All right, my name is Keith Payne, born in Ingham 30th of August 1933, the son of Henry Thomas and
Ramilda Maria Payne. At that time I was the youngest of four children born to the family at that time, but the family did increase to a 13 bracket which was the pretty standard sort of a family back in those days now, in the country anyhow. City people didn't. Well they had a lot more to do with their time I suppose than rear children. And
I was educated at Ingham State School initially during the early part of the war years. Then we moved out to Trebon, changed schools there to the Trebon State School and subsequently came back into Ingham, probably in the late '40s we moved back into town. Father got another job back
in town so we moved back into town and into initially the family home. So we moved about quite a bit at that time because of work mainly and father just coming out of the military and re-establishing himself. From there I did an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker until I fell out with the boss and decided that it was time
I moved on, so I joined the regular army. Prior to going into the regular army I'd already joined the regimental cadets, and the regimental cadets of that time was greatly integrated with the then Citizens' Military Forces, now the Reserve, and we did all the training that the CMF [Citizens' Military Force] did, only they got paid and we never.
So having finished that and decided to join the regular army, I pulled the pin and [left] and went to Brisbane. And my boss cancelled my apprenticeship indenture, so I came back up again and had a few words with him. And he decided to change the indentures, and so I subsequently was enlisted into the regular army. From there I
did my recruit training and then my formal infantry training and everything prior to embarking for Korea in the middle of 1952. I served with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment for the ensuing nine and a half months while the battalion was in Korea. When the battalion left to come home, I
only had a short period to go so instead of going back into another battalion and upsetting the organisation there, I completed my time at 28 Brigade Headquarters in the rear echelon area, which I was pretty thankful for because I'd done my time in the line. And having completed that I came back to Australia
and was posted to a cadet unit in Townsville, remained there until 1955 and then transferred as an instructor to Wacol. It was during my period at Townsville that I did a
driver max course with the army and met someone that distracted my attention somewhat and was to be my wife for the next 50-odd years. So from there I went back into the regular battalions again, back to 3 RAR [3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment], did a training course leading up to deployment into
Malaya. We went into Malaya and did operations on the Malay-Thai border and against the Indonesians during the confrontation along the [Malay] Peninsula. From there it was back home. National Service had now started for… the second bracket of National Service had started, which saw our young men now deploying into Vietnam. After doing a
warrant officers' course I was posted to Skyville, which is the Officer Training Unit, to train the National Service people that had been selected to do officer training. Having trained them for a while I managed to escape Skyville. I went into the 2nd Battalion
of Pacific Islands Regiment doing operations along the Irian Jaya border against the Indonesian uprising during…in that particular area. Having completed that little part of the operation, I came back to my own barracks and took over as the transport officer until I was called home to finally do my
little stint in Vietnam. I did a training course in Australia prior to going to Vietnam. On reaching Vietnam I was assigned to Mobile Strike Force and I served with strike force for the next seven months before illness and everything saw me transferred back to Australia.
I was then posted to the Royal Military College at Duntroon, instructing young men to be officers in our regular army, and it was around this time that I was starting to get a little bit tired of not going anywhere. Things had changed drastically with the change of government and government policy, so
I elected to take to my discharge, and by doing so I applied for a job X, prior to my severing my operation with the green machine [army]. The job X I was given was here in Mackay as the warrant officer looking after the then still CMF
at Combiatan Barracks, a mortar platoon in Cerina. Having finished all that and got out, I then shifted off to Oman. I was leaving our green machine and I got a call and asked if I'd like to go to Oman and I thought, you know, "Well that's interesting. Where's Oman?" But however I subsequently left our army and
went into the Sultan's armed forces in Oman, along with a lot of British officers and everything because Oman was a British protected, British mandated territory, so I was very much tied up with the Brits then. I started to get ill and things weren't working too well for me, so when I came home I
tended to not go back. I finished my time. I said, "That's it, I won't be going back." From there I went fishing for a bit. I took out a pro [professional] fishing licence to sort of settle myself down and I made a go of that. I tried not to spend any of the money that I'd saved or anything so, and then I took
up… We were… What was I doing? Yeah, I was doing a lot of renovation work on homes and everything else like that until illness struck me down. And I then had to go to the Department of Veterans' Affairs and say, "Well." you know, "I can't work any more." So after some
tedious applications and running backwards and forwards, I was subsequently made a Totally and Permanently Disabled soldier. Having done that, we, my wife and I, settled down nice and easy and we came into our present residence some 10 years ago.
So here we are today heading for our 50th wedding anniversary in December and living the life of Riley [living well] except for all the complaints of the body.
they bought an old Chev [Chevrolet] Blitz, army Blitz, and I was driving that and I wasn't supposed to. I wasn't, you know, I wasn't old enough to have a driver's licence and everything. But I was carting timber from Stan Ply Mill up on the top of the range at Cardwell and hauling it down and stacking it and everything, every Saturday morning, which is supposed to be my day off, you know,
no extra pay, no nothing. And in the end old Matt Donohue, the police sergeant, said to me, he said, "How old are you?" and I said, "Arrr arrr rrrr." and he said, "You'd better come and get your driver's licence, hey?" Course in those days you had to be bloody 18 to get a driver's licence too. But I got my driver's licence a bit young.
