W3 Company - 3Pl Accident 10 October 1970

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Introduction:     3Pl Accident 10 October 1970         read the website Recording and Publishing protocol

On 10 October 1970 3 Platoon [3Pl] suffered a 'blue on blue' [friendly] accident when one element fired on another element by mistake.  Friendly fire killed Pte Tom Cooper, crippled Pte Ian Herd and wounded LCpl 'Sammy' Samson and Pte Ross Dunlea.  The accident cast a pall over the otherwise successful W3 tour and left the company personnel traumatised, saddened and frustrated. 

In 2006 the W3 website began a project to research the 3Pl accident.  There were three reasons for this project:

    There is among our veterans a feeling of anger over their treatment following the accident.  There are reports of a lack of counselling, no debrief, no period of mourning for our losses.  Several veterans spoken to said the project was the first attempt in 35-years to ask them details of the day and what led up to it.  Anger and grief bottled up like this can over time easily lead to health and wellness problems.

    There is reason to believe that the sequence of events told veterans at the time does not match up with more current reporting.  There appears to be errors in the official record.  It seems that no-one really knows what actually happened that day; that all have a part of the whole but canít make sense of it.

    There is reason to believe that some of our veterans have been allowed to bear the blame for the accident.  These people should not have this burden.  Good people doing good things sometimes have a bad outcome.  Our veterans are still good people and need their respect restored and be released from guilt.

The research sought to make sense of this 'blue on blue' accident from a timeline and action/reaction point of view.  The research did not seek to attribute blame, just establish facts and draw conclusions.  It is hoped that knowing the full details might assist some veterans have closure. 

The project sought to discover the complete facts in a non-judgemental way and to publish this for the benefit of all veterans.  It should be a healing experience that gives back to all individuals the respect and mana they deserve for the way in which they willingly placed their lives in harmís way in support of a common and legal cause.  The project is part of the wider move that at this time seeks to redress the sordid manner in which veterans were treated due to their service.  It is therefore dedicated to all who suffer physically or emotionally as a result of the accident.  [see this review of the research from a fellow veteran]

3Pl Nominal Roll.  The following are thought to have been present on 10 October 1970:  is the list correct..?
[names in bold were interviewed for the research, names in italics were deceased]

Pl HQ     2Sect  
Sgt JB Yandall Pl Comd   Pte WR Kenyon Sect Comd
Cpl PC Glendinning Pl Sgt   Pte RH Whatarangi rifleman
Sig PA Salt c/s53A   Pte CHK Kennedy gunner
Pte CR Lee c/s53   Pte VW Hill rifleman /medic
Gnr R Brumm RAA artillery   Pte N Ure M79
Gnr A Pavlovich RAA artillery   Spr M Wihapi scout
Lcpl KJ Cleary RAR dog team NCO   Pte PR Henderson rifleman
Pte SC Fletcher RAR c/s63A      
Pte RJ Johnson RAR dog handler      
Pte JR Hobbin RAR visual tracker      
      3Sect  
1Sect     Cpl GHA Preston Sect Comd
Lcpl RA Welsh Sect Comd   Lcpl WJ Samson Sect 2ic
Pte IR Herd gunner   Pte KG Taukiri scout
Pte OG Taylor rifleman   Pte RMC Newson scout
Pte GE McConkey rifleman   Pte CM Drylie gun No2
Pte TJ Mihinui rifleman   Pte T Cooper gunner
Pte ST Rameka rifleman   Pte RS Dunlea rifleman

Otherwise Located.  These two soldiers were absent from 3Pl on other tasks:

Pte WR Hansen - Embassy guard Saigon Pte RL Reddy - detention Vung Tau

Now Deceased.  These veterans were deceased when research started:

Capt Jim Brown Sgt Joe Yandall Cpl Peter Glendinning
Pte Tom Cooper Pte Colin Drylie Pte Owen Mahoney
Pte Joe Mihinui Pte Ron Johnson RAR Pte Shaun Fletcher RAR

 3Platoon photo taken 4 November 1970 - Nui Dat

Researcher
Lt Col Bruce Young RNZIR, Cpl MFC 2Pl W3 Coy October 1970
bruceyoung@xtra.co.nz
Review Panel:
Colonel Robert Upton, Colonel of the Regiment RNZIR
Brigadier Evan Torrance, Honorary Colonel 1RNZIR 1989 - 1991
Colonel Baden Ewart, Honorary Colonel 2/1RNZIR - Col Ewart's comments on the research is here

The review panel were asked to assess the research for balance, fairness and accuracy using their own recollections of conditions in 1970 and the researcher is grateful to them for their careful analysis and comment.  The researcher is also indebted to Brigadier Torrance for his retention of W3 Coy records and his accurate comment based on these records.  Finally the researcher is indebted to Australian colleagues Bob Brumm and John Alcock for their efforts reviewing draft passages concerning the actions of Australian veterans involved with 3Pl in October 1970.

Part 1: Research, Environment and Forces Involved           Index to other parts of research        link to Glossary

© 2006 W3 Company website - www.w3vietnam.org.nz  - covers all six parts to this research

Published by the researcher as a private initiative.  A PDF copy of the full research including further detail and explanation is available on request.

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any other means without the prior written permission of the researcher.

The researcher gratefully acknowledges the contribution made to the research by fellow veterans in New Zealand and Australia and in many cases their families, by staff members of the New Zealand Defence Force and NZ Archives, and by many others who contributed their piece to the puzzle.

In offering their recollections many veterans confronted unpleasant memories which they had thought were well buried as having happened at another time and place.  It is hoped that they and their families can now better understand what happened on 10 October 1970, and that those affected by the accident can have closure and improved wellness.  Their contribution in 1970 and to this research is greatly appreciated.

Researcher

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