A Diggers viewpoint of being at the sharp end. Gained while serving with 3 Platoon - 'A' Company -7 Battlion (Infantry) Royal Australian Regiment, as a Rifleman in Australia's longest ever war - fought in South Vietnam.  

Chapter 3 - Page 16 - Updated January 2008 - Next Page:- Addvance to Contact 17/35

[site map] [Chapter One]  [Chapter Two] [Chapter Three] [Chapter Four] [Chapter Five] [Chapter Six] [Arrival Images] [Sky Images]

[contact wait out page 14] [the enemy in Phouc Tuy Province page 15] [the odd angry shot page 16] [advance to contact page 17]


 Site Index




site map1

site intro 2

orderly room 3

announcements 4

books 5

student page 6


memorial 8



  • Jungle Fighting - Down & Dirty.
  • Sounds Of Silence.
  • Tracks.
  • Routine.
  • Everyman.  
  • Horseshoe.
  • Close Call In The Jungle.
  • Images 
  • Back to Australia on R&R.

THE BULLET will take you to an incident that is referred to in this story. Images related to the following story lines will load at the bottom of the page while you read the stories!

I have called this page after the name of the only Aussie movie about the Vietnam War and one of the best ever made about the Aussie Experince. The Odd Angry Shot. Oink, 25th January 2007.


The Viet Cong and North Vietnamise Army soldiers in the 1960s and 70s were determined and and focused. Not to mention very well trained, well armed with a lot of experience. Many of them were involved in fighting the French army in the 1950s. The stories of the lightly armed 'peasant' against the might of the weaponry of the west was and is a myth. The North Vietnamise where supported and armed by the Chinese and How on earth do ordinary Aussie youngsters prepare to hunt the VC and the NVA in their own backyard?

The answer is 'to be very relaxed at living and working in the jungle and have the individual and unit skills to match and defeat the enemy "at home". The Australian Army in the early 1960s had a number of challengers. One they were fighting a major war, two they had to deal with a huge influx of national servicemen and three they had to turn out large numbers of troops who needed the skills to survive and fight in a foreign land.

Fortunately some of the answers to the problems were in the hands of the Army itself. They had call on some very battle hardened Veterans from WW2, Korea, Malaya, Borneo and even Vietnam. The knowledge and skills of these veterans formed the basis of the training that all Diggers who were to be posted to Vietnam would undertake. It did not matter if you were a cook who would not go into the field, there was a basic standard of training that you had to carry out and take part in.

First step was 1RTB at Kapooka were even the most basic of skills were part of the teaching system. You could not get much basic than opening a "cups canteen steel", but that was catered for. The cups canteen steel, as the name suggests is made of metal, with a hinged handle that folded under the cup, to be able to fit on to the bottom of a water bottle and placed in a water bottle holder on your basic webbing. To extend the handle by holding the cup with out any control made a loud "clang" that sounded like Big Ben.

Have a look at page 32 arrival  images, listed in links above, for images of these items .

Using the lesson plan, teach and tell, demonstration and then do it. Everyone was duly taught to open and close the handle under control. In 12 months in the jungle I only heard one 'cups canteen steel' make the "clang" noise. The Digger never repeated the offence. Other noise offenders were swing swivels on weapons, they were taped up. No slings on personal weapons for us in Vietnam, unlike the modern soldier of today.

Even your "dog tags" worn around the neck with you name and number, religion and blood type were taped together to stop them making any noise.

A few weeks at the Battle Wing of CANUNGRA the famed Jungle Training Centre was next. It was very tough and covered many lessons that other Battalions had learnt the hard way in Vietnam. It is no wonder the high quality of the training at Battle Wing at CANUNGRA, as it is still spoken of today, well over 30 years later.



The old Simon & Garfunkle song should be the theme tune for us at that time in the jungle as silence was GOLDEN. Talking is part of everyday life. Yet in the jungle it was the thing you did the least of. Communication was done with "clicks" of the fingers, looks, nods, and hand signals that were standard for infantry then, I guess they would still be used TODAY?

Any spoken word was done up close and personal and very quitely. It was a time you lived in your mind, for many days at a time. The success of the silent way of the Aussies can be tested by the number of stories when the VC were sprung at close quarters in the jungle, having no idea they were in Aussie gun sights. This was done with the us carrying all the equipment of the day listed on page 12, Arrvial in Vietnam and shown on page 32 arrival images

Basic webbing with 2/3 water bottles, bum pack, ammo pouches with 6 full magazines of 7.62 for the SLRs, grenades, smoke and fragmentation, bayonet.

Big pack was packed with 5 days rations, 3 days of yank "C" rations, which in the digger way was shortend to "C rats". They were 3 tins per meal, 9 tins per day, 27 tins for 3 days. Two days of Aussie rations which also included a good supply of sugar and condensed milk. Although some of the food was very poor. Although the hard as nails cereal block was ok if you were hungry, with a bit of jam on it!

