W3 Company - Service Stories

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Remember These..? - Evan Torrancelow & slow - B170 inbound Nui Dat [Chris Brownie ex-41Sqn]

RNZAF Support.  A RNZAF B170 Bristol Freighter [see photo right] from 41 Sqn RNZAF based at RAF Changi in Singapore landed at Nui Dat every Thursday.  Its arrival was eagerly awaited as it carried our mail both incoming and outgoing.  It also carried freight and personnel.  At times it was hard to get a seat for our soldiers going off on R&R as a number of seats were taken by RNZAF personnel trying to qualify for the Vietnam Service Medal.  You had to be 30 days in the theatre and could accumulate the required number of days by making frequent short visits.  The Bristol Freighter had a fixed under carriage and was an aircraft that created a lot of interest in Vietnam.  The story that went around when we arrived went like this.  A few USAF aviators had failed to lower their retractable under carriages on landing and as a result belly crashed wheels up.  As a result air traffic controllers were instructed to check with the pilots about to land that their wheels were down.  On being reminded to lower his under carriage a Bristol Freighter pilot’s reply was – “wheels down and welded!”

low and slow - B170 inbound Nui Dat [Chris Brownie 41Sqn]

'I Was There':  Bruce YoungBristol B170 Freighter at Nui Dat 1968-69 [internet]
I went to Singapore for my second leave, travelling by B170, had a great leave and on the last night got very drunk in Bugis Street in preparation for the return flight.  I was very hung over for the dawn check-in at Changi and looking forward to a sleep once the flight was airborne.  I was allocated a seat on the aisle directly under the wing where it was possible to see the port engine, another soldier had the window seat.  The B170 was known as '40,000 rivets flying in formation' and its large Hercules
14-cylinder radial engines constantly leaked oil which could be seen running back along the engine cowling.  As the pilot furiously revved the engines prior to rolling along the runway the loadmaster ran along the aisle and urgently leaned over me to shine a torch out the window at the engine straining away under full throttle.  I made a sarcastic comment about 'is the engine falling off' but fell asleep without hearing the answer.  I woke an hour later when the plane was out over the South China Sea and noticed my companion in the window seat staring at the engine with obvious concern.  I asked him what the matter was to which he replied 'didn't you hear the loadmaster's answer when you asked if the engine was going to fall off'..?'  When I said 'no' he replied 'he said that the engine was pissing oil everywhere but they would try and get airborne anyway'.  That sobered me up and I spent the remainder of the flight also staring out the window watching the oil dribble out.

[webmaster - On enquiry to the Air Force Museum I was advised that the RNZAF Bristol Freighters were repainted into the camouflage scheme in (very) late 1969 through 1970, in order to meet US requirements for "in theatre" operations.

US Troop Levels 1970.  President Nixon, the US president had announced the withdrawal of 50,000 US service personnel from Vietnam by April 1970. [as the US crossed into Cambodia in March 1970 I guess a lot of troops had 'withdrawn' from SVN by April.. Ed]. The feeling amongst the military hierarchy in Vietnam was that “pacification” and “vietnamisation” were going along well so the announcement was not unexpected. The VC were not getting willing help from the general population and their morale was low. We were involved in both pacification and Vietnamisation in 1970

Service mail.  Service mail was usually sent to New Zealand in VMail envelopes donated by the NZ Red Cross, postage was free.

front of the V Mail envelopes donated to servicemen by the New Zealand Red Cross - the Tiki stamp was unique to NZ Forces Vietnam

Mail to servicepeople was free of postage once it reached the Auckland GPO.  Return mail from SVN was free

 

 

 

 

 

 


Armed Forces Radio Vietnam.  When I had the opportunity I would listen to the American Armed Forces Radio Vietnam broadcasting from Saigon. NZ made the news while we were on the last operation and it did not cast our country in very good light. Reported as the chief item was the news that Mr. Spiro Agnew, the US Vice President, had been greeted at his Auckland hotel by fighting bystanders and that an assassination attempt had been made on his life. We thought at the time that it was rather ironical that in NZ folk were showing their disrespect for a visiting VIP because of their anti Vietnam feelings while in Vietnam, we take a VC prisoner, tend to his wounds and call for a US helicopter pilot to risk his life to lift an enemy soldier to hospital for major surgery.

