Short on Time Now!
January 1, 1970
New Years Day
We worked all day for 17 Construction Squadron. Today is a normal working day and we carried rock to the stockpile in Long Dien. We did about four trips in the morning and took it easy.
After lunch I found that one of the tray pivots on my truck had snapped so I went to the workshop to get a new one fitted.
I re-loaded at the quarry and picked up the others in the packet as they next passed through the gate and the MP check point. We fitted in two more loads in the afternoon and knocked off.
Worked out to Dat Do all day for 1 Field Sqdn and were kept working to the road, filling in all the soft spots that had developed as it settled.
We had ration packs for lunch and ate them on the side of the road at An Nhut where we bought a few cokes. The Engineer Sergeant told us that we had to work until 5.00 pm.so we kept going unhappily. Out of four trucks in our packet today, we had four punctures.
Reading was always a good way to time spent wherr we had to ‘hurry up and wait’.
My turn for a rest day. I slept in until 8.00 am and then recorded a copy of the top 100 hits from the tape that the others in the tent had made on New Years Eve.
I slept for a while in the afternoon and wrote a few letters. I finished off the day by going to the movies.
I haven’t heard anything about my driving charge – I guess the Sergeant has forgotten or dropped it by now.
Sunday – 103 and a wakey!
I changed my sheets at the Q Store, as usual on a Sunday, but today I had to wait for half an hour before it opened. Then I went down to the compound and sat around all morning. I was going to work on my truck but it was being used for the garbage run. I filled in the time by putting some bands around some trunks that were being sent home to strap them tightly. In the afternoon I just relaxed and watched television.
We are working for 17 Construction Squadron today, carrying laterite to a new school site just this side of Long Dien. I drove straight through Hoa Long on a new road we built some months ago.
In the village I found the sign advertising the Hoa Long Dance. It says:
“HOA LONG DANCE.
SATURDAY NIGHTS IN RICE MILL,
ADMISSION 50 DONG.
Paddy fields near Baria in the ‘Wet’.
Back to 1 Field Sqdn. today, but not at Dat Do. We started by carrying away an old gunpost from the perimeter of the Dat. This took all morning. In one load we found a 6ft. long python.
In the afternoon we carted laterite to the new water point. When we didn’t know where else to take it, we dumped it at the tip as overburden.
We were really cheesed off at having to do these rubbishy jobs when 1 Fld’s. trucks were not even working. This is really their work.
We are working for 17 Construction carrying sand from the sand pit to the new school site near Long Dien. We had great fun charging across country into the sand pit. We worked pretty hard today and our fifteen trucks took 42 loads in 40 minutes over a three mile return trip.
Nearby where we are working is a training ground where the American Chopper Pilots train. They were landing about 50 yards from us and some of their flying looked pretty exciting.
A Canberra Bomber was dropping napalm on the Long Hais today. That stuff sure goes off with a bang!
We returned to Nui Dat for lunch. Everyone was getting mad at us in the afternoon as we were going too fast. Some blokes from 86 Transport Platoon were charged with speeding.
The My Lai Massacre made the news today and it seems to be big news at home. The media could perhaps focus on how the Viet Cong torture people as well! We get a bit tired of being told that we have no right to be here. What choice do we have as National Servicemen? Sometimes it is hard not to take the criticism this war is getting personally.
Worked for 1 Fld Sqdn. carrying laterite from the pit to the tip. I worked by myself all day and not in the usual packet of five or six vehicles. We were told to eat at 1 Field’s mess today as apparently we are rationed there each day, but we ate at our mess anyway.
The canteen received some upgrading today. The outside patio area was concreted as were some paths.
I went to the movies again at night but it was very frustrating as the last reel was missing and the movie had no ending. Everyone was really cheesed off!
Again, we are working for 17 Construction Sqdrn. carting laterite from the laterite pit to the school site. Because a few people had been charged recently for speeding, we decided to work to “union rules”. We drove only in convoy and at 15 mph. It took all morning to do three 8 mile return trips.
We played the same game in the afternoon but running solo rather than in convoy.
In the afternoon I picked up the “Mission” from the Wallaby which was the last job for me in old “837”. (The suffix of my trucks registration number). Tomorrow I am being transferred to drive cargo vehicles (or GP’s).
A U.S. small ship on patrol in the Saigon River Delta.
I wasn’t tasked for any work and sat around the compound all day. A section of tippers have come up as a detachment from Vung Tau to assist with some work and I helped to get the area ready for them by picking up some timber and painting the pickets around their parking area.
I spent the afternoon reading and keeping out of everyone’s way.
In the evening we had a slide night. It started out with just a few of us looking at some slides that we had taken, and by the end of the night we ended up with nearly twenty of us in our tent, showing pictures to each other.
Sunday – 96 and a wakey!
I was up at 7.30 am and finally convinced someone else in the tent that it ought to be their turn to change the sheets.
I went down to the compound and painted two ‘One-Way’ signs. “Don the Dazzler”, our Sergeant, supervised closely.
I spent the afternoon writing letters.
Now that the ‘Dry’ has come, the rubber trees are starting to lose their leaves. I believe that because they have not been worked for so long, they also lose some of their strength. The leaves on the ground sure make a lot of work as they have to be cleaned up every Monday morning for a ‘lines inspection’. A number of people have had bonfires burning all afternoon as they try to make the place look tidy.
I was not originally tasked but I did one job picking up some jerry cans from the
OFP and taking them to the Pelican Pad.
Later I was tasked to drive the Pelican Pad water truck and I went down to the water point by the end of the airstrip to fill a bladder as my first task.
Today turned out to be a pretty slack day. I only filled two bladders and then knocked off at 4.00 pm
Jungle view from a Chinook Helicopter.
There was not much doing today so I tried for a chopper ride. I went out to FSB Picton in a Chinook and this time, I remembered to take my camera.
I slept in the truck for the rest of the morning but just before lunch I took the truck to the compound to wash some Landrovers which had not been cleaned for some time.
In the afternoon, I filled 80 jerry cans with water and ended up with a crook back from bending over all the time and lifting them.
