem snakes were for the NVA and VC? Similarly, it'd be interesting to read accounts from the Communist side about animal encounters along the Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia border region.

Here's another site with aceplace57's account, this time with pictures of the critter. The Korean tiger is supposedly making a comeback within their DMZ.

Beautiful animals, even the snakes.
#16
Old 03-31-2015, 06:10 PM
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#17
Old 03-31-2015, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
Studies indicated only 25-50 snakebite incidents occurred annually in US forces. Of these, only a few necessitated intensive therapy...

...The most common venomous bite was from the arboreal white-lipped bamboo viper, but such a bite was never lethal for an American soldier (Berlinger and Flowers 1973) (fig. 69).
14 minutes from question to answer. Well done, sir, even if you are one of the worst conquerors in history.

Last edited by Deeg; 03-31-2015 at 06:15 PM.
#18
Old 03-31-2015, 06:37 PM
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Tangentially related, there was an interesting Cracked article recently about Vietnam, from the point-of-view of an enemy combatant.
#19
Old 03-31-2015, 06:39 PM
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Typo in title fixed.
#20
Old 03-31-2015, 09:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nelson Pike View Post
You will always have much longer to live than two steps, but there are several species of snakes in the world whose bites are close to 100% fatal without antivenin.

IIRC the only one of these native to Asia is the Krait (there are other species whose untreated bites kill well over half the victims). Here is an account of the death from a Krait bite of a world-renowned herpetologist who was careless. He succumbed in about 28 hours:

The Death of Dr. Joe Slowinski
If only he'd have been Quickinsky.
#21
Old 04-01-2015, 12:05 AM
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Kraits. I saw one. It scared the crap out of me. Which was good timing, considering what I was doing at the time. And those clowns used to laugh at me when I took out a whetstone to put an edge on my entrenching tool!

well, sure, first I took it to a grinding wheel, what's your point?
#22
Old 04-01-2015, 12:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Nah, Vietnam may be a buggy, snake-infested hellhole, but it's no Australia.
Hey, even Australia is no Australia, in that sense.
#23
Old 04-01-2015, 12:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Princhester View Post
Hey, even Australia is no Australia, in that sense.
Shhh!! Don't spoil the fun.
#24
Old 04-01-2015, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by krondys View Post
Tangentially related, there was an interesting Cracked article recently about Vietnam, from the point-of-view of an enemy combatant.
Yes, that article was very informative. Snakes were a bigger problem for the Vietnamese soldiers than American, so the answer to the OP is 'Yes'.
#25
Old 04-01-2015, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Scumpup View Post
What answer are you looking for? People are teh stoopud? People learned to fear them because of painful, disfiguring, not infrequently lethal bites.
Yep. Anyone that thinks people are weird or irrational for fearing, say, spider bites, go ahead and google spider bite necrosis.
#26
Old 04-01-2015, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
Black widow and scorpion bites are rarely fatal in healthy adults.
[emphasis added--mbh]

They can be dangerous to small children. You teach your kids to be cautious, and they keep the habit after they are grown.
#27
Old 04-01-2015, 01:32 PM
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With the conversation having gone fairly far and wide -- not solely about snakes, but also dealing with other Vietnamese fauna which could make life "interesting" in more than one sense: I'm emboldened to get into realms in which I have a certain amount of interest, namely "cryptozoological" stuff.

Have seen a certain amount on the Net, from people with an interest in this topic, involving reports from Vietnam war participants of encounters with primates of kinds not known to mainstream science, as members of the fauna of that part of the world. These seemed to come in two varieties: more frequently encountered at least by US forces, were creatures which the Americans usually called "rock apes" -- basically chimpanzee- or orang-utan-sized (per orthodox zoology, there are no orang-utans in Indo-China: gibbons are "the max" there, in that line) -- well, apes. Less often met with, was a Yeti- or Bigfoot-like bipedal "hairy giant", reckoned an average of about 7 feet tall, which the Vietnamese called nguoi rung -- reported encountered by the "opposition", at least as often as by the US forces. Encounters were usually fleeting: both varieties could be violent, or mischievous -- but for the most part, the beasties seemed just to want to avoid humans / get out of their way. (I notice, no mention of any of these creatures, by the Cracked interviewee -- it seems to have been tigers, with which he had a big problem.)

