Memorial Day USA

ribbon_small2.gif Today is Memorial Day in the US where they commemorate the service of veterans from all the wars they have fought.
Subsequent to World War 1 and associated with the burial of an “Unknown Soldier” in Arlington Cemetry, 11 November became known as Armistice Day , as it was every where else in the world, and recognized the war dead from WW1. The day later become known as Veterans Day and the day when the US commemorates their war dead from all conflicts. Fifty years earlier, in 1868, Union General John A. Logan designated a day in which the graves of Civil War soldiers would be decorated. First known as Decoaration Day it was changed to Memorial Day some 20 years later. In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem: poppy
We cherish too, the Poppy red That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal to the skies That blood of heroes never dies.
She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. So, like Australia, there are two days on the US National calendar devoted to war dead. Tomorrow, Memorial Day, is one of them and the day when they wear poppies. To all Americans, there are many in Australia who recognize your service to the world and pause with you to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice. You Defence Forces are under seige now from the terrorists in many parts of the world and from your own Media but stay the distance and the world will be a better place. Mudville Gazette has a post on the subject and quotes a poem written last Christmas in Baghdad.
Saluting fallen friends whose names And youth will never fade Here’s to those on other shores, for them live well, the price is paid
Have a good day.

Women in Uniform

Tim Dunlop posts on No Women please, we’re Americans I wonder exactly what experience base he is using. In the US, a a House subcommittee approved a measure yesterday that would ban women from serving in certain support units in a bid to keep them out of “direct ground combat.” Tim quotes an American retired Army Officer at A Silent Cacophony who has a firm opinion about women in uniform who, amongst other things says,
Moreover, in the unit over which I was given command, four of the five senior sergeants were females, and for the remainder of my career in uniform, those four women would rank among the finest, most loyal and capable soldiers with whom I would ever be privileged to serve So, I learned early on, first hand, that limiting the positions to which women could be assigned in the Army was just plain wrong, and served no logical organizational purpose.
I’m with the man on the first part of the extract but disagree with him on the second. To say he found the women under his command in the given circumstances of that time, place, and nature of unit … among the finest, most loyal and capable soldiers with whom I would ever be privileged to serve does not mean that limiting the positions to which women could be assigned in the Army was just plain wrong. The point is, the good retired officer doesn’t draw the line between combat and support units and suggests we should let women serve where they will. Well, I’m a retired Army Officer with considerable experience commanding troops in war and peace and I would like to point out the problem isn’t a simple as some would believe. Continue reading »


Step one achieved. We have the young interested in Gallipoli now all we need to do is teach some of them manners. More bins needed at Gallipoli: PM As a young, and old soldier I always took my rubbish out. As a 4WD enthusiast, when I go bush, I always take my rubbish out. I try to leave nothing but my footprints. At a Dawn Service I would no sooner drop a piece of rubbish than swear in front of my Grandmother. Bins are not the only answer. Manners are. Some rules for the young, and old Aussies at Gallipoli. Rule 1: Take your own rubbish out Rule 2: If there are insufficient bins, refer to Rule One. Rule 3: Don’t sleep on graves. In fact don’t even walk over graves. It is disrespectful. Rule 4: It is not a party. It is not a celebration. It is a commemoration and is a sombre occassion. Rule 5: Do not demand or expect entertainment. (organizers please note) Having said that, I’m glad you are all going there. I just think you need to lift your game a little.