So be it, and it was about this time when I what, blew the head off things. I'd just come back from a camp at Selene with the cadets and that was my holidays, you know, my annual holiday. And of course Gino, the boss,
he was the sergeant, still thought he was a sergeant promenading, you know, the interpreter. And he tried to push me around a little bit and he didn't succeed too much. And I'd done a trip up to Stan Ply and came down and I'd racked up the timber. And on the Monday morning we're putting it through on the machines and in the machines you've got
one that you put an edge on and under, and a side, and then the next one you put it through a thickness, and we were cutting them down from about an inch and a quarter to seven eighths, all in one go. And I was tailing out-coming, off the tailing out table, and there was chips flying at me all over the place. And we knocked off for smoko and I had little prick marks and bloody blood was all
coming out over me and the dust. I was pretty angry and so we knocked off for smoko and he said, "Righto, we'll start again." So I got up and I went back to the machine and I switched on the machine and I'm starting. "Come on." he said. "No." I said, "you're tailing out, buddy." cause he was only a little bloke too and I was a pretty hefty kid. And so he pushed me
down over the heap of shavings and everything. And the greatest mistake he made, he followed me. So I picked up a lump of timber and I went whack and down he went. Then a couple more smacks, not with the timber any more, with my fists. And down over the loading ramp he went, right, so. And because I was an apprentice, we didn't come under an industrial award in those days.
I don't know about now. But anyway, industrial inspectors were for labourers and tradesmen. But not for apprentices. Apprentice, you just did what you did and you suffered it. So I wasn't going to suffer this bloody nonsense so I went over, jumped on my treadly [pushbike] and away I went over to the industrial inspector and he pointed out the wrongs that I couldn't come and see him,
I shouldn't come and see him. But he told me to get back to the factory. So I went back to the factory and, "Jesus, who's this bloke turning up? It's the industrial inspector!" Well he went through that place like you wouldn't believe, and they had to put in blowers to get rid of all the sawdust and covers over the machinery and big changes in the factory. And these apprentices, they had to have
a carton of milk, a pint of milk, every morning and everything. I used to take great – I hated milk – and take great delight, go, "Gees I can't stand that stuff." It was part of the… And I think it was over that or my little bits and pieces and we weren't too, getting on. The old man I got along with well
and I was his apprentice, not Gino's. I was his apprentice, the old man's apprentice, and I was, you know, I was getting along very nicely with the old feller. But Gino was upsetting the apple cart all the time so I said, "Well." I went back to another camp and I said, "This is it boy. I'm away out of here." so. And around this time I'd
transferred to the CMF because I was still under age of course. Harry Cushla, who was the CO [Commanding Officer] of the depot said to me one night, he said, "And how old are you, Cadet Corporal Payne?" And I said, "I'm 14, sir." And he said, "You're not. You're 16." And I said, "No I'm not." "No." he said, "you're 18." And I said, "No I'm not." And I was 16, I think, yeah. I said, "No, I'm 16." He said, "No you're not. You're 18." And I said, "No, I'm 16."
"Sergeant Miller, take Cadet Corporal Payne outside and tell him how old he is, will you?" So Sergeant Miller post marched me outside and he said, "You silly little twerp." He said, "He wants to pay you. How old are you?" "I am 18." Marched back inside. "How old are you, Cadet Corporal Payne?" "I'm 18, sir." "Corporal Burner, enlist this man." So I got paid
and now I had a regimental number, so when I went into the regular army I didn't have to have a birth certificate or anything, you know. I was a fully-fledged soldier. So I got in a little bit younger as well.
the instructional mode and learnt that pretty well. And of course that followed two avenues. One was now a drill parade ground type of instruction and the other one was weapons and tactics and everything like that. And whilst, in our younger instructional days we combined the lot, you didn't deviate from any of those subjects,
what we did do later in life, we specialised, like doctors, you know. We sort of leaned a little bit more to the weapons, the employment of weapons and the tactics involved around the weaponry to get the best use of the weapon to be able to carry out your tactical manoeuvres and everything within the
whole of the concept. So initially it was just the drill and everything put together and then that was all came about when I went down to Wacol, 11 National Service at Wacol. I was then sent on an instructors' course, a qualified instructors' course which was quite a long course. It was two months of learning how to be an instructor and
it gave you a qualification as a qualified instructor. This was a great help to me all the way through the rest of my future in the military. Going back now, after the course went back to Wacol and carried on with my instructional duties with short periods in between. When we had a recess in between two intakes coming and we had a bracket there. But
we either took leave or we did courses or we went and did directing staff on military exercises with the regular battalions or did time at Canungra. I did all these things. But unbeknown to me, what was happening at this time with my career, and the career of a lot of the people that ended up in Vietnam on a Training Team,
was we had now Brigadier Daly, Tom Daly, who was the brigade commander in Korea. And he came back and he took over 1 Military Logistics, or Northern Command it was then, and he brought out the order that we, all the NCOs [Non Commissioned Officers] go and do all these courses. So I ended up doing parachute courses, signals officers'
course. I'm a qualified signal officer, regimental signal officers' course, mortar courses and courses, courses, courses, courses. And this rounded off the whole lot of our military training business, you know, and brought in true professionalism. We were able to see now how armoured married up with infantry, how tactical air
married up with our whole tactical picture and how to employ it, the artillery and, you know, the mortars and everything, in the whole big concept. We just weren't infantrymen any more. We were becoming very specialised people. And Tom Daly did that. Course Vietnam wasn't on then and nobody knew anything about Vietnam then and I doubt whether Tom Daly did. But he certainly did a forerunner
to training people for the task that was to come about by the advisers in Vietnam. So I went through the National Service training period and when that folded up we said we couldn't get out of it because we were instructors and they weren't letting us go anywhere. So when it folded up we were back to the regiment,
promotion and then we did feed up training to go back into Malaya. We went back into Malaya in 1962 and our initial engagements were still chasing the elusive communist terrorists on the Malay-Thai border. Then the Indonesian
Confrontation started and we had the whole lot of Singapore and the Malay Peninsula to look after along with the British and the Ghurkhas that were. And the Kiwis [New Zealanders] that were in country at the time so. And then of course Borneo was the main part of the business. Unfortunately I didn't get into Borneo, or fortunately or unfortunately, because by this time
the new bracket of National Service had started. The selected servicemen were now starting to be called up under the marble system for deployment into Vietnam and those units that needed them to strengthen, to look after the defence of mainland Australia, plus to reinforce the battalions on the Malay Peninsula and then Papua New Guinea. So
a group of us, all the senior NCOs and a couple of the warrant officers and everybody, left the battalion and younger blokes were promoted. But they knew the job anyhow because that's what we do. We train people to take over from us as we make ourselves redundant, which is a good way of doing things within the military force.
