14 August 2017

The Book is Finished Folks!

Well it has taken a while but I have finally written the final chapter of my tale about me - an Aussie grunt in Vietnam.

The ebook is out now

This is the cover.


 To get a copy send me an email iancavanough@gmail.com,  make a donation to a certain veterans' charity (it is tax deductible); and bob's ya uncle

No $$$$ will come to me.


I hope to hear from you soon.

Cheers from Cav and Miss Penny

23 December 2013

Chapter 59 Australia!

So there we were cruisin' the high seas.

The boys from GHQ put out a newsletter telling us the latest news about what was happening on this bucket of bolts. Here are some of the gems I remember...

“Army are to refrain from asking matelots what they are doing using their hammers to belt the flight deck. You too would be embarrassed if you had to clean the rust off your weapon with a hammer!”

“HMAS Sydney is gathering speed as it continues on its journey south to Australia.”

Interservice rivalry – it's what keeps the services going. I can go up to any Navy bloke and call him a dumb ugly Navy guy and instantly he will respond with a big broad grin spread from ear to ear as he retorts with an equally abusive statement about Army guys; and then he would offer to buy me a Pimms!

But it wasn't all plane sailing so the speak. In places the ocean was just like glass, smooth with hardly any ruffles as we sat about doing nothing on the flight deck. Except for that one time when we came across a swell. The swell was coming from 10 O'clock. It was great on the flight deck seeing the horizon rise up, tilt, and then drop down outa sight as we rode the swell. That was during the day. As night fell we had to get below deck and that's the when all the problems started. Boy was it rough. We were all crook and the Navy boys were enjoying every minute of it watching us suffer.

I was feeling a little dizzy. We were issued hammocks and stuff but I had not used them. Instead I think I mentioned that we dragged our gear up near the sergeants' mess on the fauz sail where we could see the reverse side of the screen and watch the movies. But I was unwell, so I went back to the cramped quarters where we were supposed to sleep. I hitched up the hammock and climbed in. As the ship lurched from side to side, the hammock swung free. Indeed all hammocks seemed to be still while the ship moved about us – lying in the hammock riding the swell like this made me feel even worse.

I staggered down to the heads. A bad move. Plenty of blokes had staggered down there before me. There were guys in cubicles barfing into the bowls, most of the sinks were full of what seemed to be curry and carrots; and the smell was enough to make a bloke puke!

I got outa there quick smart. I made my way up to some fresh air, I staggered along the passage way, bouncing off the ship as it lurched from side to side and me lurching from side to side too but unfortunately we were not in sync. It's like riding a horse, you know, you are supposed to ride in unison with the horse's movements but when I tried it all I did was go up and when I came down I'd meet the horse who was on his way up. Well that's how I negotiated the ship.

I made it up on to a deck. It was beautiful and cool. There was fresh air, I sucked it in with a few other blokes who were also trying not to chunder. Breathe in, breath out. Breathe in, breath out. I started to calm down. I even got hit with a bit of sea spray. A cool refreshing spray. Hey wait a minute, we were up fairly high, how could the sea spray this far up? Then another spray. Then it hit me. It wasn't salt water, it was someone's chunder. EEK!

I survived the night without loosing the contents of my stomach - I took the hammock down and slept on the hard floor, just like in the jungle where I had slept on a hard surface for the last 12 months.

I dunno who cleaned up the mess, the Army certainly wasn't capable of doing it and we have been living it down ever since. The matelots reckon it was the day that the Army got its sea legs. Anyone who can operate normally on a rollicking rusted boat can't be normal I say.

Soon everything was back to normal, we were still gathering speed on the downhill run to Australia and the matelots were still bashing their rusty flight deck with hammers. We just sat around most of the day in between feeds. We could stare at each other or stare at the ocean; so that's what we did. There we wuz in our shorts sitting on our arses staring out to sea. You'd think those matelots would have supplied us with their deck chairs they get out when the Army's not on board.

After daze and daze of this everyone couldn't wait to get home. Suddenly our slumber was awakened when the boys began pointing at something on the horizon. Was it a whale? 

No, it was Australia!!

WOOHOO!





Our destination was Townsville – this was 2 RAR's base, so it made sense that we should dock there. Well we didn't dock exactly, we managed to get a ride on those things ya storm the beaches with.


19 January 2013

Chapter 58 ‘The Sydney’



‘The Sydney’ refers to HMAS Sydney, an Australian aircraft carrier which was used to ferry Australian troops and equipment to and from South Vietnam during the war. It is often referred to as the ‘Vung Tau Ferry.’

If you haven’t seen this boat, I’d like to describe it to you.  It was a bucket of bolts.  Right now it is anchored off Vung Tau harbour with its escort ship HMAS Duchess nearby.  On board are the soldiers from the 4th Bn. The Royal Australian Regiment.  Looking after them are a bunch of ugly dumb Navy guys.

The plan was to fly us from Nui Dat by Chinook helicopter, about a 20 minute ride, drop us on the flight deck, a technical Navy term for a grey rusty airstrip on the boat, pick up 4RAR boys and drop them at The Dat and pick up another load of us 2RAR boys; and so on.  As you can imagine, it was a pretty big logistical task.

Back in our lines we cleaned them up as best we could given that the tents were nearly rotting apart.  All ammo was taken from us, including bullets and grenades.  We kept our rifles, but there were no magazines on them.  I hope Nigel didn’t know any of this.  There were rumours that when soldiers left The Dat they pulled the pins on their grenades and tied elastic bands around them.  They threw them in the pit toilets and under the floorboards of tents.  I’m guessin’ the officers’ mess may have been a big target for this.  Over time, the rubber bands would perish and the grenades would go off. A stupid act of course and I never heard of any grenades going off while we were there but we had to account for all our ammo, including the grenades, and hand them in before we left.

Each of us was given a number we had to display on our uniform.  I had two bags and an M16 rifle and staggered off to the truck which took us to a clearing at the edge of the rubber plantation.  I dunno why we didn’t use the large chopper pad, maybe because we could wait in the shade until it was our turn to board the Chinook. A good move.

So there we are waiting, waiting, waiting.  It didn’t matter, we were on our way home.  We had survived our 12 month tour (well 12 months and 3 weeks actually). You could say we were probably a bit rowdy.  But nobody seemed to mind.  What could they do? Keep us over there a bit longer? 

Over on the boat was a guy from my home town of Cootamundra.  His name was Donny M.  I went to school with his brother Paul, and Donny was in a class behind us.  I heard that he was in Delta Coy.  Now 4RAR did not have an Alpha Coy.  I wondered if they may swap us over with D Coy., so I intended to keep an eye out for him. 