A letter to Ray

Ray, old mate. Mate, I’m off to march with the boys tomorrow down Adelaide Street Brisbane. I’m taking my father for a walk as well – you remember Dad, you met him before we went to Vietnam. Well, Dad had served in the Navy during WW2 and died some years ago, but every Anzac Day I take him on the parade. Well, at least I wear his medals on my right breast and he’s sort of with me in spirit. Before the march I’ll get up at 3:30 and go to the Dawn Service at the local RSL. It get’s harder every year but until it’s as hard as landing at Gallipoli, and it never will be, I’ve got nothing to complain about. I go there to pay homage to all the lost souls of all our wars. Ray, I remember the day you died in that shitty country. You felt no pain mate, but we did. We cleared our way though to you. Alan was already dead but you were still alive, albeit unconscience. I stayed with you until the chopper came and watched you being loaded with a bad feeling in my heart. Later, back in Australia, I met your Father in 1972 at the City of Sydney RSL. I told him of your last moments, how you died game and how you didn’t suffer. Of course, that was no solace for the man – there is no solace for such a loss . He cried and I put my arm around his shoulder and we both cried for your lost youth and premature demise. He truely loved you and lived on for 20 years or more, missing you every day. Our detractors say we only glorify war on ANZAC Day. Well mate, maybe commemorating your life, death and sacrifice is glorifying war but I don’t think it is. Us guys from Recce Platoon try not to think of Vietnam too often but this weekend I had Flea up from Melbourne as a house guest for a couple of days, and of course, all the memories flood back. You remember Flea – he was my forward scout. I met Bull Mahoney a few years back. You remember he stood on a mine as well. He ended up losing both his legs and when he got home he spent years in hospitial followed by rehabilitation and then was told he was fit enough to work. He was too. He took on a newspaper delivery service. His wife drove and he sat in the back and threw the papers out. He said it was OK but a real bitch when turning corners. You see, without any legs he couldn’t brace himself and would roll off the seat if he didn’t watch it. The Department of Veterans affairs were right though, he could work. We just think he shouldn’t have to. Years later they gave him a pension. Ted Molloy turned up in Brisbane some years back. He was wounded with Bull and while lying there listening to the screaming of all those wounded men he started saying the rosary. It helped to settle every one down. You remember Ray, you were there that day. Well apparently Ted was fit enough to work as well. His legs were hardly recognizable as legs but he worked for years in the construction industry and told me that the pain was terrible but the Department of Veterans Affairs repeatedly rejected his application for pension. After several appearances at the Appeals Tribunal Ted’s counsel could see they weren’t making any headway against the beaurocrats, so in desperation told Ted to stand up and drop his trousers. He did so and the stunned silence from the members of the tribunal foreshadowed the approval of a pension. A picture is worth a thousand words and it wasn’t a nice picture. Maybe they looked into their souls and saw an even worse picture. Mate, you’d laugh to see us now, we’re all old men. You, of course are forever etched in our minds as young. Fit and dedicated to your mates – you were all we could ask for as a digger. Of course a lot of the country didn’t see it that way. You’ll be saddened to know that the press, the RSL of the day, the intelligensia, and even the Prime Minister, (a bloke called Whitlam) derided our service. Whitlam even had a commo as his deputy. A bloke called Jim Cairns, who as president of a USSR/Australia group even travelled to the USSR while they were sending arms, ammo and advisors to Vietnam to better kill us. He organised something called Moratorium Marches where uni students, wharfies, red raggers, and other ill informed people could gather in the thousands and spit on us. I met Pat Kelly last year down in Melbourne. I remember the last time I saw him he was lying down after a genade had taken him out. Blew me arse over head as well but Pat took all the shrapnell. That was the day Neil Richardson died and a few others were shot and shrapnelled. Well they are still getting shrapnel out of Pat. He lost his eye that day and later on he had to have a heart transplant but he’s still the happy and ever smiling Irishman he was when you knew him. Some things don’t change. Mate, we missed you for all these long years but rest assured we will think of you tomorrow and quietly raise a glass in your honour. While others still call us killers and question our service, the real Australians now line up on the footpaths and applaud our passing. They applaud our passing, we commemorate yours. Rest easy Mate. Ray ‘General’ Paton and Alan Talbot were killed in a mine incident near the town of Phouc Bu in Phouc Tuy Province South Vietnam on 1 Feb 1971. Wounded were the Platoon Sergeant, Dick Williams (killed the following year in a MVA), Neil ‘Shorty’ Godbold ( Shorty stood on the mine, lost a leg and then committed suicide some years later just before the 1987 Sydney Welcome Home March) and Phill Ryan. Phil is the only survivor from a very bad day and all of these guys were the last battle casualties suffered by 7RAR in Vietnam. The full story is here

Why do we bother?

I note in this mornings Australian a letter from David Lyons who lives in Hallidays Point, NSW
ON Anzac Day when we ponder those Australians who fell while invading other nations, we might ask ourselves just why Australians were involved in invasions of Turkey, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq in the first place. The inhabitants of these countries had made no threat to Australia, indeed most would have been struggling to place Australia on a map. David Lyons Hallidays Point, NSW
David, if you’re going to be asking yourself questions you might start with getting you’re facts right. True, we were involved in invading Turkey and Iraq but in both Vietnam and Korea we were involved in stopping other countries invading, not invading ourselves. In Korea, the North Korean communist party, ably assisted by the Chinese communists, invaded South Korea with the intent of imposing their oppression over the people. Had it succeeded, South Korea would be a basket case like the communist North Korea is today, rather than a free and prosperous society. In Vietnam, the communist North Vietnam invaded for the same reasons as in Korea. Had the western world not been white-anted by the media and opportunistic communist propaganda thenVietnam would not be the basket case it is today. I have been to Vietnam recently and the country is still locked in 18 th Century poverty and the people have few freedoms. I might add, there is hope for Vietnam but it will take a long time to overcome 30 years of communist ‘lockdown’ and Russian ‘help’. In Turkey, we invaded to stop Germany expansionism and in Iraq we invaded as a part of the war against terror. David, your philsophy, if applied over the last century and this one, would have the world a terrible place to live in. You have to realize that human nature dictates that some will try and impose their will on others and some will fight that imposition. The fact that some have fought allows you the freedoms you enjoy today. You say ‘the inhabitants of these countries had made no threat to Australia’. Maybe they didn’t but their governments surely did. You need to read more. You didn’t mention Japan invading the Pacific and threatening Australia. Was Australia’s deployment of troops to Papua New Guinea another invasion in your strange world? Stay home on ANZAC Day and watch football and let Australians who understand the world as it really is commemorate the sacrifice of so many so that stupid bastards like you have the freedom to denigrate that same sacrifice.


