Smoking Gun: How Vietnam Soldiers Got Stoned

vietnam soldiers got stoned

Photos by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

The year was 1970. The number of United States troops in Vietnam had fallen to around 280,000. This war had people asking questions. What was our purpose in fighting it? Is there even an end-result in sight?

The good news is that the U.S was moving out of its combat role during this time, and into one that involved training South Vietnamese troops and maintaining key defensive positions. Needless to say, things slowed down for the GIs. Many were bored or felt down because of their reduced role in the war. So what did they do to pass the time? You guessed it, they got stoned.

vietnam soldiers smoke weed

Photo by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

Marijuana grew rampant in the wild jungles of Vietnam, where its government had not really taken steps to prevent its cultivation or consumption. No central drug agency was present at the time and GIs had no problem scoring it.

vietnam soldier smokes weed

Photo by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

While many soldiers cut and dried the marijuana themselves, the locals had plenty as well.This combination of abundance and down-time is where the creativity of the GI changed the way pot was consumed in Vietnam.

vietnam war marijuana

Photo by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

The “shotgun” or “shotgunning” became the new way to get absolutely stoned with your GI buddies in the jungle. On November 13, 1970, a documentary crew captured the method on camera, as well as some insights from the GIs.

vietnam soldiers smoking out of guns

Photo by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

First, using the pump, the GI would eject all the shells from his shotgun. Left with an empty chamber, he would take a smoking pipe (that many of them used to smoke both weed and tobacco) and put it in stem-first.

meaning of shotgun weed

Photo by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

He would then blow into the bowl of the pipe, sending an unrelenting surge of smoke through the barrel. Each of his buddies would grab the end of the barrel and lean down to catch the smoke being offered. Many people recognize a version of this method as it is commonly done with blunts still today.

smoke weed shotgun

Photo by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

In the footage captured on that November day in 1970, almost all of the GIs can be heard laughing and chuckling around the circle or two they have formed around the shotgunner.

One GI, talking to the camera, says, “You get really stoned, and then, like, who cares about the war?” He chuckles slightly, before sighing and repeating, “This war,” in a tone that captures his and many others frustrations and impatience with a war that progressively seemed to be heading nowhere.

vietnam soldiers shotgun weed

Photo by: JIM WELLS/AP, circa 1970

Marijuana use among the GIs in Vietnam really seemed to give soldiers some coping skills and perspective. They were still frustrated and had the stresses of a soldier, but when they gathered around the shotgun or pulled on the pipe, they could relax and have fun with one another from a joint-perspective (no pun intended).

Watch the footage below to see the “shotgun” and hear more interesting stats about marijuana use in Vietnam. And don’t try this at home!

by Seth Little

Check out Seth on Instagram @sethlit.