and Locstats - Bruce Young
W3 was patrolling in the Nui Thi Vai mountains late in our tour. 2Pl were working slowly down a
ridge from the heights and intending to harbour on the flatland at the foot of the mountains. We knew 1Pl under Jim Cutler
was also in the area but to the south and I tracked the hourly locstats of his MFC Sgt Larry O'Brien to ensure we kept separation. Later that afternoon when both platoons had stopped for the night I
realised Larry's locstat put 1Pl on top of a ridge 500 metres behind us on the same route we had taken,
and since this was
significantly at odds with his earlier locstats I queried it. 1Pl maintained the locstat was correct
and that 2Pl was
wrong so I requested a 'mark mission' [one artillery round landing on a known map reference] so we could both check our
locations by compass resection. The resection established my location was accurate to within 100 metres but 1Pl
continued to claim theirs was as well. Both platoons settled down for the night in defensive harbour/ambushes.
The following morning 2Pl's lead section headed in single file south around
the base of the mountain. I was with platoon HQ and we had just started to follow when an urgent hand signal came from the
front indicating we were in close proximity to other friendly forces
and to take care not to fire on them. We had
found 1Pl's night harbour barely 100 metres away. So Larry was wrong
and I was delighted to tell him..! But what
stuck in my memory was that two forces of about 60 people had moved into defensive harbours from different directions about
100 metres apart and there was so little noise or disturbance that we had no knowledge of the others presence. Contrast
this professionalism with some US forces who cleared their perimeters by firing their weapons into the surrounding vegetation
and enjoyed music when they stood down.
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Barbed Wire and Bad Teeth
- Pacestick, Bwana, Pinky whatever
early July 1970 W Coy was deployed to the old American
LOI. After seven months in Vietnam, Coy HQ had become used
to hiding away in the bush, where someone scraping nosily with
their metal spoon in a mess tin, would get me as CSM scurrying
round the perimeter track to give an evil look at the noisy
culprit. Things had changed, now noise did not matter, we
even had a TV to relax with. FSPB LE LOI was far too big
for us, it appeared to have been built for at least four times
the number of men we had and therefore very difficult to defend
with our smaller numbers. So it was decided to cut the
base in half, using the defence stores from the abandoned half
to build the new side. It was a relatively new and
interesting experience for me, and I enjoyed putting into
practice some military techniques I had learnt over the years.
On a smaller scale it was something like living in our base in
Nui Dat but not so well organised, I remember thinking that
hygiene could be a problem and did not relish the thought that
half the Company could be put out of action by jelly belly
caused by dirty mess tins. After a yarn with Ted Gorman
our Sgt Cook we organised a half 44 gal drum filled with water,
placed a burner underneath, placed it beside the Mess queue and
hey presto, every soldier could sterilize his mess tins before
The bunkers had already been sited and partly built. I was
not impressed with the design, they did not appear to have the
equivalent of five feet of packed earth which would stop a
bullet and I would have preferred the height of two metres to
have been closer to one metre to present a smaller target.
But to get the troops required to get the job done would have
reduced the patrols outside the wire which was not on. The
new barbed wire fence across the middle of the old base had
still to be sited and this appealed to me as an interesting
task. I talked over my ideas with Sunray and he gave me
the OK to go ahead. Almost every Army course I had
attended from my early days as a LCpl, to the three years I had
completed at the School of Infantry just prior coming to W Coy,
had drummed into me the principles of siting and erecting barbed
wire defences. The erection was a breeze, just a drill
which we all had practiced. The siting principals were not
so easy, the tricky one was positioning the line of wire at just
the right angle so that when the enemy hit the fence, they would
be encouraged not to cut or blow a gap, but to turn and follow
the wire which appeared to be heading more into the position.
Of course unbeknown to them a MG would have been sited to fire
precisely down their approach route. During training I had
never seen a wire fence erected to obey this principle, the
emphasis had always been on teaching how to erect it.
Since my arrival in Vietnam I had been on many helicopter rides
and passed over many defended areas, but all barbed wire fences
seemed to ignore this principle, the fences appeared to be just
sited in a big ring around the bases. Well Sunray approved
the line I suggested and an energetic team of soldiers put the
new fence up in record time. I was not really disappointed
the enemy did not put my theory to the test.