The are near Nui Dat from the air
Still on the Pelican Pad water run.
I filled two bladders first off, then mucked around for the rest of the morning filling a 1000 gallon bladder for 52 Supply Platoon so that they could wash their fridges out.
When I drove in to the supply store, the fellows there were fighting off a tribe of about thirty monkeys with sticks and stones. Some were about two feet high and others were only tiny. They must have been looking for the water that was condensing from the refrigerators and running over the concrete. It was quite a war and dubbed ‘the battle of the monkeys’.
I sat around in the afternoon and finished off the day by pumping 1000 gallons of water into bladders.
I started off by pumping 1000 gallons of water into a new bladder at 52 Supply Platoon.
Just after lunch, all the water trucks had to go to the main ammo point where a grassfire had caught alight. It got to within 15 yards of an ammunition bay and I had to race back to the supply store to get another pump. Luckily it wasn’t needed. I don’t know what would have happened if any ammunition had caught alight.
In the afternoon I filled up some more jerry cans with some help from the people from 176 Air Despatch Company.
Another load leaves the Pelican Pad
I sat up at the Pelican Pad all morning doing nothing.
At one stage I woke up from snoozing off and had completely lost track of time. I thought we had much less of the day to go than there really was. In the afternoon, I filled 750 gallons of water into bladders and then topped up another bladder that needed a little more.
I had to service my truck at 4.00 pm and it only took 3/4 hr. with two of us working on it.
Sunday – 89 and a wakey!
Today I drove the Beach Trip down to Vung Tau.
Because I’m basically a non-drinker I occasionally get to go on these day trips. I reckon that the OC thinks that I’ll get everyone home in one piece.
I went around to the Hong Kong shop to buy some photographic gear but couldn’t find much that I needed. At 11.00 am I went around to the American PX to do some shopping and then had some lunch back at the Badcoe Club.
After lunch we sat in the sun watching a show put on by a Vietnamese group. The girl singer was one of the most attractive women I have seen. Perhaps I have been here too long and need to see a few more ’round eyes’.
I ended up being burnt to a crisp with sunburn but managed to see Ken Wreidt and Max Dong who goes on R&R on Tuesday.
I drove back to the Dat in the afternoon convoy and went to bed at 8.00 pm tired and sore. I have always imagined that it is harder to get sunburned in the tropics but today proved that very wrong.
I emptied a water bladder at 52 Supply Platoon as we washed out the servicing bay. After that we transferred the bladder to another truck and I took mine into the workshops for a service.
We took it for a test drive after lunch, and found all the faults. There were only five jobs to do so we had them finished on the same afternoon.
I filled in the rest of the day until knock-off time by sitting around the compound.
Kids from Hoa Long.
I am not tasked today but I ended up on a work party building holding bays for the brass artillery shell casings at the Pelican Pad. We used PSP and pickets to form the bays but ended up having a bit of trouble working around some semi-trailers that were parked there.
We took it in turns during the day to go to the PX and on my turn I bought a power adapter for my radio and a camera lens.
My sunburn from yesterday is making it rather sore to do much work. I can’t complain too much as the army regards sunburn as a self inflicted wound.
Today became the usual story of how to get out of work.
I did the daily road clearing of Canberra Ave (the main road through Nui Dat) by driving a truck while the blokes from 52 Supply Platoon collected the roadside rubbish and then got lobbed to help on a garbage run. After lunch I talked to the Ford representative about buying a new car when I get home. Ford have a plan which enables us to order a car here and buy it in Australia without paying sales tax.
When I got back to the compound, I had to help load some trucks for a three day operation to Xuan Moc with stores, ammo, water, fuel. I will be going and my truck will be carrying 1000 gallons of petrol for the tanks as well as some spare gear for the other trucks.
Leaving the Dat at dawn for Xuan Loc.
We left Nui Dat at dawn (7.00 am) and headed up Route 15. We have five trucks and a recovery vehicle with 4 APC’s as an escort. We also have two engineers on the APC’s with mine detecting equipment.
We ran into mines about 2 miles past Baria and found two more lots later on. We stopped each time and the Engineers found them with their mine detectors and removed them.
By 10.00 am we had reached Long Binh. The road by then was a really good four lane road – just like a highway. We were held up for 1/2 hour by a broken down APC and we eventually continued on to reach Xuan Loc at about 2.00 pm
We could have gone straight up north through Binh Ba but the road was considered to be too dangerous.
We drove around Xuan Loc for a while until we found where the US 2/35th. Battery was located. We are billeted there for the night. Eventually we found it and settled in to huts
that were air conditioned and very civilised!
We sat around with the Americans for the night. They told us that this is a pretty hot area. They are expecting rocket attacks nightly and could even be over-run in Tet. We were quite pleased that the hut in which we were sleeping was well protected by sandbagged bunkers.
Our first encounter with mines.
We slept in until about 7.00 am and then got up to get ready for today’s trip – 34 miles out and return. The road was very dusty and rough; real ‘no-mans land’. We met the tankie operation at 10.00 am and had refuelled and resupplied them by 2.00 pm.
I think that this is one of the largest Armoured Corps operations since WW2 They have 10 tanks and 25 or 30 APC’s out on this operation to clear the routes that the NVA and VC use to enter the area from the north east.
We followed the same route back to Xuan Moc, and changed drivers a few times without stopping. Our method for doing this is that the ‘shotgun’ climbs out through the cupola and across the back of the cabin, over the jerry cans and chain lockers. In the meantime the driver gets ready to move left across the engine cover as the co-driver climbs in through the driver’s door. We practice doing this regularly and can do it at speeds of over 30 mph.
We got back to Xuan Loc in plenty of time for dinner. I ended up sitting in a bunker until 2.00 am talking to a Yank and his mate.
Xuan Loc at dawn
Our convoy left Xuan Loc at 7.00 am after breakfast and headed straight back to the Dat for home. We passed by Long Binh at 8.30 and reached Nui Dat at 1.30 pm..
We didn’t stop at all on the way back and changed drivers on the run. We came back at a high speed averaging about 30 – 35 mph. We unloaded the petrol bladders at 8 Pet. Platoon and refuelled the trucks.
