Originally Posted by Martin Timothy
My call sign was Starlight Grey Four Two, after a couple days of lectures we were told to prepare for a cross country jaunt with the Cavalry, we would be heading up country in M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, to rendezvous with another armored detachment that had tanks.
Lance Corporal Normie Rowe an Australian pop music man, who sold plenty of records until he was drafted was Commander of the vehicle I was in, he had about ten days hair on his face, and had gone to the trouble of lacing his boots from the outside in, he told us that he was on "happy pills," they were issued when a soldier had only fourteen days to go in country.
We did not leave Nui Dat the main Australian base until about three in the afternoon, we traveled out of the main gate turning right on to a macadam road, the view was across about three kilometers of rice fields then densely forested foothills, and a jungle covered hill with a couple of summits and saddles,
Called Nui Dinh from the east, Nui Thi from the west, and the Nui Thi Vai’s in operational terms, known colloquially in Australian Army slang as The Warbies or Warburton Mountain, a large rocky outcrop visible from the road was said to be used for target practice by artillery units.
Normie looked a bit pained, and the driver a tad sheepish… Until we wiped out this guy’s coffee trees we had been more or less well behaved, not that we had been there that long. We crashed thru some more bush land and caught up with the tanks, and another couple of tracked vehicles called AMC’s, which are M113 carriers minus turret with an 81mm mortar tube inside, the cavalry guys were laid back on camp chairs.Going up the road it was great, we were sitting on top of the carriers in the breeze, civilian traffic was a logging truck with a big log hauler and a couple of motor bikes. We only stayed on the road for about two K’s, then turning right took to the countryside going right thru some undulating bush country, then across someone’s coffee grove, the driver took out one complete row of coffee trees,
The coffee pot was on, and music was being played inside the AMC’s.. three Centurion tanks were in triangular formation, each could fire across a one hundred and twenty degree arc, the AMC’s were situated between them.
We were told to place Claymore mines in front of our positions, then to place our machine gun and rifle groups as per our Infantry training, by this time it was nearly dark, and by the time we had put our minefield out and sighted the guns it was dark.
The Cav said now that we were there they were knocking off, they told us that we did not have to provide a picket on our weaponry, and that the fifty caliber MG’s on the Tracks, as we called the Cav M113’s, were the only weapons to be manned round the clock. We asked about the tankies, what they were gonna do and were told to keep out of other peoples business, barbecue’s out the bush is what, they had a barbecue going.
I got a crash course in operating a .50 Cal from a cavalryman who seemed in on something, we were not allowed to cook up or light up our bush stoves to brew tea or coffee, muted laughter and the sfwit sound of ring pull cans, and the giveaway smell of the Barbie coming from the Armored Corps camp, mingled with the night in the forest, grey and white long tailed monkeys were in the branches of the trees.
Barking lizards and fireflies, then at eleven o’clock I man the .50 Cal atop the AMC for a two hour picket, going off at one am, only just settling down to get a bit of sleep maybe when all hell broke loose, one of the tanks fired his 84mm turret gun, then for about a full minute tank and machine gun fire, we did not know what was going on.
The vehicles the cavalry were manning were pouring fire into the jungle, they shouted at us to fire our Claymores, we told them we were reluctant to do so since we had not seen any enemy, and after all the fuss we wanted them in case there was a counter attack. They had a man with a bit of rank with them and he said to fire them, so we fired them, then they said get a bit of sleep ..we went off their roster after that.
In the morning they said not to do a clearing patrol, because of the danger of unexploded ammo from the night before, we just packed up and left, arriving back at the Aussie base in time for breakfast.
Above, Vu Van Hai ex Haiphong in North Vietnam, he deserted the North Vietnamese Army, and bore arms against his own ppl for American dollar$, he was attached to 11 Platoon as a "Bushman Scout" .. the NVA Field Gendarmerie apprehended and brought to Court Martial and execution, at least some of his fellows!