I must admit to an Infantryman’s bias here. I have always thought that RAAF officers were more into commanding aeroplanes than men and thus had less understanding of the Army and Navy with their troops-before-equipment emphasis. That of course, is a generalization and doesn’t take into account a lot of other factors. The RAAF are a very professional force and have provided support to Infantrymen in trouble over many campaigns and wars. I owe them and can only respect any man that rose to the highest levels of command within the RAAF. The thing that matters most to us lower ranks is a 3, 4 or 5 Star rank’s ability to stick up for the troops of their service. We would want them to tell the Politicians the truth even when they don’t wan’t to hear it and never, never contemplate a career in politics whilst serving – it contaminates decisions. I was once told by a Colonel that after promotion above regimental command too many officers became political. That is to say their decisions were couched in political outcomes and paid less and less attention to the needs of the troops and the requirement to be able to meet the respective forces prime aim of closing with and destroying the enemy Cosgrove always maintained his integrity as an Army officer and pushed for outcomes that would look after the troops while enhancing their ability to wage war. I served with Cosgrove when he commanded the 1st Battalion and can vouch from personal experience that whereas we worked hard under his command it was very apparent that loyalty had a downward perspective. If we did right by him, he would do right by us. We were even on first name terms as in he would call me Kevin and I would call him Sir. I see no evidence to suggest that Houston isn’t of the same mould. Albeit with a RAAF background and therefore unknown to me, he has already shown an ability to defend the troops and tell politicians what they might not have wanted to hear. It’s a good start and I wish him well. The future promises to be even more demanding for the ADF and it will take a strong hand to keep moving forward. The media release of the Prime Minsiters announcement is here and go here for a biography of Air Marshal Allan (Angus) Grant Houston, AO, AFC as Chief of the Air Force (CAF) UPDATE: I have just read AM Houston’s biography in detail and note;
In 1989 he enjoyed one year as a Squadron Commander with the 5th Aviation Regiment.
The 5th Aviation Regiment is an Army unit. He’ll do.

The Nias Nine II

I received this email from Ted Harris, Webmaster of Digger History, as did every MP and Senator in Federal Parliament.
Senators, MPs, Gentlemen, Ladies, Members of the Media, The recent unseemly squabble over medals for 9 of Australia’s finest left me cold. I fully agree that the RSL are correct in opposing BRAVERY medals for people accidentally killed. I support the PMs ‘band-aid” solution of making military personnel eligible for the “Humanitarian Award” but that is NOT ENOUGH. It does not recognise the sacrifice. It is my contention that the NZers, Kiwis, call them what you will have a much BETTER solution and have had it since just after WW2 and applied to WW2 KIAs. (Gees I hate giving the Kiwis a wrap). They still have it, I believe. They have the “New Zealand Memorial Cross”. It was originally designed for only war deaths (accidental or in action) but was later expanded to include Service personnel killed on Peace-keeping Operations. The Memorial Cross was issued in the name of the deceased but awarded to his mother, AND if he was married, another identical Memorial Cross was awarded to his wife. (Photo below) Instituted: 12 September 1947 by King George VI. Awarded to the next-of-kin of NZ service personnel killed on active service (since 1995, this includes deaths during peace-keeping operations). Award is made to the nearest female relative – if there is both a mother and a wife 2 Crosses are awarded. nsmemorialcross.bmp The NZ Memorial Cross I hereby suggest that Australia adopt a Memorial Cross as soon as reasonable procedures allow. It should be part of the Australian Awards system. It should be awarded in the name of ANY Australian service person on active duty, accidentally killed at work, on humanitarian missions and on Peacekeeping missions. It should not apply to Service personnel killed in accidents away from work. It should not apply to former Service personnel who died after service. The fact that death is required to qualify would keep the possibility of “eligibility creep” at bay. I would like to see back-dated to 1 Jan 2001 and no further. I would appreciate feedback.
Ted Harris is Webmaster of the Digger History Group If you have any interest in military history then you should visit. The site is so comprehensive it rivals the Australian War Memorial as a source of information. Ted always ends his emails with this quote.
If you can read this, thank a Teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier.
I like it! Even though Australia has never issued a medal, at least to my knowledge, we did acknowledge the supreme sacrifice in World War 1 by issueing the poorly named Death Plaque to next of kin (NOK) of service people killed during the war. deathplaque.jpg WW1 Death Plaque Maybe there is a case for Ted’s idea, although, like Ted, I am loath to afford the Kiwis merit.