After lunch I had to go around to 21 Support Troop and clean a concrete mixer. What a rotten job. Never again do I want to have to do this!
Our convoy in Xuan Loc.
I sat around the yard all morning trying to keep out of work. I picked up some rubbish and changed a tyre. After lunch I did the ration run for the mess and then decided to knock off. A very exciting day.
We were told today that Operations had not really expected us to get to Xuan Loc and back in one piece. What faith they had in us!
Resupplying the Armoured operation north of Xuan Loc.
Sunday – 82 and a wakey!
I ‘ve scored another beach trip as driver. We had a normal trip down to Vung Tau. I sat around all morning eating chips and hamburgers at the Badcoe Club and in the afternoon we watched a Vietnamese show.
At 4.00 pm we piled on all the drunks and headed for the gate with 11 cartons of grog hidden on the truck under the seat, in the chain lockers, under the tarpaulin and anywhere else they would fit.
Watching the show in Vung Tau
I sat around the compound all morning not doing much and changed a tyre.
In the afternoon we took B Company of 8 RAR out to the bottom of the Warburton’s ( Nui Thi Vai Mountains) for an operation. We went through Baria and out to an ARVN outpost, over a bridge and along a track through bamboo and paddies for about three miles. This bought us back almost as far north as to be equal with Nui Dat again.
My first job was to go around to 17 Construction Sqdrn. at 7.45 a.m. to load an air compressor on the truck. Then I took it along with another truck and two transporters carrying D8 Bulldozers to FSB Dakota which is set up past Phu My on Route 15.
After lunch we waited in the lines for our Sergeant to pick us up for a work party up but he never came so we had the afternoon off.
The front beach at Vung Tau.
We worked first thing by shovelling a few trailer loads of blast rock off a tipper and spread it around the back of the servicing bay. We hid there for the rest of the day trying to escape any more work.
We found out today that we Nui Dat had been mortared last night so we had to have a practice “mole” (stand-to in our weapon pits) during the movies. It wasn’t worth going back to see the end anyway as the final reel was missing again.
Duty Driver for the day.
I just did odd jobs around the base and had to take a trailer load of discarded shells to the Officers Mess as filling for a new sullage pit.
I stayed in the Transport Office for lunch, which we collected from the Mess in a hot box. I had one run in the afternoon to pick up the Admin. Officer from a conference at ATF HQ and had the Landrover taken over by the duty driver from tonight’s picket at 4.30 pm.
I went down to the compound this morning and cleaned up the driver’s tent. I read books all morning and in the afternoon got called down to Luscombe to pick up the “Mission”.
An order came through, that as Tet was now getting closer, we have to carry front line ammo and weapons everywhere. This is meant to include the mess, canteen, movies, showers, everywhere!
A gunship escorting our convoy.
Another day on the CSM’s work party.
I reported at 8.00 am and was told to clean up the area around the canteen. That took all morning and after lunch I sorted out some stocks of paint in the Q Store and stacked some bags of cement.
We had two injections today – a plague booster and cholera injection. They may well be the last I have to have in the army! I knocked of early after the medical parade was over and went to the movies after dinner.
Tonight is the night that a large attack on the Dat is expected.
Sunday – 75 and a Wakey!
Nothing happened last night although we were a bit nervous about what may have been expected.
I sat around the compound all morning except for taking 500 gallons of diesel and 130 gallons of Aviation Kerosene (Avigas) to the Pelican Pad.
In the afternoon we had a cricket match against the Civil Affairs unit and I made a brilliant duck. We drew with both sides being all out for 123.
Reviewing the results of some photography.
Today I am on CSM’s work party but was nominated as 85’s DM for the day. (Hygiene Duty Man or Dunny Man for short).
I started out by cleaning out two blocks of showers and toilets, filling the water heating tanks with petrol and sweeping up leaves. I couldn’t help thinking about the bloke who was DM when I arrived and who had gone “troppo”. I hope it’s not something that happens to all Dunny Men!
Today, I was allotted to work on vehicle ‘572’ while the regular driver is a batman for a month. It was just my luck, to find out it is due for a service.
I serviced it this morning and took it to the workshop. We had all the work done by this afternoon and then I picked up a bladder and filled it with water to be ready to take it out to the Civil Affairs project at Duc Tanh tomorrow.
At night we were allocated to reaction platoons in case of attack. I am in Task Force Ready Reaction Platoon and due to respond with 5 minutes notice of any trouble.
First Day of Tet
I took my truck and 1000 gallon bladder of water out to Duc Tanh for concreting the foundations of a community office building that we are building. I left at 9.00 am after a lot of mucking around and started work as soon as I got there.
A few of our blokes are living up there while they are working on the project. We poured 3/4’s of the foundation today and knocked off at 4.00 pm.
We gave some of the local kids a “tub” in the 44 gallon drums we were using and poured what was left of the bladder into the well at the local ARVN compound. Now that it is the dry season, the locals appreciate some extra water (especially ours which tastes different because of the chlorine we sterilise it with). With the bladder empty, it did’nt slosh around on the tray and it made driving back easier over the rough roads.
The kids having a ‘tub’ in our water.
Lunar New Year
I took the bladder out to Duc Tanh again for concreting. On the way, I picked up some hot boxes at the mess for lunch.
We finished the foundations by 1.00 pm and then had lunch. We poured the rest of the water into the well, washed some of the kids and filled some water tins.
I left for Nui Dat at 4.00 pm and refilled the bladder.
We had a ‘stand to’ tonight when movement was reported at the end of Luscombe field. It turned out to be only a grass fire. My ready reaction platoon was called but not needed. Flares were going up and a few shells went out. We were stood down at 9.00 pm.
The Artillery have been firing H & I (Harassment and Interdiction) for the last few nights and it has been a bit noisy.
I met the tankies at 8.15 am with water and went out with them to where they were building at Duc Tanh.
Today we poured the concrete floor for a dispensary (about 18 x 25 ft.). I helped them shovel sand and concrete and then went to where our blokes were working, up the road at Ngai Giao, for lunch.
