The long march home

During the big wars of the last century Australian soldiers killed in action were interred in war cemeteries overseas.  The cost of repatriating 100,000 plus killed in WW1 and WW2 would have been prohibitive so the government policy remained as interment overseas. The soldiers were buried with their mates close to where they fell. During the Vietnam War when soldiers started being killed this protocol was still in place and soldiers were interred in War Cemetrys in SEA, notably Terendak, Malaysia. In May 1968 everything changed. A National Serviceman, Private Noack, was killed and when his father was told he would be interred overseas he  demanded he be brought back home. The Government complied but over the course of the war 32 soldiers were interred at Terendak Malaysia and one, Warrant Officer Conway, the first Aussie killed in Vietnam, was interred at Kranji, Singapore.  Up until 1966 Next of Kin were told they would even have to pay 500 Pounds to have their sons repatriated. An uncaring and unfeeling attitude by a government having trouble catching up with the times. After this date all of our mates killed were repatriated.  As a Infantry Sgt in 7RAR in Holsworthy NSW I led many a Burial Party for diggers of our sister Battalion, 5RAR. Bring them Home became a movement started by Jim Bourke who, against all odds, managed to locate all our MIAs and bring them home.  Developing from that various RSLs including the Northern Territory branch and other veteran organizations started agitating for the repatriation of those guys buried at Terendak and Kranji. It has finally happened. One of those coming home is Private Norman George Allen, a member of my Battalion, 7RAR, who was Killed in Action on 10 November, 1967 Welcome home Norm. A full list of those coming home can be read here      

Secret missions

At the height of the Vietnam War, John Ali was in a team of truck drivers recruited on the orders of the then army minister Malcolm Fraser for a secret mission delivering military supplies deep into Cambodia where US and Australian forces were officially not supposed to be. Hmm
Greens senator Penny Wright told parliament last night that Mr Ali’s treatment by successive governments was shameful. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and lives with the debilitating effects of his experiences in Vietnam and Cambodia, Senator Wright said. “He jumps at the sound of thunder and takes about 20 tablets a day.”
Greens senator Penny Wright. Hmmm. I wonder why Malcolm Fraser didn’t use the thousands of soldiers already in country and subject to military law. And don’t think because we weren’t supposed to be in Cambodia that we weren’t. It’s one thing to convince a Greens Senator of outlandish claims. Let’s face it,  they believe that the Earth is doomed unless we spend hundreds of billions of dollars and otherwise ruin the economy by locking coal in the ground, but it’s another matter entirely to  convince the DVA and us skeptical old soldiers. If he wasn’t in the military then any compensation is a matter for other government bodies, not the DVA.  He could try talking to Malcolm Fraser to confirm the story.  Oh hang on, he’s dead. I’m surprised his problems only came to light after Malcolm was interred. Really surprised.

Remembrance Day

Terry Sweetman can’t keep ideology out of todays remembrance as he talks of  good  and bad wars in a piece entitled Remembrance day silence a time to contemplate the pointlessness of-war. He starts;

We should think of lives lost, lives shattered, lives squandered, and lives given in service of what good men and women rightly or wrongly believed were good and just causes.

