The term U.S. military slang turm "fragging" is used to describe the deliberate killing or attempted killing by a soldier of a fellow soldier, usually a superior officer or non-commissioned officer (originally in the Vietnam War with a fragmentation grenade). The word was coined by military personnel of the United States during the Vietnam War, when such killings were most often attempted with a fragmentation grenade, sometimes making it appear as though the killing was accidental or during combat with the enemy. The term fragging is now often used to encompass any means used to deliberately and directly cause the death of military colleagues.
The high number of fragging incidents in the latter years of the Vietnam War were symptomatic of the unpopularity of the war with the American public and the breakdown of discipline in the U.S. Armed Forces. Documented and suspected fragging incidents totaled nearly nine hundred from 1969 to 1972. Fragging has not been as frequent since the Vietnam War ended.
Soldiers have killed colleagues, especially superior officers, since the beginning of armed conflict with many documented examples throughout history. However, the practice of fragging seems to have been relatively uncommon in American armies until the Vietnam War. The prevalence of fragging was partially based on the ready availability of fragmentation hand grenades. Grenades were untraceable to an owner and did not leave any ballistic evidence. M18 Claymore mines and other explosives were also occasionally used in fragging, as were firearms, although the term, as defined by the military during the Vietnam War, applied only to the use of explosives to kill fellow soldiers. Most fragging incidents were in the Army and Marine Corps. Fragging was rare among Navy and Air Force personnel who had less access to grenades and weapons than did many soldiers and marines.
The first known incidents of fragging in South Vietnam took place in 1966, but events in 1968 appear to have catalyzed an increase in fragging. After the Tet Offensive in January and February 1968, the Vietnam War became increasingly unpopular in the United States and among American soldiers in Vietnam, many of them conscripts. Secondly, racial tensions between white and African American soldiers and marines increased after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968. With soldiers reluctant to risk their lives in what was perceived as a lost war, fragging was seen by some enlisted men "as the most effective way to discourage their superiors from showing enthusiasm for combat."
Morale plummeted among soldiers and marines. By 1971, a U.S. Army colonel declared in the Armed Forces Journal that "The morale, discipline, and battleworthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States."
The U.S. military reflected social problems and issues in the U.S. such as racism, drug use, and resentment toward authoritarian leaders. As the U.S. began to withdraw its military forces from Vietnam, some American enlisted men and young officers lost their sense of purpose for being in Vietnam, and the relationship between enlisted men and their officers deteriorated. The resentment directed from enlisted men toward older officers was exacerbated by generational gaps, as well as different perceptions of how the military should be conducted. Enforcement of military regulations, especially if done overzealously, led to troops' complaining and sometimes threats of physical violence directed toward officers.
A number of factors may have influenced the incidence of fragging. The demand for manpower for the war in Vietnam caused the armed forces to lower their standards for inducting both officers and enlisted men. The rapid rotation of personnel, especially of officers who served on the average less than 6 months in command roles, decreased the stability and cohesion of military units. Most important of all, perhaps, was the loss of purpose in fighting the war, as it became apparent to all that the United States was withdrawing from the war without having achieved any sort of victory. Morale and discipline deteriorated.
Most fragging was perpetrated by enlisted men against leaders. Enlisted men, in the words of one company commander, "feared they would get stuck with a lieutenant or platoon sergeant who would want to carry out all kinds of crazy John Wayne tactics, who would use their lives in an effort to win the war single-handedly, win the big medal, and get his picture in the hometown paper." Harassment of subordinates by a superior was another frequent motive. The stereotypical fragging incident was of "an aggressive career officer being assaulted by disillusioned subordinates." Several fragging incidents resulted from alleged racism between African American and white soldiers. Attempts by officers to control drug use caused others. Most known fragging incidents were carried out by soldiers in support units rather than soldiers in combat units.
Soldiers sometimes used non-lethal smoke and tear-gas grenades to warn superiors that they were in danger of being fragged if they did not change their behavior. A few instances occurred—and many more were rumored—in which enlisted men collected "bounties" on particular officers or non-commissioned officers to reward soldiers for fragging them.