Tonight I emptied the bladder right out and moved it so that it sat straight on the tray.
Nui Dat was attacked tonight. 8 RAR were hit and repelled VC from the wire (probably from Hoa Long). We stood to, but not for long (10.30 – 11.00 pm.)
I took a bladder out to Duc Tanh again and spent all day boxing in formwork and pouring concrete for the base of the walls.
In the middle of the day 1 found that I had a flat tyre so I took it off and changed it. This one had a big splinter in it and it really needs a new tyre. When I got back to the compound I patched the tube but found that we didn’t have any new tyres. That’s a bit stiff!
Some of the locals
Sunday – 68 & a wakey!
I sat around all morning waiting for a new tyre which never came. I got really angry with all this messing around. How the hell do you expect a man to do his job when nothing is there to do it with! What the heck! – only a few more months to go.
After lunch I went to the PX and bought a few things to send home.
I went to the movies after dinner and watched Far From The Madding Crowd’.
I’m standing in at the Mess today as Mess Steward.
Work started at 6.00 am by getting the milk and cereals ready for breakfast. Apart from peeling two boxes of spuds, the main job was to prepare the cordial and milk for meals and clean up and wipe down the tables after each meal.
I watched TV all afternoon and went to the movies at night.
The Civil Affairs project at Ngai Giou.
I filled the bladder first thing and picked up rations for lunch at the mess. After reporting to Captain Snare, I left for Ngai Giou.
My only real job today was to spray the blast rock on the floor to make it settle. After lunch we topped up the American Advisor’s water tank as well as a few 44 gallon drums for the Nogs. I left at 2.30 pm filled up the bladder and knocked off.
Reports say that Dat Do was attacked by VC today, while our trucks were there.
Tonight we had a party for the next lot of our blokes to go home. The major and CSM came. I told the major that he was only a Reo and he told me that I should get some time up in the army. I’m quite happy for him to do my share of the time as well.
The CSM asked me where I was going when I got home. I told him to OCS. He thought that I meant to Office Cadet School at Portsea but I made it pretty clear that I mean ‘Old Civvy Street’.
We poured one pier for the walls at Duc Than where the tankies are building their dispensary. We had three Montadgnards helping. It was hard to explain how many shovel fulls of sand, cement and screenings to put in the mixer but after about 3/4 of an hour we got it right.
The job here seems pretty slow but we have to keep checking with engineers before we can take the next step.
On picket tonight and I did the last shift from 3.am to 7 am. which meant lighting the water heaters and making all the early cal
Tet turned out be very quiet this year – not like the bad one in 1968 where the VC tried to overrun the whole country.
Our labourers at Ngai Giou
I went straight out to Ngai Giou and worked on the site there all day. For lunch we had steak and hamburgers with scrambled eggs and tomatoes.
I came in to the Dat early tonight after dropping off the rest of the water.
Vietnamese soldiers quarters at Ngai Giou.
Today we pulled the formwork off one pillar which had set and put up some more for the next one we will pour. We didn’t use any water today at Ngai Giou so we gave it all to the Yanks and Nogs.
One of the little girls who has been playing around us was bouncing up and down on the bladder and caught her ring on the high-sides of the truck. It cut right down to the bone and the only way we could release it was to cut the ring off with some pliers. The poor little kid was screaming all the time and all we could do was take her back to the medic in the ARVN base.
One of our blokes was given a monkey in Hoa Long today when he helped to move dead cow that had walked into a mine field. We have called it Rastus.
Our pet baby monkey
I took the truck out to Ngai Giou again today. We spent all morning setting the formwork ready for making a pillar and poured it in the afternoon.
I left my shirt, rifle and wallet leaning against the wall and found that $9.00 had been stolen, probably by one of the kids. We think that we know which one it was so I’ll lay a trap for him next time and see if I can catch him. It had $8 and 100 Piaster in it.
Sunday – 61 and a wakey!
I went down to work at 9.00 am and tried to look busy on the truck. I put a new battery in as the old one was getting harder and harder to start.
I waited around the compound to see if there was any mail and had a shower before lunch.
I spent all afternoon reading, washing and writing letters.
Our Protection – A Noggie APC.
I went out to Ngai Giou again doing the same job.
We didn’t do much concreting today but spent most of the day getting some form work ready and plumbed so that it would be vertical,
While we were working, we heard shots overhead and looked up to see a Nog, from the ARVN post shooting over our heads. We carefully climbed in the Landrover and flew down to the ARVN base ready to kill him but he had disappeared. Instead all we could do was report him.
Today I have the same job on the CA Project.
We poured concrete into the formwork that we put up yesterday. Seeing that we had a couple of mixes left over, we made a paddling pool for the kids.
At lunch time we went over to Binh Gia which is a Catholic village set up here by people who have moved down from the North. They have a reputation for being very anti-communist and the story goes that the villagers have fought off a battalion of NVA. Apparently the last VC they found was crucified in the market place. The women there are very attractive.
I got back to Nui Dat at 6.00 pm
GP Cargo trucks in Nui Dat
I went out to the CA job again and we poured two more piers. We now seem to be working to three different sets of plans and it is causing quite a bit of confusion. One is the Engineers, another is CA’s and the third is our own.
We filled up the wading pool that we made for the kids and they are really having a ball. To finish the day, I drove around to the ARVN base and dropped off the extra water to the Yanks again, but I didn’t give any to the Nogs today.
Out to Ngia Giou again. We took Rastus the monkey with us today. He didn’t like the Nogs very much and chased the kids all over the place. We poured the last two piers today.
I really got into trouble when I dropped off some water for the Nogs today. As I was getting the hose into place, I knocked one of their water tins down the well. I tried to get it out with some rope but it broke. I tried using a second rope to retrieve it but that broke too, but in the end, everything was OK. I thought I was going to be No. 10 for a while. It’s much nicer to be No. 1.
Me and Rastus
We had the Ngia Giou job cancelled today and I was able to stay at Nui Dat and watch Bev Harrel’s show. I went to the RAP before the show to see about some dry skin on my face but it isn’t anything much.