and I respond Your article and the above quote makes me think the value of sacrifice of those who served in “bad”  wars is less than had they died in “good” wars. You question why we served in earlier wars but the Maori Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, the Sudan War, the Boer War and WW1 were all fought during a period when most people in Australia thought of themselves as British Australians who were similar to British Canadians or British South Africans.  It was a case of Britian is at war, we are British, let’s go. Who could argue about the good or bad of WW2.  Who would ever suggest we shouldn’t have contributed to the downfall of Hitler and Tojo. No one surely and the arguement that Japan was never really going to invade Australia was lost on my Father as he endured 64  Japanese bombing raids on Darwin. Korea might be officially still under a truce but the communist regimes of China and North Korea didn’t take over the South and it has flourshed so that’s a win. The Paris Peace Talks ended the Vietnam war in a truce as well.  All beligerants went home but while the West lost interest and political will the communists never did and North Vietnam, rearmed by the USSR, finally invaded.  It took them nearly 15 years to win the hollow invasion and it cost them dearly.  We held them up for all that time and sapped their economies so surely that’s a positive. Korea, Malaya and Vietnam were all battles of the Cold War and that was won in 1990 when the Berlin Wall came down. The more recent “good ” and “bad” wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, are battles of the war against terrorism. Both have given the local populace an inkling of democracy, secular education, better health and education outcomes and some hope of a better future.  Al Qaeda and theTaliban are somewhat depleted, albeit not destroyed, and I think the point is, the whole affair is a generational campaign that will bear fruit in days to come. The battles aren’t done and the war continues. I’m tired of being told I fought in a “bad” war with 7RAR in Vietnam while the later 7RAR troops who fought in Iraq also copped the “bad” war service but the next rotation to Afghanistan of the battalion served in a “good” war.  We don’t see it that way.  The country called and we served under the rising sun, as did our fathers, in an apolitical manner. I would rather the line quoted at the start be;

We should think of lives shattered and lives given in service of what good men and women believed were good and just causes.

Leave the “rightly or wrongly” and “squandered” to the politicians lest the words start appearing on gravestones and memorials. In the meantime I await the news of my mate Percy who yesterday was given 24 hours to live.  Percy served in one of  the “bad” wars in an exemplorary manner and in doing so proved himself a better man than Sweetman ever will be. poppy

Platoon Reunion

recceplThis weekend I’ll be at Coolangatta at a platoon reunion. 43 years ago next Tuesday we lost our first mate, Neil Richardson,  on operations in South Vietnam with 7RAR.  Our platoon, Recconnaisance (Recce) Platoon, had 62 soldiers go through the ranks with 3 Killed in Action (KIA), over 30 wounded or evacuated sick or damaged and 17 having died since coming home. Five days together with a break each day to recover from the previous day’s excesses we will commemorate our losses and celebrate surviving war and left-wing assaults on our honour. If you don’t respect our service we don’t care – we know we did the right thing The pic has us young and on our last day in-country.  So you know I wasn’t always grey haired, I am kneeling in the front with my arm on a mates shoulder. I still getting over malaria then so was skinny as well. Oh, the ravages of time.

Lest we forget

I attended the memorial service at the Bribie Island RSL yesterday to remember all those who have gone before me and was a little put out by the ceremony. The local school choir got up and gave us a rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine and the Priest thought it reasonable to mention Bob Dylan as well.  When the time came to sing the National Anthem, didgeridoos came across the speakers with the anthem tempo increased from the standard 4/4 to something like 6/8. No one could sing to it and the words were lost as people tried to keep up. There is proscribed music for the anthem and that definitely wasn’t it.

Lennon’s Imagine directly quotes the communist manifesto as he himself comments:

‘Imagine’, which says: ‘Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics,’ is virtually the Communist manifesto, even though I’m not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement.”[5] He told NME: “There is no real Communist state in the world; you must realize that. The Socialism I speak about … [is] not the way some daft Russian might do it, or the Chinese might do it. That might suit them. Us, we should have a nice …British Socialism.
Dillon just wrote and sang anti-war songs and become one of the main leaders on the Vietnam War protests and moratorium marches.  I have his music on my IPhone list and enjoy some of it but he is what he is and never supported the soldier, rather he denigrated them. There’s a place for anti-war sentiment in the public debate, I just don’t think a November Memorial service in an RSL is it.   No one there would’ve been pro-war but to take the stand they did questions the service and sacrifice of many men and women who we were remembering on this holy of days. While we were dying in South Vietnam Lennon and Dylan were a focus for the protesters and the only people to benefit from that were the Communists. In essence the Sub Branch politicised the service with an emphasis on the anti war movement and indigenous recognition. It made me think a young naive teacher with leftist leanings had grabbed hold of the ceremony and turned it into some sort of litany of protest of the evils of war and our treatment of our indigenous mates. Not good. Notwithstanding my sentiments on the conduct of the memorial service I managed to get back on subject and remembered my fallen mates and all those who remain forever young from the Boer War through to Afghanistan. When I say ‘Lest we forget” I would caution certain Sub Branches that they don’t forget why they exist and not to confuse politics with sacrifice.