So when we left, bang, the unit was still very professional, very capable, of carrying out its task in Borneo. We came home and went, a lot of us went on the warrant officers' course and qualified as warrant officers and were promoted to warrant officers and ended up at Skyville, the Officer Training Unit training the young National Servicemen
who were to become officers, who were to command and we knew were going to command 30 men in action. So the task was, we knew that we had to make a damn fine job of these young men so that they could carry out their tasks and they could help to bring some young Australians home, so it was
full on. Five o'clock in the morning, 10 o'clock at night, no problem, seven days a week. And those kids got trained and in a short period of time. In the short period that they were there, that's six months, they learned to be a junior commander. They went into action and we eagerly awaited the reports from the commanding officers in Vietnam as to how
our product was faring in country. And basically one line come back, "Send us some more of this value." so we knew we'd done our job. It was pretty hard to get out of that unit and everybody was trying to escape. We had an escape committee going.
three. The terrorist war had finished. The major infractionary war had begun. The NVA, North Vietnamese regular forces, had started to infiltrate the south so things were hotting up nicely. The oven was getting nice and hot
and that was right throughout the country. The year before I arrived we'd had the Tet Offensive. They were now rebuilding up because after the Tet Offensive, though we had the Paris [Peace] Accord and all the rest of it. And the bombing was on and the bombing was off and the bombing was on and the bombing was off. And when it went off it would allow him to build up and send more troops down south, do all the things,
saying, "Thank you very much, you've given us more time." And by the time I went there in '69, everything was percolating along very, very nicely in the kettle. So to move into the operational concept that I went into, I was assigned to Special Forces. When I left Canungra I
knew where I was being assigned to. I was going to Special Forces. I was assigned to Special Forces. But I didn't know that I'd be going to Mobile Strike Force unit until I got assigned to that unit by the commander of AATTV [Australian Army Training Team Vietnam – the Team] when I hit Vietnam.
We moved the next morning straight over to, we flew then to the Special Forces camp at… Anyhow we ended up on Van Trai Island where we were to do a 10 day orientation course with
the Americans, calling in American aircraft, artillery, use of their helicopters, use of their specialised equipment that we were going to use in operations and mobile strike force. I was only there for two days and then we got a call that two of us had to go direct up to Pleiku so we picked up all our chattel
and away we went. We flew up to Pleiku and I landed there just in the afternoon and was assigned as the commander 212 Company and that I'd be going on operations the next morning. I thought, "Well that's a good feed in, nice and slow, nice." you know, "Good way to get it." And I had to then go down and get my orders for the
operation the next morning and I went into the S4 shop. The Yanks drew my maps and the rest of my gear and everything else like that so that I'd be operational, learnt where my operational area was and when I started to ask questions about the tactical support and where it was and who it was and all these things, "Wait a minute,
this is a bit strange." you know. And they said, "Well look, you get on the ground and you'll be right." you know. I thought, "Yeah, you tell me why, what's happening first?" And this was a shortfall that occurred right throughout my force, by the Americans. The Americans were get up and go, gung-ho, and when you get out there, "Let it all happen." you know, "We'll…" And I said, "No, no, no, no. I'm getting some orders before I go."
So anyhow, I got what I could. And I hadn't seen any of my soldiers at this stage so I went over and XO [Executive Officer], who was another warrant officer, Warrant Officer Kev Latham, was fitting up the company ready for the operation the next morning, issuing ammunition, weapons, making sure they had all their gear and etcetera, etcetera. But no orders.
So I now had to bring my orders establishment together and I had… At that stage, I had an American medic who remained with me all the time. Top sergeant, Jerry Delrow. And then I had a staff sergeant medic, medic and the staff sergeant, heavy weapons
man. And he was supposed to look after all the heavy weapons around the place. And then I had a communications man. So that was four and myself. Then they dropped out the heavy weapons man and doubled up the communications man with the heavy weapons. So I said, "We can live with that. I can look after the weaponry." you know. "I'm pretty customised at that." And so
I held my orders group, still not bringing in the Montagnards or the Montagnard platoon commanders or anybody, any of their group at all, because they still had to go out and live with the people and go out to their own homes that night. They used to go home, come in on operations, fly out and, you know, so you didn't want too much information
about where you were going and what you were doing floating around until you got on the ground. And I made it a habit after that really of getting the platoon commanders on the radio with the headgear on and the mikes while we were flying in on the helicopters, and I'd brief them as to what was to take place on the ground when we got on the ground, so that they knew what to do, right. Once we got on the ground then I could,
and we were secure, I could pull them in and have an O [orders] group and tell them about the operation, bring them all into the picture so. I went down. I had a look at the soldiers and I thought, "My God, this is what a Montagnard looks like. This is pretty good." Spoke to Kev. Kev seemed to be pretty switched on. He was an ex SAS [Special Air Services] sergeant and was promoted to warrant officer so he appeared to be of pretty good value.