After lunch we had to take 250 rounds of 105 mm howitzer shells out to the Horseshoe. We didn’t get back until 6.15 pm.
This morning, I picked up my truck and went out to Ngai Giou again. Today, the ‘brickie’ started laying bricks around the foundations ready to get a level for the floor.
We filled up the wading pool and even had the village chief paddling in it.
I learnt a few things about bricklaying today – how to make the lines level and to put detergent in the water so that it makes the mortar fatty.
Out at Ngai Giou again and today we started to pour the floor of the community centre.
We booby trapped the concrete mixer and cement with smoke grenades in case any one interfered with them over lunch but we ended up as the ‘boobies’. when we forgot that we had set them.
We inspected the new building being built by the tankies at Binh Gia a few times as an excuse to see Miss Duong and Miss Dung who work there. They are really pretty, as are most of the girls from Binh Gia.
A Noggie kid selling ice-cream.
We poured one more section of the floor at Ngia Giou and continued to brick up another section. The bricks we
are using are all hollow and we have to cut them in half with a saw instead of being able to break them
I went to the movies at night and then to bed but we were all called out for an alert at 11.00 pm when a few rockets came in. As usual, it seems the VC were aiming at Nui Dat Hill and the rockets went over to land in the rubbish tip.
Sunday – 54 and a wakey!
I crawled out of bed at 7.30 am and had a shower. After breakfast, I went down to change the sheets.
I spent all morning writing letters instead of going on a beach trip. Ron Clarke and Brian Aspinell are both on R&C at Vung Tau and should get back today sometime. For the last three nights there has only been Peter Renfree and myself in the tent.
I don’t have an RTA date yet but I do have a posting. I am on the unallocated list for Southern Command which means I will fill in my time ( about four weeks) at Watsonia Barracks waiting to be discharged. Eight new `Reo’s’ arrived this week and there is only one lot in front of me now before I go home.
Teasing one of the local kids
I spent some of the morning at Luscombe saying goodbye to a few of the blokes who were going home. I have less than two months to go now.
The highlight of the day was the water fight we had at lunch time while working at Ngia Giou. The kids ganged up on us and we all stalked a girl called ‘Linda’ until she was cornered and could pour buckets of water over her.
We poured another section of the floor and gave our excess water to the Yanks and the Nogs.
We all had to go to the movies tonight as it was a CO’s parade to see the VD movie. I must have seen it five or six times by now. Every time we go to a new unit they show us the same VD movie.
After the movie, we thought that we heard a few noises in the scrub across the road from our lines. A Lance-Corporal, who is not too bright at the best of times, went to have a look and the silly dill actually cocked his rifle after putting a full magazine on. When he got back to his tent, he had an AD and shot up his trunk.
C130 at Luscombe Airstrip
Today at Ngia Giou we took Rastus the monkey with us.
We couldn’t do too much today as we don’t have any screenings. All we could do was some brickwork.
I had a good talk to the French Plantation Owner from Binh Ba, the Village Chief and the Province Vet. They were surprised that anyone else could speak French and were not aware that it was taught in Australian schools.
I had a long conversation with Miss Duong today as well, but that was more of a mixture of sign language and anything else that got us by. It takes something to make the day a little bright.
Went out to Ngia Giou and on to see a hamlet hit by the VC last night. There were several bullet holes around as well as some RPG scars. The windmill leg was peeled back and there were holes in some roofs and hootchies (huts). One cow must have had 40 pieces of shrapnel in her side. The propaganda platoon left a lot of leaflets telling us to go home and to stop supporting US imperialist aggression and their puppet Vietnamese government.
We concreted the last part of the floor this morning and did some brickwork in the afternoon.
This morning I got a hell of a shock as I was driving toward Binh Ba. All of a sudden, a Nog jumped out of the bush waving a VC flag. I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly had my rifle ready and loaded as I approached him. It turned out that he was there to warn traffic of VC in the area. In the end I bought his flag for $1.00.
It was my turn to cook lunch at Ngia Giou. We had rissoles and sausages.
Out at Duc Tanh we heard a big bang and found that seven cows had walked into the minefield around the ARVN post and had blown themselves up. All the Nogs reckon they’ll have plenty of food now – but they’ll have to lift them out with a chopper to get it.
At the end of the day, I pumped some water into the Yanks water tanks and even overfilled their tank. Then I headed back to the Dat.
Adrian Starr ran over a mine today near Long Hai. It didn’t do any damage except for blowing a tyre off and giving him a hell of a fright. This was our unit’s first ever ‘damage in action.’
A convoy on the road.
Sunday – 46 and a wakey!
I went out to Ngai Giou as a shotgun in the morning. The Landrover had a flat tyre and when we picked it up the steering box fell out on the road.
We watched some of the “Big Red One” (an American unit) fly out of Duc Tanh this morning and in the afternoon we went to Binh Gia. We cooked chicken and chips on a barbecue for lunch.
I was back to Nui Dat by 4.00 pm and sat around for the rest of the afternoon filling in time.
Americans at Duc Tanh
8 inch guns at Nui Dat. March 2
In the morning, I went down to the compound to fill bladders to go out to FSB Wilton. We left at 8.00 am. and went out through Binh Gia.
I thought that the water would be pumped into a tank but instead it was used for the mobile bath unit. We had to wait until the equipment came over from FSB Peggy and then gave the ‘Digs’ a very welcome shower. It was their first in a couple of weeks and I think we were the most popular people in the army.
A couple of men came in late after the water had run out and I didn’t even have any water in a jerry can for them. I felt so sorry for them having to stay dirty, but there was just nothing I could do.
We came back to the Dat at 6.00 pm and I had a quick rest before getting ready for picket duty.
It was another green machine stuff up over duties tonight. Everything was changed over and over again and I ended up as duty driver.
Today, I have a rest day because I am going on R&C (Rest and Care Leave) to Vung Tau tomorrow. I didn’t finish as duty driver until 10.00 am because of a rush job to get a water truck out to FSB Wilton.
