War’s End

Back at Nui Dat I resume my duties in the Comsec Bunker but it’s not long before I’m told I am to be part of a Task Force Patrol, and that a group of us from our unit would be reporting to TFHQ – Task Force Headquarters early next week to begin preparations. This will mean briefings on the aim of our mission and practices in patrolling as a group, and enemy contact drills as a patrol formation.From what I understand these patrols are Recon patrols, not Combat patrols.

Basically our job will be to go out beyond the wire and wander around the countryside to see if we can find anything.  However this may, or may not involve actual contact with the enemy, so we have to be prepared for that.  I am kind of looking forward to it.  I mean this is what we’d trained for – to go out into the bush where the enemy lived.Yet at the same time I admit to a little bit of trepidation, never having been on a “live” patrol before.  It hasn’t been unknown in the past for similar patrols to run into the enemy and become involved in a fire-fight. And I’d heard about a patrol composed of Sigs who had once spent a night dodging a battalion of Provincial VCs.  

I wondered how I would conduct myself.The week drags by and I hear no more about it.  Then the word comes that all active operations against the enemy are cancelled.  What does that mean?  It means for a start that we will not be going out on any patrol. I don’t know how to take this news, whether to be disappointed or relieved. And for the rest of my life I wouldn’t be able to rationalize it.

In later years I was to learn that by 1971 that most of the Provincial VC in the province had been pushed back to the boundaries of Phouc Tuy Province – the only place in the whole of South Vietnam where this had happened. Allegedly the top-brass had thought the VC and NVA – North Vietnamese Army might mount an attack to take over Nui Dat as we withdrew.  Perhaps this was why that last patrol was being planned. If so then maybe they got some new intelligence to infer that an attack wasn’t going to happen anyway.

All existing patrols come in out of the bush and the voice-radio TF Command Net becomes relatively silent. I am now removed from the Comsec Bunker and Cpl Woodfields detachment, and re-assigned to “clean-up” tasks under the direction of the SSM – Squadron Sergeant Major and my Radio Tp SGT.

svn74Left: A truck moves through the rubber trees carrying a load of discarded items for burning.

Right: Choppers left idle on Kanga Pad.  Heavy rain soaks the ground making movement around the area quite muddy.

svn79svn81Left: Something explodes at the tip as discarded waste and other rubbish is being burned.
Right: A Caribou flies above the drifting smoke from burning fires.

We learn that ARVN forces will be moving in to take over our camp. Most of the pre-fab buildings we used are either pulled down or left standing, I guess depending on their state of repair.  In any case all buildings are stripped and whatever can be taken back to Australia is stored away.  There doesn’t seem to be too much left.

Those of us who are not involved in driving the unit’s vehicles down to Vung Tau in convoy, or in communications tasks escorting other elements of the Task Force, will be flown down to Vung Tau by Iriquois helicopter.

On the day our unit is to move I am sent up to Nui Dat hill on some task or other with a man we called Tarzan. A monkey had jumped on his head and the antics to remove the beast, and the monkey’s equally grim determination to hang on earned Tarzan his nickname.  Or so I’m told.

svn82Left: Iriquois helicopters start lining up to take troops to HQ 1 ALSG Vung Tau.
svn85Right: ARVN vehicles begin to line up at one of the gates to Nui Dat camp – at centre left on the roadway.

As I look at the ARVN vehicles lining up at the gate.  No doubt in my mind that the VC, probably supported by the NVA – North Vietnamese Army will hit them pretty hard once we are gone.  I never got over the feeling that we were letting them down – were running out on them. And so it proved.  The camp was overrun by the communists once we’d left.

Back down at the unit we are allocated to “packets” and line up next to Kanga Pad to climb aboard one of the choppers and take off.

svn86Left:  A packet of soldiers climbing aboard an Iriquois chopper at Kanga Pad.

Right: A signalman working with the chopper pilots, co-ordinating takeoff and landings.

svn88Left: Choppers taking off from Kanga Pad headed for Vung Tau on the coast to the SW.
svn90svn92Left & Right: South Vietnam countryside taken from an Iriquois helcopter.
svn91Left: Rice paddy fields.
svn93Right: One of the few photos in colour and not too badly affected by mould.
svn95Left: Coming into land at HQ 1 ALSG – Army Logistics Supply Group. Part of the sand dune systems along Vung Tau beaches.

For the morsies: BT  ii   B   ii   K


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