Spoke to the medic, Jerry Delrow. He was, Jerry was a 21-year-old, a volunteer, pretty highly trained in his medical field, had very little knowledge of infantry tactics or anything like that. They specialise and that was his MOs [modus operandi] and that was where he was so yeah, and Jack Clements who was a radio man, knew his business.
Having carried out that part of the training, our next operation was straight up into the Bet Het area. Ben Het area at this stage was just starting to get a bit dicey. It was good Indian [enemy] country. But he hadn't really come across the fence from Laos and Cambodia at that stage and this is in the Thai border area. We went down and we were patrolling along
and through OAR [?] and two brothers who were forward scouting. One went around one side of a bamboo into a little stream and his brother went around the other side and bup, bup, bup, bup, bup so, and he killed his brother. So we had to get that, pull that operation up that afternoon and call LZ and get rid of the body and everything that afternoon. But
I feel that that fire let the NVA know that we were in the area cause the following day, just after dusk, we run into a whole heap of problems. We had probably about a squad and a half
of NVA fired on us from a ridge line. Fortunately we were on one ridge line and we were on the other. I thought that was pretty stupid of them because there was ground in between, a re-entrant in between, and I thought, "Well." you know, and they were on lower ground to us anyhow. I thought, "That's pretty stupid." So we engaged them and then they broke the engagement and I was about to move again and I
thought, "Woo, woo, woo, woo, woo. Why did those clowns do that?" So I thought, "Well, I'm just going to… I'll bring some artillery fire onto that main feature in front of me." cause that's what they were doing in actual fact. Their main people were up on the ridge line and these people were trying to hold us up so that they could do their thing. So I brought some artillery in on that and we went up and they'd gone off the ridge line and everything. But
they'd left some evidence that they'd been there and they starting now to consolidate around that area. We left there the next morning. That night I didn't stay right on the position. I went into a re-entrant off the position knowing that he would probably mortar the position that night thinking we were on it, and he did. But we weren't on it anyhow. So I was starting to switch on to Vietnam a little bit
now. And I'd left the ground of tactical importance to get secure ground away from somewhere where I knew that he was going to clobber, and he did. And this had all come into our briefing and everything and training for Vietnam, the way the enemy operate, right, so you learn your lessons and you say, "Well, I'd better be a bit careful here."
So and the next morning we were heading in a northerly direction. We had to check out an old French fort area. To do that we had to cross a bit of a stream and a large, pretty large open plain area that used to be a couple of paddy fields. As we were starting to get down onto that and off the ridge line I picked up some
corduroy across a swampy area. And corduroy is, you know, logs cut down and laid down and everything. And we followed that and I thought, "Gee." And I run into what I know was tank positions that had been dug into the side of hill and there was ammunition there, tank ammunition and everything like that. I'd bumped into that probably about middle of the day, just prior to
lunch I suppose, no lunch for us anyhow, but round about midday. So I reported it, got the sig [signaller] and we put a coded message through and I requested an air strike onto the whole thing. So I pulled back onto the ridge line and as I was pulling back onto the ridge line we bumped into a
group of about four or five and I had one bloke wounded. And then we got the message that they were going to put in a B52 bomb raid on that particular area and for us to clear below the blue line, south of the blue line and I had to get down there before dark, you know, and that's 1500, you know, a click [kilometre] and half away, so we bowled down there.
It wasn't a very good tactical move. But we got down there and carrying our wounded and I couldn't get down, right down below the blue line. But I got a pretty fair way down and the birds come over about two in the morning. And I made sure that they stayed to the November, the north of their first bomb line cause they'd come in on a bomb run and then they'd turn and sometimes you turn south and lay that way. But I wanted them to go north but
they come south. We were in a bad, real bad situation. As it was, the trees were all shaking and everything. So the next morning I was told to secure ground and I was airlifted out, so that was the end of that operation. I then went back to Pleiku and Ray
Simpson's mob went up and did the BDA [Bomb Damage Assessment] and that's where Simmo got his VC [Victoria Cross] doing my bomb assessment damage. He always used to say, "Do your own damn BDA Payney." right. Then I went down to, I flew south down to the [UNCLEAR] area, down to Bu Ji Map [?], pulled in on a Special Forces camp. And I was to operate to the west
of the special forces camp. And I went up and spoke to the commander of Special Forces camp and he said, you know, American, "God damn, you blokes react pretty quick, don't you?" And I said, "No." said, "Ah what…" Cause I hadn't had any of this as part of my orders. He just said, "We just had a heavy contact out there day before and the lurps [long range reconnaissance patrols] had found something out there." and I said, "Well that's nice information for me to know." right.
