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Button Bombs


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Premium Member
Does anyone have any info on the US submunitions known as "button bombs"? These were an off-shoot of the gravel mine submunition program during the Vietnam War. Varying in size they were typically the size of a US quarter, and about 5mm thick, made of thin, stiff plastic. They could come in several drab colors, OD, tan, etc. They were reportedly manufactured out of Cornhusker Ammunition Plant in Nebraska, like the gravel mines. Years ago I saw a Picatinny-type photo of an ID board, it was part of a display put on by C.S. frrom Rockville, MD. I approached him looking to purchase (if necessary) a copy of the photo, but he said that he had not time for this.

I have several variations of the munition, but after years of searching still no data. The museum at Picatinny had nothing (now closed). The museum at Aberdeen has nothing. Records from this timeframe in the National Archive remain classified. Anyone?
I'm sure you have checked this and would have listed it, but I will ask anyway. Was there a BLU or M numbr associated with them that you know of? There was a guy on Evilbay a year or so ago that was making up sets of dummy gravel mines. He might know, but I will have to look up his address if I can find it.
Nope, I've found designations for about 18 models of gravel mines, but no designations for the button bombs. Here is a picture of my button bombs, with the gravel mines for size comparison. Button bombs are upper left and center, gravel mines are the cloth packets on right and across the lower third. Bottom row is BLU-43 - BLU-44s, then the dog-turd transmitter (not my designation) and variations of the Soviet PFM-1s.


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button button

Hi Jo, Stumbled onto a wiki about the gravel mines that touches on button as well (that's the only way I can navigate this "modern monstrosity"). Interesting bit on the history of these jewels from Vietnam era...Dano

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravel_mines"]Gravel mines - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]
thanks for the info, but as you can see from my photo, the Wikipedia article is mistaking the two. The true "button bombs" are a separate cat altogether. The article is pretty accurate, about 80% correct, which is better than most. But the gravel mines were never labeled as button bombs, its just confusion between the two.

I used to know an old Air Force ammo loader (461?) who later went EOD (462?), he had experience with the gravel mines in Laos and some experiments with a trial with the button bombs, he was the only person I've spoken with that had actual "hands on" experience with the live items. He was able to clear some of the confusion for me.

A further informal source was the person that I got my pieces from, a relative of a former Cornhusker employee. He put them on E-Bay, I snapped them up and he said he was surprised I recognized them, most ordnance people mixed them up with gravel mines -

Still searching, thanks for the help. JO
Are these also known as sandwich button bombs?
If so they produced them at Rocky Mountain too. :nerd:
As far as I know, Rocky only produced chemical weapons, with some related smokes and incendiaries. i've never heard of "sandwich button bombs" but so little info is available that anything is possible.

I think if I read between the lines ok that the button bomb was anti-personnel, with a blast not enough to kill, but hurt. Used to lay down a perimeter to assist in offensive actions and create a blocking tactic to keep enemy from engaging? Dano

Pot' Chlorate and Red phosphorous is colloquially known as "Coroner's mix" due to its violent instability, it is said that it is nigh on impossible to mix the two together without an explosive reaction. I would guess that method in which it is being utilised is a layer of each reagent separated by some form of membrane. Thus 'sandwich' is alluding to the method of construction.

Most Airforces are very fussy about the nature of the stores they carry and in this particular case I would wholeheartedly agree with them and I'm very surprised they acceded.


Some of the gravel mines were chlorate/phosphorus mix, but not all. Remember that there were a number of variations, a lot of trials were going on and Vietnam was the test ground. For the chlorate/phosphorus mix they were desensitized in liquid freon. The dispensers would eject canisters (mine is marked as manufactured by Tupperware) which would burst open on their way to the ground. The gravel mines would flutter to the ground, drying out on the way or later, becoming sensitive again as they dried. According to my friend as a 461 (loader) their greatest fear was when they were preparing the dispensers they would have to check the safety indicators on the dispensers. Not infrequently they would have gone red, indicating a loss of freon and a serious problem. He stated that was when he first became aquainted with EOD and found his true calling.

The gravel mines came in several sizes (see photo) and while most were AP, some were just noisemakers, dropped along suspected travel routes along with ADSIDS sensors. The noise from the mine would activate the sensor. The small amount of charge in the AP models was considered adequate for injuring an enemy frequently wearing nothing more than sandals for footgear.

The cloth of the mine was sealed and treated to resist moisture, but was considered self-sanitizing as it still had a limited life expectency in the humid jungle climate.

The button bomb however, remains a mystery. JO
thanks for the tip, I've ordered the document as a pdf, should be able to download it in a day or two - I'll let you know if it pans out. JO
There's a bit on this site about it.


  • The manufacture of sandwich button bombs which contained a pyrotechnic mixture of potassium chlorate and red phosphorus from 1965 to 1968
Not sure if they're the same things??

Also known as Armstrong's Mixture.

I have an old display board somewhere that shows multiple shapes and colors of button bombs. I just need to remember where I put it.
This is likely the board I saw photos of years back - the only hard reference I've ever run across. Dig it up for me Mike and I'll owe you one - JO
Ok, the crappy photo is a place holder since my good camera is sitting at the office.

The top of the board says "Seed Dispenser" with the following colors listed below:

Forest Green

The different sizes are listed as:


The "Disc" size is about the size of a Quarter.
That is all I have.


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Just FYI, this how we got snap-n-pops here in the USA. Also fighters/bombers and Attack aircraft where capable to carry them also. They used them to cover the back trail of a SOG Recon Team running/fighting for their life in either Laos and Cambodia. They worked as planned as long as the RT had a head start. Recon Team members that I know of tell me they heard them go off behind with the NVA and it slowed them down allot unless, the NVA had the whole team surrounded then they would call in the cluster bomblets in the baseball/softball sizes. A-1 Skyraiders were very well known to be carrying at least one canister most of the time when they were called into a "Prarie Fire" mission.
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461X0--Munitions maintenance--"storage guy"
462X0--Weapons maintenance--"loader"
463X0--Nuclear maintenance

I've never learned the "2W..." stuff, however!
A movie showing the gravel mine being tested;

[ame="http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=2d4_1271187276"]LiveLeak.com - Gravel Mine/Button mine, Anti-personel Mine 1967.[/ame]

Still quite effective when looking at the truck tire, imagine what it could do to a foot.

Regards , DJH