Chief Master Sergeant Zona Hornstra
By Dick Martin
In my short military career, one device stands out in my mind above most all of the other devices we learned about. This is because of what we were taught was the alternate to using the device. If you were a “grunt” in any of the wars, you know what concertina wire is and how effective it is in stopping the enemy from breeching your perimeter. In case you do not know what concertina wire is, it is rolled inter-twined razor sharp barbed wire. Most current concertina wire has what look like razor blades in place of the barbs. If you do not have time to cut all the wires to open a gap in a concertina wire barrier and you don’t have a tank, we were taught that the first man in an assault on a compound or fire base surrounded by concertina wire, was to jump up on the wire and come down flat (belly flop) on the wire creating a bridge for the other troops to cross the barrier.
Lucky for all grunts in all wars since, but including WWI, in 1912, Captain R. L. McClintock developed the Bangalore Torpedo. It was a five foot tube or series of five foot tubes, depending how long it needed to be. It was filled with explosives and could easily be transported. From a protected position, it could be placed and exploded under the concertina wire or other obstacle creating a breech in the perimeter; other obstacles being mine fields, booby traps, caves, etc.
Although the Bangalore Torpedo has been mostly replaced by the rocket-launched Congers and AVRE vehicles equipped with 40-pound explosive charges, it was used by the Israelis during the Yom Kippur War to clear Syrian minefields. Today, the most popular path-clearing device is the Bangalore Blade which can blast a five meter wide gap in a concertina wire barrier.
My question is, back in the day, how was it decided which brave soldier would agree to place his body on the concertina wire enabling all of his fellow soldiers to use his body as a bridge. If he was not killed by machine gun fire, his body was probably cut to shreds by his buddies pounding it into the concertina wire.
Taken from personal experience and information obtained from Wikipedia.