I think we were just waved onto the chopper.  It would have been nice for someone to say, “Gentlemen can I have your attention please.  All those gentlemen wishing to go home to Australia, please board the chopper now, thank you; and have a nice day.”  But voice communication was virtually impossible because of the deafening sound of the chopper’s twin engines and the down wash created by their blades.  These things were massive – think of a bus with two sets intersecting blades on top.  They probably held about 30 or 40 men, including me with my two bags, my M16 with no ammo, a bloody big grin on my face; and my Canon camera hanging from my neck.


And lift off!

Well I dunno if you have ever travelled in any military aircraft but they are designed with the barest amount of stuff needed to carry soldiers. It doesn't matter if it's a Herc, Caribou or a Chook; they all have a common theme. The seats (for want of a better word) are made out of cargo straps and you can't see out of the windows. Windows! Slits more like it! In Australia we flew from Townsville to Brisbane and I was unaware that the Herc had actually landed until it was lowering the back door thingy!

We flew south towards Vung Tau. I wasn't going to let a chance go by so I got up and went, well staggered really, up to the door gunner, gave him a nod and a grin and poked my Canon out the door. I think my using my camera was more important than his being able to use his twin M60s. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the platoon sergeant Mick waving his arms to get me to come back to my 'seat.' I ignored him, just like on many occasions throughout our tour. Down there is HMAS Sydney. You could probably see it better if I had any idea how to really use Photoshop.



We hit the deck! It seems like pandemonium, or have I already used that word. The noise, the heat, and the down wash from the twin rotors all attacked the senses as we exited the Chook through the rear door and we were marshalled to the flight deck. I looked across at the soldiers from Delta Coy 4 RAR who were waiting to board our chopper. Then I saw him. Donny M was waving his arm, up nice and high like a person drowning in the water. I waved back. I didn't have time to take a photo and the flight deck descended into the bowels of the bucket of bolts.

We hurried (Army always hurries – with a sense of urgency) along a gangway and you won't believe this bit I spied another bloke from Cootamundra. Now Cootamundra had a population of about 6,000. What are the chances that I'd run into two blokes in Vietnam (well Vietnamese waters) in the space of ten minutes? He stood aside for us and I knew he didn't see me. I had a bag in each hand and my M16 also in my right hand, so I poked him with that. I think it's the first time someone has poked him in the chest with an M16 judging by his reaction. He jumped about 10 foot in the air, looked at me with a startled look on his face and then recognised me. His name was Monk Kennedy.

Donny M, as well as Monk, were nice fit young blokes, but they seemed bigger somehow. And then it hit me. We were all skinny and pale from the rigours of combat in the jungle, often to the point of exhaustion with nothing but meagre combat rations for over 12 months; and hardly ever seeing the sun. We were actually emaciated. Here's a picture of me on the flight deck taken a couple of days later.



It took ten days for the boat to go from Vietnam to Townsville. During that time we did nuthin' except sit around and drink piss. I wish! Since we left Australia 12 months ago we hadn't had fresh milk, fresh bread, butter, lamb roast (or any roast for that matter) baked vegies and proper beer. They gave us two cans (large cans) of Flag Ale each night. I managed to drink one before handing the other to a mate. It was better than that Queensland piss we had been drinking back at The Dat (when we could get it) and that American Bud in Vung Tau when on R&C.

HMAS Duchess the escort ship in Vietnamese waters in case the HMAS Sydney sank!

Me and my Canon EXEE Camera.  I still have it!

That's Ian Gleeson on the left, he's also from Cootamundra and we were together in Kapooka!




27 December 2012

Chapter 57 3 and awakie!


I remember it well.

You see we were due to come home from our 12 month tour of Vietnam on the HMAS Sydney, one of those flat top boats that the Navy sails around in, if you know what I mean. You would expect that when blokes get short, that is, only a few days to go before heading home from the war, you’d think that the Army brass would pull us out of the jungle to let us wind down and pack our gear for the trip home a little early - like a few weeks prior to the end of our tour.  No such luck.  I dunno why they called it a tour.  “A tour of duty.”  I suppose it sounds better than going on operations in the deepest darkest jungles of South Vietnam dodging biting ants, stinging wasps, buzzing and biting mosquitoes carrying the deadly malaria virus or whatever it is, snakes spiders, booby traps, VC inaccurate fire; and friendly fire from the yanks!

Well we didn’t have a few weeks to pack for home – we had less than 3 days!  We were in the jungles of Phuoc Tuy Province up until 3 days before we left the country.  I kid you not! Luckily we had a good OC in Capt B.  He kept us together as a company while we worked the last few days on operations out in the J.  Normally we operated at platoon level, but on our last operation we kept together in one big company group of about 70 soldiers.  The last thing we wanted was for Nigel to give us a send off present.  There is safety in numbers.

The last operation went off without incident.  We did come across some enemy signs though.  One gets a certain feeling when operating in the jungle; and there is a certain type of vegetation where Nigel likes to build his bunker systems – slightly raised ground where there are a lot of trees with trunks measuring about 8 inches across.  These are great to support overhead protection.  And wouldn’t you know, the lead platoon, I think it was those gung ho blokes from 1 platoon, reported evidence of cut trees.

I heard the radio call where the platoon commander of the lead platoon expressed concern that there may be enemy activity ahead because of the cut trees.  To his credit, and I guess this isn’t in any Army report, Capt B said, “Well we don’t want to take on anything at this stage, so we will move back away from the area.”  I’m sure he reported the incident to the CO so that 4 RAR who were the battalion that would be taking over from us and who at that very moment were steaming, if that’s the right word, towards Vung Tau Harbour on that flat top boat.

On our last day out bush I wrote a message in the ground: “3 and awakie!”  I wrote it in shaving cream.  We would get parcels from Australia, many from the RSL sub branches and other members of the public who supported the troops in Vietnam (not journalists, university students, or politicians).  Many packs contained shaving cream, and in the bush where water is at a premium, shaving cream was good for helping us shave.  How stupid is the Army.  We are supposed to shave every day, however most of us only shaved every now and then, or when someone was coming to visit.  The reason?  Well lack of water was the main reason but how stupid is it to scape your face with a blunt razor and risk getting some undiscovered jungle infection; and when your face is nice and clean after the shave we plaster cam cream all over it.  Lovely!

“3 and awakie!”

WOOHOO!

