He lay on the ground covered in blood
Clothing tattered and smeared with blood
The look on his face as he tried to explain
The feeling of shock, agony and pain.
The choppers been called, it won’t be long.
He’s lost some blood but his pulse is strong
He’s been patched up and given a smoke
The rest of the guys sure feel for this bloke.
They know he’ll soon be flown to Vung Tau
Here’s the chopper, you can hear it now.
The sig yells “throw a smoke grenade”
The chopper hovers in the jungle glade.
They watch as he’s hauled aboard by winch
This dustoff has been a cinch.
For the rest of the men there’s a long walk ahead
They’ll be home soon but its now they dread.
evacuation [MEDEVAC or CASEVAC]
of wounded was often carried out by helicopter. These were
called “Dustoff” operations. The soldiers were involved
preparing a chopper pad so the helicopter could land or cutting
a small clearing so a helicopter could lower a jungle penetrator
to winch out the wounded troops.
its name from the radio call sign given to the first
helicopter evacuation unit in Viet Nam, the 57th Medical
Detachment which arrived in 1962. Helicopter pickups in
the field often blew dust, dirt, blankets, and shelter halves
all over the men on the ground. In Saigon the Navy Support
Activity which controlled all call words used in call signs in
SVN allowed the 57th to adopt the call sign "DUSTOFF". All
evacuation helicopters assumed the call sign "DUSTOFF" followed
by a numerical designation (the exception being the air
ambulances of 1st Cavalry Division which used the call sign 'MEDEVAC'),
and no one ever attempted to change this during the remainder of
the conflict. By adopting "DUSTOFF" in the early stages of the
Viet Nam war, the legend was born]
I lit a smoke and settled back
And thought of that wire across the track
Of the mighty bang like a thunder clap
That marks a Viet Cong booby trap
Such a small device so simply made
Just a piece of string and a hand grenade.
A careless foot or an unwatched arc
And the Viet Cong had made their mark
Of the poor lead scout without his feet
And the cover scout just a lump of meat.
The whine of the mortar as its zeroed in
The first of a holocaust that’s about to begin
Of the voice of the sig on the company net
Above the rain of the Vietnamese wet
As he told the Sunray what went wrong
Of the cunning trap of the Viet Cong.
The moan from the scout as he lies in pain
Soaking wet from the pouring rain
The dustoff chopper as it came and went
And the signals answered and sent.
The thoughts of the scouts suffering mates
As they contemplate their own life fates
By morning it will be a nightmare dream
And who knows what the next bang will mean
Its said war’s hell but combat’s worse
At least it' something at which to curse.
and mines were a fairly common defensive
and ambush weapon used by both sides. They are a particularly
frightening weapon, no warning - just an explosion and shrapnel
tearing and maiming.
John Gurnick to a booby trap]
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Out on op’s
for up to six weeks’
Climbing the hills and crossing the creeks
For so many
metres on such and such bearing
The dry and the wet sure made it wearing
Stopping for smokes and to harbour at night,
Restlessly sleeping and awaiting the light.
Cursing the leeches and slapping the mossies
Waiting for MAINTDEM's flown in by Aussies.
Reading our mail with our milk and a bun.
Two hours sentry in a pit in the sun.
O groups at night and news for the boys
Well founded warnings about too much noise.
The telling of stories or reading a book
Brewing and finding good things to cook.
The writing of letters or composing of poems
Dreaming of people and our faraway homes.
That’s what happened when we went on an op
That’s what happened when we were up top.
Vietnam were usually of three to six week duration and were conducted in all weathers and all
terrain. Hot and dry November to May and hot and wet May to November]
WHISKY COMPANY'S 1,
2 and 3
From the May Taos to the Long Green
From the Song Rai to Long Son
That’s where Whisky Company’s been
That’s where Whisky’s men have gone
From Bin Ba and De Courtenay too
From the Wolvies to the beach
That’s where troops of Whisky flew
That’s how long was Whisky’s reach
From the Horseshoe to Le Loi
From the Toc Tiens up to Jill
That’s where Whisky did deploy
That’s where Whisky did its fill.
But now all that has ended
And the op’s are all no more.
We leave the places we defended
And return to Singapore.