Anti-malarial Treatments.  Throughout the tour of duty in Malaysia all soldiers took Paludrine each day as an anti malaria precaution. The pill was administered under the control of section commanders and we had very few cases of malaria. If a soldier did get malaria it could be traced back to failure to take the Paludrine while on leave or away from supervision. When we got to Vietnam we heard that there were a number of cases of malaria and that Paludrine was not the complete answer. As a result we were put onto a new regime of anti malaria precautions sometime during the last operation. On February 6th I wrote that I had just been given my morning pills with my breakfast. The combination of a Paludrine , a Dapsone and an iron pill was to accompany my cocoa and tinned omelette! By February 17th we had stopped taking Dapsone as the really bad period for malaria was over. However, we continued to take Paludrine .

Discipline.  Our soldiers behaved themselves very well but there were always a number of charges to be heard when we got back to Nui Dat. They were, for the most part, for minor offences and the punishments could range from fines to confinement to barracks to a combination of both. Because we were on “Active Service” the punishments that I could award were quite severe. Then, if the offence was deemed to be a “Prevalent Offence”, the punishments could go even higher. It is interesting to record the list of prevalent offences at the time:

Striking, offering violence or using threatening language to a superior officer.
Absent Without Leave (AWOL) (over six hours).
Drunkenness (second or subsequent).
Drinking in unit lines.
Being a NCO striking a soldier.
Unauthorised discharge (unintentional firing a weapon).
Offences against civilians.
Sleeping on sentry/piquet etc.

Humour.  On 20 Nov 1969, as part of the orientation phase, I must have visited the Horseshoe where V4 Coy were at that time. In my AAB 64 notebook I have recorded that one our soldiers accompanying me asked Bill, a V4 soldier where his mate Ted was. As quick as a flash the reply was "He's down on the the Long Green playing the ninth hole!" At the time I found it amusing enough to jot it down!
And another: On 23 Nov 1969 at 0900 hours on Range 5 we were given an Inf/Armd demonstration. The Aust instructor told us after a shot was fired that "The APBC shell leaves the barrel at 3250 ft per second!" From the rear came the quip from one of our soldiers "Crikey hell - that explains why I didn't see it!" As I recall there was quite a lot of laughter and once again a note made of soldiers humour.

Orders Group Trivia.  Some of the mundane info passed on at O Groups included:

16 Nov 1969      TAB operates on Saturday out of the Q Store
                       Next Wednesday hamburgers will be available at the pictures
18 Nov 1969      List of the kit that soldiers take to detention
19 Nov 1969      As Duty Coy we were poor at picking up the garbage
20 Nov 1969      No drooping moustaches, no trinkets or rings
25 Nov 1969      Tins to be opened each end before burying
16 Dec 1969      Bushman Scouts join us tomorrow.

Stupid Politician.  Our Prime Minister Keith Holyoake was reported to have said that the NZ forces in Vietnam were not in an “operational theatre”. I am not too sure in what context he made the remark but at the time it caused quite a lot of consternation amongst the Kiwis in the Task Force. If it wasn’t an operational theatre we would like to have been officially advised. Perhaps those “operations” that we had been on were just “exercises”. Perhaps both our own and the VC casualties were just “accidents” and perhaps we should be using blank ammunition? There were a lot of cynical NZ soldiers in Vietnam when they heard what our PM had allegedly said.

Rest and Recreation.  Rest and Recreation (R&R ) was a five-day break away from Vietnam that everyone could take twice during our 12-month tour. Each week there were about five soldiers off on R&R to places like Hong Kong, Hawaii, Bangkok, Penang, Tokyo, Manila, Taipei, Singapore and Sydney. I think it was a US military scheme that both the Australians and ourselves latched onto.  Married folk who had families in Singapore went off there. If their spouses were in NZ, and NZ was not an approved destination, the soldiers normally made arrangements to meet in one of the approved locations.  