Suddenly we were back at our base camp at Nui Dat, and boy did we have a lot of work to do.  We stowed all our bush gear for the 4RAR boys to use, and we had to pack everything into two carry on bags.  That’s it.  I gave a lot of my gear to Doc, the platoon medic.  Doc had a great tour, he saved a few lives, including the lives of two platoon commanders; and he also got a couple of personal VC kills up. So giving him some extra uniforms and boots would be a great help to him back home as he was a regular soldier and he went on to complete 20 years service.  I ran into him years later when he was a training Warrant Office at JTC Canungra, but I am getting ahead of myself again.

So what did we get up back at The Dat knowing that we are on our way home?

It seemed such a waste to throw out all those cans full of shaving cream.


The Winner!  Or was he the loser?

Naturally we had a big send off party.  Company HQ organised a pewter mug for each of us inscribed with our nickname.  What a very thoughtful gesture, so we filled them and refilled them with beer and carried on stupid.

You want proof?


Here I am with Jungles. We were together right from the start at Kapooka

I still have the mug although it is showing its age.  This is the inscription on my mug.



But back to the war...

We all went to bed full of beer and high spirits, tomorrow we start our journey home.  But it wasn’t quiet.  Blokes just couldn’t settle down and someone who will remain nameless but he was from 1 platoon, decided to give the advance party boys from 4RAR a bit of a thrill.  He set his SLR (a semi automatic weapon) to full auto by placing a match under the sear.  He then fired a good 15 round burst into the air.  Now an automatic SLR has a very distinctive sound.  It is similar to the M60 only the rate of fire is a lot faster, a bit like an AK47 but the signature has a far deeper sound, far, far, deeper than the M16.  So we all knew what it was and rolled over and went back to sleep.

If this had happened early in our tour we would have leapt outa bed, grabbed our shootin’ stuff; and ran to our assigned pits in readiness for the enemy attack!

Apparently they couldn’t find the shooter, maybe I should blackmail him, and the guy who threw the smoke grenade into the OC’s tent all those months earlier.

Tomorrow we head for home.....






18 July 2012

No I'm not finished, not quite...

Only a couple of chapters to go now.

I'll tell you how we were out on patrol until 3 days before we boarded that flat top boat for the boat trip home.

I have a couple of pictures of Navy boats and I have already decided on an ending.

And to you Hosko I just may tell all about the Army Reserve and what a dickhead you were. I taught you everything I know and you know nuthin'!

I'm away for a little while - explanation here

21 June 2012

Chapter 56 Am I Dreamin'?





We were heading for Chau Luc  rubber plantation in the northern part of Phuoc Tuy Province, not far from the Courteney rubber.  You may remember it was in January/February  where Killer was killed about two months ago.  We were going back to do some more ambushing.  This is much better than stumbling around the jungle and finding Nigel waiting for us in his bunker systems.  We are apprehensive because we only have six weeks left in country; but ambushing is good.

“Knackers, Knackers.........”

“Huh?”

“Saddle up Knackers we move in five.” Whispered Moon.

Shit, something must be up.  We are in a harbour come ambush setting, it’s still dark and we are going to move? I checked my watch, it was 0430.  I slid out of my silk and pulled on my boots.  The boots are laced with one single long lace – all I do is pull them on and tighten the laces – ezy in the dark.  I quickly roll up the silk and groundsheet and stuff them in my pack, took a swig of water, had a leak; and I was ready to go.

We don’t normally move at night, it’s too risky.  Not only could we get ambushed, but it is also quite easy for us to lose contact with each other and become separated.  In the dark all shadowy figures look alike; and scary.

After about twenty minutes of slow progress we are lined up in a ditch, dawn is not far away.  I peer into the blackness and I can make out a couple of huts about 80 yards ahead, must be a village.  I can see smoke drifting ever so faintly from inside the village, but I can’t see any activity.  I make myself as comfortable as I can and wait.
Suddenly over to the left is the tell tale sound of mortar primaries going pop, pop, pop.  Seconds later the rounds are landing on top of us.  A combination of blinding light, deafening explosions and trembling earth unleashes its fury.  Dirt and debris is raining down on top of me.  Moon gives the order to move forward, we certainly can’t stay here but where the hell are we going to go?
Instantly we are on the village.  “Keep moving, keep moving” Moon yells.  Then it happened.  I felt a wave a hot air pick me up and fling me into the air.  There is a buzzing in my head.  The flash of brilliant light has killed my night vision.  I am aware that I am hurtling through the air, yet I am not afraid.  Am I dead?
I smashed into one of the huts, it collapsed and buried me under a pile of rubble.  My hearing and vision return as my brain tries to comprehend what is happening.  It only lasts for a fleeting moment, then I black out.
I’m awake.  I dunno how long I was out to it, but I am aware that there is sunlight about, but not directly shining onto me.  I am lying on my back.  I feel a lot of weight pressing down on my body.  I am having difficulty breathing because of the weight on my chest.  My whole body is still.  I try to stretch.  I can feel my fingers and my toes.  A good sign.  I twist and turn, and roll over onto my belly and try to get up.  I feel the rubble on top of me give way and I stretch up onto my knees.  My back aches but I am in one piece.
As I step out of the rubble I can see that the scene around me is very bleak indeed.  I smell a mixture of smoke and cordite.  The whole area is devastated.  The trees and vegetation are flattened and singed, but not burnt.  Everything is coated in black.  Some stumps are emitting smoke, but there are no flames. 
Where is everyone?
I check myself out.  My greens are ripped and torn.  My right upper arm is scratched but the bleeding has stopped.  My greens are mostly black now rather than green.  My boots are OK but I have no rifle, no webbing; and no bloody radio!
Where is everyone?
I hear a murmur over to my right.  It’s coming from  another collapsed hut.  I move towards it, oh, my right leg hurts a bit too.  There’s someone trapped in the rubble of the hut.  I pull the dried reeds away and I can see a body of a women dressed in a white blouse and black pyjama pants, a typical South Vietnamese dress.  She is struggling.  I notice her eyes are covered by a blind fold, there is another piece of material around her neck.  It must have covered her mouth and she managed to pull it free.  Her hands and feet are bound tightly.
I remove the blindfold.  A pair of piercing black eyes stare up at me in terror.  Her mouth opens to speak but she says nothing as if her brain is processing something.  Her eyes start to crinkle, “Kevin? Kevin?” she shouts.
I stand there just looking at her.
“Kevin,  me Lin, you me, number one boom boom , Vung Tau.

(You will recall that Lin could not pronounce my name, the best she could do was 'Kevin.")

