Vietnam War Diary

A Truck Driver at War: Vietnam 1969 – 1970

Being conscripted into the army was something that I had never counted on as being a part of my life. I was completely stunned and shattered for a week or more when I received my call-up notice in the mail just after my 20th birthday in 1968. I had been a member of the Scouts as a boy , but I had avoided military type organisations like school cadets with a passion.

My grandfather had fought at the Somme in the 57th Battalion of the 1st AIF and my father had served in the 2nd AIF at a forward supply depot in Moratai and Sarawak in the Pacific. Army service was not new to our family.

Prior to my call up for National Service at the age of 20, I lived in a quiet middle class suburban family in the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. I was part of a large extended family, most of whom were very close and lots of energy went into keeping up with them all. My grandmother was very much the matriarch of the family. I had an uncle and seven aunts on my mother’s side and an additional aunt and uncle on my father’s side of the family.

My brother was three years younger than me. He had developed a strong anti-war sentiment and actively participated in the Vietnam Moratorium Marches. We didn’t (at that time) have much in common on our views on the Vietnam War, but now we are good mates. I also had a little sister who was much younger than me.

Especially in recruit training, I found life in the army to be very physically demanding but after a few months of acclimatisation and training, I became used to the discipline and the regimentation of army life. I could never do more than half a dozen push ups, but I could tolerate long route marches. On learning that I was to be posted to Vietnam I was very afraid of being placed in harm’s way. But by then I had served six months in the army and I decided to take what came and to do my duty in as conscientious a way as possible.

I had a combined farewell and twenty first birthday party just before leaving for Vietnam. One of my relations gave me a little pocket diary (leather bound, two days to a page, and with a zipper to close it up) for my birthday. I decided that I should use it to keep a daily record of my time on active service in Vietnam. The entries below have been transcribed from my diary.

As you can see by the contents of this diary, I served in a transport unit – 85 Transport Platoon, 26 Company RAASC. Whilst it was in most ways a non-combatant unit, by the nature of the war in Vietnam, everyone who served there was in the ‘front line’ in some way.

After returning from Vietnam I, like many veterans, went into ‘hibernation’ mode. We didn’t talk about our experience in Vietnam for many years, not knowing how people would react. At one stage, I applied to join the RSL (Returned Services League) only to be told that Vietnam wasn’t a ‘real war’. It was only after the 1987 Welcome Home Parade in Sydney (17 years after my return home from Vietnam) that enabled me, and many veterans, to become proud of our service. It was then that I first published a hard copy of my diary for a few of my mates. I am now publishing it in this form to enable me to tell my story to a wider group of people, which of course includes the current members of my old unit – 85 Transport Troop RACT. I hope that they will learn and appreciate something of the history of our esteemed unit.

My original diary, along with all the letters that I wrote home to my family, has been donated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

I hope you enjoy reading about my experience.

Bruce Wilson

Click here to proceed to Part One: Embarkation

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6 comments

  1. Deano Ryan · ·

    What a great read mate. Hope to catch up with you in Tassie next year. Deano

  2. Very good web site and bravo. We are a small group of ex nashos that got together to find our old mates we need nasho photos of platoon or sections at Pucka or Kapooka, and from these photos our group gets bigger.

    We hope yous can help with this and if you like you can put our link on your site
    thank you NASHOS WA – NASHOS WA is at hppt://wanashos.wikidot.com/

  3. david borg · ·

    HELLO DAVID I’VE JUST BEEN GIVEN A MILITARY DOG TAG AND CHAIN FROM MY UNCLE WHO WENT TO VIETNAM AS A HOLIDAY, ON THE TAG IT’S STAMPEDAS FOLLOWS- WILSON DAVID M
    US56712848
    O POS
    BAPTIST
    I WAS WONDERING WHETHER IT COULD BE YOURS OR MAYBE IF YOU COULD LEED ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AS TO WHO OWNED IT. I’M INTREGED TO FIND OUT. CHEERS.

    FROM DAVID BORG.

  4. David,

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog regarding the dog tag you have.

    You didn’t mention whereabouts your Uncle found the dog tags in Vietnam. The number is not an Australian number ( probably US) and my thinking that you have an American dog tag is supported by the religion being defined as ‘Baptist’ If this were an Australian dog tag, the religion would have been defined as ‘OPD’ or Other Protestant Denomination.

    I suggest that you make contact with one of the Vietnam Veterans Associations in the USA.

  5. John Staring · ·

    Bruce,
    I have enjoyed immensely reading your transcripts. I too was a “nasho” but took the option of applying for SAS. There was two volunteer intakes of “nashos” who went through selection, which many, including other “nashos” have tried to refute. In a way I was lucky to miss out on Vietnam by only three weeks, but I certainly read, and was briefed by many as to what I had to look forward to had I in fact gone. I therefore found your diary very interesting for being some-one else’s perspective of what they experienced on a day to day basis, as a member of another branch of the defence forces. Thank you for your efforts. To this time I have avoided “ex” associations, but your transcripts have inspired me to seek membership.
    Cheers,
    John Staring.

  6. Clare Burgess · ·

    Hello Bruce,
    I’m currently in year 11 doing Modern History and am doing an assignment on the Vietnam War and now have to write an essay on a topic we want to do inside of the vietnam war, I have picked to do “The Vietnam Veterans were treated poorly on their return to Australia”. I would very much like if you could maybe write me an email on your own experiences and a few times when you may have directly experienced this.
    This would be a massive help and I will credit you in my essay and provide a link to your website.
    If you could help offer some insight to this subject so that I and my class mates can begin to understand, even just a little, what the Vietnam Vets went through it would be very much appreciated.
    Thank you!

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