Sea King Down II

Luke McIlveen, intrepid anti-defence campaigner attacks under the headline – No medals for victims, RSL says.
“There is no automatic entitlement – and nor should there be – that just because people die they should receive a medal. The fact they died in an accident like that does not suggest anyone was brave.” Under official awards guidelines, the Sea King victims are likely to qualify only for the Australian Service Medal, an honour bestowed on every soldier who serves overseas.
For a person who is never likely to be awarded any medal I take umbrage at Luke’s downgrading of the Australian Service Medal with the rider…likely to qualify only for the Australian Service Medal. If we put the emotion of the event aside then RSL national president Bill Crews is correct. Luke McIlveen doesn’t suffer any defence-positive thoughts as witnessed by a quick “Luke McIlveen” Google and he has proven very adapt at finding negatives in any defence-related issue. I have posted on this guy before when he chose Armistice Day 2004 as a day to put down on defence and he’s still at it.
In a strange twist, Mr Crews said the Indonesian villagers who pulled two survivors from the Sea King’s wreckage could be more eligible for awards.
How is that strange? The Indonesians who ventured into a crashed fuselage, minutes before it exploded into a fireball to save lives are simply that, brave, no twist needed. Those who where simply passengers or crew and were forced by tragic circumstances to follow the unfriendly forces of gravity were not demonstrably brave. They were simply victims.
Debate raged yesterday over whether Governor-General Michael Jeffery should have bestowed more than a sprig of wattle on the nine flag-draped caskets when they arrived at Sydney airport earlier this week.
Debate raged where? I saw it as very symbolic and very Australian. Ray Brown, the President of the Incapacitated Service Persons Association (ISPA) has a lot to say but he does have a barrow to push as well. I have no problems with people like Ray Brown but know they can be relied upon to state they are not happy with benefits from defence related injury. That is the basic tenet for their existance as an association. As in “He would say that, wouldn’t he? The ISPA is mainly about service people injured in training in Australia. The Nias Nine were killed overseas and benefits to dependants will be different. Ray Brown goes on to say;
“It was disgusting and embarrassing that the Indonesian President presented our dead with medals and all we could manage was a sprig of wattle.”
A letter to the Editor of the Australian puts that into perspective.
Soldier’s lonely return 07 April 2005 WE have just witnessed an inspiring and deserving return of the nine service personnel killed in the helicopter crash in Indonesia. Unlike my experience in 1971 when returning from Vietnam, as a draft conducting officer, with the undraped coffin of a soldier killed in action in the cargo hold of the chartered Qantas aircraft. And how I sat beside it alone at 1.00am in a deserted Sydney air freight terminal for over an hour before a contracted undertaker arrived to receive it for on-freighting, without ceremony, to his home state. Lest we forget. Graeme Manning North Hobart, Tas
Overall, Luke has done well. He has found a malconent spokeperson and asked questions of the National President of the RSL to use as a base for a beat-up. I’m only surprised that Luke didn’t raise the issue of the age of the Sea Kings to demonstrate how a hated Howard led government has condemned service people to death by forcing them to fly in an old chopper. Speaking of which Paul Couvret, a former Sea King Air engineer officer, has a piece in this morning’s Australian. Readers confused with the issue of new versus old equipment may like to read Paul’s words. His is a voice of reason clearly, to me anyway, promoted by a desire for the facts to be aired rather than for someone, preferably the government, to be be blamed for murder and or kicked out of office. The Victorian RSL, via Major General David McLachlan, suggest a Humanitarian Medal might be the go. General McLachlan is the President of the Victorial RSL and by virtue of holding this position, is on the executive of the national body chaired by General Crew. There wll may be a case for medals for service people, or others, killed while serving overseas but the fact remains that under current regulations there is no means of awarding people medals for simply dying. The honour bestowed on these young men and women resides in the memories of those left behind and will be immortalized on marble somewhere at some time in the future. A piece of metal, in the form of a medal, will no way enhance this fact. UPDATE: Having posted all of the above I now note that Chief Bastard, in a post on the matter, notes there already is a Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal. hosm_medal.jpg Makes me wonder what Gen McLachan was on about. Surely the General’s staff would have done some research.
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