Viet Vets in trouble again

Aussie Vietnam Vets have hit the news big time. The final volume of the official history of the Australians in the Vietnam War is about to be released and the entire volume must be about Vietnam Vets and their drinking problem. Google answered vietnam war history+alcohol abuse with 18 million hits. I had to click forward to page 12 before I found someone else other than Aussies having a drinking problem. Our alcohol abuse has been spread across the world and everyone’s talking about it. I’m actually reasonably confident that the final volume mentions matters other than alcohol abuse but someone has obviously seen fit to underline the problem so that the people who abused us then, and still do, can add alcoholism to our sins. It fits seamlessly with shooting and killing the good guys, being US puppets, killing babies, raping women, and all the other communist propaganda inventions. Having these ‘sins’ thrown at us by Aussie uni students during breaks from collecting money for the Viet Cong ammo fund, goes partway to understanding the horrific PTSD roll from the war Doesn’t matter – we’re used to the abuse, or at least we have learned not to take it to heart. Considering most times I got back off patrol the first night in the boozer was effectively a wake I actually don’t care what non-vets think. Five or six cans is binge drinking? Come on…give me a break princess. Five or six cans goes nowhere near putting the black dog back in his kennel. I definitely remember one patrol that lasted a month so there is 30 days of beer I never got. If I came back dirty,stressed and in mourning and consequently had too much to drink and someone from the 142nd Blog Comments Platoon, safe in their clean, neat, safe house finds that is cause to denigrate my service then get out of the debate. I’m not listening anymore.

A rewrite of history

Lyndsay Murdock needs some history lessons. Talking about Julia Gillard’s gaffe about General Vo Nguyen Giap’s death he finds the General alive in Hanoi. Giap could be forgiven for commenting that “the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” (refer: Mark Twain) Lyndsay goes on to comment;
Two decades later his poorly equipped North Vietnamese army and Vietcong guerillas defeated the US and its allies, forcing them out of the former South Vietnam.
Look up Paris Peace Accords Lyndsay. In 1973, a couple of decades later, all players decided to call it quits and go home and North Vietnam promised they would not initiate military movement across the DMZ and that there would be no use of force to reunify the country. This is communist talk for “We need to rearm” They had been defeated in battle in Vietnam thus forcing them to the Peace table in the first place and they needed this time to rebuild. Two years later, in 1975, Lyndsay’s “poorly equipped North Vietnamese army” now richly equipped with new tanks, artillery, new AK47s, RPD MGs and AA batteries by the USSR and China invaded South Vietnam and defeated them. They attacked in WW2-like waves and the US, with Gerald Ford in the White House trying to send aid to South Vietnam, being thwarted by a Democrat majority in both houses, watched as South Vietnam folded and the night of the long knives began. Get it right or get out Lyndsay!

Tango Mike Mike

Had a tough day or two lately….working too many hours…Boss giving you a hard time? Check out this guys day at the office and stop your whining; Courtesy Bruce Cox