I handed in my rifle to the armoury in the morning and then slept for an hour or two.
After lunch I collected my mail and drew some money from the cash office. In the afternoon I wrote a few letters and went to the movies at night.
My replacement’s name and arrival date came through today. I should be going home on April 15th.
The front beach at Vung Tau
On the way to the Wallaby to Vung Tau, I picked up my pay books and Mob 3’s from the Orderly Room. The plane had 5 caskets which were going to Vung Tau so that the bodies could be embalmed at the mortuary before flying them home.
I booked into the R&C Centre and settled in for the rest of the day by looking around and unpacking my clothes..
In the afternoon I went into town with a few blokes and looked around. I don’t think much has changed since I was detached here, except that there are now a few less Yanks since they decreased the size of their force and sent some people home.
I came back for dinner at 7.00 pm and watched a movie on the roof of the R&C Centre.
The R&C Centre is a villa rented by the government for about $90,000 per year. We wear civvies down here and it is like a holiday camp. I am sharing a room with another guy who leaves tomorrow and Frank Bugsy is down the hall. A ‘Mama San’ cleans the room, does the washing and makes the beds.
This morning, I managed to get up just in time for breakfast. The meals here are really great.
After breakfast a few of us went for a walk taking photo’s. We ended up at the Grand Hotel where I left the others and caught a Lambretta back to the R&C Centre.
At night we went to 1 ALSG and I saw Max Dong and had a good yarn. I caught the leave bus hack to the R&C Centre at 9.30 pm on its way for the last leave run.
A villa, similar to the R&C Centre in Vung Tau.
I planned to go to the PX this morning before all my money ran out and I eventually made it by about 10.00 am. I came back to the R&C Centre for lunch, but I had to go hack to the PX again to change a radio that wouldn’t work. While I was there, I bought some presents to take home for the family.
In the afternoon, I played for a while with the things I had bought. At night, I went for a walk and ended up back at 1ALSG again with the old boys from 87 Platoon.
A gaggle of kids who followed us around Vung Tau.
I gave the ‘Mama San’ some washing to do when she came around to make the beds and she had it all back and ironed before lunch.
Lunch was a buffet today and was really beaut. It was presented just like a smorgasbord in a restaurant back home.
I stayed at the R&C Centre all day, doing nothing but relaxing and at 4.00 pm left for a party at 1 ALSG. I had dinner in 2 Platoon’s Mess and stayed all night talking to the old boys from 87 again. Like last night, I caught the last leave bus back to the R&C Centre.
Lambrettas are the usual form of transport around town.
Sunday – 39 and a wakey!
I missed out on going on a tour to the top of VC Hill because I slept in. Instead, I went around to the USO to see if I could join their weekly photo tour of Vung Tau. For some reason, it wasn’t on so we grabbed a Lambretta and went for a ride for a couple of hours taking photo’s by ourselves.
In the afternoon I went to sleep for a while and woke up in time for dinner. The movie was not on tonight as the projector was broken, so I went to bed instead.
I got up at the usual time this morning and had a shower, but dressed in greens instead of civvies as I have to go back to Nui Dat. I picked up a lift with some Battalion Vehicles and we arrived at the Dat just before lunch.
After lunch I read all the mail that had arrived while I was in Vung Tau and wrote a few letters to answer it.
There is another mail strike which is affecting the postal service. Some days we aren’t getting any mail and on other days we only receive a little. Perhaps it’s time for another ‘Punch a Postie’ campaign.
The main thing I found wrong with R&C is that it ends; and we have to come back here to Nui Dat.
Looking to ‘Sig Hill’ at Vung Tau.
I was nominated as duty driver today but my first job was to be an escort at a charge which Ron Clarke had been given for speeding, insubordination and conduct to the prejudice of good military order and discipline. He was given a $40 fine, 14 days detention in the MP’s prison in Vung Tau and 7 days Field Punishment.
After lunch, I had to drive him down to Vung Tau with the CSM to start his term in the ‘Pen’. We came back in the afternoon convoy from Vung Tau with the usual Provost escort.
The name of my Reo came through today. His name is ‘Gatherer’ and he should be here on the 8th of April.
I am duty driver again today. It was the same type of day, doing the same type of jobs.
I did the ration run and the mail run which took a while. At night, I had to stand in for a duty driver who was on patrol training for a couple of hours. All that I had to do was deliver a few signals and by the time I was ready for dinner, I could stand down.
Duty Driver again.
The ration run was a big one today and it took two Landrover loads. I had to go over to 7 RAR to see if we could borrow some sugar as we had run out. (Isn’t that just like a normal housewife?)
At night I got caught to drive one of the officers around for a work party but we couldn’t do it as the guns near the work party site were firing.
I found out today that my RTA (Return to Australia) date has gone back a day as the ‘Reo’ flights are on Thursdays from now on. (It would have been much better if they had have moved them forward a day, rather than back!)
I worked pretty hard today and didn’t even have time for lunch. Collecting the mail took a fair while – we even had to help the posties sort it as they were short on staff.
The Catholic Church at Vung Tau.
Today, I spent most of the morning as an escort for 5 Blokes in our Platoon who are charged with drinking in the lines. I ended up standing having to stand at attention for two hours and marching in and out on Orderly Room procedure 12 times. Two of them got off, but the others were given a $20 fine and seven days CB.
After lunch I start
ed to break up some Ammo Boxes to make a table for the G2’s (Work Tickets).
I also went out to Ngai Giao as a shotgun in a Landrover but that only took an hour.
At night I went to the movies.
Sunday -32 and a wakey!
My only job for today was the water jerry can run for TFMA and there weren’t too many to fill anyway.
After that I called up to Pelican Heights to see if anything was doing and to see if I could get a joy ride in a chopper. However, I was a little late and all the work was over.
I whipped down to the PX to buy some gear and got in just before it closed for lunch. I thought that I should get a few of the things I wanted to bring home with me.
After lunch I wrote a few letters and had a sleep. At night I went to the movies.
This week I am on Mess Duties. I thought I might have done my last Mess Duty but no such luck.
