default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Steve Hansen: Teaching soldiers about dowsing during Vietnam

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:00 am

Drought in California has brought the practice of dowsing, or “water-witching,” back into vogue.

The attempt to find water, gemstones, oil, metals, graves and underground tunnels with this method is nothing new. It may have had its origin in 15th-century Germany.

Tools of the trade involve anything from a Y-shaped branch clipped from a willow tree to L-shaped metal rods, which twist in the hands of the user. Sometimes a pendulum is employed.

Supposedly, “energies” from the desired discoveries transmit through the earth and cause a wooden branch to move downward, or in the case of two rods, point in the direction of the operator’s aspirations.

While my grandfather firmly believed in the technique for finding water in the foothills, my science-oriented father ridiculed the whole process as nothing more than superstition.

Personal experience for me with dowsing began in the Army. I had a week to go until my departure from active duty. It was the first part of the 1970s, and the Vietnam War was slowly winding down.

Maj. Hilborn approached and said it was my turn to teach a class for the troops.

“What do you want me to cover?” I enquired.

“I don’t care,” the major replied. “Just make it interesting.”

With a week to go, I thought I’d do something weird.

I knew some of my colleagues in the Marine First and Third Divisions were using dowsing to locate enemy tunnels and weapons caches. I also knew it was not the first time the military had engaged in this practice. Gen. Patton reportedly used dowsing to find new water wells to replace those destroyed by the Nazis. The practice also appeared in Russian Army manuals during the 1930s as a method for finding water in uninhabited areas.

So the next day, I found a couple of metal rods, bent them in the shape of an “L” and began my didactic presentation to the unit’s enlisted personnel.

Since I didn’t know much about the subject, the class didn’t last very long. I gave a brief history, talked about its usage in Vietnam, and demonstrated my rods with one in each hand. In a matter of moments, the tools began to point over a certain spot in the ground.

No one, including myself, knew why. In addition, no one cared enough to grab a shovel and find out.

Shortly thereafter, the major called me aside and asked with a stern look: “Lieutenant, are you for real? Is this a joke or what?”

I assured him with a straight face that it was no joke and that my subject matter was truly “serious.”

Suddenly, we both looked with amazement at the field where I had just conducted my class. There was the unit physician — holding my two divining rods — while the troops followed him around the open terrain in a snake-like procession! The major just stared in disbelief, rolled his eyes and walked away.

So now that you know my story, I’m sure you must be wondering: Does dowsing really work?

There are so many different versions of this practice that I find it difficult to accept the “energy emerging from the ground” theory. Perhaps its really a mental exercise, and the tools used are simply bridges from the mind into an invisible dimension where all things are connected — something Carl Jung called the “collective unconscious.”

I know that sounds bizarre, but people have been dowsing for hundreds of years, and there must be some kind of reward for their efforts.

But on the other hand, perhaps Dad was right. Maybe it’s just chance and delusional thinking. However, if people really and truly believe in the process, then who’s to say it can’t work for them?

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don’t pretend you’re someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don’t threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don’t insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the ‘Report’ link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.
  • 9 Don’t be a troll.
  • 10 Don’t reveal personal information about other commenters. You may reveal your own personal information, but we advise you not to do so.
  • 11 We reserve the right, at our discretion, to monitor, delete or choose not to post any comment. This may include removing or monitoring posts that we believe violate the spirit or letter of these rules, or that we otherwise determine at our discretion needs to be monitored, not posted, or deleted.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Ted Lauchland posted at 5:04 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Pessimism is where theory stops and facts begin.

    One object rubbing against another creates friction. Friction is a form of electricity that creates an invisible electrical field - a field that is detectible by sensors in a change in normal field behavior. Standing over a water main is standing over moving water and metal. Friction is created. Water is a conductor of electricity. Fields change moving a foot sideways.

    Earthquakes grind with friction. My radio temporally went out during an earthquake a few years ago.

    Dry desert air will probably make the rods spin like crazy when the wind comes up. Zap goes your nylon leisure suit (dated are we?) The question remains as to what you just measured - the friction of the air and the rods or the conductivity of the dry air against your suit. Electrical fields in both instances. Doubt that you would be sensing water in the desert.

    I tried it once. It was too windy to come to any conclusions.

    Dowsing reacts when there is a CHANGE in fields. Like you might even say - it probably works really, really well in the rain.

  • Ed Walters posted at 12:03 pm on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    Did that metal detector help find the tar sands in Canada, if so you must have made a killing. Aaaaaa most likely not. As I said, divining rods work best where water is known, can`t go wrong there.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 9:44 am on Thu, Mar 13, 2014.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    Thanks you. I may not have always agreed with Mr Lucas, but he was always respectful and challenging to me. I will miss our interactions.

    I Didn't interact much with Mr. Johanson, but for his service to this country I will always be thankful for

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 6:02 pm on Wed, Mar 12, 2014.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    See the obituaries, Mr. Paglia.

    Both Oskar Johanson and John Lucas passed away - on the 3rd and 4th respectively.