“Lin? Is that really you?” I enquire.  What in the hell is she doing here?  And why is she tied up?  So I quickly untie her hands and feet.  Lin jumps to her feet, throws her arms around me and gives me a big pash on my lips.  She never did that last time we met and besides I can tell she had garlic with her last meal.
Lin went on to tell me that she was a sex slave in Vung Tau.  Her parents were very famous people in North Vietnam when she and her mother were kidnapped for ransom money.  Her mother was kept under guard at Baria and she was made into a sex slave.  She couldn’t escape otherwise they would kill her mother.
“So how come you ended up here?”? I asked. 
“My mother die, so me escape from Vung Tau.  Me hitch ride north but White Mice catch me, hold me here.”
“Well maybe I can help, come with me.” I take Lin’s hand and head east towards the main road.  “We should be able to flag down a passing military vehicle.”
“Dứng dừng lại!”  A male voice rings out from behind us.  We turn and face two men both with AK47s about 50 yards away.  Their weapons are pointing right at us.  I pick up a lump of wood, face the two men; and push Lin behind me.
The men are dressed in khaki uniforms.  They are NVA.  They are both in their twenties, one is tall and one is short. They move in closer, a smirk covers the face of the shorter soldier.
“You drop stick, GI.”
“I’m not a GI you dumb piece of shit.  Me Uc da loi.”
“Ah, Uc da loi, drop stick, now.” He demands shaking his rifle in my direction.
They came in close, weapons pointing at me.  The taller soldier is facing me, the shorter guy is off to my right.
“Quay lại.”  I did as Shorty demanded, I turned around.  Stretch grabbed my arms, pulled them behind my back; and tied my hands together.
I turned back around and faced Stretch.  He was nearly my height, unusually tall for Vietnamese.  He had acne scaring on his face.  His eyes were bloodshot and he had a smirk on his face.  He was an ugly son of a bitch.
We locked eyes, then I smashed my forehead into his nose spreading it across his face as blood splattered all directions.  He fell like a rock.  Before Shorty could bring his AK up to fire I stabbed my right leg out, my foot was parallel to the ground as I hit the side of his right knee.  His leg collapsed inward.  He yelped, dropped his rifle; and he crumpled to a heap on the ground.  Stretch was on his elbows and knees holding his face in his hands.  I kicked him in the guts to open up his body, he half rolled away from me and as his hands dropped away from his face I drove my boot into it.  “Take that Nigel you ugly prick!”  His body flattened out and he was still.  I spun back to Shorty and kicked him again.  I collected his face with the heal of my right boot as I swung my leg with plenty of power and a good follow through, just like a footballer kicking a goal at fulltime to  score the winning points against Manly.  He sprawled onto his back.  He was out cold.
“Quick Lin untie me.” I grabbed both AK47s and we ran east to the road.  The road was deserted.  Normally there is plenty of traffic about.  We sat down on the side of the road and waited.  I suggested we head south to Nui Dat.  Lin said she wanted to head north, back home to her father.
Soon a motorcyclist appeared from the north, he was travelling at a fair clip of speed.  I walked out onto the road and pointed the rifle at him with my right hand and held my left hand up with my palm facing towards him – the universal halt sign.  The rider pulled up quickly.  I motioned for him to get off the bike and sit in the ditch on the side of the road.  “Í’ll trade your bike for this AK47” I said as I removed the magazine, took all the rounds out, placed it back on the weapon and threw it down beside him.  I grabbed the bike, tossed the crate of chickens off it and said to Lin, “Hop on Lin.”  I gunned the 125cc Honda and we headed north towards the coast.
Pretty soon we came to a coastal township, somewhere unaffected by the war.  Lin urged me to stop and she disappeared into a shop.  She emerged seconds later and headed from a phone booth.  She spoke on the phone for about ten minutes while I sat there on the Honda admiring the women passing by in their Ao Dais
“I get picked up tomorrow at dawn,” said Lin with a gleam in her eye.  I looked at my watch and it was 1500, dawn was at 0600. 
“I need some food and water” as I motioned over towards a hotel.  We entered the foyer, we were both extremely grubby and dirty and I had the AK47 slung over my shoulder.  I told Lin to trade the AK47 for a room and some food as I slumped down in a chair.  I was totally rooted.  A few moments later Lin returned with a smile on her face and the keys to a room in her hand, “This way,” she said.
Room 79 eh?  Wooly would be pleased.  Hey the blokes? I didn’t know what happened to them. How did we get separated?  Were they out searching for me?  “Kevin need shower.” Lin removed my greens and noticed the wound on my arm.  “Poor Kevin.”
“It’s only a scratch, Lin,” I said as she led me to the shower and started to wash me.  She gently massaged my body, dried me off; and made me feel a whole lot better as only a woman can do for a man.  I fell asleep before room service arrived.
Lin woke me at 0500 with a hot breakfast of toast eggs and coffee.  I demolished the lot. Then we made love again and I took another shower.  I emerged from the bathroom and there on the bed were my greens washed and ironed.  I picked them up and I could see that the torn pieces were expertly sewn and repaired.  My boots were black and shiny and there was a clean pair of socks laid across the top of them.
“Take me to beach?”
“What’s happening Lin?”
“Me ring father, they  pick me up at 6.”
“Who’s they?  What does your father do?
“My father he king of North Vietnam.”
“King?  What do you mean King?
“Me part of North Vietnam royal family, me Princess Lin.”
“A bloody princess?  You’re joking.  Right?”
“You save my life Kevin.  Come with me, you will be rewarded.”
“I can’t leave my mates behind – they need me Lin.  I must find them.”
“You take me to beach?”
“OK, I’ll take you to beach.”
The Honda was stored out back.  It fired up easily and the headlight worked OK.  Not a bad trade for an AK47.  We rode down to the beach, got off the bike and walked to the southern end of the beach.  We sat down and Lin cradled in under my sore arm.  She looked up into my eyes and gave me another great pash on the lips.  What in the world did she have for breakfast?  More garlic?
Then I heard it.  The unmistakable sound of a helicopter, a large helicopter.  It was coming in from the east, heading straight for the southern part of the beach.  Lin flashed a light a couple of times and it loomed out of the darkness; a bloody giant Russian helicopter!
It landed on the beach.  Lin asked me one more time for me to go with her.  I told her it was impossible.  Lin looked into my eyes, gave me a tender kiss and said “Me never forget Kevin, Lin love Kevin.” 
“Kevin love Lin too,” I whispered.  She turned  and ran to the helicopter.  The engines roared, it lifted off, turned, and with it’s nose down, flew  back out to sea.  I paused there on the beach for a long time.  What the hell was that all about I wondered.  Then reality kicked in.  I returned to the hotel, room 79, ordered more food; and when my belly was full I took a nap.  I woke at 1000 and began my journey back to The Dat on that great little 125cc Honda.
The CSM, mother couldn’t believe it when he saw me.  “We thought you were captured Knackers, there’s still a group, your old mates from 6 section, out looking for you.”
“Well I’m here now.  What’s for dinner?”
The boys were happy to see me.  Should I tell them about Lin?  Would they believe me?  I doubt it.  So I left out the bits involving Lin.  I went back to the Q store and got some new gear, we were due to deploy again in two days.  I’d better get my shit together.
The next day the OC called a parade.  This is unusual we thought, Capt B is not one to stand on ceremony.  So at 0900 we marched down to the company parade ground.  The CSM handed over to Capt B who stood there with his hands on his hips, a big beaming smile came over his lips.  “Men.  The war is over.”
There was silence, just a company of dumb grunts standing there with our mouths open.
North Vietnam has instigated a ceasefire.  They are withdrawing their troops back north.  There will be no more fighting.  Well the company erupted into hoopin’ and a hollerin’.  Bush hats were thrown into the air.  Troops danced around each other, backs were slapped, but there was no kissing.
“OK men settle down.  I guess you want to know how this came about.  It seems that the King’s daughter was rescued by Australian soldiers, probably those elite SAS boys.
 “He was so pleased his daughter was returned safely to him that he pressed the government to introduce an immediate cease fire and end the war.  The war is over!”
“Knackers, Knackers.....”
“Huh?”
“Your time for picquet mate.....”