[The poem is for the three Whisky companies that
served in Vietnam and describes the wide reach of their operations [ops]. The place names are either physical features or
fire support bases]
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As we lay there together men smitten with fear
For the lives of our comrades we know are so near
Now crouching behind the little thin trees
Fear in our stomachs and prayers from our knees
Men tensed for action on the tips of their toes
Awaiting the bullets from the guns of our foes
But our mines they say are the first to be fired
The first foe is killed and the rest have retired.
We engage them with small arms and started the sweep
Chasing them further where the jungle is deep
The action is over and it seems pretty short
But tell that to the men who have just fought.
They’ll say it was endless and likened to hell
But whatever they say it all ended well.
made up a great deal of our operations. The ambush position could be in place for up to a week. Once the ambush was activated,
the dead dragged away and a sweep across the area done the ambush would be reset and the waiting would continue]
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Guns are firing an H&I
Just heard tanks go rumbling by
Saw the choppers on the pad
Fighters going past like mad
Spotter planes that fly so low
But man those planes can really go
Trucks and jeeps go sailing past
Dust is bad they’re going fast
But the infantry can only walk
Have to whisper if they want to talk
Loaded down with great big packs
Stronger legs and stronger backs
But from Cape St. Jacques to Long Dien
All machines support these men
Bringing food and water too
Dropping down from out of the blue
Or pushing through the bush and scrub
Bringing in the water and grub
Guns that fire a lot at night
And land their shells exactly right
But machines are only an extra aid
To help the inf. to make the grade.
was gear for every occasion in Vietnam, all there to help the infantry take and hold ground and deny the Viet Cong access to
likely targets. The poem was published in a newspaper at some point - Ginge Philip had a copy]
BALLAD OF WHISKY 3
(To the tune of “The Green Berets”)
Put two full cans in a Kiwi’s hand
Let them see they’re a Yankee brand
Get him drunk and let him sing
And soon this bar will really swing
SAS have come to have a beer
161 and Victor have come to add their noise
Cos they’re all New Zealand boys
Put high boots on a Kiwis
Make him one of the world’s elite
Give him bush and month long ops
And soon its clear a Kiwis tops
Major T has just come out
There’s a yell of make him shout
The OC stands and tries to say
You all go home in a week today
That is what we want to hear
The rest is drowned in a mighty cheer
The pace resumed is much the same
But we have finished this deadly game
Back at home our kinfolk wait
They’re not sure of the pull out date
They’ll be glad we’re finished here
For they’ve been worried all this year
But SAS and Victor have to stay
And 161 to make Charley pay
We leave behind some real good mates
But they'll come home at later dates.
The Kiwi Sisters and Isabel
Deserve the praise that they are due
Thanks to them the boys get well
A stay in bed is a damn good spell
They’ve done the job and there’s no fuss
You’ll never hear those nurse cuss
So thank you girls for a job well done
War is hell it ain’t no fun.
Civvies don’t know how we
Think this trip’s another perk
They’ve never seen Gooks face to face
They’ve never tried our jungle pace
They’ve never seen a mate bad hurt
With his blood in Viet Nam’s dirt
So don’t protest when we get back
The weight’s in our’s and not your pack.
[Singing Our Song, Drinking Their Beer -
The 'Ballad of Whisky 3' was something that came after hearing the
American Green Beret Song “The Ballad of the Green Beret” by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler US Special Forces]
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JUST A WAKEY
Patrolled the flat below the hill
The rain has stopped it sure is still
Bit of weight in this old pack
Cutting in the left strap’s slack.
Sign from the front says stop and sit
Last op’s dragging ain’t it.
A cup of coffee and a tin of meat
Me pack done up to make a seat
Rains a comin’ me tent is up
Found sand and stuff in me coffee cup
Sand and sugar sure don’t fit
Last op’s draggin’ ain’t it.
On happy pills since the other day
Makes ya crook some blokes say
Cup a coffee and I’ll take mine
Coffee’s hot pill went fine
Lost the smoke that I just lit
Last op’s draggin’ ain’t it
The whole day and nothin’ on
Last patrol has come and gone
Lay in bed and read a book
Lunch is past got nothin’ to cook
Wandered down to the sentry pit
Last op’s draggin’ ain’t it
Hours sentry, and a half to go
Time’s a passin’ pretty slow
This sentry should be my last
Sure ain’t goin’ very fast
A wet sand bag on which to sit
Last op’s draggin’ aint it.