And of course the area that I was going into, I was out of gun range and I was out of mortar range. It was pretty close over onto the fence, over onto the Cambodian border. So I thought, "Well this is not going to be too jolly." right. So we packed up all our goods and chattels and away we flew out the next morning, and I flew into this area and I call it the duck pond. It was
a junction of two river streams and two re-entrants, two spur lines coming down and forming a nice big duck pond and I never picked that as my landing zone. Somebody else had done the AR [Aerial Reconnaissance] and said, "That's a good one. It looks nice and level and everything." And there was big punji [bamboo] sticks sticking up in it and everything, real great. And as we started to go down on the ground and we went in by Chinooks on this occasion and as soon as we cleared the tree line and started to feather the
birds for a landing, he opened up on us from the ridge lines all around us and the jungle off on one side. So back into the frays we were. And we contained them there and we got the rest of the company in that afternoon and we'd secured things with the support of gun ships and tactical area on the ridge line and the gun ships
coming in and hosing down the jungle over on the right flank of us. And I'd asked for guns, artillery support and I couldn't get any artillery support so I asked for tac [tactical] air support to pound up the ridge line just on daylight. And I'd briefed Kev to take his platoon across a stream to a start point
just below the ridge line when the gun ships came in and the gun ships and the fast movers, attack air, bombed along the ridge line and put napalm down. And Kev followed it up and secured that ridge line for me and we moved the company up onto the high ground where it felt reasonably secure and we licked our wounds. And of course some of the wounded that we had the previous day, we got out that morning. Once we secured the ridge line
we got the wounded out and we got reinforcements in that weren't very happy. And so we consolidated on that ridge line throughout that day. And just before dark I moved again and I moved up the ridge line a bit further up towards the higher ground and went into a secure position by dark. From there, the next morning we moved up and I went up onto
the high ground itself, formed a base there, and waited until the other two companies that were coming in got their situation. So having left the high ground we them… I'd selected another piece of high ground to go down across another little river and then up onto the high ground before
dark the next day. The other two companies at this stage had come in and located themselves almost directly east and west of me and I was now to lead off and hopefully funnel, do an inverted funnel, and force the enemy back out towards them. Normally we'd travel with two companies up and one back and bring them into the funnel,
but this was the inverted hour of peace this one. So I started to move down and I got to the little river all right and everything seemed to be pretty quiet and we started to cross and things got a little bit touchy. The Montagnards were now really on their toes and waking
up very, very, very quickly. I no sooner got to the other side of the little river and bang, everything opened up and I went down, straight off. I got hit across the side of the face and went down and my radio operator, when I came to, the radio operator had me leaning up against a tree
and he was just saying, "I'm talking to the FAC [forward air control]." who was the spotter aircraft up above us, that FAC works out the fast movers, the tactical air. He puts down a rocket and marks targets for bombers and everything else like that. So when I came to, the
radio operator's saying, "We've got a bit of a problem going on down here." We had a little bit of a problem all right. There's bark flying everywhere and things weren't too pleasant. And I started to move forward to find out what was going on and I saw Latham pick up an M60 machine gun and charge forward and he engaged the enemy and he knocked out a few of the enemy. And everything went quiet and we reorganised and brought the other platoons across
and consolidated ourselves. And we then started to look after, we had one bloke that was wounded in the arm and not too badly, and mine was only a superficial thing anyhow. It just knocked me down. But one of the Montagnards had been shot through the knee and he was in a bad way, and so I had to secure a piece of ground there again and get rid of more, cut down more trees and blow down trees to get a helicopter in and to evacuate
the wounded. I also asked at this time for a re-supply of ammunition and other stores, medical stores that we needed to replenish what we'd already been using. And Teket, my interpreter cum the company commander, he called himself a company commander anyhow,
the Montagnard equivalent, he used to get along all right. He said, "Beaucoup Payne, beaucoup, beaucoup." Beaucoup means plenty, right. He wanted plenty of ammunition and I said, "Okay." So I asked for a double first line ammunition re-sup [re-supply], right. And it came back, you know, querying my request, right, because that's a lot of ammunition. But we damn well did too.
So we got the ammunition and I said to… We cleared that position just after midday, about one o'clock and I said to Kev, "Go up this ridge line onto that bloody feature and I want to be up there before dark." So Kev led off with his platoon and away he went and we formed up and away we went. We got up onto the feature all right and went onto the ground and normal
tactics. Once you're on the ground you send out clearing patrols around your position to make sure that there's nobody going to bother you. One of the clearing patrols went out in a westerly direction and he run into fire straight away. We stayed there for the next two days. We had four heavy attacks against our position. We nearly run out of ammunition. I
had wounded laying around me in the shell scrapes, little scrapes in the ground, all over the place. I utilised the Spooky that night. That's an aircraft comes over with Gatling guns on the side. And he was ripping into them all round the place and the NVA had a twelve point seven [gun] about half a k [kilometre] away and he made the mistake of shooting
at Spooky who just said, "This guy's got my calling card." and that's the end of him. So whilst we had been contained there, we were trying to bring in a relief company. First of all I couldn't get in Montez's company, 211. I couldn't get that in from the western side because that was the side that
everything seemed to be hitting from. So Tolly came in from the east and I told Tolly to pick up water. We were out of water and we'd been giving the wounded Albumin and everything. And they needed water and we were giving them our water and going without water ourselves. And because our adrenaline was up on a high and everything, we were dying of thirst. Believe it. It was bad news, in Vietnam, dying of thirst. So we were almost out of ammunition, we were out of water.