Vietnam fragging incidents
|Note: Statistics were not kept before 1969.|
According to author George Lepre, the total number of known and suspected fragging cases by explosives in Vietnam from 1969 to 1972 totaled nearly 900 with 99 deaths and many injuries. This total is incomplete as some cases were not reported, nor were statistics kept before 1969 although several incidents from 1966 to 1968 are known. Most of the victims or intended victims were officers or non-commissioned officers. The number of fraggings increased in 1970 and 1971 even though the U.S. military was withdrawing and the number of U.S. military personnel in Vietnam was declining.
An earlier calculation by authors Richard A. Gabriel and Paul L. Savage, estimated that up to 1,017 fragging incidents may have taken place in Vietnam causing 86 deaths and 714 injuries of American military personnel, the majority officers and non-commissioned officers.
Fragging statistics include only incidents involving explosives, most commonly grenades. Several hundred murders of American soldiers by firearms occurred in Vietnam but most were of enlisted men killing enlisted men of nearly equal rank. Fewer than 10 officers are known to have been murdered by firearms. However, rumors and claims abound of deliberate killing of officers and non-commissioned officers by enlisted men under battlefield conditions. The frequency and number of these fraggings, indistinguishable from combat deaths, cannot be quantified.
The U.S. military's responses to fragging incidents included greater restrictions on access to weapons, especially grenades, for soldiers in non-combat units and "lock downs" after a fragging incident in which a whole unit was isolated until an investigation was concluded. For example, in May 1971, the U.S. Army in Vietnam temporarily halted the issuance of grenades to nearly all its units and soldiers in Vietnam, inventoried stocks of weapons, and searched soldier's quarters, confiscating weapons, ammunition, grenades, and knives. This action, however, failed to reduce fragging incidents as soldiers could easily obtain weapons in a flourishing black market among nearby Vietnamese communities. The U.S. military also attempted to diminish adverse publicity concerning fragging and the security measures it was taking to reduce it.
Only a few fraggers were identified and prosecuted. It was often difficult to distinguish between fragging and enemy action. A grenade thrown into a foxhole or tent could be a fragging, or the action of an enemy infiltrator or saboteur. Enlisted men were often close-mouthed in fragging investigations, refusing to inform on their colleagues out of fear or solidarity. Although the sentences prescribed for fragging were severe, the few men convicted often served fairly brief prison sentences. Ten fraggers were convicted of murder and served sentences ranging from ten months to thirty years with a mean prison time of about nine years.
In the Vietnam War the threat of fragging caused many officers and non-commissioned officers to go armed in rear areas and to change their sleeping arrangements as fragging often consisted of throwing a grenade into a tent where the target was sleeping. For fear of being fragged some leaders turned a blind eye to drug use and other indiscipline among the men in their charge. Fragging, the threat of fragging, and investigations of fragging sometimes disrupted or delayed tactical combat operations. Officers were sometimes forced to negotiate with their enlisted men to obtain their consent before undertaking dangerous patrols.
The breakdown of discipline, including fragging, was an important factor leading to the creation of an all-volunteer military force by the United States and the termination of conscription. The last conscript was inducted into the army in 1973. The volunteer military moderated some of the coercive methods of discipline previously used to maintain order in military ranks.
America's "generation gap" phenomenon occurred in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Army officers, who were overwhelmingly White, right wing, power mad and regularly abused their office. The younger troops were naturally rebellious, amateurish, paranoid and insubordinate.
At this juncture in time, the USA was de facto run by a gaggle of power thirsty, war wacky, paranoid, 40+ year old, White or Jewish men; whilst most of the riotous collage students and anti-war youth protesters were White or Black, paranoid, left wing, Mao worshiping, 30- year old, narcissistic, druggy, insubordinate drop-outs.
- Kent State University Shootings
- Vietnam War
- American military racism, gay-bashing and sexual disgrimination!
- http://www.safpj.co.za/index.php/safpj/article/view/998/1591 Accidental M26 hand grenade blast injuries in the Transkei region of South Africa: A case report - (WARNING: Graphic content!)