On April 20, 1971, the Pentagon releases figures confirming that fragging incidents are on the rise. In 1970, 209 such incidents caused the deaths of 34 men; in 1969, 96 such incidents cost 34 men their lives. Fragging was a slang term used to describe U.S. military personnel tossing of fragmentation hand grenades (hence the term “fragging”) usually into sleeping areas to murder fellow soldiers. It was usually directed primarily against unit leaders, officers, and non-commissioned officers.

M-67 Fragmentation Grenade explosion in Vietnam Courtesy: okinawa.usmc.mil

M-67 Fragmentation Grenade explosion in Vietnam
Courtesy: okinawa.usmc.mil

Fragging was rare in the early days of U.S. involvement in ground combat, but it became increasingly common as the rapid turnover caused by the one-year rotation policy weakened unit cohesion. With leadership and morale already declining in the face of repetitive Vietnam tours, the withdrawal of public support led to soldiers questioning their purpose on the battlefield. The situation worsened with the gradual U.S. troop withdrawal that began in 1969. As some troops were withdrawn, discipline and motivation declined as many remaining soldiers began to question why they had to continue fighting.

M-61 Frag Grenade. Primary function: Anti-personnel. Dimensions: Length 3.5 in., diameter 2.5 in. Weight: 13.75 ounces. Maximum effective range: Lethal 16 ft., casualty 49 ft. This particular example was manufactured in May 1969. NOTE: grenade pictured is a M-61 Hand grenade, not the M-67 as labeled on the USAF website at the time.

M-61 Frag Grenade. Primary function: Anti-personnel. Dimensions: Length 3.5 in., diameter 2.5 in. Weight: 13.75 ounces. Maximum effective range: Lethal 16 ft., casualty 49 ft. This particular example was manufactured in May 1969.
NOTE: grenade pictured is a M-61 Hand grenade, not the M-67 as labeled on the USAF website at the time.

Fragging incidents in combat were usually attempts to remove leaders perceived to be incompetent and a threat to survival. Most fragging incidents, however, occurred in rear-echelon units and were committed by soldiers on drugs or because unit leaders were enforcing anti-drug policies. Unit leaders who were perceived to be too stringent in the enforcement of discipline or regulations sometimes received warnings via a fragmentation grenade, with the safety pin left on, but with their name painted on it left on their bunk, or a smoke grenade discharged under their bunk. Most understood the message, and intimidation through threat of fragging far exceeded actual incidents.

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2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    That is horrible to read your name on a grenade. I read this and just think how futile and horrific war is

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