Sit around till its time for tea
Tuna fish is tea for me
Cup a coffee and that’l be that
On Aussie rations you don’t get fat
Mossies are comin’ just been bit
Last op’s draggin’ ain’t it
Fly out day, and it ain’t too soon
Should take off just a fore noon
Got a bit on the pad to clear
Can’t help thinkin’ of ice cold beer
Choppers here got a place to sit
Last op’s dragged ain’t it.
[This is about our last operation, a patrol from FSPB Jill down to the
Firestone Trail between the Nui Dinh and Nui Thai Vai hills. During the last five days of this operation we took “Happy
Pills” designed to kill the malaria in our systems. The pills were Primaquine
and Chloroquine]. [The course was
actually 14 days long, Sunray still has the record sheet with each daily administration of the pills "signed off".]
CLEARING THE MESS
There was singing in the mess
and it was way past lights out
They were finishing off the cans from some forgotten shout
The guitar playing and the singing was in the drunken style
Lots of raucous drunken noise and then silence for a while
The clatter of the empty cans as they were slung into a drum
And then the tenth time of “Ten Guitars” with “Hoki Mai” to come
When the darkness was broken by a sudden beam of light
And a roar that gave the revellers the most horrific fright
It wasn’t a light from heaven, but it was the wrath of God
That stopped the drinking and silenced the mob of 20 odd
It was “Pinky”, the CSM, and his sleep time had been broken
And there’s nothing worse than a CSM who has been woken
“What do you think you’re doing, what’s all this awful noise
You’re not trained soldiers, you’re a mob of drunken boys.”
With a sweep of his arm, the cans were flung across the bar
There was utter silence, you could have heard a dropped guitar
And then in a voice that could be heard around the lines, he said.
“You’ve got four and a half seconds to clear the mess and get to bed.”
They slipped and tripped on cans that now littered the mess floor
There was panic when they were jammed getting through the door
And as they staggered out the CSM yelled out an awful warning
“You can expect to hear more from me on parade in the morning.”
And true to his word, the company heard on parade the next day
The bar would open for an hour a day and that’s how it would stay.
Till we went back on ops, two cans per man, perhaps, per night
The sleepless CSM had really barked and now we felt the bite
But it made us wonder as we went about our daily tasks
The inevitable puzzling questions that every soldier asks
Was it the late drinking, awful singing, the singers or the song
And how come the CSM is always right, and never ever wrong?
[The CSM once cleared the mess [army bar] when W3 were in Nui Dat between
operations. It was done because of the racket after lights out I suspect. With respect for our CSM I have used a bit of poetic
licence here. Though he did have a way of explaining time, you never had 5 or 10 seconds it was always a precise time like
four and a half seconds or 8 seconds, “ Now move...!"]
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THE SOLDIER DREAM
I dreamed the soldier dream
last night, it came to me so clear
I dreamed I saw my old platoon, they seemed to me so near
I dreamed I heard again the sounds, that only soldiers understand
And I dreamed I smelt the jungle smells of that far distant land
And in the dream I felt the heat, and the heavy monsoon rain
And I felt again the comfort of the ground, in the places I have lain
I dreamed I saw the blood red stain of the hard red laterite soil
I saw again the thick jungle slopes, through which we had to toil
And the dead and jumbled trees caused by Agent Orange sprays
Devastating to the jungle and the effects will last us all our days
I dreamed I heard the insects, mainly the mossies angry scream
And I saw my legs festooned with leeches, after crossing any stream
I dreamed I felt again the familiar feel, of rifle, web and pack
And I felt again my shoulders pain, and the weight upon my back
I dreamed of being out of water, and the terrible, burning thirst
I felt of all the deprivations, the lack of water is the worst
I dreamed of the itch of tinea that stretched from toes to waist
And I dreamed of taking Paludrine and its bitter awful taste
I heard again the rifle shots, and saw machine guns tracer lines
I heard again the crash of shells, and the blast of Claymore mines
I dreamed I smelt the cordite and the strong iron smell of blood
And I dreamed of finding bodies and the wounded in the mud
I dreamed of our wounded soldiers, dusted off to waiting aid
And I dreamed of other soldiers and the sacrifices they had made
I dreamed of empty hours, doing sentry in a gun pit in the sun
I dreamed of fear filled sentry night’s, in that pit behind the gun
I dreamed of all these things, and it was if it were but only yesterday
As I slept that restless sleep, that twists the sheets in which I lay
I awoke to find that the world was as I’d left it, when I went to bed
And the soldier dream was real for me to see, but now only in my head.