    They will be missed in this forum and by those who loved them best.

  • Ed Walters posted at 12:45 pm on Wed, Mar 12, 2014.

    the old dog Posts: 631

    I find two metal rods work very well, especially in the street over a water main.

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 9:07 am on Wed, Mar 12, 2014.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 2106

    I have been distracted lately. What did I miss?

  • William Dawes posted at 8:20 pm on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    William Dawes Posts: 116

    A long time ago, I would have laugh at dowsing. But my brother did it with a couple of L shaped brazing rods. We were in high school and my dad wanted us to dig up all the old metal water pipe for a leaking sprinkler line. Of course we had no idea where the line went. So we gave it a try. My brother pegged every line with these rods. I was amazed!

  • ginette matacia posted at 7:16 pm on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    ginette matacia lucas Posts: 1

    Hi - great article, The American Dowsing Society, in VT, will be excited to hear that someone else, other than my father was working with the USMC, for Vietnam. He taught Marine Soldiers, along with General McMasters, and his elite staff, how to dowse. Additionally, my brother and I were there, showing the Marines that even children aged 7 and 9, are able to show a visual on how to use the "L" rods. Water. The Marines started working with dowsing for water, then mock boobie traps, bombs, tunnels, etc. Recently I wrote an article about dowsing for the ASD, titled "Focus" - Getting There First. The article also included more details about Pattons usage of a Water Dowser in Virginia, for a German location using remote dowsing. The Patton's water problem gave him no choice but to solve his water issue by obtaining an odd/weird solution... Dowsing. My father, Louis Matacia, has spoken nationally, and now we have another fantastic member in the dowsing field to include in Military dowsing, Mr. Hansen. My water dowsing lead me to locating missing persons, and missing objects, treasure, oil, etc....accurately. A great article on dowsing is obtainable via the Smithsonian Mag. on Urban Newagers take on Dowsing - by author Jack Hope, Jan. 1996. Or you can contact and join ASD in VT, 802-684-3417. Louis and I reside in Richmond, Virginia

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 6:48 pm on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488


  • Christina Welch posted at 6:05 pm on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 459

    Agreed. And I've enjoyed your thoughts. Especially the fact about toilets in the southern hemisphere--I never knew that!!! [smile]

  • Christina Welch posted at 6:01 pm on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    Christina Welch Posts: 459

    Well said, Ted. I think many people who read the Sentinel will miss them very much.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 11:18 am on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Also VERY sorry to read about both Mr. Johanson and Mr. Lucas. They were/are very good writers as well as their words will continue in the writings of the archives.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 11:08 am on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Water is a good sensor. The ocean tides feel the pull of the moon. The toilets know which direction to spin water depending on which side of the equator you are on but they do drain. Even Obi Wan Kanobi (spelling?) can sense a disturbance in "the force". Why couldn't a couple of rods do the same. If you look inside one of these official "detectors" I am sure you would not find much more than that.

    Did your job Mr. Hansen - got me talking about it. Witchery is the Un - explanation.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 10:27 am on Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    There is a company here in Lodi (a friend) that travels worldwide to find valid sights to drill for oil. He examines satellite maps and takes soil samples to see what is growing or living in the samples . He does much more than that to make his decisions. I think the Sentinel once wrote an article on him.

    I use a metal detector on occasion to find benchmarks or lost keys or toys or tools or simply treasure hunting on the beach (real nerd type stuff). In a current day vineyard it is a difficult thing to do with all the metal stakes in the ground that are slowly rusting. In the mountains you find more minerals in the soil which makes the machine go nuts. You have to tune it out. Different soil contents including water makes it react differently.
    My compass works with the magnetic north pole. A study of this fact on the earth shows that earth polarity is due to reverse soon. There is a directional pull through the earth.

    Why wouldn't there be scientific proof that divining rods would work ?

    Does the phrasing "water - witching" imply a lack of understanding of basic known principles and theories ? - Makes sense to me.


Recent Comments

Posted 8 hours ago by Shane Marcus.

article: Letter: No one’s faith should be scorned

I will only comment on one part of this story. And that is, the lame stream media's right to say just about anything they want to, is onl…


Posted 8 hours ago by Ed Walters.

article: Letter: Ron Portal’s letters repeat the…

DelSolar: You make a short list of Barry`s accomplishments in 6 years, and the next two years he will be just a guest worker at the White…


Posted 8 hours ago by Shane Marcus.

article: Letter: Eat at Chili’s to help Raymond …

I'll help you out, just as soon as you help me pay my bills


Posted 8 hours ago by Shane Marcus.

article: JoAnne Mounce: California gas tax is a …

Taxes! Taxes drive me crazy, but I have to admit the taxes paid by all are far from enough dollars to keep state or even Lodi roads well-ma…


Posted 10 hours ago by Steve Schmidt.

article: Ku Klux Klan expands membership in 1920…

Thanks Christina. It makes me happy to know that thoughtful people like yourself are educating our children.



Popular Stories



Your News

News for the community, by the community.

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists