Colin F. Jones
THE CONFLICT IN VIETNAM: Part 10
The 1969 Tet Offensive was imminent. Intelligence sources believed that 274 VC Regiment would soon begin to move through the northern Hat Dich area to Route 15. From there could be expected that attacks would be mounted upon the US bases at Long Binh and Bien Hoa and that they would attempt to interdict Route 15.
To prevent these occurrences the Task force mounted Operation Goodwood. The 4th battalion deployed in AO Kilkoy which was located east of Route 15 a little north of the village of Thai Thien.
Victor Coy, moving in by APC, established a battalion defensive position. This position was code named Sandpiper from where the battalion was warned for Task force reaction duties.
Whiskey Company, occupying the permanent base Horseshoe, and Victor Company (who were the Task force reaction company) moved to their respective AO’s by road. 1RAR had established FSPB Diggers rest supported by 102 Field Battery and right section of 104 Field Battery flew in to join them.
Extensive patrolling was carried out with many successful ambushes and contacts resulting. Along Route 15, companies’ operating with APC’s had many minor contacts indicating that there was indeed enemy activity in the region.
The battalion remained on operations through the Christmas period and on December 26th the battery deployed to establish FSPB Wattle for the second time. Bases were never left intact when the battery departed, the position being completely destroyed, leaving nothing behind that might be useful to the enemy.
The battalion flew back into the region, where operation Hawskbury had been carried out, to establish AO Warragul.
The FSPB was secured by an Assault pioneer Platoon and Delta Company. Charlie Company and Battalion HQ deployed at the FSPB: Bravo Company assault landed on an unsecured landing zone further north. Delta Company began operations to the east and northeast of the base, later moving to a position west of the other companies who were deployed north of the Blackstone trail (Bravo Company), and in the southern part of the AO. (Charlie Company).
The battalion soon became familiar with the area having operated there before Camps were easily located and destroyed and ambushes were successfully conducted.
Whiskey Company joined the battalion on December 31st to conduct operations with them for the first time. For a while they operated south of the FSPB before joining Coy operating north of the Blackstone trail.
Occupied camps were continually discovered by Air reconnaissance flights and were hit with air strikes. The Companies then moved up to carry out mopping up operations. Time was a problem and many camps and trails found to be occupied and used were disregarded, for to set up ambushes and conduct extended searches of bunkered camps was very time consuming indeed.
The battalion companies moved to five separate pick up zones for the airlift back to Nui Dat. The first phase of the operation was over. The return to Nui Dat was calculated to allow the enemy use of the area as a Route to the waterways west of Route 15. This had long been known as an enemy Route running north and south.
In the area where FSPB Dyke had previously been established, a large enemy force was thought to be resident and the second phase of the operation was mounted with the intention of destroying all enemy and facilities found. This meant that FSPB Dyke would again be established, this time by the Battery, Bravo Company and Battalion HQ.
FSPB DYKE – second occupation
On January 27th 1969, FSPB Dyke was secured. Coy operated to the north of the base. According to SAS information, concentrated enemy movement by a large force was taking place in the area of AO Sherman. Based on this information, Whiskey Company deployed in the region east of AO Riversdale, while Victor Company, deploying in APCs, moved into the Whiskey Company AO southwest of Dyke.
Coy suffered a set back, walking into a VC ambush. In the resulting conflict two Australian soldiers were killed. That night Whiskey Company was attacked by what was estimated to be a Company sized force was accepted that the VC probably thought was an SAS patrol.
The battle was fierce and the battery was called in to supply supporting fire. Illumination rounds were fired to light the area, and Spooky was called in to provide similar illumination and sustained fire. The battle continued to rage and the big guns of B Battery, 2/35th US Artillery joined in the action.
The VC casualties were no doubt heavy, but as always their ability to drag away their casualties, made difficult to estimate their losses. So the attack was repulsed and the sky lit brightly with flares fired from the guns and Spooky, became dark again.
On the Battery’s first visit to Dyke, mud and slush had been the conditions to contend with. This time was quite the opposite. The dust was immense, inches deep, which welled up into incredibly thick clouds as a result of the incoming supply choppers. The firing of the guns also caused great clouds to cover the position. After the attack Coy was moved closer to the rest of the battalion and linked up with armoured units in AO Riversdale.
Later on February 7th, the battalion moved from AO Riversdale to AO Tiki, which was further north along Route 15. FSPB Dyke was abandoned and destroyed and the Battery moved to establish FSPB Janice, which lay to the west of Route 15 and was secured by elements of Coy and HQ.
Janice was established near the village of Phuoc Long, which was considered to be sympathetic to the Viet Cong. Victor Company deployed to the south of the village B and Whiskey Company, to the north and east.
Along the Soui Cau Moi stream, Victor Company was successful with many ambushes and Delta Company ambushed sampans with good results. The battalion mortar platoon deployed with the gun battery in the fire support base, engaging the enemy only 200 metres from the base. Coy the following day swept through the area finding a large cache of weapons including a 12.7mm heavy machine gun. Much information about the area came from agents working with the battalion. One such agent supplied information relating to large weapons cache, north of AO Tiki. The enemy, of course, would defend such an area, so with this in mind, on February 16th, a troop of Centurion tanks accompanied Whiskey and Bravo Companies into the area.
The agent was taken along with the Companies. Bravo Company crossed a clearing without incident but soon after was subject to intense fire from automatic weapons, claymore mines, medium machine guns and RPGs.
The battle was intensely fought the tanks being hit and suffering casualties. Two Bravo Company soldiers were killed. The tanks withdrew out of range. This was potentially the biggest conflict the battalion had uncounted. Air strikes were called in, but as the day drew to a close all hostilities ceased, for that night a cease-fire came into force, preventing Bravo Company from continuing the battle.
On February 19th, the battalion received a warning order to move. Six Australians had died on this operation and 13 were wounded. It was generally felt among the soldiers that the cease-fire had denied them reprisals for those brave men who gave their lives in the battles during the operation.
The British Centurion Tank was developed during WW2 as a cruiser tank under the designation A41. They were armed with a 17-pounder gun when first introduced. Shortly before the end of the war was named the Centurion and entered service soon after the wars end.
The first Centurion tanks deployed in Vietnam was C Squadron, 1 Armoured Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps (1968), consisting of two troops of Centurion Mk 5/1 (Aust) tanks armed with the 20 pounder gun.
The tank had a conventional layout, with driver seated in the hull at the right front, gunner and Commander seated on the right of the turret and the loader/operator standing to the left.
The Centurion had a crash gearbox which required quite a bit of skill to operate smoothly, the power plant being one 485-KW (650-hp) Rolls-Royce Mk IVB 12-cylinder liquid cooled petrol engine which had a maximum speed of 34.6 kph with a range of 102-km. This maximum speed was greatly reduced in the conditions of the Vietnam environment. 65 rounds of Ammunition for the 20-pounder (83.4-mm) gun were carried, plus 4,250 rounds for the two 30-cal (7.62-mm) machine guns. In Vietnam the canister round was proven to be most effective against unprotected targets and for clearing vegetation, which more often than not concealed enemy bunkers.
The Centurion was more heavily armoured than both the American Chrysler Corporation M48A3 and the USSR T-54/55 used by the North Vietnamese.
The Centurion Tank toted its 20-pounder gun mounted on an all round traverse turret. It was capable of engaging enemy armour up to 2,000 metres with armour piercing shot and other targets up to 8,000 metres with HE. The gun is very accurate and was extremely good in engaging bunkers and buildings.
It can use canister ammunition where a large number of projectiles are spread in a wide area at ranges up to 200 metres which is useful against mass ground attack.
Mounted on the turret was the commanders coaxially mounted Machine gun and in front of the turret is mounted another. It has two multi barrel smoke discharges that could produce a smoke screen in a matter of minutes.
NEWS FROM HOME
The TET Offensive was still on the lips of most soldiers and indeed in the newspapers back home. Many of the articles in the newspapers sent from home were met with dismay. A lot of them were simply untrue; others were overstated or simply lacking in fact.
The newspapers did nothing for the moral of the troops, and indeed many felt forgotten. Many others were dismayed by the ignorance and the accusations pointed at them by their own people. Many were confused, for they were unable to comprehend what it was all about.
One of the most devastating incidents that can happen in a soldier’s life is to receive a “Dear John” letter. Many soldiers lost their wives and girl friends as a result of their tour in South Vietnam. Others knew by the letters they received that there was nothing to look forward to when they returned home.
I can tell by your sweet letters
That your love for me is gone,
Yet the truthless words still matter
For my hopes to cling upon.
You reject me for another
Who is near you, and at home,
Who can give you love and comfort,
That you are not left alone.
It is not a real comfort
In the horror of this place
But the perfume in your letters,
Reminds me of your face.
At night I lie in darkness
In my dank and putrid pit,
The monsoon rain and tempest
Slashing coldly through the slit.
The worms from sodden sandbags;
And seeping through the walls,
The slimy stenching water
Upon my sodden blanket falls.
Later, through the mire
The clinging jungle sludge,
I here the distant fire
As I give my mate a nudge.
Together we go creeping
Like hulking beasts of night
To the strong-point, sogged and seeping,
Not a satisfying sight,
We crouch together peering
Through the narrow little gap,
Ears strained against the searing
Of the monsoons violent rap.
Inside my heart is breaking
And a tear in my eye
Does nothing for the shaking
Nor the thought that I might die.
My eyes drip with water
From the slashing tearing rain,
Which hides the tears of slaughter
That are running from my brain.
My fearful heart is heavy
For there is no purpose now,
As I watch the reeling levy
From the torrent take a bow.
Later when the popping
Of a dozen different flares
Light the sky with sopping
Parachuted little glares
I am running through the slushing
With my rifle in my hands
In a frantic practised rushing
To the place where life demands.
Even then when shouting orders
With the breaches slamming shut
I do but what they taught us
For my brain and heart are cut.
But when the dreadful rockets
Match us round for round,
As they shriek above in brackets
Of terrifying sound,
My anger quells the aching
And fills my empty heart,
The violence of my shaking
Speeding fingers to the part…
That ignites the cartridge casing
And lets the missile go,
That the rockets soon are ceasing
From a fast retreating foe.
The din is ear bursting
With the sludge and mire a-flow
The leaping guns yet thirsting
To have another go.
But the battle is all over
Now the night is growing black
The ‘nogs’ have broken cover;
They won’t this night be back.
The cartridge cases glower
And fizzle in the rain
As I gently stoop to lower,
Myself to bed again…
And I lie here in the darkness,
Here the heavy monsoons weep,
I love you… Oh, I love you…
And finally I sleep.
FSPB BETTY (Operation Federal)
The Commander, II Field Force decided to deploy elements of the 1st Australian Task Force once again in the region of the giant storage complexes Long Binh and Bien Hoa as part of the defences against the TET offensive. The enemy were expected to move many regiments into the area to launch rocket and mortar attacks, even ground attacks, against the bases.
The Battery had occupied FSPB Concord the last time we were in this area, north of Bien Hoa. This time we were to deploy to the east to establish FSPB Betty.
Operation Federal began on February 19th and ended on March 24th 1969. The battalion was deployed in AO Belconnen, east of Long Bihn. 9RAR occupied an AO to the north. The battalion was responsible for the region from the railway line running parallel to Route 1, south to the Song La Buong River, that formed the perimeter of the Thai army’s area of operations. The battalion’s main threat was expected to be from the east, involving units of the 5th VC Division, namely the 33rd VC Regiment.
The initial contacts were likely to be with sapper elements and or recce groups, who would be sent forward to secure areas around the storage bases for the rocket units and their 122mm and 107mm rockets.
The gun battery accompanied Delta Company and moved by road convoy along Route 15 to establish FSPB Betty; the main part of the battalion flying in on February 19th from Operation Goodwood. Thus began the construction of heavily fortified positions. Deployed along side the railway line, about 400 metres from Route 1, Victor Company was the northern most company. Whiskey Company deployed alongside the river and Bravo Company a little further south.
The gun battery, with Battalion HQ and Delta Company, occupied the FSPB. The base lay behind the defending companies, between them and Long Binh.
The return to ‘Rocket Alley’ did not inspire a great deal of delight from the gunners, remembering their first occupation at Concord. Behind the base the countless lights of Long Binh reassembled a great city; what a target for enemy rockets… wow! And rockets there were. Every night the guns were in constant action firing counter rocket duels.
In every action the battery succeeded in finding the rocket locations before the enemy found the base thus repelling the advent of more rockets fired from those areas.
The rockets were a terrifying experience, screaming overhead, some reaching Long Binh, others missing the gun base by not very far. But no rockets hit the base and we were thankful for that.
FSPB Betty was constructed in a clearing in the jungle and a US Land clearing team escorted by tanks were levelling the jungle all around the position, in fact all that remained was a fringe of trees around the perimeter.
Day and night the heavy firing continued, even the battalion mortars were kept busy firing almost as many rounds as the guns.
The Anti Tracker team were in the base with the tracker dogs, Milo, Tranjan and Marcus. All three were black cross Labradors; beautiful dogs and Milo in particular liked visiting the gun crews.
We were dismayed to learn that the dogs would never be allowed to return to Australia.
Bravo and Charlie Company uncounted no enemy in their areas and found little sign, however Whiskey Company had three contacts with small enemy units and that night they were attacked by a company sized enemy force. It was February 23rd 1969.
The battle raged, and Spooky was called in to assist. It was an intense engagement but the enemy finally broke contact and withdrew. A search of the dead revealed one of them to be the Battalion commander of the VC recce group 525 Engineer Battalion.
Their mission apparently was to breach the defences of Long Binh.
This was the biggest action that took place but there were many. The Battalion searched out persistent smaller units who were a little reluctant to vacate the region. So despite the constant patrolling and many minor contacts and ambushes, light fire team activity, mortar and gunfire, the efforts of Spooky and reconnaissance aircraft, the enemy were still able to fire rockets from the battalions AO.
Damage was inflicted on Long Binh but insufficient to cause any real worry. From the base, rocket fire could be seen constantly all over the horizon as the VC struck at various targets around the country.
During this operation another incident occurred with US forces and us. Neither guns nor mortars can fire until air clearances are obtained. This ensures that there are no friendly aircraft in the area, but also often causes delays to the Battery support of patrols in trouble. Ground clearances must also be obtained for the same reasons.
The Mortar platoon was deployed next to our gun position (alpha). They had obtained clearances and began to fire adjusting rounds in a nearby area. They had only fired two rounds when what were obviously tank shells came screaming low overhead through the gun position. As the base was still only partly built, our gun crew looked instantly for cover. Five of us dived behind a wall that formed the outline for a sandbagged wall around the ammunition bay.
The tanks continued to fire all of their rounds skimming high over our heads. As we crouched behind the wall I became aware that the wall we were using for protection was built only of the cardboard canisters which had contained the gun rounds prior to them being unboxed. My casual mention of this resulted in some rather desperate measures being taken by all.
There was a sudden stampede of people charging across the gun platform for their personal weapon pits, one of who misdirected his headlong dive and knocked himself out on the overhead protection. The rest of us were more accurate and we remained in our little graves until contact was made with the American tanks (who were escorts to the land clearing bulldozers and not at all happy about the mortars landing nearby).
The fault was neither theirs nor ours and though the incident could have been serious much humour resulted.
The following day as I was walking back from the command post, a formation of US Helicopters flew over the base. The leading gun ship opened up the machine gun bullets ploughing up the ground behind me.
Being rather exposed I ran for my dear life and leapt into my weapon pit the bullets following close behind. I was not amused, but I have the feeling that there are one or two Americans who were.
Operation Federal ended on 24th March 1969 after 33 days of occupation of FSPB Betty. The battalion suffered no men killed but six were wounded in action. This stood in good stead considering that the VC had lost 26 killed, 12 wounded and two captured.
FSPB DYKE (Operation Overlander) – third occupation.
The Hat Dich region was still an area considered be one where remnants of Military HQ 7, and a battalion of 274 VC Regiment, possibly the 1st Battalion, were residing, having been pushed south by operations conducted by 5RAR.
On the 8th April 4RAR were deployed to conduct Operation Overlander to neutralise enemy asset’s that could be located in the region. This meant a return to FSPB Dyke for the gun battery.
The base was secured by Whiskey Company, which was air assaulted in. Battalion HQ arrived with the gun battery and Dyke was again established. The remaining companies flew to various landing zones to move on foot to their AO’s. After extensive patrolling, Charlie Company made no contacts with any enemy forces so were move on 13th April, to the southeast of the FSPB.
Meanwhile, Delta Company operating back in familiar country, was neutralising the bunkers found in the area that had not been destroyed during operations in AO Riversdale.
Many large bunker complexes were located by Victor Company as well as a considerable number of VC supply catches. Many documents were discovered revealing in detail the organisation of J565, which was a rear services group supporting military region 7. This was a good discovery as this unit had been very illusive, only vague details being previously known about them.
Victor Company made a major discovery: a cache containing workshop materials, tools, explosives and ammunition. Whiskey Company conducted local patrols as a security measure, while investigations were carried out and later, moved into areas north, south and west of the FSPB. This proved effective and on 15th April the company contacted a VC camp, meeting stubborn potent resistance. The battery was called on to fire and they responded with sustained accurate bombardment of the position.
A few days earlier, the Anti tracker Platoon set up an ambush and disposed of seven VC soldiers. Eight Australians were wounded during these actions and were quickly medevaced from the battle area by dust-off. Charlie Company was picked up on the Brimstone trail and evacuated, while D and Victor Company were evacuated from ‘the football field’ helipad a little to the north of Victor Company’s AO.
The gun battery and the remaining elements of the battalion were moved from FSPB Dyke.
The Anti tracker Platoon left a “stay back party” in Dyke and that night were able to make contact with a VC scavenger Platoon who had moved in to search the deserted base. A sweep conducted the following morning discovered two enemy bodies from which were recovered weapons and documents. This ended operation Overlander.
Quite often units of the SAS stayed back after a FSPB was vacated to wait in ambush as the Anti Tank tracker platoon had done. It was common knowledge that the VC scavenged the deserted bases for anything they could find.
The battery had a policy of destroying the bases prior to evacuation. All wire and materials were recovered pits filled in, strong points dismantled and sandbags emptied and burnt. The dismantling of a base was in itself a major undertaking but a very necessary one.
Piles of cardboard canisters had to be burnt and empty cartridge cases recovered. It was known that the VC were capable of firing at least two mortar bombs from an empty cardboard canister, by strapping it with wire and using a nail in the bottom as a firing pin.
Ammunition boxes piled high along the edge of the helipad were hung in webbing slings and extracted by Chinook helicopter on the cargo hook underneath the fuselage. The gun stores and stores of Battery Command post were extracted in similar fashion as was the unused ammunition and the bulldozer.
It was rather sad to have to destroy weeks of hard work, and although a FSPB was certainly no place for comfort there was always a brief reluctance in leaving it totally devastated.
The term of our tour of South Vietnam was drawing a close. The troops were tired but now feeling the stir of excitement in the prospects of returning to Australia. But it was not all over yet for we had one more operation to conduct.
In Vietnam, the American Air force dominated the skies. Except in the far north, enemy Aircraft simply did not exist. Had they existed, the type of FSPBs established would have not only been dug in below ground but also would need to be camouflaged as they were in Malaysia.
There were many types of Aircraft in service in Vietnam. Perhaps the most used aircraft in terms of actual flying time were probably the light attack aircraft of the trainer type, such as the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly and the T-28 Trojan. These were also used by the South Vietnamese Air force. Others included the C-47 and A-47, the A-1 Skyraider, 0-1 Birddog, C-119 Boxcar and the Northrop F-5 Fighters.
The C-47 flew more than 20,000 transport missions and was used also in the Pioneer Armed gunship role. Typical was ‘Puff the magic dragon’ the AC-47. C-130 transports were also used as bombers dropping larger bombs than those dropped by the B-52. They were effective in special applications, dropping massive bombs to clear areas of jungle to allow the establishment of helipads.
The special high explosive bombs designed for this operation weighed 15,000Ib, (6804 kg), incorporating nose probes to trigger the fuse on contact. Such a bomb was capable of clearing an area of jungle to a diameter of 200ft or (61 m).
Some aircraft designed for strategic roles, such as the Boeing B-52, were also used in tactical roles. The Americans, in fact, used a variety of aircraft in fact, including the Douglas A-1H, often in the role of a support rescue mission, The Transport, Lockheed C – 130 Hercules also, which was used extensively by Australia. The Sikorski CH-3E Helicopter and HH-53E played significant roles.
The A-37 Cessna Dragonfly light attack aircraft was derived from the 7-37 trainers and carried ordinance loads on eight underwing hard points.
The Kaman HH-43 Husky was used in rescue operations. The light transport, or tactical transport aircraft, the Canadian built Caribou, was used extensively in Vietnam and formed part of the Australian contingent known as 35 Squadron
Other types of aircraft were used in a recce role including fixed wing and Helicopter aircraft.
The Beech U-8 Seminole, U-12 Ute and the twin turbo prop C-12 Huron were some including the STOL (short take off and landing) De Havilland Canada PH-C4 Caribou.
The Caribou, though a capable transport lifter used in and out of Nui Dat, was less preferred to the much larger Hercules because of its smaller carrying capacity. The Hercules aircraft, normally painted silver, were repainted with the camouflage colours of the tactical aircraft.
Most impressed by the Caribou were the Americans. In 1966, US General Westmorland took steps to have a squadron of RAAF C-7A attached to the US 7th air force. Unfortunately for him his efforts ended in failure.
The RAAF also used the Canberra Bomber, an aircraft proven invaluable in Malaysia and Borneo. They were British built B-20s, quite similar to the Martin B-57, which incidentally were far more widely used. Both however were deployed as ground attack and level bombing aircraft to good effect.
A much lesser known aircraft used by the Americans was the Grumman Mohawk. This was a most unique aircraft indeed, being a fixed wing, turbo prop, similar in size to a fighter. It was mainly used in recce missions carrying sophisticated surveillance equipment. It had exceptional STOL capability and was extremely agile, capable of very low flight and could take off and land very steeply.
It was a very well protected aircraft, built from thick aluminium and sporting Flack curtains. It was used over the battlefield in coercion with the commanders in the field.
Many air strikes were called in to support troop actions on the ground and obviously the role of the fighter strike aircraft was sophisticated aircraft.
Such Aircraft included the Douglas F-4 Phantoms that carried laser guided bombs (paveway) and illuminating laser. The F-111 saw duty in Vietnam and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. Naval aircraft, flying missions from carriers such as the USS Enterprise, were deployed as mine layers, and the Panthers, A-6 and VA-35. Sikorski MH.53D Helicopters were also on duty with the navy dragging the harbours for mines.
The South Vietnamese Air Force was eventually equipped, over the period of the conflict, with many American aircraft. Some of these were, Douglas C-47 Skytrains, Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Fairchild C-127 Provider, Cessna 0-1 Birddog, Cessna A-37 Dragonfly, Douglas A-1 Skyraider, DH Canada Caribou, Bell UH-1 Iroquois and the Northrop F – 15 Freedom fighter. But really such aircraft were wasted on the South Vietnamese who really lacked the fighting spirit and incentive to command such responsibilities.
The Royal Australian Air Force operated two main transport Aircraft, these being, as I have mentioned, the C130A, C130A Hercules and the Caribou STOL Aircraft. The Hercules is normally deployed (STOL) Aircraft.
Field soldiers need to have considerable knowledge of both these aircraft because they both provide transport for troops and equipment. The Hercules is a medium range, 4 engines, all metal, high wing land plane powered by Allison T56-A-11 turbo prop constant speed engines. The landing gear is the tricycle type, having duel nose wheels and two tandem main wheels on either side. The Aircraft can be fitted with ski-equipment.
The Aircraft first flew in August 1954, the RAAF C130A aircraft being ferried to Australia, commencing in November 1958. 36 Squadron operated these Aircraft.
Of vital interest to soldiers is the aircrafts carrying capacity. The fuselage is divided into two compartments, the flight station and the cargo compartment, both being pressurised and air-conditioned. The flight station contains four crewmembers’ positions, all flight controls, and navigation and communication equipment.
The loadmaster occupies a position in the cargo compartment for take off and landing. The aircraft is divided into sections called stations, which are all numbered. The fuselage aft of station 245 is occupied by a single large, clear cargo space with its floor at or about the same height above the ground as the average truck bed.
This area is divided into eleven cargo compartments with definite dimensions and weight capacities.
At about station 720, the underside of the fuselage slants upwards steeply, having the effect of placing the empennage well above the ground, leaving the area beneath it clear so that vehicles can be driven close to the aft end of the aircraft for loading purposes.
The upward slanting under surface of the fuselage is made up of the aft cargo door and ramp, which form part of the outer skin of the fuselage. Both the door and the ramp are hinged, the ramp forming approximately an 11.5% angle when in the ground position.
On either side there are two paratrooper doors, one either side of the aft end of the cargo department.
The aircraft can carry 92 troops allowing a seating space of 20 inches per man. 48 seats are positioned in two centre rows, 38 seats down both sides and 14 extra seats may be attached to the main wheel well walls.
The aircraft can be fitted with 72 casualty evacuation litters plus carry two attendants.
Cargo leads can be carried up to 35,000 lbs., depending on distance and fuel requirements. It can be fitted with the Brooks and Perkins Aerial unloading kit for delivery of cargo from the air, the load being limited to 25,000 lbs. in this case.
64 fully equipped paratroopers can be carried, allowing for 24 inches of seating space per man. Exit is normally via the doors either side of the cargo department, and electrically operated deflectors assist the paratroopers to clear the aircraft.
Paratroopers may also exit from the rear ramp door but not more than 20 from one pass of the drop zone.
The Hercules has a wingspan of 132 ft. 8ins, is 97 ft. 9ins long and to the top of the fin above the ground is 38 ft. 4ins high.
Soldiers needed to know the carrying capacities of the aircraft and how the arrangement of loads was set out. The floor strength of the aircraft was the main concern in this regard.
The floor is made up of panels of aluminium alloy and the floor of the ramp is constructed of the same material. The floor has two vehicle tread-ways, each being 35 inches wide and 30 inches apart, one on either side of the non-skid surface.
Because of the aircrafts design the same loads cannot be carried over the entire surface of the floor. The floor will withstand a load of 50 psi (7,200 lbs/sq ft) and the ramp will withstand a load of 125 lbs/sq ft. and 500 lbs. per running foot, the total load capable of being carried on the ramp in flight being 5,000 lbs.
Specific tie down devices are used in various stations of the aircraft according the restraint criteria required to secure loads and aircraft loading teams need to know each one by sight and be aware of the relevant capacities.
Weight is of vital importance: there are laid down requirements and appropriate charts for calculating not only the cargo weight but also the weight of the aircraft and its fuel load in relation to the centre of gravity.
Life rafts, torches, hand axes, fire extinguishes are provided for emergency situations and also a AN/CRT-3 Emergency radio transmitter which is stowed in the top of the wing centre section inboard of the port life raft compartment and is released when the port inboard raft is activated.
The aircraft has 10 escape exits once the aircraft comes to rest.
The Caribou is an all-metal high wing monoplane powered by two piston engines fitted with reversible pitch propellers. It has short take off and landing characteristics (STOL) and is a non-pressurised transport aircraft designed for carriage of passengers or cargo, the dropping of paratroops, casualty evacuation and aerial delivery.
It has fully retractable tricycle landing gear with a power operated cargo criteria and ramp, which in conjunction with the upswept rear fuselage permits direct cargo loading.
With a maximum permissible all up weight on take off and landing of 28,500 lbs., the Caribou will cruise at 140 knots over 1100 miles with a crew of three, the two pilots and loadmaster. It can carry 32 passengers, or 22 casualty evacuation litters plus two attendants.
A maximum of 26 paratroopers may be carried and can carry up to 6,800 lbs. of cargo. It is capable of dropping (aerial delivery) all types of compact loads, such as vehicles weapons, containers etc.
The US Navy was deployed mainly in the north, but they also gave much air support in the south of Vietnam. The first American prisoner of war was a Navy pilot, Lt E. Alverez, his aircraft being a Skyhawk, which was designed as a lightweight nuclear bomber but was used as an attack aircraft in Vietnam. These aircraft flew from Carriers off the coast. 17 Carriers were in fact used during the time of the conflict. Among the aircraft of the carrier air wing were the Grumman A-6 Intruder, Grumman E-2 Hawkeye, Vought A-7 II, Vought F-8 Crusader, Douglas A-3 Skywarrior and the Rockwell A-5 Vigilante. VF-92 Phantoms, of course, also flew from carriers such as the USS Constellation and USS Connie.
Perhaps the two most advanced sophisticated weapons systems were the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. The F-4, powered by J79 engines had an unmatched performance, but it was a very large aircraft and could only operate from the larger Carriers. It was a two-seater multi-role fighter aircraft with a maximum speed of around 2390kmph, with a range of 3,700km.
The Skyhawk, designed in 1951, was much lighter and was known as the ‘Scooter’. It was not designed for in flight refuelling so they were fitted with fixed probes to enable them to make longer flights.
Carriers normally carried two fighter squadrons, Vought F-8 Crusaders serving with the smaller carriers while the F-4 Phantoms operated from the larger carriers.
Many Pilots preferred the older Crusader to the Phantom, (which was equipped with missiles) which still carried guns, which could be relied on, the missile systems frequently proving unreliable.
These aircraft were used in a variety of roles, i.e. standing fighter patrols; FORCECAP’s or BARCAP’s, providing cover for task force area’s.
During the operation known as rolling thunder these aircraft flew combat operations in an attempt to cripple the enemy’s ability to wage war; in the Northern regions, the enemy responding by improving and increasing their air defence systems.
By 1972 aircraft operating from the Carriers, USS Coral Sea, Constellation, Midway, Hancock, Kitty Hawk and Saratoga had flown over 7,000 missions.
Missile bases were attacked frequently in the North, where the North Vietnamese had set up SA-2 ‘Guideline’ missiles.
Vietnam has large Delta areas, which provided for another arm of the US Navy to operate. The riverboat (PBR) was used extensively. The delta regions were complex and massive, providing for a different kind of warfare.
The main boats used in the delta were the PBR (Patrol Boat, River) and the MON (Monitor). The PBR was made entirely from plastic, thus gave no protection whatsoever to the crew. It carried twin 50 cal Browning heavy machine guns at the bow and a single at the stern, and also an M19 40-mm grenade launcher, which had a belt-fed magazine of 50 rounds and fired the M384 grenade over a distance of 800 metres.
The MON fired HE rounds with its 40-mm cannon, from the bow, and also had twin M10-8 flame-throwers mounted in individual turrets.
This boat was heavily armoured with special grill like armour designed to cause early detonation of RPG-2 and -7 rounds. It usually had two .50s in small turrets and a 20-mm gun on top-some even had 81 mm mortars.
Other boats were the ATC (Armoured Troop Carrier), CCB (Command & Control Boat) and the PCF (Patrol Craft, Fast).
Using the SEAL Team Assault Boat, the US Navy’s SEAL Teams, commando like units, operated in Vietnam. These were small and fast boats providing mounts for all of the weapons these Teams were likely to carry. They were normally equipped with a single 40-mm grenade launcher and four or five 7.62-mm (0.3-in) machine guns.
The UH-1B ‘Huey’ was the support Helicopter, but in 1969 the Bronco Rockwell OV-10, a faster more heavily armed alternative, was used. So the Navy were certainly involved to some great extent in the conflict.
THE LAST OPERATION – FSPB VIRGINIA (Operation Stafford)
The final operation of the tour was Operation Stafford and it ended in the same area where operations had begun among the rubber trees of the Binh Ba Plantation.
The AO was code named Barossa, and it was located north of Nui Dat bounded to the west by the Hat Dich and to the east by a line parallel with Route 2. The main tactic of the operation was to deploy in a pincer movement in an attempt to trap C41 Chau Duc Company. It was also possible that the HQ of 274 VC Regiment were in the area.
This was the traditional operating area of C41 and the local VC guerrilla units of Binh Ba and Duc Thanh. 274 Regiment may have moved into the area to avoid the operations of previous Australian units. It was hoped that a recce in force might result in the destruction of these enemy elements.
Engineers and armour moved into the area to secure and begin the construction of the FSPB, named Virginia. The battery was nervous, as indeed were the companies. This was to be the last operation.
Thoughts of home were very real, as was the dread that one still might be killed or at the very least wounded before going home.
As if to add grave concern to ones thoughts, when Delta Company flew in from AO Marulan to the southern section of its AO, an Iroquois crashed, the pilot blinded by the rising dust.
Charlie and Victor Companies flew in to a spot on Route 2 between their respective AOs. HQ and Whiskey Company joined 104 Field Battery at Virginia.
The base was hardly established when Delta Company contacted the enemy fortified in bunkers. Pulling back, the Company called in air strikes and the guns began a bombardment. Five soldiers of Delta Company were wounded in the action. The enemy camp was obliterated and Delta Company moved in too look it over.
It was not certain which enemy unit in residence though it was the HQ. It was thought to be that of 274 VC Regiment. They had left very quickly. Charlie and Victor Companies ran into a series of minor contacts and Victor Company found many caches. Throughout the action, civilians hampered the battalion so that the strict rules of engagement had to be adhered to; locals were arrested and taken into the Authorities at Duc Than. A number of them were found to be VC collaborators. It seemed that hostilities were just about over. There was some dismay that we had not routed the 274 VC Regiment on this last operation, that being the regiment that we had played cat and mouse with throughout the tour. We could not be sure that the bunkers had been the 274 Regiments HQ.
The 11th Armoured Cavalry Regiment operating north of the Task Forces tactical area of responsibility sent in information regarding enemy troops in their area, and they led the redeployment of Victor Company to the north. Victor Company set up an ambush and on the night of April 27th killed three VC who walked into the trap. On the following morning the company captured an enemy soldier who proved to be the executive officer (operations officer) of 274 VC Regiment.
The battalion continued to look for C41 Coy but after meeting only spasmodic minor resistance, on May 1st 1969 the Battalion flew back to Nui Dat from two pick up zones, Binh Ba 1 and Binh Ba 2 airfields, from where they had originally commenced operations in South Vietnam.
The tour was over.
There were still the Task Force base duties, but the filth, the smell, the fear and the tiredness were no more except in our minds.
We were still in Vietnam, and two weeks had passed our departure being delayed twice. We were very wary, something akin to the end of a football match, elated but worn and battered. It seemed such a long time since we were home. For the past year my mind had been like a sealed casket, filled with thoughts, dreams and frustrations, unable to escape. I had thought the same things over and over so often that they had become offensive to the mind, nagging, stagnant hopeless thoughts, that now seemed unreal.
Now the countdown, the waiting became a boring detriment. We were nervous, on edge, all harbouring the thought that something might still happen to spoil our return home. But nothing occurred and finally we were on our way.
HOME SWEET HOME
The plane landed and we disembarked at Sydney airport. We passed through the rigmarole of customs and out into the fresh Australian air.
Some kissed the ground others leaping with joy like children. Everything had been taken care of; we were on immediate leave. I walked from the airport where I saw my girl friend waiting. There were very few people about.
Strangely I felt little or no excitement, I was nervous and half afraid to meet the girl I had not seen for a year. But we met and she had to ask me to kiss her.
I felt embarrassed but a few words and everything was ok. But within a few weeks we broke up and I was devastated. It had been a long year for her.
From Holsworthy I was transferred to Townsville with 104 Battery where we began training to return to Vietnam the following year.
This was my last year of the six I had signed up to serve. I decided to take my discharge, though most people I knew felt that I would remain in the army.
I found it difficult to leave, particularly as I had been part of the training of a new gun crew. The crew were not happy at the news of my intention to terminate my service. It would not be the same for them to have to adjust to a new Bombardier, but they would manage that soon enough.
The bond between the gun commanders and crews was very close. They trained together everyday getting to know one another like brothers; the crew had grown to know me, now they would need to find the same respect and comradeship with another Bombardier whom they had spent so little time with.
My entry into civilian life came as a shock. Nine months after discharge from the army I was still unemployed. There were plenty of jobs around; it was simply that I was unable to secure one. I began to think it was my age, but I was only thirty. Even the basest jobs available were not forthcoming.
I became depressed and drank more often than was necessary. I found it extremely difficult to make friends, even in my hometown. I became withdrawn and very lonely. Weekends were spent ‘pub crawling’, sitting at the bars trying to strike up conversation, which always failed to be fruitful. After a while I stopped trying and drank alone depressed and self-critical.
I suffered from intense migraine headaches regularly and withdrew more and more into myself. My life became one of loneliness and alcohol.
Finally my brother secured me a job with the railways, but I continued to drink and live a non-social life. Relationships failed and I was booked more than once for drink driving, I despised myself for what I had become. The physical fitness that I had always been proud of had gone, replaced with obesity. This was not I, and only I could do something about it.
I quit drinking, bought a four-wheel drive, some camera equipment and fishing gear, including a boat. I spent my time exploring river systems such as the Clarence, fishing and photographing wild life. I had no friends and didn’t want any.
Later I resorted to my pet love of riding motorcycles. I continued to write, gathering all sorts of information, compiling data for the books I intended to write.
Quite by chance I met my wife and my life changed for the better, but I was now over forty.
Today I am happy. I do not regret leaving the army or having served in it, though perhaps I should have remained a soldier, if only for the undeniably strong comradeships that existed.
To some extent I can understand the plight of those who returned from Vietnam to try to take their place in a hostile community. The rise of the Vietnam Veterans’ Association was based on this lack of understanding of the soldier’s problems. It began with cries in the wilderness rather than from positive purpose.
I think now Vietnam veterans appreciate that it is up to them to serve the community as faith fully as they served their nation. To show those who did not really understand, that a soldier, be he a conscript or professional, is also a citizen who believes in the future, is a responsible and willing servant of headaches, and above all is a loving caring individual who seeks to retain his dignity.
The war in Vietnam was not conducted according to a strategy of offensive conflict; rather it was one of protective defence.
Against the communist policy of Guerrilla warfare such strategy was doomed to failure. Political and media involvement caused confusion and indecision. Soldiers died unnecessarily on the battlefield because of it. Many soldiers felt that they were fighting for the wrong side.
When soldiers are committed to war, it must be for the purpose of victory. Maximum effort is required to obtain it.
People of those nations committed to the defence of South Vietnam, in a sense aided the Communist cause, in that they failed to support their governments and more importantly their soldiers in the field.
It must be said however that the commitment of Australian troops to Vietnam was a political decision and not a military one. A decision based on the pressure applied by the US to honour Australia’s commitment to mutual aid pledged by both nations should either one require it.
It might be debated forever weather Australian troops were in fact required under this agreement, for as is the instigator of all wars, no two people in a single street ever agree on anything and, while ordinary people cannot agree over domestic problems, what chance is there of establishing peaceful existence in the world.
Guns resound in the ears of soldiers, who long for the bugle of peace; who die in the battles for people who pray for the gunfire to cease.
Then if soldiers and people united in memory of those who have gone abhor the conflict of warfare, then why do the battles go on?
A RELIGIOUS VIEW
The world was created without suffering, paradise being the gift to the first man and woman. They were instructed to cultivate their garden called Eden, and supervise all other living creatures of the Earth.
Their minds were without defect and their bodies were perfect: there being no sickness, old age nor death. At what age, or in what ‘age ‘form, they were created is not known, and offers some grounds for doubt for those looking for defects in the story.
These first people were told to be fruitful, populate the earth and in so doing bring human kind into existence. No doubt this would have occurred as a result of the natural chemistry, the desire for intercourse, regardless of instruction.
There was, of course, an obligation to accept the sovereignty of God. They were, however, given the freedom of choice, even though the principals and directions of God bound them. They took advantage of this freedom, choosing to seek ‘personal independence’; to become ‘like God’. (A desire which drives men to this day, to the destruction of his own environment, that of Nature, the power over which is ultimately ‘God-like’.)
Since God created man in his own image, one might presume these ‘desires’, the desires to determine right from wrong themselves is, in effect, a characteristic of God, and if not then God had created a ‘defective image’.
These first people chose to reject their source of life to establish their own independence, thus God was Just, in allowing them freedom of choice. They were also told, however, that to leave God meant that God would leave them, and without God’s power to sustain them they would grow old, deteriorate to death and return to the earth from whence they came in a state of unconsciousness. Thus, in choosing to abandon ‘the way of God’, they became imperfect: these characteristics being inherited by their children.
Their decision was not without influence since the Dark Angel, Satan, urged them to resist God’s directions by painting a false picture which was attractive to their ‘natural desire’ to be like God.
God did not object to their decision since he had created them as ‘free’ to make their own choices. God being God must have known the consequences, or if he didn’t a period of time would be required to establish them.
Either way there was practical reason to refrain from exerting dictatorial authority over those whom he had created as ‘free individuals’.
In the process of growing up, most young people find need to ‘find out for themselves’, if what they have been told is true by the testing of the principals through practical application. Thus even to this day the seeds sown into the human character by Satan are still evident.
Without doubt it has been demonstrated over the past 6000 years, that man has failed to become ‘God-like’ and in fact has succeeded in only causing himself misery and anguish. He has reached the point where he is only just beginning to realise that the destruction of Nature and creatures, does not nurture ‘power the earth’, but is simply a ‘stimulant pill’ and that like any hallucinatory drug, has terrible withdrawal effects and is fatal in overdose.
Humankind has not yet completely failed, but God has allowed time for redemption; time for man to accept himself for what he is and realise the value in returning to the direction of his creator; few, whether they disagree or not.
Those who desire to follow the directions of God, in keeping harmony with the natural laws of nature.
God has vowed someday to intervene and return the earth to the original paradise of his creation. Those who believe in creation wait for this event.
Warfare, above all other things, demonstrates the inadequacy of man to conduct his own affairs without the influences of greed and the lust for power others. It demonstrates the fruitlessness of persistent argument based on baseless belief.
It demonstrates man’s inability to control the direction of his own life and his inability to visualise the aspects of his destiny. His own errors contribute to his doubts, that the words contained in the Bible are nothing more than the opinions of a few clever writers, thus doing little to enhance faith in future prosperity.
The Bible was written a long time ago and contains a history of those times, relating to the issues of those times, and more importantly the knowledge of those times. “What relevance has a book written a period of 1600 years by many different people, some 2000 years ago, have to these modern (modern being temporary) times?
There however, adequate substance to support the truth of its contents and its basic principals apply to this very day as they did 2000 years ago.
There are many good books available that confirm that ‘scientific research’ in harmony with the Biblical history. The Bible states, Mathew 24:7 “Nation will rise against nation and Kingdom against Kingdom.” It gives adequate prediction that disease, crime, malnutrition and poverty will increase; that men will grow in fear of the future.
Man always seeks excuses where he involved in situations not complementary to himself. War perhaps the most avid demonstration of this, where some soldiers who have witnessed death and butchery of human beings, cry… “If there is a God, why does he permit such atrocities?”
Many deny the existence of God as a result, decaying with the rejection of the principals that support his objections to war. The soldier walks into the jaws of death in times of war on the command of an officer, yet defies God’s objection, without fear, to refrain. This because God is obscure, unreal, and seemingly unavailable, and who will not be there to defend his case to the court martial which condemn the soldier for his refusal to kill his fellow man or die in attempting to do so.
Man does not gain independence in choosing to reject the direction of his creator; instead he allows other men to establish power him with the use of fear.
Man gave up his right to God’s help, in rejecting the principals of his instruction, thus cannot justify the claim that God does not exist, nor justify blame that God not a God of love because he does not intervene.
Man’s independent decision was to follow the advice of Satan. Being free to choose, a God allowed right, regrettably not an easy application, for it must often be made in the face of death or misery.
Yet it may be true that misery and death would be less a considerably shorter time, in choosing to follow the directions of God, rather than to succumb to the fear of disobedience of man’s own laws.
Regardless of whether man believes in the existence of God or not, non can deny that the principals of Christian ethics advocate peace and prosperity; that in following those principals, the fruitless deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians would not have occurred.
On ANZAC Day, in remembering the dead, we also resurrect the monuments of war. Some Vietnam Veterans (association) have embarked upon a conquest to erect a memorial to themselves and to comrades who died in combat carrying out ‘duties’ on the battlefield.
Theirs was a ‘duty’ that denied them choice: a duty of ‘enforcement’ by an elected government, which claimed to be the representation of the people of the nation, despite an outcry against it by those same people. No referendum was held to establish majority opinion.
It may have been that the majority might have desired that conscripts be sent to South Vietnam. In this event, perhaps those desirous of such action should have been the ones to participate.
The human race is complex, and in many ways self-destructive. Man is inadequate in pursuing a purposeful and rewarding destiny. Choosing to elect others to make the mistakes, he himself avoids by passing the responsibilities into the hands of the few, whom he can blame for his own inadequacies, by criticising theirs. I believe it possible to live in peace and harmony, though I must admit I am not optimistic. We have by default; the choice is up to us to resurrect another Eden without monuments of War.
Then, if and when God returns to the earth or establishes influence the earth, all those who live will never die, and all those who suffered unjustly, those who died that those who live might do so in peace, will be reinstated in paradise.
Soldiers went to war in Vietnam and returned, crying in the wilderness. Yet who better than they can lead the way to the sanctuary of peace? There are none more qualified, if they choose to pursue, for they also still have the choice.
God does not take away the gift of life. He reserves a place when expires, a place of rest in a state of unconsciousness, until the day of judgement. On that day the truth will be known.
The War in Vietnam was the result of human defect and of human weakness, the desire to establish his own immortality, to be God, being proven and again to be fruitless, to be wrong. Yet man persists, a law unto himself, which will be rewarded with more Wars, more famine and suffering, more wasteful death. The War in Vietnam did not diminish my belief in Christian ethics and principals, though I suffered a great deal of doubt.
I survived and returned home to a period of confusion and bitterness. But the harsh reality of all past into time and I saw clearly that War the result of man’s own greed that is used to sever the final strings which tether him to God; a final example of man’s lust to be Godlike. Doubt will ever exist in the minds of Christians regarding the coming again of God. For if the Earth was a paradise without the existence of death, then would quickly become so populated that would not be possible for so many people to survive on its limited surface.
There would be no evil influence since the Devil will have long since been vanquished. Simple questions of logic spring to mind: such as, at what age would the human stop growing older, and if he never ages, would he remain a child? How injury as a result of natural accidents would be avoided. There are so many questions without any real convincing answers. What would be the point of childbirth if there were no death?
Plant and the lower animals did not reject the instructions of God, yet they live as part of the same system that controls the nature of man. A fruit tree supplies fruit to eat, that once the fruit plucked for eating, the tree must follow its cycle to reproduce again, that new fruit may serve the same purpose.
Did God change the world to suit the choice made by the first people? No, man and every other living thing designed for reproduction of its own kind. With the challenge of outer space, that seeks to establish other planetary worlds, has the man who dies, say on the moon and buried there, returned to the ‘dust of the earth from whence he came’?
The final and perhaps most unanswerable question of all asks: If one believes in the ‘living God’ and that this God created the Earth, then is it not logical to presume that God also was the Creation of another?
Such vision of thought is beyond the capabilities of man, yet there must be an answer. The Earth is such a small speck in the vastness of space, that the single of an individual seems unimportant. What possible impact could ones death have on such a vast and complex system? Yet, if there is no paradise, what is the point of all?
History has shown that the mechanisms used by society to integrate and control its people have never achieved complete success.
Regardless of which society, each has its criminal and devious elements. Also, societies at some time in history are subject to social revolt and revolution. These occurrences cannot always be said to be the results of a social failure of the structure of society.
It is probably accurate to assume that such discord is inevitable whatever the social structure. This is probably due to the inequality of social and material rewards and the distribution of power. Such inequity must inevitably lead to social division and conflict of interest. It is when such disorder is not controlled, or the system loses control of it, that the more serious aspects of social strife evolve.
Social groups in most societies are able to exercise power over others, normally through police forces, military forces, or control over material resources and social rewards. In modern nations (ancient as well) the success of a power group depends on persuading the people subject to it that they are legitimate.
Some societies are based on traditional power structures, such as a Monarchy. Others have a constitutional parliamentary system. There are other systems such as the one where Hitler held power over the people, and which was based on common loyalty to the leader.
When the practice of power is accepted as legitimate, it is normally in association with the social norm. The problem is that such social norms tend to vary in that it serves the more affluent powerful groups rather than the common interests of all of society.
Eventually this exercise of group power tends to aggravate resistance from those without the power who challenge the legitimacy. Many folk however, are often unaware of the extent to which their actions are controlled and therefore do not recognise the power others have over them. Often a society has been ‘programmed to conduct themselves in ways that are in the interests of the controlling powers.
Social classes form due to common interest of groups of people. As these groups become recognised, class-consciousness is the developing result and this often leads to social strife. This allows for all sorts of factional groups to cultivate their views, for the purpose of gaining their own status of power in society.
A person’s status in society determines not only his/her material and social gain, but also the power he has over others and the extent that others have power over him. The higher ones status the more influence one has with the media and with politics and the operation of the laws of the nation.
People tend to react according to the way in which they define the situation. One person might in fact define the same situation differently to another. The reasons probably depend, to a great degree, on the influences of the society in which they live, and how such influences affect the individual.
Many define situations by unconsciously imagining how other people who are influentially significant in their lives would define them, which constitutes the individuals reference group.
People tend to respond to people who have opinions that matter to them. One can never determine accurately how individuals will respond, for most depend on the creative elements of themselves, which are spontaneous and unpredictable, because life itself is never without change and new complication.
No society in the history of the world has been able to uniform its people in an acceptable and successful way, even with the use of fear and oppression. Where there are social groups, there is prejudice that can be seen as preconceived opinion normally unfavourable about others that are not part of the group.
Much prejudice is learned from teaches, parents, and friends, and it is often taken for granted that their opinions are right. Prejudice is used by many against those whom they see as social or economic threats, or to establish authority over those who promote disagreeable ideas.
The nature of guerrilla warfare raises an important political problem; for though it is aimed at overthrowing the established political order it raises fundamental issues of political thought.
For example, when do men have the right to rebel against their government? When is it their duty to do so? Can progress only be established through conflict or is such conflict just unnecessary violence. How can the order of freedom and authority be balanced? What is the nature of legitimate governmental power?
The nature of man, in the spiritual aspect, is based on self-consciousness (symbolised by the eating of the apple). A man then is likely to be self-conscious on those occasions when he might find more joy in being spontaneous and led by his own individual interests into actions that may be condemned by others.
In this event, his capacity for self-awareness stimulates morality, and also the emotions of guilt and remorse.
The uniqueness in man, being aware of himself (not shared by any other living animal), being conscious of the world around him and his relationship with it, to an extent enables him to gain knowledge about it and control his environment, and has created an awareness, not only of his own being, but an awareness that his being is merely transient.
This may be well be the reason why he delves into the past, creating myths and historic records. It is also probably why he builds monuments to himself, pursues fame and desires fervently to leave something of himself in the world, being faced by the fact that he is not immortal and must some day face his own death.
Many believe that religion, patriotism, nationalism, worship of ancestors, and recording of personal history are man’s inventions to decrease his awareness of his mortality.
Scientific research into the “whys” and “wherefores” of man’s nature has divided the explanations into two groups; those who believe man has innate aspirations, and those who believe he has inborn instincts.
Platonists or Idealists believe that man is born with innate ideals and ideas and that his primary motive is to realise these ideals. They believe that somewhere, maybe in the mind of God, is a perfect idea of goodness and truth that each individual has an innate aspiration to become or achieve.
Aristotelians, materialists or realists believe that man is born with innate cravings, passions, or instincts that demand satisfaction. They believe that the physical nature of man impels him to behave in ways that ensure survival and the continuation of the race: in other words, to live by instinct.
In conclusion I must state that all such things are theory, and I, who am but a humble human being, know only what I see. But find that as I see more, that what I feel is often not in harmony with what I view, and that despite what often is my desire to do I refrain from doing prompted by an inner truth that I do not recall as having acquired.
Reunification of Vietnam took place in 1976 under the rule of the communist forces, ending 30 years of armed struggle. It had been one of the fiercest wars in modern history and had brought the world’s major powers to the brink of confrontation. The Vietnamese had fought for centuries to assert their national identity. The South Vietnamese regime fell in 1975 after the American withdrawal in 1973.
Protracted negotiations in France led to the withdrawal allowing the North to launch a new offensive in the central highlands in the spring of 1975, the defences of the South collapsing so quickly that they surrounded unconditionally in April of the same year.
The country since 1976 has been called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; the old city of Saigon becoming Ho Chi Minh City, named after the revolutionist communist leader Ho Chi Minh who died in 1969.
The former ‘free enterprise’ system of the south was gradually absorbed into the socialist economy, land being redistributed into state farms and cooperatives.
Recession claimed the south as a result of the US withdrawal; unemployment grew dramatically and by April 1975, refugees had swollen Saigon’s population to 40 per cent of South Vietnams total population. Most of these were re-settled on re-claimed farmlands.
In 1981, Vietnam held its first nation wide election since the unification of north and south. On April 26 1981 the voters chose 496 members of the national assembly from a list of 613 candidates, drawn up by the Vietnam Fatherland Front, which was an organisation controlled by the communist party.
At the opening of the new assembly (June 25) party secretary General Le Duan praised Vietnam’s ties with the USSR. “The co-operation and friendship of the two nations” he said, “was the foundation of the international line and foreign policy of our party and state… “ Pham Van Dong was prime minister and remained so despite reports that he was to retire. To Huu, became his deputy and a speech by Huu for the holiday of National Day on September 2, admitted failures in the economy and also in government management.
Grave economic problems grew. The “1976-80 Economic Plan” had clearly failed so badly that by 1981, the nation was unable to feed itself. It was reported that 38 per cent of the children in Ho Chi Minh City were suffering from malnutrition.
Many people began to flee, or make the attempt to flee the country.
The USSR had become Vietnam’s main contributor of economic aid and major surrounded of military arms, and despite their criticism of Vietnam’s irresponsible use of their aid, Moscow radio announced, on July 24, a new agreement on economical and technical co-operation. One hundred industrial projects were to be undertaken by 1985, and the USSR would furnish help in technical and vocational training. Despite the economic problems, Vietnam persisted in maintaining 200,000 troops in Cambodia, a country that they had invaded in 1979, and in which they had set up a Vietnamese communist controlled government.
Clashes on the Vietnamese/China border were occurring and relations with the Chinese, despite talks held after the 1979 war between China and Vietnam, faded into stalemate.
The peoples Republic of China completed the installation of new, more moderate communist leadership in 1981. Hu Yaobang replaced Hua Kuo-feng as chairman of the communist party. The deposed Hua had risen in the national leadership during the 1960’s as a protégé of Mao Tsetung.
The central committee accepted a resolution to reassess Mao’s role in party history and that of his followers. This was probably necessary for a dictatorial regime, to establish confidence and faith in the new leadership.
The document indicated by saying that Hua blindly obeyed ‘whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave… even though Mao introduced wrongful policies during the last decade prior to his death in 1976.’
The resolution said that under Hua’s leadership, is impossible to correct ‘left’ errors within the party, and all the more impossible to restore the party’s fine traditions.
Hu, Hua’s successor was a veteran of the famous long march in 1934/35, when Mao led the Communists of China to Shensi Province where they lived established in caves. The ordeal of the march integrated the survivors into a tight group under the leadership of Mao.
Hu became Teng’s Protégé during China’s Civil War in the late 1940’s, when he served as political officer in army units under Teng. The established faith in the doctrines of Mao had to be wiped, and to this aim the reassessment of Mao’s role in party history needed to tarnish the image that he could be seen to be by the people as less than he had come to be.
The History Resolution, issued on June 30 1982, was a compromise after the years of argument on how to evaluate the contributions by Mao to China. Most of the debate surrounded Mao’s role in the Cultural Revolution, a ten-year period of purges and turmoil during which time leftist radicals in the communist party attempted to put China back on the revolutionary path.
Victims of the purges tried to condemn Mao’s policies but leftists and some military leaders defended him. The Army newspaper prior to the meeting, warned that ‘… defaming Mao’s policies can only demean the party and the socialist motherland.’ The History Resolution assessed Mao as a ‘great Marxist’ and a great proletarian revolutionary strategist and theorist.
Mao did, in fact, make gross errors in the Cultural Revolution but judged by his activities as a whole, his contributions far outweigh his mistakes; his merits were primary and his mistakes secondary.
‘Mao,’ they said, ‘had rendered indelible meritorious service in founding and building up the party’. But the resolution said that Mao had become arrogant, and ‘acted more and more arbitrary and subjectively… ‘That he, ‘imagined’ that his theory and practice was Marxist were essential for the consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Herein lays his tragedy. The Cultural Revolution, which resulted, caused “the heaviest losses suffered by the party, the state and the people, since the founding of the Peoples Republic.” The document went on to say, “It did not in fact, constitute a revolution or social progress in any sense…”
The history resolution defined the Cultural Revolution as lasting from May 1966 to October 1976. The final date was established with the arrest of Mao’s widow, Chiang Ching and three of her leftist allies, dubbed the ‘gang of four’.
They were tried for treason along with leftist Chen Po-Ta who was one of Mao’s top aids, and five generals who had been associated with Mao’s designated heir, defence minister Lin Piao, who died mysteriously in 1971, after it was reported that he had attempted to kill Mao.
The trial lasted from November 20 to December 29, 1980. The court delivered a 34-page judgement on January 25 1981. The document said, that two counter-revolutionary groups, headed by Chiang Ching and Lin Piao, had “framed and persecuted” state and party leaders, “conspired to overthrow the government and sabotage the army” and had committed other crimes.
‘The Generals,’ said the document, ‘had plotted to stage an armed coup d’état and conspired to murder Mao and Chiang Ching’s group, and plotted to stage armed rebellion in Shanghai.’
Chiang Ching was sentenced to death along with another “gang of four” member, Chang Chun-Chiao, a former mayor of Shanghai. The death sentences were suspended for two years to allow time to ‘reform’. So the influence of Mao Tsetung had finally come to an end but the history of the communist impact on the world remains.
The Terror of the type of warfare and doctrines he was instrumental in creating still reside in our history books and in the military training manuals that dictate the policies of guerrilla warfare.
Indeed Mao tarnished the Earth and died as we all do, as master of nothing, subject now to greater powers that are beyond his control.
The main critics of President Johnson regarding America’s role in the War were Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, who announced that they would oppose him for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1968.
The reduction in the bombing led to talks between the US and NVN, beginning in Paris on May 13 1968. In April 1978, Johnson suffered another heart attack but was able to recover slowly; but on January 22 1973 he suffered another heart attack and died.
Westmorland returned to America in 1968 and became Army Chief of Staff, retiring in 1972. In 1974 he sought nomination for Governor of South Carolina, but lost the primary election.
Prime Minister Harold Holt of Australia had succeeded the great Robert Menzies on Jan 5th 1966 but was Prime Minister for less than two years. He disappeared while swimming of the Mornington Peninsula in December 1967. J.G. Gordon, who visited soldiers of 4RAR in Vietnam with his wife on June 5th 1968, succeeded him.
It was a hectic time for Gordon to take over as Prime Minister, for it was inevitable with the undermining tactics of the socialists, taking advantage of the disillusionment with the Vietnam War, that his government was not going to last. His tendency to ‘go it alone’ led to him losing a vote of confidence from his own Liberal party members and he was replaced with William McMahon.
In 1972 Gough Whitlam and his Socialist government came to power.
Australia had never recognised the Communist Government of the Peoples Republic of China, and the Holt Government had opened an embassy in Taiwan (1966) the headquarters of the Anti-Communist National Chinese.
The Whitlam Socialist Government closed the embassy in Taiwan and opened an embassy in Peking China, extending recognition to the Chinese Communist Dictatorship.
He had made a promise to withdraw all Australian troops from Vietnam; he did so immediately, though withdrawal had begun in November 1970.
Mythology is a political servant in times of electioneering, and such was the case when Gough Whitlam came to power, when he took credit for pulling out Australian combat forces from South Vietnam. In fact, Liberal Prime Minister William McMahon, in 1971, began the withdrawal of Australian forces that by the time Whitlam gained office, there were no “combat troops” left in Vietnam.
The troops in Vietnam regarded none of the Prime Ministers who visited them to be adequate leaders, as none appeared to be aware of what was going on. They could not relate to actions that had taken place by the soldiers, which was obvious when questioned by them.
They were seen as indifferent Politicians who made such visits because it was considered the thing to do; they were not at all conversant with military strategy.
Whitlam completed the withdrawal in December 1972. 46,000 Australian soldiers served in Vietnam. 415 died. 2,348 were physically wounded. The number of those mentally wounded will never be known.
Australian soldiers attend the ANZAC day marches in respect to their fallen comrades but they do not march as an integrated unit of war veterans.
The Vietnam Association has attracted a strong membership but they march unto themselves and pass the plate around for donations for a war memorial. For many it seems the conflict goes on. They cling to past incidents as though compelled by some inner force to do so. The Vietnam Veterans’ association grew from the rejection of the people to honour their commitments to war and their failure to welcome them back home as proud soldiers. This had the effect of veterans grouping together to share a common ailment, which in turn kept the vivid memories alive for many years beyond a time that should have faded such memories. The effects of war were retained rather than pushed into the past where they belong.
There are, perhaps, as many soldiers who returned from Vietnam who are not members of the Association, which seems more attractive to professionals. As was the way with past wars, governments weren’t over keen in listening to the complaints of War Veterans. Those who were physically injured have been compensated, if indeed such men can be.
I am not a member of the Association, although I do not oppose its formation or its purpose. I am proud to have served my country, to have carried out my duty as was my obligation, and as many thousands have done before me and since.
But I cannot cling to the incidents of past life, nor do I desire to. Life is now, and though the past has taught me the value of life, I am obligated to others, to impart some joy and consideration on their behalf.
Should they be subject to situations with which I can relate, that threaten their welfare, then I shall fight again, for it is my duty as a human being to stand up for what I believe to be right regardless of those who may condemn me.
I believe in peace, in goodwill to all… which is a personal thing that is not influenced by political parties, media opinion and social approval.
Should I be again involved in warfare, (which hope to God will never occur), regardless of situation and circumstance, my effort will be to retain in myself these same principals, for regardless of popular opinion, ‘one is not always to be judged by the company one keeps’. I, like many others, have lived among death and live now with greater appreciation of life, that it is but a fleeting thing… a temporary time, in which their is no gain without giving, no personal reward other than the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, amid all the rampage and greed, I did something that was right.
May all peoples of the world live in peace.
A good friend and workmate of mine once asked me, “What is all the fuss about”? “What is so special about a Vietnam Veteran? They are no better than we are.” Perhaps his statement and question, which was not without basis on available media data, indicated a common attitude.
Certainly the Vietnam Veterans Association does tend to relate this impression. Initially the fuss was about soldiers committed to war being rejected by the people on their return from the battle ground; that the mere mention that one had served in Vietnam incited prejudice against them in their own societies.
Few responded to their desperate pleas for recognition. It is important that any person be accepted as a member of society, not simply tolerated or rejected as an outcast.
Many who had returned from combat sought refuge and comfort among others who were veterans, thus the atrocity of war remained vivid in their minds and hearts, for like all outcasts they clustered together in common bondage relieving those things they needed to forget. In so doing, the problems of some of them were revealed: the question of Agent Orange becoming one of the possible symptoms. An association was formed and their plight became political.
What is so special about a Vietnam Veteran?
Well he was unique in society simply due to the fact that he had experienced war. To gain this experience he has undergone specialist training in the art of killing his fellow man. Despite this, he retains his principals of life and conducts himself as an ordinary citizen.
This ‘double role’ it could be said, makes him ‘special’. Moreover his willingness to put his life on the line for the people of the nation he represents could also be considered to make him special.
Looking from a platform in a society which wants for very little and has (apart from the ageing veterans of previous wars) never had to fight or risk life to maintain it, the rather naive question, “what makes him so special”, can be acceptably understood.
Whether a War Veteran is “better than us” or not, is dependent on the meaning of the statement. No soldier to my knowledge has indicated such a statement, unless it was in regards to the enemy, and I personally do not believe soldiers are of such an opinion. In fact I doubt if that thought would cross the mind of most.
The statement has no basis: the content of it being purely an individual expression of his own feelings on the matter. To a great extent, War Veterans are misunderstood, and their motives and intentions are improperly received.
Through the application of much pressure and publicity, which eventually won the sympathy of a now ‘adult’ community, the Government instigated a welcome home parade, for those troops it had previously sent to war and condemned on their return.
The time was ‘right’; it suited public opinion, and current media application. The media, of course, had the opportunity to shine ‘tainted armour’, and to create more stories in order to sell more papers. The Government could also benefit by such a show of patriotism. The Vietnam association was now ‘political’, and having seemingly won the skirmishes, wanted a monument to themselves to immortalise their existence. They indeed seemed intent on winning, at home, the war they were unable to win overseas.
SOME THOUGHTS FROM MY NOTEBOOK… 1970
Time has seen the devaluation of Christian ethics, and a widespread waning of religious influence. Modern churches have not only re-designed their buildings of worship, but to an extent, have readjusted their techniques, in what have been vain efforts to stem the tide of failing congregations.
There remains a foundation of Christian belief in society, but the churches it seems have failed. The problem with the churches is that many of them are stores of counterfeit religious doctrine that have inherited false principals from amoral beginnings.
The simplicity of religion has long been tainted with false ritual and pompous rites. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, (with apologies to whom this view may offend), just to name one, is a fair example of impure doctrine founded on paganism which the church has inherited. Religion, in fact, has caused as much harm as it has good, and certainly has been directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.
People sooner or later turn away from falsity, which in this case is substitute faith, devised by men and not by God.
Society today is a complication of a ‘million influences’. People are subject to advertising designed to seduce them into making choices about things they could never have imagined as being available.
Teachers, journalists, filmmakers, and musicians all present their individual facets into society; in that, it has become a ‘false’ fronted world. Governments, police, and administrators, enforce rules and regulations, while doctors, chemists, psychiatrists and physiotherapists attempt to influence society with their particular modes of ideas.
The underlying aim of some factions of influence is to control the ‘independent’ personality. Where people have no strong predilection for any particular cause of action, persuasion can be most influential.
The exploitation of fear is a strong means of manipulation. Persuasion based on fear arouses both anxiety and stress, but the recipient does not always submit for purposes of avoiding anxiety. He may not submit for purposes of mishearing, aggression towards the persuader, or even sub-conscience ‘repression’ of the fear producing information.
Fear cannot be considered a long-term behaviour modifier because people can eventually form ‘mind blocks’ against anxiety. This tends to be contagious thus dangerous as far as the ‘manipulator’ is concerned.
Used with some success with propaganda and advertising is the process called, ‘subliminal perception’. The theory of this is that an image or pattern of information, which is seen, though not conscious noticed either because it is concealed or because it is only fleetingly viable, in some way goes directly to the part of the brain which initiates behaviour, rather than having to grope through the process of conscious censors and obstacle blocks.
Research into how people respond to different colours in order to assist in the design of packaging and display items is at an advanced stage.
Warm colours, such as red, yellow and orange, for example are associated with movement and tend to make items, such as packages look larger, while cool colours persuade contentment and smallness, often associated with dairy products and margarines.
Coloured lights are used to make meat look fresher, and coloured see through packages make products look cleaner. Bright intense colours are redolent of masculinity and hardness, while soft pastel colours imply femininity.
The media represents perhaps the most powerful influence of all because it is able to feed the same stimulus into millions of minds at the same time.
If a particular item or subject is ‘pushed’ enough, it will eventually penetrate, to invade the sub-conscience mind. But as in all things the public will eventually take things for granted, so the ‘influential manipulators’, need to make adjustments occasionally.
Like the enemy in the jungle, deception to create misleading perception is a strategic manipulative tactic to subject the unwary to belief in a false sense of security.
One of the most effective manipulative lurks, is the use of words such as ‘sale’ or ‘sale price’, which because people think that they are getting a bargain might actually be buying, and paying more for a product, they may not have even purchased in the first place.
Destructive, society undermining manipulations, include such phrases as ‘police brutality’, which have the persuasive effect of instigating a public view of the police force as oppressive, people bashers, which also promotes the ascendance of minority, often radical groups, to powerful prominence in society, who have devious motives.
Since the day women were given ‘fair right’ to receive equal pay to men, the economy has suffered from growing unemployment.
Previously the economy was based on the man being the bread winner, (a rather stupid phrase), but because this dramatic change was not phased in over a period of time to allow the economy and work force to adjust to what amounted to a massive invasion of the work environment, opportunities for many were destroyed causing growing unemployment.
The woman, who has long been treated as second class, whose talents and ideas have to a great extent been ignored, rightfully pursued their interests as a result of these opportunities being made available.
A few became direct opponents of men and sought not only to enjoy this new freedom but also to take revenge on the ‘male chauvinist’ and created many radical factions, all based on the idea of defaming the man.
Despite this, there is no doubt that women have shown that their contribution in the work force is one of dedication, hard work and purposeful endeavour.
The growth of technology is forcing more and more people out of the work force, creating a growing environment of idle time and, in particular, the young who need to be active and are subject to all kinds of manipulative persuasions.
The music industry is a major manipulative process that preys on the young and erects rock heroes on temporary pedestals for purposes of wealth.
In Australia today, perhaps the wealthiest industries are those that promote and manufacture the legal drugs that capture the markets by clever manipulative persuasion, such as cigarettes and alcohol.
Indeed the image of the drinker is associated with great sportsmen and prestige when, in reality, alcohol is a major influence in the destruction of the family unit and of individuals themselves. Social enjoyment, it seems, is not possible without the influence of alcohol until all concerned are lubricated into false conceptions of themselves and their abilities.
Brave in consumption, many are timid in recovery: some being temperamental under the influence, aggressive and self destructive, while others are irresponsible and vulnerable. Some in fact become slaves to the overpowering intoxication. Even war, is less destructive than the beast called alcohol.
The invention of The Pill” has quelled the fear of unwanted pregnancy in young girls and promiscuity is the result. The numbers of illegitimate children grow as do single mothers and fathers, illegal drugs, non conformity, and defiance of old principals, have become the norm and there seems little hope for this generation.
So where is all this leading? Not only are we slowly but surely destroying the environment, running out of resources, creating new deadly diseases and probably moving ever closer to the decimation of the living, but we continue to ignore the realities.
The reason can only be greed – selfish unrestrained greed.
Nor is war the answer, for it does not solve such problems for war is an agent of nature which man has made his greatest enemy. Can man defeat nature? Perhaps, but in so doing his victory will be the decimation of the human race.
I have attempted here to produce an accurate comprehensive account of the life of the Australian soldier, first in an introductory account of the tour of Malaysia of A Field Battery, RAA which is intended to set some groundwork for the main body of the story which covers the tour of 104 Field Battery RAA, and 4RAR (ANZAC) Battalion in South Vietnam. For the most part it is a factual account, and I have limited ‘self opinion’ and attempted to avoid bias, to a great extent.
My research is based on my own personal notes, memories and retained knowledge of professional military service, with some reference to the book produced by the Battalion and Gun Battery, ‘Mission in Vietnam’, for technical information relating to the operations conducted by the Battalion and Gun Battery. I contributed advice and assistance to the section of MISSION IN VIETNAM, which covers the Battery’s tour, and also wrote the poems, “Rats of Concord” (which is herein reproduced), and “The Happening”.
It might be said that where one side has a controlling interest in an alliance, such control is borne out by ‘calling the doctor’ to take care of a scratch, rather than when there was an illness that really justifies the call.
Many people relate in this way to Australia’s alliance with the USA, which committed Australians to the conflict in Vietnam. Many believe that there was not a requirement for Australians to serve in Vietnam.
There are others who believe that those who believe this, in their frustration, since they could do little to promote reprisals against the USA, took reprisals against their own troops.
The conflict in Vietnam was a fruitless, pointless complexity of political, factional and public confusion, as well as being a war without purpose.
If this is true, then men died for nothing. Or was it by a design of nature to cull the flocks?
Certainly, ingredients include the greed for personal power – power over others. There cannot really be a more satisfying, ultimate pleasure than the feeling of power.
Perhaps for some, it is the closest they can get to God. But if they see themselves as Gods, as the Roman emperors did, are they so naive as to not recognise that it is a temporary glory; that in the end they must die and become nothing or face the judgement of the true God, depending on which way it is.
What were they, who lived to change the way of the world to suit their unbridled lusts for power?
Did they not breathe the air I breathe? Did they not eat the food I eat? Did they not function in every way the same as I? They did indeed! But they wanted to be God! And in so doing, became Devils.
©Copyright 2004 by Colin F. Jones