Australian Military: Vietnam and elsewhere

Discussion in 'Home Defense/Guns' started by Don Armstrong, Apr 13, 2004.

  1. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    To accompany Kindred Canuck's piece on Canadian forces in Vietnam at http://homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?t=44667 , I'll put this up.

    In brief, Australia's national identity has been forged by our military activities. Our first forces which were identifiably Australian fought in the British-Maori wars in New Zealand in the mid 1800's, and Australian forces (from individual states prior to Federation in 1901) fought in the Sudan War, the Boer War, and many others. World War I provided the defining moment for Australia, when combined Australian And New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) forces fought the Turks at Gallipoli. It was a campaign gallantly fought, and eventually lost to the Turks, but the experience forged Australian military and national identity, and forces went on to fight successfully in North Africa and on the Western Front.

    Australia, of course, fought in World War 2. We had forces in Europe and North Africa (look up Tobruk some time), Naval and Air forces there and in the Atlantic; and of course we fought throughout the Pacific and South-east Asia.

    After that we saw action in Korea, in the Malayan Emergency, and many more actions since then, including of course Vietnam. Most recently Afghanistan, Iraq, Bougainville, East Timor, and the Solomons.

    Vietnam was my era, and I did not serve. I was well pleased not to win that lottery, although as it happens I wouldn't have lasted through training - my back would have given out just a little earlier than it did. I did have many cousins and schoolmates who served there, or in the forces at that time.

    Over 50,000 Australians served in South Vietnam, and over 1% died there. It was NOT easy duty.

    I remember meeting one cousin at the airport returning from there, and he was totally shattered. He's living a normal life now, but it took him a long time to work through it all, to get over the nightmares and the hair-trigger reactions. As a printer by trade, he had what was supposed to be easy duty - printing up propaganda leaflets for aerial drops. However, it worked out that his group also got to drop them from the helicopters. They were unarmed, showering out leaflets as fast as they could. One of his friends was shot through the head right next to him. He can still feel his friend's brains splashing on his face. No easy duty.

    A close schoolfriend was injured there. Again, what you might think was a good posting. He was a farm boy, had been driving trucks since he was five, and he was a good mechanic: he was posted as a driver. One day their convoy was hit by VC artillery - targetted on a narrow hillside road. His truck rolled sideways down the hill, he was badly broken up and his back injured. Medics called in helicopter evac, then an idiot officer (without reference to the medics) assessed him as so badly injured as to be dying, and cancelled the helicopter. It took fourteen hours for the medics to find out what had happened and re-institute the medivac.

    As I said, I did not serve, although family and friends did. For those who are interested, here's some selected info on Australian activity in Vietnam.

    http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-conflicts-periods/vietnam/0-vietnam-cat-index.htm
    http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-conflicts-periods/vietnam/aattv.htm
    http://www.vvaa.org.au/oob.htm
    http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/vietnam.htm
    http://www.vietvet.org/aussie1.htm

    The Australian Vietnam memorial:
    http://www.skp.com.au/memorials/pages/00005.htm

    "All gave some; some gave all."

    A couple of links that Australian veterans here probably already know, but in case you're dealing with relatives who are not on the Net:

    http://www.dva.gov.au/
    http://www.health.gov.au/infoline.htm

    One tip: if you THINK it just MIGHT be a POSSIBILITY that MAYBE A PORTION of your medical condition JUST MIGHT be service-related (example, in my father's case, as a signaller, hearing-loss from tank service, skin cancers from being required to stand duty in the sun in short sleeves and beret) then CLAIM. GET IT ON RECORD. You may be knocked back at first, but having a history makes it easier and more probable to get it through next time you claim.
     
  2. KindredCanuck

    KindredCanuck In Remembrance

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    Great Post Don..

    Thanks for sharing this .. as well for Honoring those friends,countrymen,cousins.. classmates..

    My Dad was in the Airforce my Uncles in the Army for the Korean war.. One Uncle came back an alcholic.. he was my Mom's baby brother.. never really got over his tour of duty.. he died at 42 breaking my Mom's heart .. one cousin committed suicide at 36 .. Uncles were living a quiet depressive state.. shadows of who they were.. So I understand Your comments.. Sadly..

    KC~
     

  3. John Hill

    John Hill Grand Master

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    Don, you have guys in Iraq too, did I miss that in your post?

    The Aussies I saw there were operating the airport control tower in Baghdad as was as guarding the contol tower compound. Although this is well inside the Baghdad airport perimeter it is not a totally safe posting, the time I was there mortars were known to fall on the apron in front of the building and of course the building itself would have been a prime target for anyone able to get close enough. These were all RAAF including the perimeter guards. I have a photo I could send you if interested, do you have somewhere you could post it?
     
  4. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    Thank you, John. I've PM'ed you on that. Yes, I did mention Iraq, buried in the centre there somewhere among the many others.
     
  5. quietstar

    quietstar Well-Known Member

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    Don, thanks for the Aussie links....I served with a number of your fellow countrymen. Solid men who were doing tough duty in a bad area early in the "struggle". I am certain I will always have special affection for anyone from down under. I did learn they could hold a lot of that good "33" beer the french left behind. Accent aside, the guys I came to know struck me as being a lot like Texans I grew up with. ....Glen
     
  6. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    Thanks on behalf of my compatriots, Glen. We DO have a certain affinity for beer. Well, at least I do.

    Courtesy of John Hill, here's a link (which I hope stays good) to the Aussie airmen in Iraq who are guarding the control tower for the airport. "Soldiers" from the airforce, but with a certain specialisation which could be valuable where they are. I've worked with blokes from our airforce (and navy, come to that; but I trained the airforce) on a professional basis, with computers - they know what to do, how to do it, and I don't think anything would stop them doing their nation's duty while they were breathing.

    http://us.f2.yahoofs.com/users/408cfe79_34df/bc/df05/__sr_/d446.jpg?phLIQjABwek5pma9