This time I am a steward and it is a lot better than dixie bashing. It means starting at 6.00 am to get everything ready for breakfast. The main job is to get the ‘Goffer’ (Cordial) ready, and clean up after each meal.
I ended up with most of the day off and used some time to clean the tent up ready for tomorrow’s line inspection.
After doing about four hours work, I have had trouble finding things to fill in the time.
After completing all the normal tasks, I watched TV all afternoon in the Recreation Hut.
Getting a haircut, the Vietnamese way.
The CSM has me listed for a picket this Sunday night but I rang him up to change it. I got out of it seeing that I am on mess duty already and you can’t be on two duties at once.
A Notorious Oriental Gentleman (Nog) and family
More Mess Duties.
In the afternoon, I went down to the compound to hand in some greens for laundering. The mail wasn’t in when I went down, so I guess I will have to wait until tonight’s Pill Parade.
Our monkey was very sick today. We took him to the Vet who says he is suffering from dehydration.
Still more mess duties
We cleaned the whole kitchen out today – stoves, tables, boxes; everything, and washed it down. It must be a fair while since it was last done as it was pretty dirty.
The ‘Warbies’ – Nui Thi Vai Hills
Sunday -25 and a wakev!
My last day of mess duties; thank goodness.
An early dinner tonight gave us a quick get away but we were called back to the mess as the Duty Sergeant reckoned it wasn’t clean enough.
The monkey got sick again today. I think it was because he was given too many goffers and sweet foods and not enough water. We took him to the Vet at 1ARV who gave us some more advice about how to look after him.
Today I had a rest day after being in the mess for a week.
I answered a few letters and had a sleep. Other than that, the only thing I did was to tidy my locker. I think I can fit all my gear to take home into my big travelling bag.
Corporal ‘Deano’ and some kids
Today, I went out to FSB Ann as gunner in a gun-jeep. We sat around out there while the trucks unloaded and were back at the Dat for lunch.
In the afternoon I was called out at 5.30 pm to go to Bearcat (the Thai Base between here and Saigon) with Husky Charlie and bring back some stores.
Our two trucks went flat out with no escort for about 30 miles up Route 15. We loaded up and returned towing an ammo carrier (tracked truck).
Our top speed going there was 60 mph. and on the return trip, the best we could mange was 28 mph. We didn’t unload and get back to our compound until 8.00 pm by when it was well and truly dark.
I went out to FSB Ann again today, as radio operator in the gun jeep. We escorted two water trucks and two more with ammo.
While we were there, a Hoi Chan (VC Defector) was taking a patrol out to show them some of his former locations.
After lunch we took water to FSB Isa near the Long Hai’s, but we had to come back for a pump. We dropped off 400 gallons and took the other 400 to some Yanks in Long Hai. They have a lot of filtration equipment, but their well is dry. We sat and talked to them for a long time and got back to Nui Dat at 6.00 pm.
Today, I have the same job to FSB Ann as gunner to escort the convoy again. Today, we took rations out. Because we left late, we didn’t get back until 1.30 pm.
Then we took the water truck out to FSB Isa again but only we had only travelled 200 yards outside the gate when we had a flat tyre.
After dropping a load off there, we came back to Nui Dat and picked up another load for the Yanks at Long Hai. Because we spent some more time talking to them again, we got back too late to be paid.
I have a picket tonight – the last in country with a bit of luck.
Loaded up and waiting in the main street of Baria.
Again, I am driving the gun-jeep out to FSB Anne. We had our usual slow, rough trip and got back to the Dat at 11.00 am.
I managed to see the last half of a show at the Bowl and then came up to the mess for lunch.
This afternoon I answered about five letters and read a stack of papers that had arrived from home so that I could catch up with some news.
Show at the bowl
Another trip to FSB Anne, this time as a gunner.
We took a CMF Officer, who is in Vietnam for a few weeks, for a look around to see what goes on. Of all the officers in the army, I would rather work for those who have graduated from Duntroon. They clearly stand above the others as leaders. Some of the one’s who have been through OCS at Portsea are OK but the CMF officers want to play it for real. They will get us killed if we don’t watch out!
In the afternoon I had
to take a truck up to the ammo point and pick up a load of 105 mm howitzer shells that will go out tomorrow.
Sunday – 18 and a wakey!
I was duty driver in the morning and in the afternoon I had to go out to Xuan Moc to bring back some troops from 6 RAR. They were brought in by chopper from an operation and we picked them up at the airstrip and brought them back to the Dat. It was a really dusty job.
Filling in a washed out culvert
I am duty driver again today, doing a typical duty driver’s job.
I went to the Ammo Point first thing and saw a lot of the wildlife that can be seen around the Dat early in the morning. I came across a deer about the size of a calf, about 6 peacocks and a tribe of monkeys.
I spent the rest of the day driving the truck up at the Pelican Pad to cart stores to be flown out by helicopter. They were not very busy and only had seven sorties to fly all day. I only had three tasks and spent most of the time reading a book.
However, I finished very late due to a lot of mucking around to get some hoses, pumps and other things ready for a water point at a new fire support base.
Nui Dat Sunset
Another day as duty driver.
One task was to take the CSM of the Cash Office into Baria to pay the contract laundries. The payment over 3 weeks for 3 laundries was about 1.2 million Piaster ($12,000 Aust.)
I was given a penalty picket tonight for leaving the Landrover lights on and flattening the battery.
I was late for duty because of a party for the some of our blokes going home. Brian Aspinell and Ron Clarke from my tent are two of them and they will be on their way in a week or so.
I drew the first shift for picket duty and then slept in my bed for the rest of the night – a really slack night!
Coffin Maker – a critical job in a war zone!
April Fools Day
Duty Driver again; normal jobs all day. We had a party at night for some blokes going home tomorrow although a practice alert upset the works for a little while.
I started my ‘Happy Pills’ today (Medication to clear up any bugs and remove any malaria in the system before going home). They are primaquine and chloraquine. Not long to go now!
The first rain of the wet fell today.
I went out to Anne in a gunjeep.