After about a month, W Coy received orders to leave LE LOI and
we set about cleaning and returning our base stores to the
people who had lent them to us. I remember telling two
soldiers to cleanup a dirty field generator and they did a very
good job, I was amused at the time to note all the brass
couplings had been highly polished. I had lost a filling
from a tooth and on return to Nui Dat took the opportunity to
visit the Aussie Dentist. I have never liked Dentists,
they always seem to delight in inflicting pain on people who
cannot answer back. When I walked into the Field Dentist
Tent I was not impressed, the equipment reminded me of the
torture gear that had been used on me at school over twenty
years before. There was quite a crowd waiting, all
Australians I think and when the Dentist called me to the front
of the queue, rank has its privileges, but I thought it a bit
rude of the Dentist and I felt apologetic with those who had
been waiting before me. But I was wrong, with a big
beaming smile the Dentist explained he was very happy with W Coy
who had returned his generator far cleaner than he had ever seen
it before. He did a lovely job on my tooth and even filled
it with gold, which some New Zealand dentist stole three years
To those two hard working soldiers who cleaned the Aussie
generator to perfection, THANK YOU, could we have your names
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|"I'm So Sorry, Uncle Albert" [with apologies to the
A section where people can confess their sins..
Get Lost Beneath the Southern Cross ** - Bruce Young
I had just returned from R&R
and was waiting
in Nui Dat for a flight out to 2Pl when someone fingered me to quickly join a Force Signals Sqn TAOR patrol as MFC.
Going from horizontal to kitted out in 60-minutes meant I cut a few corners. I thought I had it all together when the
truck arrived to uplift me so I relaxed until after we were dismounted on the road to the Horseshoe [very close to the Long
Tan battle site] where I found my compass missing from my belt order. To a MFC a compass is a vital piece of equipment
but I figured it out and decided to say nothing: after all, TAOR patrols never had contacts, they never went very far before
harbouring, the Aussies were unlikely to notice, and I could map read well enough to be able to figure out a LOCSTAT.
Wrong on every account..!
M73 British military compass
The Aussie commander [a
warrant officer] set off north at a fast walk so pace-counting and observing my arc stopped me using the map
to match marked with actual features
as often as I would have liked. Then I noticed that the
local vegetation had heaps of dirt piled around the stems under the foliage, a likely sign of concealed digging in the area.
When I pointed this out to the patrol commander he headed off in every direction checking other vegetation
and I was soon
hopelessly lost. Finally we stopped to set up an ambush near some good sign
and I figured a LOCSTAT
out of the commander which I first submitted to the FSCC in Nui Dat before dialling my assigned fire unit, an Aussie mortar
section at the Horseshoe. I had the mortar section register a silent DF at a location near where I thought we were.
The Aussies had some weird ‘L’ shaped ambush and weren’t interested in any advice from me so I setup with a tree between me
the likely initiation point and settled down for the night.
Just after dark a whole
bunch of people started talking Vietnamese and calling to each other just beyond the ambush area so the Aussie commander asked
me to call indirect fire onto their position. Shit..! The silent DF was in theory quite close so I called the mission
whispered to the Aussies to keep their heads down. The Horseshoe reported ‘shot’ [I even heard the primaries] but the impact
was a long way to one side, somewhere in the distance along the route we had earlier followed. Shit again..! We had
come further East than I had earlier calculated and I needed to adjust fire. But I had no way of getting a bearing to use
and adjusting in the dark onto a point likely to be within ‘danger close’ of the ambush was dangerous. I was casting
around for a way out when I recognised
in the sky above the Horseshoe the ‘Southern Cross’ star
constellation. The pointers were below the horizon but I could locate South by counting the length
3½ times down. I decided
to use the ‘Southern Cross’ to give me a false direction of 3200 mils to adjust the DF [I was ultimately to move the DF 1.4
kilometres before it was close to our area, a huge distance]. Once I had the DF close by
and still using false direction I
ran the fire across our front and then down one side as directed by the patrol commander, flinching every time I called for
rounds in case this adjustment landed on top of the position. The patrol however thought I was brilliant
saved them from being ‘overrun’ [although no direct contact was experienced] but I couldn’t fool the guys in the Horseshoe who
thought I was incompetent, especially at map reading. We found no dead VC the next morning [no surprise]
and returned to
Nui Dat. I never found my missing compass and had to steal another from the CQMS store.