and we had the casualties and we weren't going anywhere. We couldn't go anywhere. What I was fearful of at this time, he always seemed to be attacking up the one ridge line, coming up the same way all the time. And I thought, "This dump's going to wake up shortly." because I was bringing all my claymore defences and everything out of here and I was putting them down there. And I'm saying, "One of these times I'm going to shift it out of there and he's going to hit me from there." you see. So I was in a very,
very unhealthy position here of whether, "Will I take it from there? Do I think he'll come up there? No I don't think he's gone up there." So I took it from there and then by the time I'd taken up there, he'd come up there and then I had to take it from here and I thought, "The dump's going to come up here somewhere." But at that stage we were starting to run that low on ammunition, we were really low on ammunition,
so low that we were putting C4 [explosive] into the tail fins of his B40 rockets and just throwing them out with charger on them and use them as bang. And there was a bit of steel going around, but improvised claymores I suppose. Tolly came into us, spook, cause his people were spooky. I didn't want to be shot up by his lot,
you know, and I didn't want to shoot up his lot. So I went out a little bit to them and spoke to him on the radio and I said, "Okay I can hear you, I can hear you, come forward." So he came forward in front of his forward scouts and we met up and, "Okay let's go in." And I said, "Don't worry about a company position. I've got plenty of spare holes. All you did is fill them in and distribute your ammunition." So he did that just before dark
and he'd have only been there 10 minutes and the angry man hit again. And he was starting to take casualties then so we divvied [divided] up the ammunition and we secured ourselves in, before dark. My people had their first meal in three days. I still hadn't eaten
and I was buggered and I wasn't, my head was aching from being hit the previous couple of days. I wasn't feeling too brilliant and I was damn tired. So the next morning I said, "Well okay, look, we can't stay here on this position. We can't bloody well, you've got to clear the position, Tolly. You've got to get down that bloody ridge line and clear it." So
I said, "Look, I'll bring in some bloody choppers and we'll belt up the ridge line for you and support you down there, and you take your company and move right down that hill and clear the bloody ridge line." So he went over and he spoke to his Montagnards and they told him they weren't going. And I said, "Well there's no option Tolly, they've got to go." I said, "Who's commanding that company, you or the Montagnards?" So
he said, "Well look." he said, "I think they'll go if we recon [reconnoitre] by fire." That means as soon as they get up and start walking, they're shooting. They shoot their way down the ridge line. And I said, "Well we're not going to get any ammunition until such time as you clear that ridge line. I can't, I'm not bringing in any birds." right. And anyhow one came in and dropped some ammunition, but he got blown out of the sky for his stupidity because I told him not to come in but.
And the American Special Forces sergeant major, he's an E9, he got shot in the aircraft and was hanging out on the safety strap out of the aircraft. But it didn't matter. The aircraft went down anyhow. But they came in with the gunships when they were beating up the ridge line. They came in with the gunships, followed them in and were just tossing ammunition out to give us ammunition.
I think if they'd have waited a little bit until Tolly cleared that area, waited half an hour, that aircraft wouldn't have been shot down or anything. But that was their choice and I told them not to do it anyhow. But, so once we'd cleared the ridge line, we found down the bottom a whole NVA training area, makeshift blackboards, his operations room. He had running
water down through bamboo piping. He had all sorts of things and we got his… He had a little pig farm down there. He hadn't let the pigs go so we had some pork, too, which was very beneficial to the exercise. And we got a lot of his operational orders, and flew that and a lot of ammunition and rice out of that area by the afternoon of the
27th. This is all the 24th, 25th, 26th. 27th we flew out all the rubbish out of there and then we started to move and clear into an area. And we found mass graves of those that had been killed in the firefight. We can't, we married up then with Montez's
company so we had the whole three companies together for the first time in the whole lot of our operational experience. Our AO now had broken down from 10 square kilometres to one square kilometre so we had to find out what was in that area and didn't take too long at all. Every time we moved we were fired on so, and we knew that we were in his divisional headquarters area. We got
orders to move out of that area so we found a lalang [grass area] on a map and we moved over into that the following day. And the birds [helicopters] were there and they came in and picked us up and flew us out. And almost simultaneously, bomb raids went in all round that position anyhow, so it gave him a good touch up. On arrival back at Pleiku I'd lost 10 killed,
31 wounded. I now had a problem. I had no trained soldiers and I was only back for two days and now we're coming into the first of that awful month. So I said to the commander, "Well." you know, "I'm going to have to have soldiers." So I saw the Reinforcement
Company Commander, Jock Stewart, an Australian. I said, "Jock, I need soldiers." So I ended up with I think about 34 of them and they'd only been in for two weeks. He picked the best. I had two days to run them up and that was now the 29th, 30th, the 1st and the 2nd of the following month.
So we did some very hurried training and then I moved, I got orders to move to the Ben Het area again and we moved this time by vehicle to Dac To. I pulled up and I parked outside of Dac To for two days because they were waiting to find out what was going on because Ben Het Special Forces camp was under siege at this stage.
And my orders were that… Well we knew where the NVA 24th Regiment was. We knew where the 27th Regiment was, right. But they also knew that 66th NVA Regiment was in the area somewhere, probably trying to break through and cut out the main axis highway road and everything from Dac To
to Ben Het to isolate Ben Het special forces camp and then ultimately isolate Kon Tum city itself. So whilst they were all gearing up and finding out what was going on, had two days racing around a little paddock there trying to train these fellows. And I married them up with one of my older soldiers so that I had a young bloke and an old bloke married through the system,
and a father and son system in the section so that we could do some sort of, have some sort of experience between them, and the young blokes wouldn't panic too much. On the, about the 9th I received orders to move to Dac To 1. Again we went up to, it was about 20 kilometres. We went up by vehicle.
We were in that area again for about two days and my orders then were to move to Ben Het Special Forces camp. And I was to move by road and I wasn't very happy about that and I told them I wasn't happy. It's only about 25 ks. I said, "I'd sooner walk." because I wasn't going to go in there with vehicles and have a whole convoy shot up and everything. I'd
sooner walk. I'd started to walk and I was walking parallel with the road, not on the road. I was away from the road and I was the other side of the creek, road following the creek, and then I received orders that they'd found some helicopters to fly me into Ben Het, so they flew us into Ben Het. The other two companies came in. We were there overnight and then I received orders the next day to fly out to a feature
to the south west of Ben Het, towards the Cambodian Laos border. We got on the choppers and we flew out to the little hill and I got onto the little hill and the other two companies secured that ground cause it overlooked the basin area. And the other two companies that were walking out. I left early and they started walking, so they were secure on the ground and
could cover their movements on the ground. We then received fire from an old fire base, Fire Base 29 which overlooked Ben Het Special Forces camp across the road. And it was about three ks away and they were receiving, Ben Het was receiving incoming artillery fire from across the border and they thought that they had, the enemy had an OP [Observation Post] on the old Fire Base 29 and we were ordered to go up and take it out.
