Straight Dope July 04 2009

I recently read a speech by Noam Chomsky in which he says that during the Vietnam War, “soldiers were fragging officers.” I, a man too young to have served in that conflict, have heard this before but thought it was just a rumor. Can you shed some light on this dark matter?

— Tom, Chicago

I can, but frankly not much — and in my opinion, that’s a story all by itself.

Fragging — assaulting a superior officer using a fragmentation grenade or other explosive — was surprisingly common during the Vietnam War. The most reliable figure is 730 suspected incidents from 1969 through 1971, much higher than in U.S. wars before or since. Oddly, there’s no official count of fragging deaths; one unofficial source says 86, another 45.

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(Illustration by Slug Signorino)