18 June 2012

Chapter 55 Our Time is getting short


You know how your mood changes during the working week?  Who likes going to work on Mondays?  Isn’t that where the word Mondayitis comes from?  But as Friday approaches you start to look forward to the weekend and getting away from work.  Well it was the same in Vietnam.  We had been in country 10 months now, probably at the low point in the week so to speak, we are looking forward to only two months of patrolling; and we are home free.

But all this did was to increase the pressure for us to survive.  To keep risk to a minimum, to be cautious; but at the same time not to back away from a fight.  2 platoon has completed 290 days on operations so far and I didn’t realise the toll it was taking on us until I was looking at some photos the other day.

Here is Smithy and Browny, our two great forward scouts....

Smithy
Smithy is ringing wet, not because of the rain, but from sweat because of the exertion and pressure of being a forward scout.  You may recall I did three days in the Nui Dinhs and that was enough for me.  Both Smithy and Browny did it for 12 months!

Browny
Browny won't be happy with this photo.  As you can see he is totally stuffed.  There's nothing more for me to say -  a picture is worth a thousand words.

Both of these photos were taken by Digger, he is not fairing too well either.

Digger


Digger looks like he needs a decent feed, a good lie down; and a shave as well!  



These are stark images indeed!

Digger is seen here holding an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) round.  This item was among many things we found in an enemy camp.  As you can see by the fire place, the camp was in use for some time although not recently.  I don't have to tell you that we are again east of Route 2.  As our time is getting short we are operating more now as a company group, there is safety in numbers particularly after the mauling we got from D445.  Well they got a mauling too.  We used to patrol in half platoon numbers of about 10 to 12 soldiers back over in our AO west of Route 2, but over here it seems the enemy have had a bit of a free reign - we have no idea what we will be up against; so we'll play it safe and stick together as a larger group.

The area was not jungle, just dried out bush.  The dry season has taken its toll on the vegetation which means there is less shade and it is quite hot with the sun's rays penetrating though the canopy.  Patrolling in these conditions is gruelling.  As we patrol through the dried out scrub a lot of debris in the form of leaves, sticks and dust falls down and lodges on the back of our necks.  There it mixes with our sweat and gets ground into our flesh by our webbing.  We use sweat rags to cover the backs of our necks but it is still very uncomfortable, especially if the next shower is three weeks away.

From the company base 2 platoon patrolled out on our assigned route.  One of the other platoons was doing the same thing in a  different direction while the third platoon nursemaided CHQ.  You should be familiar with this now.  The radio I am carrying does not get much use when we are all travelling together and it was here that I was being a bit lax.  I assumed that the battery would be OK.  A bad mistake because we were travelling light I didn't carry a spare battery with me, it was in my pack.  Prior to our departure I conducted a radio check with One Zero and everything seemed to be working OK.

About 200 metres out the scrub opened up, there was a marked reduction in undergrowth, a clear sign of enemy activity.  We inched forward very cautiously, the forward scouts working overtime for signs of enemy and mines and booby traps.  We propped and the boss went forward to have a look around.  I tried to raise One Zero but even though I could hear them OK I could only transmit for a second or two.  The fucken battery was flat.  How stupid was I?  If we contacted the enemy we'd be in deep shit and here we are with evidence of enemy activity right in front of us.

I was able to transmit the words 'flat battery' without any other words normally associated with radio procedure and mother, the CSM, understood and said he was sending a fresh battery out to us.  We were only ten minutes away and our tracks would be easy to follow.  Boy was I lucky.

The camp was empty and had been like that for more than a week.  We had a good look around, wary of booby traps but we found a fair bit of stuff.  Some weapons and ammo, but most of it was food.  I saw a hollow in a tree and I gingerly went up to it, checking the ground for anything unusual and I peered into the hole.  There down in the hole was a package wrapped in what appeared to be brown paper.  I called Mick over to have a look.  As he looked in the hole I stepped back a bit.  In no way was I inquisitive, I was too worried about booby traps to be curious, something that stayed with me for the rest of my life.  If I saw something I just left it there without going near it.  Mick hauled the parcel out of the tree and unwrapped it.  It was rice.

Tiny noticed some disturbed dirt.  He too was very careful as he prodded the dirt with his bayonet in case it was a mine.  He hit something soft so he started digging around and he too came up with a parcel with something wrapped inside.  He called out to the boss that he had found something and eagerly unwrapped it.  You could imagine his disappointment when he uncovered some dry fish.  The smell stayed on his hands for three days.

Over in Digger's section they were uncovering some weapons and ammo -  AK47s, ammo and RPG rounds that Digger posed with above.  We spent most of the day checking the area out.  

Nigel was nowhere to be seen.

This camp was unusual because there were no bunkers.  Where ever we went in Phuoc Tuy Province we came across enemy bunkers.  In the swamp of the Rung Sat the bunkers were raised up above high tide level.  They were made out of mud and looked like igloos.  In the Nui Dinhs there were conventional bunkers with overhead protection.  Same same north of the Nui Dinhs right up to the Courtenay Rubber in the far north of the province.  Bunkers everywhere, mostly of the same design.  One important aspect I failed to mention is that there was no rubbish around any of these.  They were clean. C-L-E-A-N.  Nothing in these places but the structures.  No items, no bits of clothing or other stuff lying around.  Nuthin'.

We rarely came across tunnels.  The only tunnel system I saw was near a village and the opening had been exposed.  I looked into the entrance to the system.  It was a pit about four feet deep and two feet square.  What impressed me was how straight the walls were even though only  basic tools were used by the VC.  The entrance to the tunnel system was about half way down one of the side walls, just a little opening, again quite square in shape and it was so small I doubt if I could have fitted in.

Just think about this for a moment.  If a soldier went to enter the tunnel he has to drop down into the pit first.  This exposes his genital area to the opening of the tunnel.  He would be a sitting duck for anyone hiding inside.  We had engineers who went down into these systems with nothing more than a torch and a pistol.  They must have been mad.  There was no way I could have done that.

I think I had reached the high point in my career as a dumb grunt.  I was no good at forward scout.  I was pretty good as a number two machine gunner but there was no way I could go back to that job because in effect the number two is a pack mule.  I couldn’t do that engineer stuff of blowing things up and searching tunnels – a bloke could get killed.  No I guess I was stuck as platoon sig – you know, the guy with the squeaky little voice on the radio.

08 June 2012

Chapter 54 The aftermath of the battle of Tan Ru

We survive the night without incident if you can call a constant artillery barrage with shrapnel whizzing through the trees and wondering just when the enemy, who by now must be really pissed off and have a giant headache, will come screaming over the hill at us with fixed bayonets.

Surprisingly I managed a few hours' sleep.  It just goes to show that dumb grunts can sleep anywhere.  Last night we carried out our normal routine.  That is, once down we sent out clearing patrols and stood too until nightfall.  The three guns were placed strategically around our little circle of pits.  Did I say pits?  We were just on the ground.  It may have been appropriate to dig in but all our gear was back at CHQ, a few hundred metres away.  We manned two guns during the night, that way we manage 6 hours sleep.  If we were attacked the third gun could easily be used to engage the enemy.  It was very unlikely that the enemy would surprise us.  The jungle was our friend at night.  If the enemy decided to come looking for us they would find it very difficult to move quietly and their sounds would telegraph their movements.

We were sitting ducks though.  We didn't have any claymores mines to break up enemy movement as these too were with our gear at CHQ. That left our small arm weapons and Wooly's M79.  We were no match for the enemy, I dunno why we were left there and not allowed to return to 3 platoon and CHQ.

Dawn, and it is eerily quiet.

Nuthin'

We wanted to go back and have a go at the enemy but this was impossible just by ourselves.  We were extremely frustrated and dejected when given the order to move back to CHQ and 3 platoon. We all felt it was important for us and what was left of 1 platoon to go back and take out the enemy.  But the CO 3RAR had a different plan.  He wanted Centurion tanks to assist in the bunker assault which 3RAR would carry out without us.

Charlie company 3RAR entered the bunker system two days later.  Two bloody days later!  The CO who was shot down during the battle waited for the tanks to arrive before taking on the system.  And guess what they found?  Nothing.  Nothing!  The enemy had all got away.  How's that for fighting the bloody war?  We couldn't believe it.  1 platoon had got a licking and we wanted to go in and sort the enemy out, not two days later, but at dawn the very next day - that's what we infantry soldiers do, assemble our resources and hit 'em hard, but not 3RAR apparently.  Oh they found a lot of blood and guts spread about inside the enemy camp, but no bodies.  They all got away while 3RAR sat on their arses waiting for the tanks.

The system was about 100 metres from the Song Rai.  It covered an area 350 by 200 metres.  It contained 32 bunkers with overhead protection.  It was estimated there were two companies of D445 plus a heavy weapons group - dug in. 

We never hit anything like this in our AO (Area of Operations) west of route 2.  But then again we dominated our AO.  How many times had we been in the Nui Dinhs?  The Land Clearing Teams? We covered the whole of our AO continuously from the mangrove swamps in the Rung Sat in the south to the Courteney Rubber in the north, and everywhere in between.  We came across  many bunker systems and destroyed them and often hitting the caretaker teams. What had they been doing in the area east of Route 2?  Nothing, so it seems, and we come over to give them a hand and we pay the price for their lack of domination of their AO.  

Bastards!

1 platoon got hit pretty bad, and there were other losses as well.  The CO of 3RAR, who was the operational commander, was trundling around in his Sioux helicopter over the battle area.  He got too close to the bunker system and the chopper took a few hits and had to ditch.  How stupid is that?  Who did he think he was, getting so close to the battle area, General Patton?  In effect he hindered the ability of the Bushrangers and the artillery to attack the enemy because his chopper was in the way.  On what grounds could he justify getting so close?  Sheesh!

Do I sound pissed off?  You betcha!

It seems our location on the edge of the bunker system caused a  few problems for the Bushrangers, maybe we should have disengaged from the enemy a lot earlier and let them get on with it.  We stayed close to the enemy so that they had to deploy some resources to keep us at bay thus taking some heat off  1 platoon.  This meant we had to indicate where we were to the Bushrangers by smoke grenades so that they could brass up the area between 1 platoon and us - that's where the enemy were.  We started to run out of smoke grenades.  The Bushrangers are prepared for this and carry bags of smoke grenades which they dropped to us.  But the enemy ended up with some smoke grenades and started popping smoke which caused the confusion when the Dustoff arrived.  You will recall that I heard Barry on the radio calling the Dustoff to 'come back'.  It seems they failed to follow the simple procedure of identifying the colour of the smoke they see and have 1 platoon confirm the colour they threw.  This didn't happen and the chopper drifted over towards the smoke the enemy threw.  The Dustoff got hit pretty hard by small arms fire, seriously wounding one of the crewmen who later died of wounds.

1 platoon were pinned down for a long time.  Both machine gunners closest to the enemy had their weapons rendered inoperable by incoming fire.  Yogi told me that there was a line of muzzle flashes all across his front when the contact started.  The contact was initiated by 1 platoon who surprised the enemy.  Yogi got a stoppage at one stage.  His gun stopped working due to a misfeed.  We practice a drill to get the gun working, but it requires you to cock the weapon, raise up and clear the feed plate.  Yogi said there was no way he was going to to get up on his knees so he rolled over onto his back and tried to clear the gun with it held up above him.  He succeeded in clearing the stoppage but not before  some hot cartridges fell onto his chest and "burnt the fuck out of him!"

Not far from Yogi was Paul B.  His gun got shot up as well.  He got hit by a satchel charge in the guts and a gunshot wound to the thigh.  After the platoon disengaged from the enemy by fire and movement, he walked to the evacuation APC when Assault Pioneer platoon from 3 RAR came to them late in the afternoon.  How's that for a tough bastard?

In the thick of the battle Lex A was not so lucky.  As the battle was raging very fiercely, Lex A exposed himself to enemy fire when he threw a grenade.  A few moments later he threw another grenade from exactly the same position and he was fatally wounded in the neck by small arms fire.

Eight members of 1 platoon were wounded.  In addition, one member of Assault Pioneer platoon was wounded during the evacuation.

At the end of the battle, friendly casualties were...

31 March 1971

KIA
1201945 Lex Adams
A111550 Alan Bloxsom (9Sqn)

WIA
1735670 T Elliott
2792501 P Bateman
2794514 G Missingham
218937 K Brown
218886 M Price
3790851 A Povey
1202328 P Wood
1736448 D Horrigan
 44939 C Fryc (3RAR)

A few days later Alpha company had a BBQ at Vung Tau with 9 Sqn where we all got pissed together and talked about the battle.  I noticed that the boss of 1 platoon was in animated discussion with one particular fellow from 9 Sqn.  I guessed that he was one of the Bushranger pilots.  A little later I went up to him and introduced myself.  "Hi, I was the sig, callsign Five Two."  I held my hand out to shake his.

With a beaming smile he took my hand and said, "Ah, Five Two, I was Bushranger 77."  We talked shit for a couple of minutes about how they nearly brassed us up and the problem with the smoke grenades; and then I asked him if he remembered my calling him up to enquire if he was firing rockets.  I mentioned how many of us thought the enemy were using mortars.

He patted me on the back and said, "Yeah, I remember hearing that squeaky little voice of yours on the radio."

I should have decked him then and there.

30 May 2012

Chapter 53 We Sojourn to Tan Ru with 3 RAR

It seems 3 RAR needed some help, so Alpha Company was placed under operational control of 3RAR's CO.  The callsign of 2 platoon is now Five Two and we head off north east of The Dat to Tan Ru, Xuyen Moc District.



The plan was simple, 3RAR would sit on their arses while we did all the work.  Alpha Company, with its three platoons, would move forward across a front about a kilometre wide and head towards the rifle companies of 3RAR who would be the blocking force (read: sit on arse).

1 platoon, now callsign Five One, was moving along the Song Rai checking for enemy activity using the river as an axis while we were up on the high ground moving in the same direction.  I dunno where 3 platoon was, they must have been nursemaiding CHQ.

As a sig you get to identify each voice using the radio.  1 platoon's commander Pat S called up the boss.
"Five Zero, this is Five One, fetch Sunray, over."
A good sig can recognise the voice of 1 platoon's commander and if the OC is nearby he would simple pass the handset to him telling him that Pat S is on the radio.
"Five Zero, Sunray, over."

I think I mentioned elsewhere that the term 'sunray' is used to denote the boss of that callsign.

"Five One, are there any friendlies in my area, over?"
"Five Zero, ah, no, over."
"Five One, roger, I have come across a track that is fresh and has been used by a large number of people, over."
"Five Zero, there are no friendlies in the area, over."
"Five One, roger, we'll follow it up, over."
"Five Zero, be careful, over."

A few minutes later the radio lit up with a contact reports from Five One.  It sounded like a heavy contact.  When you are stressed the voice goes up in pitch as blokes scream into the radio handset.

Meanwhile we were still on the high ground in two separate groups and I was with Mick.  1 platoon was in trouble, they had hit a large number of enemy who were dug in and wanted to stay and fight.  In all the contacts we experienced in the last 10 months the enemy tried to flee when we engaged them.  

1 platoon was particularly gung how and regularly chased the VC as they intended to flee, but this time it appears they are pinned down. It wasn't like this in our normal AO west of Route 2, we were in D445 territory now, these guys were battle hardened.  They were part of the force engaging the Australians in the Battle of Long Tan a couple of years before.

Our platoon regrouped with CHQ loaded up with as much ammo as we could, left our packs behind and we ran down the ridge line towards the enemy.  By now you would know who was leading us, that's right, Browny; and was he steaming through the jungle at a great rate of knots with us trying to keep up with him.  The jungle was not as thick as most of the stuff back in our AO so we were able to make good time without the need of secateurs to cut our way through.  We were generating some noise, putting us at risk of an ambush but 1 platoon was in trouble so we powered on through the jungle.  Normally we patrol slowly and quietly and keenly observe our proposed route for mines, booby traps or anything else that doesn't look right including fire lanes.  Fire lanes are areas in the bush where the vegetation is thinned out to give a better view from a static location such as a bunker system; and the fire lanes are covered by automatic weapons.  No doubt Browny's brain was working overtime quickly assessing what he sees in front of him.

Suddenly a medium sized machine gun opened up in front of us.  A slower, heavier meatier rattle;  a distinct sound that could be heard above the AK47s.    Browny reported low barbed wire entanglement.  There was probably mines and booby traps as well. We closed up, hit the deck and returned fire. The rounds were cracking overhead at a great rate; the enemy had a lot of firepower.  Normally leaves and twigs fall down around us, but this time the rounds were booming past and knocking bloody great branches on top of us - maybe they had a 12.7. A bloody 12.7! That means more than a platoon size enemy group, maybe two platoons.  Luckily the rounds were going way over our heads, they were poorly trained, they weren't as good as us but they did have much more firepower and they were in well prepared positions.  We, by contrast, were like shags on a rock with very little cover.  Moon took some men and tried to move to the flank but it was too dangerous, it seems the enemy were between us and 1 platoon; we couldn't get to them.  

The radio was going off its head as Moon was trying to get an appreciation of what was happening.  Certainly there was maybe a company sized group of enemy heavily armed and probably dug in just a few yards in front of us.  We numbered 24, the enemy was at least three times that.  An attack was not on the cards.  Indeed we were pinned down to a certain extent, we could not go forward, but we could easily withdraw.  While we remained there exposed to the enemy it took the heat off 1 platoon as the enemy had to contend with a fight on two fronts.

Two helicopter gunships arrived, not the you beaut cobra gunships, but heavily modified Huey gunships from 9 Sqn.  Ronnie RAAF was coming to the rescue.  They were called Bushrangers, quite an appropriate title.  I've got to hand it to these guys, when they talk on the radio they seem as calm as anything when you consider that each time they fly over the battle zone all enemy weapons are trained on them.