** title from ‘Beneath The Southern Cross’
by Patti Smith – the upper most star of the Southern Cross constellation is visible as far north as Korea.
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Ooops! - Bruce Young
I was ACPO for the mortar section at the Horseshoe. One night we did a
DF to the west near Dat Do. Using the old flat plotter board with the grid on [we wrote the grid reference of the base
plates as being the centre of the board] I read the grid the wrong way [counted left from a known point rather than right]
put the calculations 1000 metres closer to Dat Do [actually just outside the RF post, I redid the figures later].
Someone complained about this dangerous outcome but it wasn't clear which unit was firing at the time [the local RF were also
firing somewhere..] so Larry and someone else went to where I claimed to have been firing
and collected any tail fins [the whole
area was worked over regularly with DF fire from the Horseshoe]. The batch number on the collected fins were compared
with what we had in the storage bays and since some apparently matched I was officially off the hook. However I knew I had
made a bad mistake and it encouraged me to actively convince Vince to swap MFC roles.
I Was There: Mark Binning
I do recall that the lot #'s didn't match
the lot #'s we were using or had back in Nui Dat at that time. If I recall correctly, locals were blaming the mortar
rounds for killing one of them and wanted compensation (they could claim $US2000 if civilians were killed by accident).
Hope you didn't continue to read your maps that way when you were a MFC! As
I recall Vince didn't take much convincing, I think he found it physically pretty tough. The rest of the tour suited
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Park at FSPB Tess - Bruce Young
2RAR were thought of by W3 as a dull battalion, without imagination, and
since lacking in original thought were
likely to follow the textbook slavishly. Here's an example of that 'textbook' mentality. 2RAR were at the time at FSPB
Tess, about 150 metres off the north edge of SHW 15 west of Baria and about half way to the 'White Lady' statue. For
some reason 2Pl, operating nearby, were picked up in APC's and taken there.
It was the
start of the wet season and FSPB Tess, surrounded by a bund high enough to obscure the various armoured vehicles dotted around the perimeter,
suffered from a high water table. As 2Pl
approached the turn-off it was obvious that the dirt scooped out to create the bund had left a deep moat around the base and
the way in to Tess had to be negotiated through a 6-foot deep mud cesspit. The first APC to attempt the crossing
became bogged and a recovery vehicle from inside the base was called to drag it clear. The other APC's also had
difficulty crossing. Given this, it was difficult to understand why the Regimental Police [RP] Section immediately
inside the bund entrance had a number of spaces marked out by iron pickets with the sign 'car park'
prominently displayed. It was obvious no normal car would ever get to park in those carefully reserved spaces but
somewhere in a military manual I imagine there was a staff requirement to handle visitors to a firebase by providing parking
for their vehicles, and that the parking was obviously unnecessary did not remove the staff requirement to provide it.
2Pl were directed to a piece of ground set aside nearby
for visiting troops [another staff requirement no doubt...], but an area totally devoid of any shelter or structures.
Someone had also thoughtfully dug shell scrapes for the visitors [another staff
requirement..?] but given that these were not covered and it was the wet season they had filled with water. 2Pl needed some way of erecting cover from
the rain, and since the New Zealander's considered the car park to be superfluous some enterprising Kiwi’s shuffled away to
quietly reappear with a bunch of iron pickets to which shelters were quickly attached. About 30 minutes later a worried
RP approached us and asked if we had removed the car park pickets. He was advised we hadn’t. He then looked really
concerned and explained that “the RSM had noticed the car park had been dismantled and he was required to rebuild it, any idea
where he could get more pickets..?” "Yeah mate, same place we did, over there" [in the opposite direction]. The RP
never returned but when we redeployed away from the base the next day the car park was back...
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