A Vietnam War Story We were Never Told.

Napalm Bomb
Napalm Bomb | Photo by

There has been a lot of chatter on Facebook lately about the anniversary of the “Vietnam Conflict,” to most of us it was the Vietnam War. Since we have just celebrated Veterans Day there have been many expressions of gratitude for all of our military veterans. People have been posting thank you statements on social media to those who served in the Vietnam War which became politically unpopular.

War Protest
Vietnam War Protestors | Image by PBS Ken Burns Through The Ringer

Many of our service men were treated poorly and even being called “Baby Killers” by those who protested the war with large gatherings the often resulted in violence.

Napalm Bomb
Napalm Bomb Exploded | Photo by pinterest.com

All sorts of weapons were used from handguns, to rifles, to hand grenades, to tanks and bombs. There were many types of bombs including the highly publicized incendiary bombs loaded with napalm. A bomb you may not be familiar with was used along the coastline and harbors to protect the shore from a beach attack. They are called sea mines. Mine fields were set up in the ocean along coast to prevent an amphibious attack by the enemy.

Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) | Photo by King Makers IAS Academy

A small article brought this topic to my attention because many sea mines exploded in August of 1972 with nobody actually detonating them. Instead, it seems, a solar storm triggered the mines to explode without actual physical contact. The article explained that a research paper was accepted for publication in the journal Space Weather. It shows that many sea mines spontaneously exploded along the coast of South Vietnam. It happened on August 2-4, 1972 and the cause has been determined to be a giant sunspot that sent super strong magnetic waves to earth.

Mining Harbor
Mining Haiphong Harbor | Image by georgetrowbridge8b.com

The research paper is titled “On the Little-Known Consequences of the 4 August 1972 Ultra-Fast Coronal Mass Ejecta: Facts, Commentary and Call to Action” by Delores J. Knipp, Brian J. Fraser, M.A. Shea, and D.F. Smart. I normally do not use really long quotes, but in this case quoting the entire Plain Language Summary is necessary. “The extreme space weather events of early August 1972 had significant impact on the US Navy, which have not been widely reported. These effects, long buried in the the Vietnam War archives, add credence to the severity of the storm: a nearly instantaneous, unintended detonation of dozens of sea mines south of Haiphong, North Vietnam on 4 August 1972. The event occurred near the end of the Vietnam War. The US Navy attributed the dramatic event to ‘magnetic perturbations of solar storms.’ In researching these events we determined that the widespread electric and- communication- grid disturbances that plagued North America and the disturbances in Southeast Asia late on 4 August likely resulted from propagation of major eruptive activity from the Sun to the Earth. The activity fits the description of a Carrington-class storm minus the low latitude aurora reported in 1859. We provide insight into the solar, geophysical and military circumstances of this extraordinary situation. In our view this storm deserves a scientific re-visit as a grand challenge for the space weather community, as it provides space-age terrestrial observations of what was likely a Carrington-class storm.”

Apollo 17 Moon Landing | Image by Sky Image Lab

The storm was well known by NASA because it occurred between the return of the Apollo 16 flight in April and the planned December flight to the Moon of Apollo 17. If the astronauts were in space during the blast it would have made them sick and necessitated an immediate return to Earth.

Map of Vietnam
Vietnam War Map 1964-1975 | Image by maps.com

Just how did these researchers prove the case for a solar cause for the sea mine detonations? The researchers went through page after page of declassified Naval records to document just how devastating the series of solar pulses became by triggering the detonation of two dozen mines in a mine field near Hon La (well south of Danang) a period of about 30 seconds. The count went up to over 4,000 magnetically sensitive mines being detonated during that two day solar storm. The storm also played havoc with most of the satellites that were orbiting the Earth at the time.

There you have it. Scientists continue studying solar storms to help find ways to prevent the serious communication problems that these storms are capable of producing.

Chinese Sea Mine
Chinese 13th Century Naval Mine | Image by commons.wikimedia.org

But who invented sea mines? A little searching provided the answer. Since the Chinese developed black powder so it’s not to surprising that they would find a way to use it to defend their harbor from attack by the Mongols. Sea mines have been used in for coastline and harbor protection for centuries now.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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