We were told to mark our location with smoke grenades, we had plenty; and the two Bushranger gunships would 'offload their ordnance' on the enemy which were between us and 1 platoon.  In they came adding more chaos to the scene.  Being pinned down by heavy machine gun fire means that I can barely see what happening 25 yards away, so I rely on identifying sounds to get a picture of what is happening around me.  Moon has the radio to his ear but I can still hear plenty of chatter.  Our boys are engaging the enemy with our machine guns and small arms fire as the Bushrangers make their run, the rattle of the miniguns can be heard clearly above the din of the battle.  Hot extracted cartridges are falling down on top of us and the rounds from the Bushranger's miniguns are nearly us.  We are way too close.  Moon decides to move us back a bit further.  We move cautiously using fire and movement. The last thing we want is to be hit by 'friendly fire.'  And we are starting to run low on smoke grenades. 

The gunships do a couple of strafing runs which are followed by loud explosions.  "Mortars!  Has the enemy got mortars?" Mick asks.  I won't say he was panicking, but he was certainly wide eyed.  Indeed some others in the platoon thought it was mortars as well.  I reckon they were rockets fired by the Bushrangers, this was the first time we had heard them up so close but I could discern the 'shiiirrrsttt' noise before they impacted.  They had to be rockets from the choppers.  Mick tells me to ask the choppers if they are firing rockets.  I don't wanna do this, so I ignore him. Mick glares at me and says, "Ask them."
"OK"
I take a big deep breath and in the calmest radio announcer type voice that I can muster I press the  switch and talk. "Bushranger this is Five Two over."
"Five Two this is Bushranger 77, over."
"Five Two can you confirm you are firing rockets, over."
"Bushranger 77 affirmative, over."
"Five Two, roger, be advised we are running low on smoke, over."
"Bushranger 77, roger we will drop smoke for you, standby by."

A chopper makes a low pass over us, I can hear the enemy firing at him as he hurtles overhead.  "Five Two, this is Bushranger 77, smoke dropped, over."
"Did anyone see the smoke." yells Mick.  Word comes back that it was dropped over towards the enemy, no one is going to go over and look for them; it's too dangerous.
"Bushranger 77 this is Five Two, drop no good, please drop further west over."
"Bushranger 77 roger, standby."
He comes over a second time, the enemy are waiting for him as they open up on him again.  We see the bag!  The smoke grenades are in a hessian bag that Roy and Browny grab and add them to our supply.
"Five Two, we have the bag, thank you, over."
"Bushranger 77, roger, out."

There's barely a break in transmission on the radio. Sometimes a buzzing sound is heard as two people try to transmit at the same time, I doubt if the enemy has jamming equipment as it would be continuous.  I hear Barry's voice.  He was one of our section commanders and he is now 1 platoon's sergeant.  He has a Dustoff request in and within minutes the Dustoff has arrived.
"Five One, Five One, this is Dustoff, inbound your location figures five minutes, standby to throw smoke, over.
"Five One standing by."
"Five One this is Dustoff, throw smoke, over."

Something terrible has happened.  I hear Barry yell over the radio, "Dustoff, come back, come back!"  Gee has the Dustoff taken off without the wounded blokes?  1 platoon must really be in the shit and we are stuck here on the other side feeling really helpless.  To make matters worse the choppers are running out of fuel and they ask 1 platoon if they want all their ordnance delivered before they leave.  Five One answers with a simple 'yes please.'

"Five One, Five One, this is Bobcat One and Bobcat Two over."

It's the fucken Yanks!

"This is Five One over."
"We are in the area if you guys need a hand at all."
I didn't catch the rest of the exchange, but Bobcat One and Bobcat Two didn't drop any stuff.

Now that the gunships were gone the artillery started to arc up and pound the enemy.  Shit it's close.  We could hear the rounds coming over our right shoulder and then 'clomp, clomp, clomp' just ahead of us.  Not only was the noise deafening it but I could 'feel' the explosions in the back of my throat of all places as the percussion hit me.  In addition, shrapnel was whizzing through the trees above us.

Things were grim.  But it must be worse in those enemy bunkers.

It's getting close to dark, the choppers were back for another go.  Gee this must take some coordination between all parties - we can't have the artillery firing while the choppers are in the area.  It seems the APCs have arrived to help 1 platoon.

We move back onto a small knoll and adopt all round defence for the night.  We don't have any packs with us, no food unless someone managed to stuff a can of something into their webbing but my guess is they were full of ammo when we left CHQ.  No brew gear and no sleeping gear; and I'm also low on water.  Nobody is saying much.  A pretty big battle has raged this afternoon and we know that 1 platoon has some casualties.  All we did was get pinned down.  We feel dejected that we couldn't help them.  My spirits must have been particularly low.  I am lying there beside the radio in platoon headquarters.  There are 24 of us in a little circle on that small knoll, just a short distance away was the enemy, a large number of enemy.  If the enemy came up the ridge line they would be through us in a matter of minutes.  We wouldn't stand a chance.

My worried expression must have been written all over my face.  Tiny came up, looked at me and said, "Don't worry Knackers, it may never happen."  I managed a grin, I think.  The artillery was intermittent now, every now and then we'd hear it coming, a few more 'clomp, clomp, clomps' and more shrapnel whizzing past.  Oh I nearly forgot.  The artillery shells are 105s.  But the Yanks had a 155 battery and they were also engaging the target.  The 155s had a different sound in the air, almost a buzzing sound, and boy when they hit the ground the whole place shook and the back of my throat also took a bigger pounding.

I don't think I'll get much sleep tonight.

28 May 2012

Chapter 52 I lied to my mates!

I know you are going to find this hard to believe, but I lied to my mates.

I didn't mean it, honest.  But the stress of war made me do it.  It wasn't my fault.

You see a couple of my mates were writing to me every now and then and I was probably telling them how much of a hero I wuz.

But that wasn't the lie I'm talking about.

This is the lie....


I wrote and told my mates that I met this girl in Vung Tau, that she was a nurse; and guess what?  They believed me!  What idiots!

Actually I was experimenting with my new Canon EXEE SLR camera.  I framed up to a picture in a magazine and I took the shot you see here.  It was on a slide and I may have got my mates to run a picture off it, I can't recall.  But they thought she was great.  I did too, whoever she is.

The whole platoon knew about the joke and following a platoon reunion about ten years ago we produced a book about our adventures in Vietnam.  The photo appears in the book.


The caption reads, "Caucasian dreams.  A picture Ian Cavanough took from a magazine early in the tour and sent it home to his mates telling them how he met this nurse in Vung Tau... the rest of the platoon had pictures of the real thing but told Ian they cut it out of a Pix Mag... and of course Ian believed them."

Hmmm, I think they are having a go at me here.

This is the actual magazine.
Life Magazine July 1970


The girl's name is Katie O'Pace McCauliff

http://www.facebook.com/katie.mccauliff