Your ex-spouse, that crummy boss, the loud neighbor who leaves his trash can out too long, or the friend who slept with your girl… there aren’t too many problems that can’t be solved with the proper application of high explosives! Or with a white phosphorus grenade.

The often-overlooked stepchild of boom balls is the white phosphorous grenade, a deadly little gem in the doom-on-you-bad-guy tool kit. No, you can’t buy it on Amazon, or can you!? (Getting excited.)

First, let’s hop in the internet time machine and have a quick history lesson.

The Ways of Willie Pete

The M34 white phosphorus grenade, AKA “Willie Pete,” is a smoke and incendiary grenade that was made by Rocky Mountain Arsenal. It was used extensively by American forces in Vietnam and the first Gulf War.

The M34 could be deployed by hand or using a rifle-mounted launcher. Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on just how badass grenade launchers are. When I was deployed with SEAL Team Three in Afghanistan I used the MK19 grenade launcher mounted on top of a Hummer. It was pretty cool, although Hummers are crappy vehicles. It would have been much better to mount it in the back of a Toyota Hilux truck.

On the other hand, if you have to use your hands you aren’t going to throw a white phosphorus grenade as far as a fragmentation grenade unless you’re an Olympic shot putter, as the M34 grenade is a bit heavier. So, you better use your purse arm when chucking this bad boy because the burning stray gobs of toxic particles could blow back on friendlies.

The main reason we carried these grenades in the SEAL Teams was in case we had to destroy sensitive comms equipment (ours or the enemy’s) or if something — or someone — needed a good melting.

What Can a White Phosphorus Grenade Do?

white phosphorus greanade from Vietnam
A white phosphorus greanade from Vietnam. (

To put it in Army terms, at 800 degrees Celsius, white phosphorus is really f**ing hot. This is 1472 Fahrenheit or melt-your-face-off hot.

White phosphorus burns fiercely and continuously until deprived of oxygen or completely consumed.

These grenades were used in Vietnam to destroy tunnels, sensitive equipment, and hooches. The M34 white phosphorus grenade will burn up all oxygen in the immediate area and suffocate the enemy in close quarters (another reason to make you more careful when using it.)

Grenades could be phased out in the future for more effective weapons. Yet, for now, the Mozart of grenades, the surface of the sun brought to a Taliban outpost near you, the Willie Pete, will always have a soft spot in my dark heart.

If you enjoyed this little white phosphorus grenade lesson, then surely you will appreciate the hilarious video below.

And like my first platoon chief Dan told us when the special boat team dropped us at the wrong coordinates, “You can’t fix stupid, gents.”