It is generally gathered from those who are interested in this scene: that (in these folks' view) while these primates were around during the war, enough to attract the attention of people on both sides -- there seem to have been no reports of encounters in Vietnam with either kind, in the past three decades or more. People can make of all this, what they will: including the opinion held by very many, that "crypto-creatures" are basically nonsense and non-existent, and accounts of encounters with them can be ascribed to various causes, not including actually meeting with an uncatalogued flesh-and-blood species.
#28
Old 04-03-2015, 07:40 AM
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Cryptozoological stuff is usually, "whatever", a sure-fire thread-killer; but I've just noticed the date of my above post -- had I realised at the time, I'd have postponed making it till the following day. It wasn't meant as an April-Fool prank: those who take these things seriously, are seriously interested in this Vietnam-war-originating material. I have an open-ish mind about things cryptozoological: reckon that most of such -- quite possibly all -- is bunk, but don't completely reject all of it out of hand. Like many sceptics about these matters, I'd be delighted if the creatures concerned, were proved to exist.
#29
Old 04-03-2015, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Sangahyando View Post
Cryptozoological stuff is usually, "whatever", a sure-fire thread-killer; but I've just noticed the date of my above post -- had I realised at the time, I'd have postponed making it till the following day. It wasn't meant as an April-Fool prank: those who take these things seriously, are seriously interested in this Vietnam-war-originating material. I have an open-ish mind about things cryptozoological: reckon that most of such -- quite possibly all -- is bunk, but don't completely reject all of it out of hand. Like many sceptics about these matters, I'd be delighted if the creatures concerned, were proved to exist.
No fossil record usually means it doesn't exist. Like with Bigfoot--how in the heck was a giant non-tool-using primate supposed to get across the Bering Land Bridge to the Americas? You need tools to survive in the Arctic, or the ability to swim and catch fish.

My guess is that most stories of Bigfoot, faery folk, the little people, etc. is either a result of cultural remembrances of great apes or of Neanderthals.
#30
Old 04-03-2015, 11:34 AM
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I'm not an impassioned "Bigfoot believer" -- just intrigued by this stuff, and prone to rather idly thinking, "what if...". Please take my responses as semi-humorous. (Besides, the scenario has them having been in Asia already, so as to cross into North America.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by get lives View Post
No fossil record usually means it doesn't exist. Like with Bigfoot--how in the heck was a giant non-tool-using primate supposed to get across the Bering Land Bridge to the Americas? You need tools to survive in the Arctic, or the ability to swim and catch fish.
Lack of fossil record: as you say, "usually" -- but not invariable conclusive proof.

The envisaged creatures supposedly have a nice thick warm coat of hair; and per reports cited by some Bigfooters, they have been observed swimming, and catching fish (e.g. vying with grizzly bears and homo sapiens sapiens at the salmon run on Pacific North-West / British Columbia rivers).

Quote:
My guess is that most stories of Bigfoot, faery folk, the little people, etc. is either a result of cultural remembrances of great apes or of Neanderthals.
Re "most" stories, as you say: likely enough. There's sufficient material told of / recorded, to cause me to "keep the door a little bit ajar", re possibility of there being more than that, going on on this scene.
#31
Old 04-05-2015, 12:14 AM
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I was in the Marines in Vietnam for a year and spent a very large part of it just walking around. About half in rice paddy country and half in the mountains (well, pretty good size hills, but we called them mountains). I remember seeing one snake and never heard of anyone being bitten.
#32
Old 04-08-2015, 12:20 PM
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I finally got a chance to ask my dad about snakes in Vietnam. It came up because he was talking about clearing a landing for a helicopter (he was in the First Cav) using C4, and how when it blew the snakes would rain down along with all the vegitation.

I asked if snakes were a "problem" and he said no not really but they were the animals he saw most, after bugs. He related a tale of being on break and seeing a bamboo viper descend down a tree above a guy leaning against said tree. He told the guy to stay still and grabbed another guy's machette (dad didn't carry one) and chopped the snake in two. Dad seemed very proud of this moment

Anyway, another data point. Dad was in the thick of the jungle so maybe around more trees than SandyHook, so he saw more snakes. But they weren't a "problem."
#33
Old 04-08-2015, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post

Also: Snakes have lips?
Of course they have lips! That's how they can play the trombone!
#34
Old 04-08-2015, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by get lives View Post
No fossil record usually means it doesn't exist.
It's a fossil record you're looking for?

Tell me that mofo ain't a bigfoot!
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