Rest and Convalescence. Rest and Convalescence (R&C) was taken at the Peter Badcoe Club at Vung Tau.  The club was named after an Australian Warrant Officer who had been awarded the Victoria Cross while working as an adviser with the Army of Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The Club provided accommodation and messing around a large open-air swimming pool adjacent to a very nice open beach of golden sand. The complex was within the perimeter of the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG) base and fairly handy to the town centre of Vung Tau. Vung Tau was a war free area so as soon as we arrived all weapons were locked away in the armoury.  Soldiers were briefed on the “dos and don’ts” of the city and allowed to go off in civilian clothes to explore the fleshpots and bars of the city.  A recipe for trouble – yes, very much so, and we NZers had a reputation for causing trouble.  I had heard stories, which ranged from the threat to ban NZers from Vung Tau to the over zealous military police who had a reputation for being very aggressive in their handling of our soldiers.  We had a number of incidents occur but overall we came out of the short breaks relatively unscathed.  I was on edge the whole time and did not enjoy the trip, however, most of the soldiers thought it great so that was a bonus.  I never looked forward to our next overnight visit every 2-3 months.

Out Of Bounds Establishments Vung Tau - 1ATF Routine Order 30/86 dated 24 September 1970

Alcohol Spirits were duty-free and we could purchase, parcel up and sent home one bottle a week. The cardboard ammunition containers were ideal for packaging bottles of liquor and most soldiers took the opportunity to send some bottles home.

Currency.  The South Vietnam local currency, the “dong”, was almost worthless. As I recall we paid for our laundry in the local currency and our CQMS, SSgt Ron Litchwark, had to obtain thousands and thousands of dong to pay the bill. The Americans had introduced “military payment certificates” (MPC) to stop the local Vietnamese from obtaining American dollars and the likelihood that they would end up in the enemies hands. The MPC was in dollars and cents and all our transactions within the task force base were in that currency. Civilians were not permitted to use these notes but thousands did hoping that they would be able to convert them into US dollars in the future. To stop this happening it was decided to change the MPC and the date chosen was 7th October. At 0630 hours that day the money we were using became invalid and all notes were withdrawn throughout Vietnam. We had to operate on “credit” until the next day when the new MPC would be issued. I heard later that thousands of Vietnamese civilians besieged the American authorities trying to change their now worthless MPC. They were not successful and I believe a number committed suicide having become financially ruined.

Origins of Tan Tay Lan, Uc Du Loi, etc - Bruce Isbister V3 [abridged from VetNet]
The story that I remember concerning the origin of Uc Du Loi [Vietnamese for Australian] was that it described the Big Red Rat that was stencilled on the side of Australian vehicles.  I've searched extensively and can find no reference to the origin of either this or Tan Tay Lan [New Zealander] and I cannot find any Vietnamese/English translation to come up with anything sensible. I did find plenty of pages written in Vietnamese where tan, tay, lan was included but not in any context that suggested anything to do with NZ. More often than not it was to do with scholars, poetry, writers, etc.  I did, however, find one site that pretty much nails the fanciful origins: Its the Vietnam international phone directory and both Tan Tay Lan and Uc Du Loi are used to describe New Zealand and Oz respectively.

'I Was There' - add a comment

 

Animal Stories - various [click on photo for details of individual fauna]

Porcupine - Evan Torrance.  Our CSM, WO2 Doug Mackintosh, was a tower of strength, very thorough and hard working. He was in charge of the defence arrangements of company headquarters in the field. On the last operation we were stationary for a number of days while the platoons operated in their own zones some distance away. At night we stood watch at the machine gun pit with two sentries for a two-hour stint, the change over taking place each hour. About midnight the sound of the machine gun and the loud bang of a trip flare being activated awakened me. Everyone “stood to” and awaited further developments. Eventually the CSM came to me and said that a VC party had walked into our base and the sentries could now hear a noise that sounded like the death rattle of a dying person. It was too dangerous to search the area of the incident at night. We would have Asian porcupineto wait until next morning. I went to the sentry post for a listen and heard the reported sound. I likened it to the sound that came from a person rattling rosary beads. At first light our clearing patrol found a dead porcupine. It had activated the trip flare and the rattling sound came from the death quivering of its quills. So much for our theories about who it was on our perimeter that night. And, not to be outdone, both 1 and 2 Platoons successfully ambushed some pigs one evening.