We started to go up and they brought in artillery and mortars and I got a check fire on that because they were throwing it all over the hill. We went up onto the hill, secured the hill. There was nobody there. They'd obviously gone out. And then the artillery from Ben Het started to exchange fire with this gun that was over in, firing from across the border and we thought
that they were firing at Ben Het. They were firing at us. But they'd synchronised the fire between the sound barrier being broken by the gunner's shell here and this one coming in here. So we give these check fire and these kept firing and then we knew, "Hey, this is from over there." We located his position. It took a while to locate it because he was pulling the gun back into a tunnel and everything and it didn't take, it took about
four days after the operation had gone. We were well into the operation by then so we moved then down to the south, back into pretty well the area where I was initially, down along that river area and heading further south and then west towards the border and prop
there. And was there on the afternoon and I then received orders that I was to fly down to the 5th Battalion, who had been engaged by the enemy, and reinforce their position the next morning. The other two companies were to follow me in. Went in the morning and we landed on the LZ, which was some B52 bomb craters
in an area where the bamboo had been blown down and everything. And we landed into there and moved up and secured the ground with the 5th Battalion and we never came under fire that afternoon. The other two companies came in the next, that night. We weren't here that night. They came in the next morning. We secured the whole lot with the people that we had on the ground. We were then ordered
from Ben Het to clear the ridge line to our south west. We were on one feature and the ridge line went down. There was another feature over there so Montez was tasked, he was the last company in and he hadn't had a firefight down at Bu Ji Map, even though we got tangled in that, Tolly and I did. But he never.
And he still had his full complement of his old soldiers and everything so they hadn't been bloodied and they… Well they'd been bloodied but they hadn't suffered any casualties, so he still had a good force with him. So he was ordered to move down and clear the ridge line. His rear people hadn't even left our forward element when they run into a whole heap of Chi-Com mines and a couple of machine guns and everything like that
so they pulled back. The next day Tolly was tasked to go down because Tolly hadn't hurt as much as I'd hurt. I'd really copped a hammering down south so, and I'd been getting these firefights all the way through. Anyhow, so Tolly was tasked to go down and it was about this time I was saying, "Well listen mate, we shouldn't be doing this. We
should be pounding that ridge line before we go anywhere." right. Anyhow Tolly started to go down and same thing happened to him. He got about 30 metres plus of where Montez got and he run into it, so back he came and then they said, "Okay well you're going down." I said, "Yeah, righto. But we're going down. We're all going, that's what we're going to do, that's what we're doing and I'll go down with the forward company, Motty on the right and Tolly bringing up the rear. And the people
of the 5th Battalion remain in this position as a secure base. I want artillery. I want tac air. I want this and that and this and that." And they said, "Oh gees." Anyhow we shackled all that up. But then in the ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam] regiment that came in to take over the firefight from us… Try and understand now, at this stage the Mobile Strike Force was not designed to
fight major battles. We were a reconnaissance outfit who could sneaky-ramp, push around the jungle, get information. We'd get into a firefight, their heavy American unit, infantry units, used to come in and take over the firefight from us and we'd pull out because we weren't designed to fight heavy battles. Vietnamisation
had now started, therefore the heavy American unist had gone off the highlands and had now been taken over by a Republic of South Vietnam infantry division. They came in and they landed in a clear area about eight ks north of where we were. They took all the assets, all the guns and everything and ringed their position with fire and everything and left us
pretty naked as far as artillery support and helicopter gunship support and everything like that. We invited them down to the firefight. They were supposed to come down. They would not come down to the party. When we wanted, when I wanted artillery fire and tac air to clear the ridge line and I would go down behind the ridge line, behind the artillery and gun ship fire, I never got any until about
two o'clock in the afternoon. I was supposed to kick off at about 10. I think I'd arranged H hour [hour of the launch] for about 10 o'clock. I had to rearrange an H hour for about 1400 and it was getting late in the afternoon and I like to be on a position and well settled before dark so that I can move off just on dark so he doesn't know where I am. Plus I knew I had to possibly fight my way onto the position anyhow. So we
got some artillery and that was offset his beaten zone. His shell, some of it, was flying over the ridge line instead of the guns that I wanted laying a pattern along the ridge line, these guns were firing. Their angle of fire was skipping over the ridge line and all sorts of things. The gunships came in and they belted up. But I had no fast movers. So we kicked off and away we went.
I had my company, left forward company. Monty was right forward. Tolly was bringing up the rear picking up weapons and everything from the day before and putting bodies in body bags and all the rest of it, and acting as a rear support, ready support element, to reinforce us if we got into trouble. We went down the ridge line,
over the saddle and got up onto the main little feature. Just as we got onto the feature, there was a little knob on the end of it and we started to spread out and consolidate and he opened up with three machine guns straight in front of us. Simultaneously, he started to mortar both our positions, mortar and rocket both our positions from the right and left flank. He then sent, what it was an estimated company, around into the low ground
between Tolly and us and isolated Tolly's company from us. Tolly could shoot downhill at him. We couldn't shoot across it because Tolly would have copped our over fire, so he was in pretty safe position as far as we were concerned. He was in dead ground to us. But not dead ground to Tolly.
Montez was hit bad, real bad and we were starting to lose people and he simultaneously attacked us from the front and two flanks at the same time. The Montagnards started to fall back after Montez was hit. I managed to stop them and keep them on line. My own people stayed on line all right,
though they were getting panicky and they were shooting a lot of ammunition and they were taking a pretty fair toll of the enemy at this stage. Tolly's group had now moved back away from the firefight to form a firm base for us to break out and try and get back to him so that we'd have an intermediate point to get back to the strong point which is
held by the remnants of the 5th Battalion.