We went on operations after about nine days in country, to a place called the Courtney Rubber Plantation, twenty two K’s north of Nui Dat astride the border of Phoc Tuy and Long Khan provinces, it had been the scene of numerous Australian battles and fire fights, and our time there was to be no different.
I was in Eleven Platoon D Company, we went into action about six days into the operation, bursts of weapons fire, laughter and the sound of digging had betrayed the place where an enemy unit was digging in, building bunkers in the forested area adjacent to the rubber plantation.
Taking regular compass sightings on the weapons fire and the digging noise, one female comrade’s laughter carrying a long way, then we were ordered to meet up with Company HQ and another platoon and proceed to contact. Approaching the grid reference where there had been firing coming from, trees had been cut off maybe 300mm up from the ground, and a handful of dirt had been put on the raw stumps as camouflage, then you are real close…
A burst of automatic fire breaks the tension, someone calls for a medic an engineer with Company HQ has a serious groin wound, he has taken the full burst upward, he had trodden into the entrance of an enemy bunker. The platoon in front of us went thru a contact drill and took two more hits, a machine gun group consisting of the gunner and his offsider both seriously wounded, their medic was using his skills with the two company medics trying to keep the engineer alive.
This provoked quite a bit of enemy fire and he says, “I told you not to fire,” to an MG group from 11 platoon, the gunner tells him, “tell him about it, he’s firing at me and Mac,” Privates Colgrave and McGarry.Someone says have you guys got a medic down there, and Sgt Buckney tells me to attend to their wounded people, I follow our line up to the ten platoon men, and they tell me their men have taken hits, enemy fire is coming from numerous points in the jungle, Lt. from 10 platoon orders no firing unless you have a direct target,
I find Corporal Weatherall from 10 pl, I tell him I was told he had men down, beside him is the body of Pte Wooley from Tasmania, his head is a mass of blood and mud and stuff like that, just then firing erupts from our front, I push Wooley’s body from his position behind a low anthill and he protests, I tell him, “..sorry mate, I thought you were dead.”
The machine gunner Private Gould was dead, his body hung up in the jungle vines hit by now with repeated bursts of enemy fire. I get to work on Pte Wooley, he had a scalp wound that had caused a lot of bleeding, an AK47 round had creased the top of his head, firing was intermittently coming from the enemy positions, and Cpl Weatherall went forward without his weapon to recover Pte Gould’s body, he is a big guy and him crashing thru the bush alerted the defenders,
Firing was from directly in front, I could see the exhaust coming from the enemy soldier’s weapon, and fired two short bursts from an AR15 at where I reckoned the firer’s head was, no more firing came from that position.
So on and on, we pulled out of that position after recovering the body, stayed up late and put it on a chopper, another helicopter had arrived earlier on for the wounded, the pilot would not take a K, as we pulled out so did they, the enemy fire was coming from further away, they were firing back at us as they departed.
Back into the enemy position in the morning, deserted except for the body of the man I had fired at, his weapon was splintered and pierced where the automatic rifle fire had struck, Command said Eleven Platoon should stay in situ and be ready and waiting for any enemy who might come along.
On December 20 along comes a group of enemy, the Australian sentry fires at the first of a group who depart firing back as they did so, a clearing patrol found nothing, throughout the remainder of the day the sound of a man in pain alerted the defenders that a wounded man lay beyond our perimeter.
On and thru the night his moans excited the pity of Pte Kennell who called for a medic to go forward to his aid, Lieutenant Lombardo refused, early in the morning he came personally to the Lieutenant, and said he would guide the medic to the man’s location that he had pinpointed thru the night.
Sergeant Buckney who was grinning ear to ear, chewing gum elated at this opportunity to kill an injured man, made a motion toward his weapon as my attitude became insubordinate, expecting that he would fire upon me if my aggressive attitude persisted.
It was then that a decision was made that he was to be shot, I was the medic, I grabbed my medical supplies and hurried to Pte Kennell and proceeded in the direction where the injured man lay.
Buckney was chewing gum open mouthed, I told him I was gonna fix this man, and see to it that he was properly repatriated to hospital care, telling them I joined the Army to be a soldier not a fukken murderer and like it or fukken not, I was going to bring aid to this man.
Buckney went for his M16 rifle, I thought he was gonna shoot me for insubordination in the field, so I stood mute while a group under Cpl Poulson assembled and went forth and murdered him ..Pte Goody shot at the man he missed then fired a second shot killing him, yeah I want to hang them .. Smirk now you ****!!!
Pte Brennan killed Pte Goody and Pte Earl on the early morning of May 1 1970, he fired without warning upon both men during operations, I attended both injured men and Lt Lombardo after he was wounded in battle on Feb 18 1970.
At about 11:00 pm the previous night while D Company was in situ at Nui Dat between operations, we were woken and ordered to get into our combat gear including helmets and flack jackets, while a troop of M113 Armored Personal Carriers had appeared to take us to the Dinh Co Monastery at the foot of the Long Hai hills, where a platoon from B Company, that had engaged a group of about ten enemy, that turned out to be the advance party of a much larger force, was under siege.
We got there before daybreak and took up positions between the salt marsh and the hills near Firebase Isa, which guarded the south eastern access to the Firestone Trail, so named since the Firestone Tyre Company's failed attempt to establish rubber plantations in the area, which went past the monastery thence to well established enemy positions in the hills.
The enemy abandoned the siege and dispersed when they smelled the diesel fumes from the 113's, and heard the engines of the Centurion tanks that sped to the scene, another company from 8 Battalion similarly mounted in tracks, had located itself at the north western approach between the hills and the sea, while another company of mounted infantry closed the road between the hill country and the Long Dien rice fields.
Meant that a large force of enemy was at large in the sandy scrub country with nowhere to go, since the line at Dinh Co had held, and the mounds of enemy bodies there attested to their desperate attempts to get back to the hills.
We started moving about 7:30 am in line abreast with tanks, enemy RPG fire and satchel charges took two M113's out of the line as we advanced across the formidable minefield that surrounded the enemy positions.
There was an enormous explosion and the interior of the vehicle filled with dust, even as an M16 Jumping Jack mine, the type which which caused over 57 per cent of Australian casualties in Vietnam, exploded beneath our vehicle.
Then forming up in line abreast, Sergeant Bill Hoban a mine clearance expert who had deemed an area safe, was guiding down a helicopter that had arrived to retrieve Trooper Carlyle's body and to convey the wounded to hospital, he stepped onto a mine and was killed instantly, the APC with the dead and wounded went over and dropped its ramp before retrieving Bill's body.
During this part a series of explosions coming from an entirely unexpected quarter rocked the battlefield, a helicopter was sent to investigate, whence the pilot reported that a group of enemy had stumbled onto their own mines, in what appeared to be an attempt to escape to the hills, he reported seeing about eight dead with their weapons scattered all about - no attempt was made to recover the weapons or to land for fear of mines!
We were not allowed to leave the vehicles, and as soon as they were refueled we sped back and took our position in the line while the next group went, until everyone was fuelled and ammo'd up, since there had been a considerable amount of firing thru the night continuing into the morning.By this time the cut and thrust had been going on since about 11:00 the previous night, the tracks needed to be refueled so we went the twenty or so clicks back to Nui Dat at high speed, before dropping the dead off at the morgue and the wounded at the hospital.
About midday everyone was right to go, a couple of celebrities had turned up one was combat cameraman Neil Davis who was a "war junkie" from Tasmania, he was up on the back of an APC, a couple of our officers walked over and spoke to him - never mind we were in a minefield - he was polite at first then distant and aloof!
Came the order to move and we advanced up the Firestone trail, straight away there was firing and rocket grenades from the enemy position, while hot spent shells rained down inside the vehicle as the crew commander responded with his twin thirty caliber machine guns.
After about a kilometer the commander dropped his ramp, whence we were to get out and proceed on foot with the tanks, the carriers were to continue at high speed until they linked with the mounted company at the north western end of the redoubt, the vehicle I had been in was blown up whence the crew commander was killed.
Proceeding on foot sure to walk where the tank treads were, the tanks they had brought in were called L5's which were Centurions with a bulldozer blade.
The L5's simply graded a road as they went and bulldozed the enemy out of their bunkers, bodies rolling along with the dirt and stuff, to my right a Viet Cong officer and an enlisted man were peering thru a weapons slit at ground level, I leveled my L2A1 7.62 mm automatic rifle, then held fire as a fella from A Company stepped straight into my line of fire.
Continuing on, another troop of M113 carriers arrived and we were told to get in, they took us further on and dropped us at the foot of one of the foothills leading up to the main range, whence we were to obtain the summit and dig in to prevent any enemy that might bug out from the camp reaching the spur.
We proceeded under sporadic enemy rifle fire gaining the summit, securing the area by placing rifle and machine gun groups at various positions, Lieutenant Lombardo said we should cool off a bit, and since most of us had not had anything to eat since the day before, make a cuppa.
I thought it was a good idea and shucked my gear off and got my bush stove going to brew tea, I heard Vietnamese voices - the radio op was with the Boss and the Sergeant having a confab about it all - we were on the rocky summit of a small hill overlooking the Firestone valley, everywhere was overgrown with bamboo.
Taking a look I decided to take a better look and moved around the other side of a massive boulder, and found I was looking straight down at a hidden path that went the full length of the spur, they were well traveled and just a little further up, the flared snout of a 20 mm anti aircraft gun was poking thru the bamboo!
The plan re the enemy decamping from the bunkers where the tanks had plowed thru had been proven correct, however some infantry mounted the 113's that had closed in from the north west had spotted them and were chasing them thru the scrub and up our hill, whence the infantry and cavalry gunners were pouring devastating fire after them.I needed hand grenades, and I had two in the webbing I had taken off back where my tea water was bubbling merrily away about four meters around the other side of the boulders, that was when the sh*t hit the fan, so to speak!
Lombardo was on the radio screaming that we were under fire and in danger of being over run, when a MG slug caught him liketty split between the shoulder blades, he is a naturally swarthy individual and he turned a seasick shade of green, I removed his shirt and saw frothy blood bubbling thru a wound about thirty mm across, that the tissue beneath had almost closed.
That is a sucking chest wound, I placed the palm of my hand flat over the wound, and was relieved when he took a clear breath in and his color improved dramatically, we were still under fire and I dragged him into a large bomb crater that was there.
Thus employed, tracer fire had set the bamboo on fire making the aforementioned hidden paths untenable, they took to the scub as it were and passed right by, I had dressings and bandages spread everywhere and was working hard.Removing the waterproof outer cover of a shell dressing with one hand and my teeth, being sure that no mouth material touched the inner sterile surface, placing it over the wound and taping the whole dressing over, then put another smaller dressing, Frank Sinatra style into his armpit for luck.
Movement caught my eye and two enemy soldiers who looked they were on a walk in the park stopped by, they seemed exited to see a combat medic hard at it, they were joined by a few more until there were about five watching, when one of their NCO's, who looked like the same dude I had seen in the enemy camp appeared, and told them to never mind what I was doing and to keep moving, they were all heavily armed and I just kept working.
Trying to keep the airtight bandage in place ..the sticking plaster would not stick to his clammy skin, just then during a lull in the firing Corporal Colough appeared, he said he had a man down up ahead and I told him to bring him in.
He said he was immobile and requested that I go to his aid, I applied a dry bandage over Lt Lombardo's airtight dressing and Private Van Herren bound it in place, while I went to see the guy that was down further up, rock hopping all the way because of mines, the gunners on the APC's in the valley below saw it all and opened fire.
We waited until the fire storm abated a little, he was conscious and I told him I had a casualty clearing station up yonder and that was where we were going, he had no use of his legs and he looped both hands around my neck and I skull dragged him back to where we were going.Glancing downward saw bright white and yellow tracer arcing upward, the guy who had been hit was on his own about fifty meters up range, his upper body was sheltered behind a low rock not his legs however which had taken multiple hits, he had lost some blood and his bones were shattered, that he had not by then bled to death meant he was salvageable!
Colgrave's Courage!!! During this process a big mouth inbred c*** called Ray Colgrave, who was recruited from Risdon Prison in Tasmania, whose only claim to fame was that he fell upon an injured man with his inbred mates and killed him, decided to give me advice - I wanna see how much courage he has when I put the noose around his neck!!
Took the guy back in, left his boots and his strides on and just bound both legs all up, when the medivac chopper arrived placed him onto a stokes litter and saw him winched to safety, the same with Lt Lombardo and then another twelve or so walking wounded, I was hit in the left shoulder, back and legs with machine gun fire and shrapnel, and still have a 5.56 mm slug embedded in my right hand.
While thus engaged, elsewhere on the battlefield mines had exploded and another nine Australians were killed.01:00 hrs 1 May 1970, on military operations in Phoc Tuy province a burst of machine gun fire followed by a calls for the Medic split the night, the machine gunner had opened fire without warning wounding two men, seven rounds caught L/Cpl Goody in the left deltoid with a large exit wound between his left armpit and shoulder blade.
The same burst ripped into Private Earle's abdomen causing massive bleeding, he died around twenty seconds later Corporal Goody's wound though serious appeared to be manageable, he was conscious and in good spirits when we put him on the chopper, he died later that day in hospital!
The Minefield at Dat Do - by Greg Lockhart
In 2002 a Lew Pattle who had been 11 Platoon radio operator in Vietnam for a short time, rang and invited me to a reunion, he said a number of 11 Pl. men would be attending and would likely afterwards go out to Bluey Brennan’s farm near Roma.
I had not seen him or the others for thirty two years, he said the reunion was still some weeks away and said he would call a few days before, weeks later he called me on a cell phone and said I could catch up with them at Errol Weatherall’s house, he was driving at the time and passed the phone to Brennan who said to come on out to Weatherall’s place, I rang Weatherall, despite the fact that he reckons he has killed better men than me, who did not know of their approach.
I went out to meet them -I had been having serious nightmares involving terribly burnt corpses encased in a glass case filled with snow… The snow began to melt revealing the burnt charred corpses, even as I gazed they began to stir and show life, their eyes alighted on me and a hostile grimace formed on one of the awakened corpses. I woke up screaming, days later my neighbor told me he was woken by my terrible scream.
Thus in the club as I approached their table I recognized Bridges, Boyle, Brennan, Pattle and Weatherall as the figures from the nightmare, even as Weatherall fixed his demonic gaze upon me, they were on their way to Brennan’s farm at Roma five hours west of Brisbane, and had not asked me.
Bridges is a dog whose body language at the time suggested that he was along for the ride, he thought he was going to have the opportunity to murder me, his best mate is a killer Jew psychiatrist Bevan Kant, who tortured Vietnam veterans to death in Ward 10 at the Townsville Hospital.
In Vietnam toward the end of the tour thay had made me a Lance Corporal, Private Bluey Boyle was flying out the next day, we were in a very dangerous place goin' on nightfall between the road and the hills, he was goofing off shouting and hollering, I told him to "knock it off" whence he spun round on his heel and leveled a 40mm grenade launcher at my midriff ..I guess I always did have trouble with personal relationships.
I was awarded a Vietnamese decoration after patching up the wounded under fire the day Lt Lombardo was hit, the men who knew this who I had not seen for thirty two years, and on whose behalf I had gone forward wounded, saw no reason to mention it, brings to mind the sh*t that you got off of other soldiers.Racism - Van Johnson is a black guy, I had a sweet black girlfriend, he takes it upon himself to warn me that if he ever heard me use racist language he would, “..beat me and I would not be getting’ up either," well I will take the matter up with the black c**t any time he wants.Pattle rang again March 2007, he said that another reunion was organized for Anzac Day at Monto, at the family seat of Phillip Goody, the soldier who had fired the fatal shot when the NVA soldier was murdered and did I want to attend, I replied that since I had not been invited to Roma and that no one saw fit to mention that I had gotten a medal,
That Weatherall had told me he had killed better men than me, and Boyle who had threatened me when I gave my one and only order as Lance Corporal, and some black c**t reckons he was gonna beat me so bad I would not get up, I said that I was not certain of my personal safety, he got off the phone, Brennan rang abusive - If they gave medals for cowardice Pattle would have got a bagful.
On that first operation, we were out the bush for about six weeks, a couple of days after we got back we went to Vung Tau for a midweek weekend, two nights in town at the Badcoe Club near the beach, I see Weatherall having a beer with one of the Company cooks, I greet him cordially and he goes off of his head and tells me he has killed better men than me, then I belt the **** out of him, I trace his attitude to the wounded soldier incident.
I lost my job as leading hand Rigger/ Scaffolder with Transfield at Gordonstone Coal during construction in 1991, a revolting lazy creep asked me if I knew Red Brennan, he was a machine gunner in 11 platoon, I replied, “was that Dennis Brennan,” he snarled “it’s Red Brennan!”
That guy turned on me at work, I lost my temper then lost my job, he had made repeated provocative and vicious attacks upon me, I say he relayed that he was working with me to his mate at Roma D Brennan, who poured scorn upon me emboldening him to attack me at work with his mates .. Brennan is a filthy dog **** and a murderer!!Me and Johnny Vann
In Vung Tau I team up with Cpl Muller the head medic, he told me he was happy with the way I treated Pte Wooley, we arrive at a consensus that since we were in Viet Nam and in town, to really experience the Viet Nam experience we had better drink a little beer, smoke a little marijuana, and go to a brothel.
So we have a smoke and a couple beers then head for the brothel, the chicks were nice people but not the fancies that were working as bar girls for instance, we pay the mama san and two chicks take us with them, in the rooting cubicle I decided that at nineteen years I could do a bit better,
I had heard lurid tales of dreadful diseases and did not want to get one, I tell the chick I have changed my mind, I still have the MJ and she has a smoke with me and gets a couple of beers.
Having a beer and she jumps up on the bed and looks over the partition, she is giggling uncontrollably and waves me up, looking over there’s Muller pounding away I could see the funny side, movement and noise indicated the cubicle on the opposite side had an occupant, the chick pushes the bed over and looks over, she has closed her mouth waves at me to join her.
John Paul Vann
A thin Caucasian male late forties was being served, civilian clothes neatly stacked, my girl giggles loudly then ducks her head, the guy having sex face up is an American says, “… say man, who the f--- are you anyway, “ I say, “sorry mate my girlfriend made me do it,” he tells his girl, “have you ever met a God damn Aussie, with good manners,” ..that was the first time I caused Johnny Vann liver shrinkage.
The next time was in October 1970, I was a Lance Corporal and was combined medic and machine gunner, there were seven left in our platoon that had come over on the Sydney, most had rotated home their enlistment over, 11 platoon had suffered fourteen wounded in battle in the Long Hai hills in Eastern Phoc Tuy province in February, two of whom had been repatriated to Australia.
Scottish soldier Ronnie Sharp, who shaved his mustache before we went on ops else an enemy sniper use it as an "aiming point," when the sniper's round hit him it was from side on .. we had lost two men killed in a friendly fire incident on 1 May, and a man had gone home wounded after a Regional Force soldier had sniped at us in September, the RF were armed and equipped by the Americans and were supposed to be our allies.