The road was very wet and muddy after last night’s rain. The trucks got through except for a few getting bogged but a lot of the Landrovers had trouble bottoming in deep wheel ruts. The water in some puddles was that deep it was almost coming in the floor.
The drivers from the infantry and artillery weren’t even sure how to put their trucks into six wheel drive. They generally give us a hard time for not actually fighting, but we showed them something about driving today.
In the afternoon I was duty driver for the rest of the day. I didn’t do much driving as I ended up being put on a work party replacing tents in the lines that had rotted and worn out.
A group of our blokes including Ron Clarke and Brian Aspinell went home today. That makes me next.
The bags we take our gear home in have to be washed so I put mine in a bucket of hot water with some detergent and belted hell out of it with a stick.
Our tent is in complete chaos. There are two new Reo’s with gear everywhere and we put up a new tent. That means more mess everywhere. Getting out of here will sure mean getting back to some order and sanity.
I went out to FSB. Anne in a Gunjeep and got held up by the Artillery wanting us to back load empty ammo boxes,
The road is still muddy, so we put the Landrovers across the paddy fields and the trucks on the road.
The ‘Happy Pills’ are making me crook today and the boss let me have the afternoon off,
Waiting to leave Nui Dat in a convoy.
Duty Driver again all day with the same old jobs.
In the afternoon, I had to take a brew up to our blokes at the chopper pad who were waiting to go out on patrol for the night. The first afternoon rain came today. We all got soaked!
The monsoon flies (insects) were out in force tonight and attracted by the light bulb in the tent. They come out in the wet, fly around for a while and then lose their wings and die.
Main street in Dat Do
Sunday – 11 and a wakey!
I had my name down for a beach trip, but didn’t go so I had all day off. I just spent it relaxing and wrote a few letters. I continued my preparation for going home by burning a lot of the letters I have received.
I have been trying to find out if my Reo is coming on Thursday but so far the flight manifest hasn’t come in. I told the blokes in the transport office today that I am too short to go outside the wire anymore but they seemed not to take much notice.
Duty Driver again – nothing unusual or different,
A street in Vung Tau.
Still on duty driver all day, but in the afternoon I went into Baria with the OC of the Cash Office to pay the contract laundries.
It took ages to go to each one and pay our respects. We were invited into the family homes for afternoon teas and for a look at the laundries. They were using old fashioned irons that are heated on a fire and changed when cold. The water is pumped from a bore. The old Nog who runs the business can’t understand how his bore with a pipe in the ground gives as much water as his old open well.
I came back at 4.30 pm and knocked off.
Duty driver again doing the usual jobs including the mail run and conference run. I found out that my Reo is on the manifest for tomorrow’s flight from Saigon. That’s good news!
Duty driver again doing the usual things.
After lunch I went around to the hospital and saw the doctor for my RTA medical and then went to the PX and to the Post Office to send a telegram home saying that I would arrive
there next week.
I found my replacement up in the lines and said hello to him. I’m glad that it’s him getting here now and not me. I’m about ready to go home!
Traffic Jam at the roadworks
I made a mental decision to switch off now that my Reo is here but I think my Sergeant has a different idea.
I went down to the compound just before lunch and afterwards, I managed to shoot through for the rest of the day.
I spent all afternoon thinking about what I was going to take home.
Art shop – Vung Tau
A lot of trucks went up to Long Binh today but I didn’t as I was ‘too short’. I went down to the compound and sat around for a while not doing anything, but just before lunch I took a load of water up to the Pelican Pad.
After lunch I was going down to the compound, but I got side-tracked and didn’t make it. I sat in the lines all afternoon taking it easy.
Sunday – 4 and a wakey!
My section was duty section today, but I got out of that. I spent all morning burning the rest of the letters I had saved and did some washing. In the afternoon I just sat around. Today I changed the last sheets for clean ones in-country.
Doing the CSM’s garbage run
I had to see the RTA Rep. today in order to get all my leave and payments sorted out. I waited all morning but there were too many to see him and I couldn’t get processed until after lunch. I will end up with 32 days leave plus 18 days pay in lieu (tax free) as war service leave. I should get $220 in pay at Mascot for my leave.
I handed in all my combat gear into the Q Store in the morning and thankfully had nearly all of it written off. (Otherwise I would have had to pay for it).
After lunch I had a sleep for a couple of hours and then at 4.30 pm went down to the compound for a going home party. It was pretty good with lots of food and it felt especially great to be the subject of the celebration. I wonder how my Reo felt – probably the same way I felt at the first RTA party I attended; a little envious but resigned to a year here. I had to make a speech after being presented with a pewter mug and sculling it full of beer.
A young entrepreneur
Only the wakey’ now!
I slept in for a few minutes and then got up for breakfast. I spent some of the morning re-packing some of my gear and finally getting it ready to go.
In the afternoon, the few of us going home had to trudge all over the place getting cleared from Q Stores, Orderly Room and Pay office etc. I changed my money over for Australian money at the cash office and got some sleeping pills from the Doc to make sure I got a sleep with all the excitement of going home.
I said goodbye to everyone with a mixture of sadness that the closeness we have together is going to be over, as well as a feeling of excitement and expectation about being home again. I organised the picket to give me an early morning call and went to bed.
I was woken up at 5.30 am by the picket and by my alarm clock and I got up showered and dressed in my dress uniform polyesters ready to go.
We caught a Baby Hercules to Saigon where we waited until 4.30 pm.
The ‘Freedom Bird’, a Qantas 707, was due to leave at 12.00 noon, but a driver backed into it and caused some damage. We eventually took off at 4.35 pm.
After flying in Caribou’s and Hercules with their short take off distance, this plane seemed to take ages to leave the runway and get off the ground. I wondered whether the runway would be long enough.
Flags at the Free World Building, Saigon
Because of our late departure, we arrived in Sydney at 3.00 am. instead of 10.00 pm. I passed through Customs OK and sat around the terminal at Mascot for the rest of the night waiting for a flight to Melbourne at 7.15 am.
It took off at 7.15 am (in a DC9) and arrived at Melbourne at 8.30 am where I was met by all the family and went home.