[Post VIET NAM:- I have never had any regrets about Viet Nam, and I have never been troubled as
some who have served there are but there is never a day goes by that I am not reminded of my time in Viet Nam in some way, a
name, a sound, a song or a day dream. I wrote this because I understand that it can be like this for some.
The poem was recited at the memorial church service which ended the 2005
reunion in Palmerston North]
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APPEARANCES AIN’T EVERYTHING
Jokers smell like a thousand years
Mud and sweat from feet to ears
Rotten cheesy smelly socks
Mossie bites like chicken pox
Smelly greens that stink of sweat
Maintdem ain’t been flown in yet
No new gear until next week
By cripes by then we’ll really reek
Rotten water makes you think
Oh, for ice cold beer to drink
Wouldn’t mind a nice big steak
Give these rations a blooming break
Hexie’s flaming awful fumes
Use PE that really zooms
Need to cut my blooming hair
But that is really neither here nor there.
Really ought to shave my face
Appearance is a damn disgrace.
New dry boots would go alright,
Think I’ll ask the Sarge tonight.
[We were a pretty smelly lot after a 4 week long operation. No wonder
the chopper crews used to hold their breaths when we clambered aboard on flyout day. And Staff Lichtwark and the LOB’s hated
to unpack the incoming dhobi bundles]
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10 LITTLE CHAU DUCS
10 little Chau Ducs hiding on a hill
the Kiwis Victor and got themselves a kill.
9 little Chau Ducs thinking up new schemes
Down came an H&I and gave one his beans.
8 little Chau Ducs looking round for grub
Along came an air strike and one got the rub.
7 little Chau Ducs going like all hell
An Aussie A company opened fire, only one fell
6 little Chau Ducs hid behind a tree
Down came a branch, there’s only 5 to see.
5 little Chau Ducs found a brand new track
One stood up to have a look and never heard the crack.
4 little Chau Ducs found a mortar blind
One tried to pick it up, now there’s 3 you’ll
3 little Chau Ducs running out
One tried to run away and ran himself to death.
2 little Chau Ducs feeling pretty glum
One got a note from home to go and see his mum.
1 little Chau Duc finding little joy
Took off for Baria deciding to Chu Hoi.
No little Chau Ducs to admire the
Wolvies Dinhs view.
No little Chau Ducs, what’s
Task Force 2RAR gonna do.
[The poem refers to a
local Viet Cong militia group who W3 occasionally ran into. They were used by the VC D440
and D445 Battalions and 33 NVA Regiment
as couriers and supply personnel. Poorly trained and equipped and expendable, saving combat troops for combat duties]
has a hand written copy of this poem in his AAB 64 Field Message and Note Book. W3 were up on the Nui Dinhs in June 1970 when
Peter showed him the poem. In his Note Book Sunray changed a few words to reflect the situation at that time - V and A
Companies had had successful contacts in what was to be the only 2 RAR operation in which all of the companies were deployed
at the same time. These changes are in red]
Leeches up and down my legs
Mossie bites as big as eggs
Red ants and termites in my hair
Such inconvenience just ain't fair
Scorpion in my pack just bit my hand
Now ain’t the pain just simply grand
Darned big snake just sidled past
Going slow but he moves fast
Hairy caterpillar just left his mark
It’s bad now but just wait for dark
Rolled my sleeve up, found a tick
Been there a while he’s fairly thick
Centipede’s just wandered up
Killed the sod with my coffee cup
It ain’t nice to see them on the ground
A hammock’s the best bed now I’ve found.
[There were all kinds of insect distractions. Just a few we
had to contend with. See here for some stories]
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The VC love us this I know
Coz their mine signs tell us so
Little ones that we step on
Blow us up and we are gone
There was a young fellow from Whisky
Thought that the war was too risky
He decided the vogue
Was a permanent pogue
He’ll retire as a baggy at sixty.
Have you ever stopped and wondered
As you lay upon your bed
And the guns and shells have thundered
Leaving tractless roads of dead
And wondered at a thing called war
Three letters meaning death
Of the sights you’ve never seen before
Or will while you hold breath
At the suffering and the sorrow
And the cripples of the fight
And the peace talks of tomorrow
And wondered is it right.