A Frenchman, the civilian manager of the Michelin Tire owned Rubber Company had been murdered in about August, an Australian SAS soldier was said to have rappelled from a helicopter into his front yard, entered his house and shot him dead, despite his pleas to be allowed to telephone the commander of 1 ATF at Nui Dat.I was asked to attend an Orders Group with some officers and NCO’s, they wanted to know how I liked it as a machine gunner, I smelled a rat.
He was a good guy, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as I was concerned, I had seen him a couple of times driving a Renault thru the rubber plantations, he would wave .. They told us at the O Group, that intelligence had revealed a supply train was leaving the village of Long Dien that night and we would be placed to intercept them, our platoon had been split into two halves, and I would be point MG in a twelve man ambush.
After being delivered by road we made our way across flooded rice fields and took up our positions in a cemetery, we had machine groups at two points of a triangular position, and a command radio group in rear protection, I would be the machine gunner right front.
I sighted two banks of Claymore mines on a paddy bund and could deliver enfiladed fire across an arc of one hundred and twenty degrees, nightfall and the flooded fields became a myriad of lights, the villagers were chasing fish and crustaceans using candles and torches to find them, later in the night the fields were deserted and in my gun group I was the only one awake.
We had been sent some guys who had been shelled by friendly artillery while still in the reinforcement unit, losing men killed on their first night in the bush, just a few hundred meters outside of the wire at Nui Dat, on July 20 that year, I let them sleep.
Some time maybe around eleven o'clock a beautiful Vietnamese girl comes along, she has a steam cooker of food in one hand and a bag of rice in the other, she had what looked like a WW2 Japanese rifle slung diagonally across her back, and looked exactly like a Vietnamese freedom fighter on a propaganda poster.South Vietnam July 20 1970: Around 9 PM two friendly artillery rounds fired from the New Zealand battery, crashed down close to the barbed wire perimeter of D Company Eighth Battalion, part of 1 Australian Task Force based at Nui Dat in Phoc Tuy province.
Then the sound of a salvo of about four rounds, then a few seconds silence and as the echoes died away, a helicopter was heard even as another salvo crashed down, the sound of the chopper merging with the explosions of the 105mm artillery shells.
Elements from 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit on a night exercise just a few hundred meters outside of the wire, had taken casualties from artillery fire, that had been relayed to the medivac people who had got a helicopter airborne and on its way to the scene, all without causing the artillery to stop firing. Lives were lost.
Just who was giving orders, the Australian Government had about that time decided to reduce the commitment to the Vietnam war, and had said that when 8 Battalion rotated home in November it would not be replaced, might be that this was a going away present in response to the government’s decision, organized by Mr B52 himself master war criminal Johnny Vann, who was known to be active in the area.
About midnight bursts of automatic rifle fire sprayed tracer across the rice, I lifted the M60 into position, mist had spread across the paddy fields, a group was moving out of the village in the dark and thru the mist finding their way with torches and candles, I leveled the gun it fires at a cyclic rate of five hundred and sixty rounds per minute, each fifth round tracer, I had twelve hundred rounds in a waterproof rucksack kept clean and free of dust.I had a beautiful girlfriend I had met in Vung Tau, and just as I loved her I knew this girl was going to meet someone whom she loved, I showed her the correct path, and placing my finger up and down in front of my lips that she make no sound, saw her safely away from the militarized area.
Navigating across rice paddies is a zigzag type of thing, as way is made along bunds and dykes, we were going to intercept them none the less since their way toward the Long Hai hills met up with our position in the cemetery, a couple of times they lined up with the sights, then I had them broadside as they tracked toward my position, I could see about seven lights, and as they drew closer saw some were lower down and closer to the ground than others, as though the person holding the torch had short legs.
From about fifty meters downrange they got onto a bund that brought them walking in a line, directly toward my machine gun and into the field of fire from both banks of Claymores, for about twenty meters till they turned onto another bund, their lights dimming in the mist as they zigzagged toward the hills.
Next day there is a hell of a stink, another O Group and some officer says you must have seen them, I tell him I saw them alright, he says well why didn’t you fire, and I told him that I much preferred that they remained unmolested, they get long faced because it was an operation organized by the Americans, Johnny Vann was in charge of intelligence just there, and was said to be right pissed off.
Read more about J Vann in, A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan, the best book about the Viet Nam war.
Dirt on the SAS - In Vietnam one evening late in the tour, I am Duty NCO in the D Company orderly room, a vehicle pulls up and two SAS men march in, they are looking for one of our company corporals who was formerly a Parachute Jump Instructor in the Airborne Platoon at Williamstown in NSW.
I tell them that he is on R&R. One of the SAS men is a Corporal and has an M16 rifle with a 40mm grenade launcher built in, called an under and over, the other guy is a Lance Corporal who had an M16, so I told them the guy they wanted is not there, I ask if they are from the Sas, two stripes asks again, I say, "like are you from the Sas," he tells me it is the S.A.S.
I thank him for his patience and tell him none the less, that should he and his mate like to leave their weapons in the orderly room locker, I would take them over to the wet mess where they can meet some of our people, and have a beer as well, the Corp says "where I go this goes," referring to his weapon, I tell him that in that case, he and it, and his mate, had better get off of the premises.
Bridges and I in our Hippy gear
The officer corps was in disarray, in Vung Tau myself and Private Jack Bridges had met two beautiful Vietnamese girls and were on a date with them at the Grand Hotel, Bridges was from South Carolina in the USA, his family had moved from there to Brisbane in the sixties and he joined the Australian Army in 1969.
Our platoon commander had been wounded in battle, our new Lieutenant was an ex New South Wales policeman, he told us he used to get his kicks turning a fire hose on the prisoners in the cells in the Sydney watch house. Australian Military Police accosted us on our date, Bridges had left his leave pass behind so they took him into custody, our Platoon Commander Lt Matthew Faulkner heard he was in custody, then talked his way into the cells and turned the fire hose on Private Bridges.
About September 1970, laying up at night on the Border of Phouc Tuy and Bien Hoa provinces, at the bottom left hand corner on the map, on the part that runs due north south.
NVA T34 tanks in South Vietnam
Around twenty two clicks south west of US Fire Support Base Black Horse, on a raised roadway, overgrown and inaccessible by wheeled vehicles, that could be as old as the ancient Vietnamese Kingdom .. 9:30 pm it had been raining, the Moon was disappearing between the rainclouds causing shine and shadow!
There were troop movements about two hundred meters down, by 04:30 the following morning, about two and a half thousand enemy had passed across our front .. Around 11:00 pm that night, first the squeal of worn out bearings then the screech of un greased tracks, beside Corporal Kevin Poulson, I said "that's a effin tank," he grunted.
I said come on man we gotta get after it, I turned inwards and spoke to the other groups, that we must be quick.. no one moved a muscle .. the tank climbed up on to the raised section, crossed over and went down the other side, the next night another one did the same thing going the same way, the troops were going left to right, the tanks were rollin' right to left, toward Saigon.
On the second night, when the tank's engine was roaring about two hundred meters away, I told Lieutenant Matthew Faulkner, he turned the fire hose on one of our ppl in cells at Vung Tau weeks before, that we must deploy our M 72 light anti tank weapons, and blow the tank to pieces, that they were chicken the night before, and they have a perfect opportunity to redeem themselves!
He grunted the same way Paulson had, who had gone forth in December the previous year, and killed a wounded enemy soldier I had wished to save .. Lieutenant Matthew "Firehose" Faulkner, Corporals Kevin Poulson and Malcolm Edwards, should have been put against a wall and shot, for cowardice in the face of the enemy!