As I said, the enemy had now started to assault us from the T flags and the front simultaneously with, supported by heavy rocket and mortar fire and the three machine guns that were still in action in front of us, and they were hosing down the ridge line something chronic. The
position became untenable and I knew that it was useless us trying to stay there and I also knew at this stage that he'd set up an annihilation ambush. He wanted us on that piece of ground. He wanted to kill us on that piece of ground and if we stayed there and without any support, that's what was going to happen.
So it was decided that the withdrawal take place. Montez's company started to break in some disorder. Again I managed to stop them for a bit and then I turned my attention back to my own people and we started to do a tactical withdrawal of some sort of a semblance, bringing out as many
of the casualties as we could at that time. We managed to break out on the left rear of the position and the morts [mortars] that were, would have been to the south east of the feature. The soldiers went down there and I stopped a group of my own people and we held the ground until they got off the position and then we got off the position ourselves.
It is now about just on dark, move back. We formed a securer position on an intermediate ridge line and got our wounded up onto there and with the medics and everybody looking after the wounded. At this time I decided that somebody had to go and try and get some more of the wounded
and everything off the position. It was no good me taking Montagnard because A) they were panicky anyhow. B) I couldn't talk to them. I couldn't communicate to them. And the medics, most of the other people had been wounded anyhow, around us. The only people who hadn't been wounded was Latham and Delrow. The
communications man from Montez's company was killed on the position. His medic came off the position. But he was severely wounded and he wasn't going anywhere. He'd lost half his buttock and had been wounded in the thigh as well so he wasn't going anywhere, and Montez had been severely
wounded. He'd been hit in the face and all his jaw was blown away and so he was mortally wounded. So I said to a Lieutenant James, who was supposed to be the battalion commander – he wasn't enough for it anyhow – that I wanted my radio because without radio communications we were completely
and utterly out on our own, we were lost. My other radio had had its antenna blown off it and it was on the position. But I had no radio myself so I wanted my radio man that I knew was just down the hill. I was going to go and get him and I wanted to go out and get some more of the wounded. So I went down and I got my radio man. I pulled him back up onto the position and stuck him up near Jerry Delrow
and told Jerry to look after Montez and stay secure on the ground there. I then moved out and I'd only gone about 50 metres and I found the first group and I brought them back. And by now it was really starting to get dark down in the closed in area down the bottom and there was a lot of smoke and flickering fire from the firefight and the explosions and everything
that had taken place and it covered my movement pretty well. So I then moved about I suppose another 200 metres, 150, 200 metres, found another group, and then I found one more just forward of that and brought them back to a midway point and went, started to go back up again when I drew fire from a couple of the enemy. They missed and
I fired and didn't… So I thought, "Things are starting to get a bit dangerous now." cause the enemy knew that there was somebody on the position and coming back onto the position and he was starting to get himself organised. So I thought, "Well it's not the done thing to stay here any longer,
best I get these other people back." right. So I came off the position, picked up the people that I'd left half way, brought them back, right back on the old position, to find them all gone. Through the scrub and everything I saw phosphorus trail on the ground where they'd moved through, and I followed that and ultimately
found the two medics, Montez, I think it was about four or five Montagnard, Oriama, who was Montez's medic, and plus the people that I had myself. Some of them had been wounded as well. So we then moved and I
moved down off the ridge line. I started to go up the ridge line for a while because I thought Tolly might leave a secure people and people secure up there on the ridge line. And then I heard firing start up on the ridge line. It was an AK47 and I knew that the enemy then had moved up along that ridge line, were probably moving up to engage anybody that was on the ridge line. So I went back on the re-entrant again and
contoured around the whole thing and a Spooky came on station and I couldn't work him out because there was people all over the place. But I spoke to him on the radio and he kept buzzing around my position. He feathered his fans, making a lot of noise, which allowed me to go through because Charles now was firing indiscriminately down, trying to draw fire from anybody that was around the place.
I suppose we'd gone about two or three hundred metres, about three hundred metres, bad night, and then Jerry said that unless we get Monty out, he wasn't going to make it. So we'd been crawling with him. He was a big man and we were crawling with him on our back and trying to get him out, make him as comfortable as possible.
Jerry had give him morphine so I propped and I radioed through Spooky back to Ben Het, back to Dac To 2 rather, to Special Forces, and they were going to send out a Charlie Charlie bird. That's a command and control helicopter, with Major Jagles, who was the commander of Mobile Strike Force. He was going to bring it out with
a Maguiry, something you drop through and it's a clip up thing and hoist people out of the jungle. He was inbound when Jerry said that Monty had passed away, yeah, so I cancelled the bird. We wrapped Monty and
put him in alongside of a log to keep him. So we knew pretty well where we were and then we took off. And we again went up onto a high ground and we'd gone almost in a half circle at this stage, and I was talking to Tolly through Spooky, and Tolly started to fire mortars, his mortar, so that I could get a direction where to go in.
I got on top of a ridge line and I could see Tolly firing and I told him to stop and I took a bearing to it and a compass. And so we went in and we got in onto the main position where the 5th Battalion was, about two o'clock in the morning. We secured the ground. We put our people around and we treated the wounded as much as we could that night. And the next morning
we got helicopters in and everything and we got rid of our wounded and everything, and I went out myself because I'd been hit twice anyhow. I got hit earlier in the night and later again by rocket fire. Anyhow and I went back to Dac To 1, the aid post, and then…