[Some bits and pieces that came from the ether. A 'pogue' was a
base only soldier]
AWAY IN THE
Away in the mangroves, no dry for a bed
The wet 1 platoon lay down its wet head
The rain is a hosing, the sentry awakes
And rouses his mate with two mighty shakes
The river is rising the sentries retreat
And trample the gun ‘neath their clumsy feet
The link is all rusty, the gun doesn’t work
While all around us huge mossies lurk
Now the mossie’s are biting, and no mossie juice
The skins of the sentries get beaucoup abuse
Old Snoop with his light looked down where they lay
Poor sods asleep in the mud and the clay
Now dawn is approaching, the tide’s going out
When the boss awakens and lets out a shout
“ STAND BLOODY TOO.”
[Written after water borne operations on the Rung Sat. We didn’t sink anything and
we didn’t sink (but others did..!)].
Have you ever stopped and wondered, when going out to shit,
What would happen if you’re out there and the Viet Cong should hit.
With the bullets flying round you and your pants around your knees,
Would you calmly finish business and crawl back through the trees.
Or would you constipate that instant and wet yourself instead
And wish it was a nightmare and you’d wake up safe in bed.
But maybe you’d crawl back, hugging close along the ground,
Hoping like hell that your bum won’t catch a round.
And once inside the harbour and safe behind your pack.
You smell that on the crawl you’ve bought your business back.
[Punji Porcelain - going for a crap was the most
hazardous thing one could do some times. Grab your rifle, brownie film (toilet paper) and entrenching tool, go out through the
machine gun pit. Say 20 metres, scratch out a hole, drop the trousers, face out, squat and commence. The mind boggles today]
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What a Mighty Navy are We
The Boys and
Bobby went to sea
In an ugly wee army green boat
They took some food and plenty of ammo
Wrapped up in an “O” Group note
Bobby looked out at the water around
And spoke to his small Navy
Ah! Two Platoon, platoon, my boys
What a mighty Navy are we!
What a mighty Navy are we!
The boys to the boss said “You’ve got it right”
“But we hope that you can swim!”
So! Let’s get going, too long we’ve been rowing
And let’s give the outboard a spin
They motored away, for nearly a day,
To the land where the mangroves grow;
But out in the creek, a wave that was freak
Scuttled their little boat low
Little boat low
Little boat low
Scuttled their little boat low
The Boys to the Boss said, “the boats a loss.”
There’s a need for a life boat drill
“Dear God are you bailing, we seem to be failing,
Bug out?" Said the Boss, "I’ve had my fill."
So they floated away, and were saved that day
By the Yanks that lived on the hill.
They dreamed of steak and slices of cake,
Which they’d eat with a ration pack spoon;
But covered in crud, on the edge of the mud,
They trudged back by the light of the moon,
They trudged back by the light of the moon.
Admiral Upton and his exploits
in the Rung Sat inspired this poem, with abject apologies to
Edward Lear for the poetic licence.
THE OLD LADY’S HANKY
Travelling south from Burnham in the army’s old RL’s
A symphony of flapping canvas and RL Bedford smells
Gear stacked down the middle, troopies down the sides
At 40 whining miles an hour, the coldest, roughest rides
When somewhere near Rakaia, or some other little town
Came an Austin 1800 with the passengers window down
An old lady waves a hanky as the car drives slowly past
The hanky flutters gently, from the first truck to the last
What the hell’s she mean, with a hanky fluttering in the air
What the hell’s she doing, can’t she see that we don’t care
There’s a lot of ribald comments on the lady’s mental state
Like, if she’s trying to pick me up, she’s 60 years too late.
But we couldn’t help but wonder as we whined along our way
What memories returned when she saw us on that day
What wartime memories stretching back those sixty years
Made her wave her hanky, her eyes sparkling with tears
She probably saw a lover, brother, cousin or a friend
Go away to fight in a war, that never seemed to end
Maybe she sees her sons, nephews, or her sons in law
Who did not come back home from the first or second war
She probably sees in us those men she knew so long ago
We are a painful memory, of soldiers that she used to know
Don’t mock these older people and their painful memories
Smile and wave, because it isn’t you, that that old lady sees
[Pre VIET NAM - I remember this occasion very well and PP Brown and I
talked about and came to this conclusion. It is nothing to do with Viet Nam, but it was in a way something on that
pathway we encountered.
NZ Army RL Bedford truck circa 1965 - 1980
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