'I Was There': CSM Doug Mackintosh  I don't think I gave the OC all the information at the time. Of course my sleep was also shattered by the MG firing. I crawled around the perimeter track to the rear of the sentry position. The Aussie 2 man splinter team (mine clearing engineers) were manning the post and I was bit hesitant, as I assumed like most Aussies they might object to having their legs pulled. But I worked up my courage and gently tapped an ankle, then explained in a whisper who I was and asked what was happening. As I recall it the Aussie said something like "We heard his two feet walking down the track, and let him have it. I think he is still alive, you can hear his death rattle". Indeed I could, seemed about 3 metres away, I crawled down our perimeter track a few metres to get another angle on the noise and confirmed it was only 3 or 4 metres out. I waited for the death rattle to stop but it just kept going.  Since using a torch or grenade was not on I suggested to the OC we wait for daylight on 50% stand to.  I don't think many of us slept, it was not nice to hear a man dying. The search next morning found the poor little porcupine which had finally given up the ghost. I did not say anything to the Aussies, they were doing their best, and any of us could have made the same mistake.

'I Was There': Doc Mitchell  see Mitch's account here

Tortoises - Bruce Young.  I was with 2Pl on the last operation, on  the flat ground around the mountain base east of Nui Dinh.  This area was home to very large tortoises.  One afternoon I watched from behind the ambush initiation point as a large tortoise waddled noisily across the track, through the middleelongated tortoise - Vietnam of the killing zone, and to the consternation of the two sentries, straight up to the ambush initiation point.  The two intrepid grunts abandoned the hole and all the claymore 'clacker' switches in a panic as the tortoise breasted the earthworks and fell into the hole.  It lay on its back for some time as everyone enjoyed the joke at the expense of the hapless sentries, before fresh sentries were deployed forward and the tortoise retrieved back to ground level where it calmly continued the journey through the remainder of the position and out of sight.  Another night [27 October 1970 at 0355H] the platoon was awakened by the ambush claymores being fired.  We all stood-to and waited for developments but after a long pause the sentries advised us to stand-down again.  It seems another large tortoise had wandered up to the ambush initiation point in the dark and in their hurry to evacuate the path of the determined amphibian one of the sentries had in the process of leaping out of the trench pressed down all the claymore 'clacker' switches.Vietnamese centipede  The tortoise apparently survived.

Centipede - Andy Anderson.  When we operated out of FSB Zilla at the tail end of the dry season, I remember Hugh Auld had a big centipede climb into his shorts. Jim Brown used two hands and a towel to grab the centipede and Hugh climbed out of his shorts. The centipede was about a foot long.

Termite Army - Bruce Young.  I was sleeping on the ground one night when a strange clickingdrywood soldier termite - Vietnam noise woke me. I lifted my head to check and was instantly bitten several times on my exposed neck.  I froze and finally figured that a termite army was moving in column through the space under my neck between my shoulder and my webbing [being used as a pillow].  I could hear the clicking of their pincers as they banged into each other coming from a distance both sides of me.  I stayed still and they left me alone on their strange advance through what was a very small gap under me.  Eventually the noise stopped and I dozed off again.  The following morning the bites on my neck and the disturbed track the termites left in the soil convinced me it was no imagined nightmare.Vietnamese hissing scorpion

Scorpion - Bruce Young.  Bill Teller [1PL] learnt a hard lesson about bush safety one day.  He had removed his boots the night before for comfort while sleeping.  He put them back on in the dark the next morning and later led the platoon away from the harbour position as the lead section scout.  I was MFC about 10 people back. About 9AM there was a huge commotion at point in front of us and Bill was seen rolling around on the ground clutching at his boot.  The platoon did an anti-ambush drill initially thinking Bill had stood on a punji stick.  Bill was desperately trying to get his boot off.  When he succeeded he revealed a huge blister on his big toe.  We shook out of his boot a small scorpion that had got into the boot overnight and been crushed into the boot toe since that morning.  It finally got its tail untangled enough to inflict a sting.  The result was very instant, obvious and painful.  I don't think we casevac'd Bill but we more carefully checked our boots after that.  I decided that I wouldn't remove mine in the bush at all.

Red Weaver Ants - Bruce Young.  Weaver ants are medium-sized red ants that deliver a formidable bite laden with stinging formic acid. They're so named for their nests which hide in leavremember these bastads..!es folded and stuck together with sticky 'silk'.  While training in Malaysia prior to deployment I was MFC in 3Pl HQ [Lt John Fisher was platoon commander].  We were patrolling in single file on an exercise when suddenly there was in front of us a furious commotion, swearing, vegetation being stomped on etc and the platoon movement stopped.  Lt Fisher led 3Pl HQ forward to where the commotion was to find the lead scout had ducked his head to go under a bush and had dislodged a Weaver ants nest from among the leaves, the ants falling into the gap between his head and the top of his pack and immediately swarming over and attacking his exposed flesh.  By the time 3PL HQ reached the site the scout had basically removed all his clothes which he was stamping on while slapping at his body.  The swearing was considerable but the scout got little help from his mates.  Lt Fisher, in his dry way, directed the section commander to get moving again and told the scout to 'catch up when he could'. 

Tree Spiders - Bruce Young.  Most veterans on patrol had the opportunity to see the large 'bird' spiders suspended between two trees with a really strong web.  I remember one of our lead scouts walkfemale golden orb, the male is the normal sized small insect in the top left of the pictureed into the web and had his eyes jammed shut by the strength of the web.  As his last glimpse was of the huge spider hanging just above his head and imagining that he was the prey, he threw himself away from the web while tearing at his eyes.  He still needed help to remove the web and regain his sight, by then the spider was long gone.

It can now be revealed that the spiders were probably one of the 'golden orb' spider family, certainly a female [as the males were very small] common across Asia and Australia and described as among the largest spiders in the world.  Their web can run from the top of a tree 6m high and be up to 2m wide. Unlike other spider webs, the Golden Orb Web Spider's web is not dismantled often and can last several years.  Designed to catch large flying insects, the web is slightly angled. The silk is so strong that it can trap small birds, which the spider doesn't eat. These trapped creatures often destroy the web by thrashing around. The spider is not generally venomous and rarely attacks humans.  Feel better now..?

Snake - Bruce Young.  New Zealanders have a fascination with snakes.  That is, they like to have lots of room between the snake and themselves.  It’s not a fear I have but I saw it in all its naked venom when with a platoon one day in the Light Green.  The Light Green was a jungle area near the coast known as a patrol death-trap, with many friendly casualties over time from enemy mines or booby traps and always the high likelihood of contact with the VC.  The platoon was inserted by truck from the Horseshoe and spent a long and tense day quietly infiltrating deep into the region.  By mid afternoon the platoon had located a well worn track with heaps of VC sign and moved into a position for an ambush.  They carefully established their killing area, hid all sign of their presence and settled down quietly to await events.  I was 30 metres back from the killing zone, in the platoon HQ area with the Pl Sgt and others, at rest with the world, my back against a tree.  I had survwhite bellied rat snakeived being maimed on the approach into the area, there was a likelihood of contact in the next 24 hours and I was no longer required to carry my 50 Lb pack and radio.  When the harmless brown snake slithered out from beside the tree and across my boots I calmly looked at what I thought was a lovely example of the local fauna and quietly said to the signaller next to me “look at the snake”.  "SNAKEEEEEEE" screamed the signaller leaping to his feet and grabbing an entrenching tool, "SNAKEEEEEEE" screamed most of the troopies resting nearby, leaping to their feet and grabbing machetes, "SNAKEEEEEEE" screamed the guys at the ambush initiation point, leaping to their feet and stomping the ground around them.  And while I watched bemused several trained jungle fighters armed to the teeth with all sorts of blunt instruments chased the hapless snake to its death in the nearby vegetation.  At the end of the 5 minute madness the platoon commander stood up, surveyed the damage to the once well camouflaged ambush position and calmly said “prepare to move, 5 minutes”.  And we humped our heavy packs away from the perfect ambush back into the killing fields around us....