Morrie Stanley Dies

Morrie Stanley, 1931-2010 Morrie Stanley was one of the heroes of the bloody Battle of Long Tan – the Australian Army’s most intense encounter of the Vietnam War. The New Zealand Army captain attached to Delta Company of 6RAR is widely acknowledged as having played a huge role in saving most of the 108 besieged Australian Army soldiers during the three-hour battle on August 18, 1966. He was the forward artillery officer with Delta Company when they were attacked in a rubber plantation by a force of about 2500 Vietcong and North Vietnamese soldiers who outnumbered them 23 to one. He stayed by the side of the company commander, Major Harry Smith, calling in artillery fire from New Zealand, Australian and American howitzers at the Australian base at Nui Dat five kilometres away. The enemy force attacked in waves during a torrential downpour, almost overrunning the Australians. Captain Stanley on the day after the battle. Photo: Reuters Maintaining his calm amid the mayhem – ”I had to overcome my dread that I would make a mistake,” he recalled – and with mud and rain at times obscuring his map from which he calculated critical co-ordinates for the gunners, Stanley was in constant radio contact with the gunners at Nui Dat as the Australian soldiers fought against overwhelming odds with limited ammunition. At times he ordered salvos from the 18 New Zealand and Australian 105-millimetre howitzers and six 155-millimetre US howitzers in the battery to within 30 metres of the Delta Company lines. He also disregarded requests from Sergeant Bob Buick, who took command of 11 Platoon after his commander was killed, to bring down fire on his position. The platoon had only 10 men left out of 28 and Buick was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice because he thought he was about to be overrun. By the time the enemy disengaged and slipped away, they left 245 dead in the plantation. The Australians lost 17, and 23 were wounded – and the Regiment had fired more than 4000 – 105mm rounds from its howitzers. Maurice David Stanley was born on March 22, 1931, in Christchurch and grew up in Napier. His father was a drill master and Morrie became a prefect and regimental sergeant major in the school cadets. In 1949 he joined a special cadet unit in Wellington to complete his final two years at school, and while there won a place at the Royal Military Academy , Duntroon. He was 19 when he sailed for Sydney for the four-year cadetship. As a New Zealander, he had more to overcome than the average Australian cadet. It was demanded of him, as part of the tough initiation, that he sing Waltzing Matilda. But his Kiwi spirit would kick in and instead he would sing the New Zealand marching song Maori Battalion. ”I received some attention for my impudence,” he recalled of what must have been stern punishment. But there was a silver lining to the hazing. He met a young Canberran, Alva, at a church function and they were engaged the day he graduated as a lieutenant in December 1953. They married six months later. As his army career progressed, he was among 150 soldiers sent to England for ceremonial duties (including guard duties at Buckingham Palace ) and training with the British Army. Back home, in January 1966, he was ordered to prepare for posting to South Vietnam as a replacement battery captain with 16 Field Regiment, which was providing direct artillery support for the Australian’s 1RAR. The unit was attached to the US Army’s 173rd Brigade. After a relatively quiet start to his posting with 1RAR, at the end of April 1966 the battery moved to Vung Tau and Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province and he joined 6RAR as its forward artillery officer. The events at the plantation on Long Tan erupted less than four months later. Stanley ‘s actions that day earned him the military MBE for valour. Many consider he deserved a higher award. After Vietnam , his postings included a four-year stint as a defence liaison officer in Melbourne . In all, he spent eight years in Australia . After he retired from the army with the rank of major in 1976 he worked in hospital administration in Auckland . Morrie Stanley is survived by Alva and sons Peter and Andrew. A third, Donald, died before him. Rest in Peace old Warrior.

Viet Vet being deported

A CONVICTED West Australian killer is set to be released from a Bangkok prison after serving just over two years for gunning down an American in a Chiang Mai restaurant. Vietnam veteran William Thomas Douglas, 62, was convicted of murdering US tourist Gary Booth Poretsky, 46, in March 2008 after the pair had an argument over Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Douglas shot three bullets into Poretsky, including one to his head. Following the shooting, Douglas pleaded guilty to murder and reportedly told police he was doing work for the Thai Narcotics Suppression Bureau.
Douglas’s version of events was rejected by official sources, who said he was drunk. Douglas told the court at his sentencing he had lived in Thailand for almost 30 years. According to an Australian reporter in court at the time, Douglas said Poretsky had antagonised him by saying Australia was a tool of the US. “I pulled out my gun and shot him,” Douglas told the court. I personally wouldn’t have shot the Yank but I can sympathize with the digger and the abiding lesson must be; If you are a “tool” of the communists it’s best you don’t mention it to a drunk, armed digger.
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