Excellent Movie - even for War Historians and riders in Laos


Nov 17, 2004
Bomb Harvest

The trailer is at http://www.bombharvest.com/index.html

I've come to know Laith a bit and this is a more positive spin for those interested in remnants of the US actions in Laos. Laith is stationed in Xam Nua and open to meeting GT Riders for a chat as it's a bit isolated up there. If you wish to contact him, let me know and I'll forward off your email to him.


Over 35 years ago, during the Vietnam War, American bombs rained down on Laos in the ‘Secret War’, leaving it the most bombed country, per capita, in history. The deadly legacy of this destruction continues, with the country still scattered with unexploded ordnance.

A huge live bomb is found behind a village school and straight-talking, laconic Australian bomb disposal specialist Laith Stevens arrives to check it out. He’s in the process of training a new ‘big bomb’ team, so reluctantly leaves the bomb’s disposal until the team is up to the task. Reluctant, because rural poverty has triggered a brisk illegal trade in bomb scrap metal and the local children are out hunting for bombs.

In order to find the right person to deal with the very dangerous bomb behind the school, Laith will take his team of fledgling bomb disposal specialists down to a remote area of the Ho Chi Minh Trail where they will test their new skills on live bombs for the first time.

With the Lao ability to find the humour in horrific circumstances, Laith uses his larrikin jokes and can-do attitude to bond with the team and local villagers in order to get them through this harrowing task alive.

But will they get back to the bomb behind the school in time?

Bomb Harvest vividly depicts the consequences of war and the unimaginable bravery of those trying to clear up the mess. It takes us into a post-apocalyptic world that reminds us of what is to come from the wars of today.

The Bomb Harvest film crew were granted an unprecedented 2 months on the ground with bomb disposal teams and live bombs, in areas of Laos which have never been filmed in before.

It took a year of raising finance, research and gaining permissions from the bomb disposal organisations Mines Advisory Group and UXO Lao and from the Communist government in this country which has been quite closed to the media. And a good 6 months of trying to find someone who would insure us for an extended shoot around live bombs. But we eventually go the go-ahead, with an unprecedented 2 months on the ground with the bomb disposal teams, following every stage of the process right over the bombs.

But it was never going to be an easy one.

Laos – Ta Oi, a remote area of the Ho Chi Min Trail: quite possibly the most bombed place on the planet.

Hot enough to cook an egg on a bomb (42 degrees most days), dripping humidity, leeches, malaria, limited food and drinking water, no phone or email access and a good day’s drive from medical services was the beginning of the practical phase of “The Big Bomb Project”.

Having a Lao to English translator was not enough as Ta Oi has its own dialect so we had to have two translators whilst trying to piece the story together. We were to quickly learn that in this remote area people, were seeing a film crew for the first time - so a lot of bonding with village chiefs and rice whiskey became an essential part of the shoot. We were also to learn that the Ta Oi people believe in tribal curses and black magic - that the ghosts of their dead accentors, mostly killed by bombs, lived in the trees in the forests. This was to spook some of the young Lao bomb disposal trainees – as if dealing with huge live aircraft bombs for the first time wasn’t enough.

Some of the bombs would only need a knock or an electrical impulse (eg from a mobile phone) to set them off and we often had to urgently turn off our radio microphones as they could spark that lethal electrical impulse to the fuse of a bomb.

During detonations razor sharp bomb shrapnel can fly out to up to a kilometre away so to film these explosions with close-up impact we had a special explosive-proof casing built by a military engineer. The casing also had to be depressurised as the explosive ground wave of a bomb can suck the guts out of anything in its path.

Most frightening of all was the risk that there were what the Lao people call “bombies” around – cluster munitions, the size of a tennis ball and filled with over a hundred ball bearings (like bullets) around explosive. These were dumped in their millions by the US and because of their small size are hard to see. Kicking one could detonate it. The large aircraft bombs (500 to 1000 pounds) were in a way less frightening because if one of those goes off, everyone around it is just evaporated in “pink mist”, as the bomb disposal technicians say. It’s instant and you’d have no hope of survival, which was strangely comforting!

It was the hardest shoot we have ever done by far but in the end we were able to leave that horrific situation where as the Lao people will go on living with the legacy of the US “Secret War” for hundreds of years to come.

Special thanks to Laith Stevens and the people of Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and UXO Lao for allowing us such incredible access into this extraordinary world - an experience which will never leave us.
Mar 30, 2006
After watching the Bomb Harvest videos I started wondering if there was other techniques that are more efficient of detonating unexploded bombs and I'm wondering if MAG is using .50 caliber sniper rifles.
In addition to long-range and anti-matériel sniping, the U.S. military uses .50 BMG weapons to detonate unexploded ordnance from a safe distance. The Raufoss Multipurpose round has sufficient terminal performance to disable most unarmored and lightly armored vehicles, making .50 BMG caliber weapons helpful in anti-insurgency operations.