'I Was There' - add a comment

 

Chieu Hoy and Kit Carsonthis 'Kit Carson' attached to 1ATF is dressed in Australian 'greens' as a measure of protection by distinguishing him from other Vietnamese, including his former comrades.  They were rarely allowed to carry arms & were normally accompanied by an Australian interpretor
Chieu Hoy was a programme [and a phrase used by VC who wanted to surrender] that allowed VC to swap sides.  If they were thought useful they could then become 'Kit Carson' scouts for the Allied forces, using their local knowledge to help snare their former comrades.  The 'Giay Thong-Hanh' was a safe-conduct pass dropped over the countryside to encourage defections [but if VC were found to have the pass on their person they were shot as an example]. 

This 'Kit Carson' attached to 1ATF is dressed in Australian 'greens' as a measure of protection by distinguishing him from other Vietnamese, including his former comrades. They were rarely allowed to carry arms and were normally accompanied by an Australian interpreter.

'I Was There': Bruce Young  2Pl were passed a Chieu Hoy following the successful ambush by 8RAR on 11 August 1970.  The former-VC had been left behind by himself [I think due to illness] when 25 comrades left to collect supplies from a village near Nui Dat.  After three days they hadn't returned and it seemed obvious they were dead so the soldier decided to quit and surrendered to a local PF post who passed him to 1ATF.  As part of the deal he offered to identify his camp and an arms cache and was flown with an interpreter to a LP near 2PL.  Despite his 'best efforts' 2Pl never located the camp while the weapon cache inside a cave produced little more than a 'Giay Thong-Hanh', a safe-conduct pass dropped over the countryside to encourage defectionsvery old French mortar barrel.

 

 

 

'Giay Thong-Hanh', a safe-conduct pass dropped over the countryside to encourage defections

 

 

I Was There: Peter Anderson
It was at FSPB Zilla that Major T got rid of Nigel the Kit Carson Scout, I believe he wouldn’t do his sentry.  That left Hung who stayed with the company until we left. I wonder what happened to him in the aftermath.  Also we had a Sgt Duc who was an interpreter with us for a while at FSPB Zilla.  He came and went a couple of times.

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Jack Broughton
There had been debate concerning Jack Broughton's service with W3, and whether he did get wounded.  That debate was settled with these two stories:
Jack Broughton in centre  [Welsh]

Jack Broughton in centre [Welsh]

Evan TorranceI have documentation that establishes that he arrived in SVN 16 Jul 1969 and left May 1970 and that he definitely was with us.  He does not appear on any other NZ unit rolls so we assume that he came to us from ARU.  My hazy recollection of him was as a "well built, quiet, easy going Maori of above average height".  The only record of him having been wounded is the 6RAR History and Gary Brooker's book "Two Lanyards in Vietnam".  There is nothing in his UPF to indicate he was wounded.  In Gary's book I note that 16 to 23 April 1970 we were on Op Townsville and on page 33 of his book Gary writes "While 3 Pl was searching through the enemy gear they had captured, they found that one of their soldiers had been wounded by a small piece of shrapnel in the lip".  There is a note to this line which refers you to page 24 where he writes "This incident happened to "Black Jack" only a week before he was due to go home.....there was a fierce battle in progress during which a piece of shrapnel hit a huge Maori in the upper lip.....".

John Fisher:  Jack did receive a small cut from M79 shrapnel in a contact - grenade exploded in scrub in front of him as we moved though.  He was a big guy as described and was a superb lead scout.  After an incident in which his M16 proved totally ineffectual he acquired an armourer modified SLR i.e. would fire on automatic.  The first time we heard it was "in anger", heart attack territory for us, he was on a flank and it sounded just like a Chinese "woodpecker" enfilading us.  Fortunately not.

He also got a very bad dose of tinea in the crutch and for a number of days, to the consternation of the second scouts, he patrolled in his shirt but no trousers or underpants.  A most unappealing sight.  When some world leading USA skin specialist arrived in Long Binh, Jack was flown out to see him, his problem was identified as some extremely rare variety of whatever - apparently the specialist raved about it.  Anyway, something was prescribed and he was cured almost over night.  Whew..!

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