Another difference was that Aussies did not as a rule travel on tracks although I will admit to doing so later in the Tour coming back from a night ambush which resulted in two Diggers being wounded, one of them me. The VC and NVA which moved about the province freely did so a great deal, so they had a clear picture of were the tracks went. Visiting enemy units were escorted across the province by local VC scouts. So by the time we arrived for 7 RAR's second Tour in 1970, all of these tracks had been used for many years.

Until the Aussies Units arrived the VC could use them with out problems, but due to the Battalions ambushing them over the years including ambushes set by APCs, the VC used the tracks in the 1970s with the upmost caution.   


Another important skill was the ability to set up and maintain a routine from the way you carried your weapon 'at the ready', to be able to open fire in a moments notice, to packing your equipment as soon as it was no longer required. The ability to pack your basic webbing and gear so that when the Platoon stopped for a meal it was a minimum of effort to unpack, fire up the hexie, cook a meal and a brew, eat and clean up and pack again ready to move was critical. In fact I got so used to the routine being part of my everyday life, I got some what frustrated if something occurred to interrupt it.

While the aspects of routine were set in Australian including getting used to going on Piquet duty during the night, the main difference incountry WAS the focus on ensuring your personal weapon was ALWAYS to hand.

The routine at night was critical and important so that security was maintained and you were aware of your position in the ambush relative to the other members of your section and the rest of the platoon. During my tour I heard stories of when Diggers woke up and lost their sense of direction and after hearing a noise, they fired across the platoon position. The digger thought the noise was coming from 'outside' the platoon's position. So it was the utmost importance that your bed space was orientated so that when you woke up in the pitch dark, and unable to see your hand in front of your face, there was no mistake as to which direction you could expect the enemy 'outside' the postion and just where the positions of the rest of the platoon were, 'inside' the platoons harbour.

When you arrived in a location early enough to be able to carry out the full routine it was a great pleasure. First fitting in to what was going on with the rest of the platoon I always got a brew on, next was the cleaning up of your area. This was carried out by simply cleaning away the leaves and checking you were not going to put your bed on an ants nest or any other form of wild life. Sometimes I would spray mossie repellant around on the ground were my bedroll was going to be and finally I would eat well away from my bed space. The track system would be set up so you would continue to mark the track by moving the leaves along the 'track' to the pits on your right and left. Even in the dead of night it was possible to 'see' the track using your night vision, or 'dark adaption' and with no leaves you made little or no sound.

Next I would lay out my big pack at the head of the sleeping area, and the hutchie only laid out, so when the piquet came to check on you before last light he knew what gun pit you were at. This was done without opening the sleeping gear. To prevent any sleeping buddies with many legs, I only always put it out when able to get in to bed. (Then when leaving for my turn on piquet it would be rolled up and put away). Next would be a meal and perhaps time to sstart to write a letter for back home before it got dark. If the platoon had moved into the position late, as long as the flame of the hexie was out prior to the sun light disappearing it was possible to eat the hot meal while you were 'standing too'.

Again making sure that all equipment not needed was packed up and you could move if need be without loosing half your equipment. Then came 'stand too' whispered along the position and slipping on your webbing and grabbing the SLR to stay very still and quiet until the order came to 'stand down. If your piquet was in the middle of the night you were free to go to bed and if it had been a hard day that's just what you would do.

It was a simple matter of taking off your basic webbing and placing  it so you could get it on at a moments notice, then getting out the bed role lay it along the inside of the hutchie. Placing the SLR next to that and taking your boots off, when you were able, and climbing in to the bed roll, making sure that you could touch the SLR's pistol grip with little effort. The first thing you reached for when you woke up at any time. Sometimes in the dark and with the normal sounds of the jungle, it was hard to imagine that 30 other Diggers were with in cooee of you, or at least a loud whisper.



Most units in the field had a Everyman attached to them a sort of Salvation Army person, who would turn up at the strangest times and places with a cold drink for the Diggers and something to eat. The man for 7RAR was Stacey Kruck and I first met him some place when we moved out of the bush, dirty, thirsty, stinking hot and there was Stacy dishing out a cold drink. Nothing too difficult or dangerous about that in Australia, but try Vietnam.

One of the strongest memories I have is arriving at the Horse Shoe after a long walk from someplace, it was bloody hot and no one was in a good mood. Then walking up the feature to the site of our Platoon Harbour. Who was waiting but the Everyman land rover and Stacy with a cold drink waiting to dish out to the Diggers, boy did that taste real good.

I asked him how did he get there, "Oh just drove over from Nui Dat, when I found out the platoon was on its way". I could not believe it here we were armed to the teeth, a full platoon and he had simply drove along the local roads alone. 

That was not the only time Stacy turned up and back at the Dat he had a drop in centre so that you could read or play chess, or talk about things. For his service to the Army and the Diggers and he was Awarded an OBE and in later years an OAM, well deserved and he earned them the hard way in Vietnam. 


Life went on so did our work. We were at times living and working from the HORSESHOE, it was an old quarry and as it was high ground 6RAR had converted it to a fire base and built gun pits on the feature in the early days. One large bunker had a 50 cal machine gun in it, yet all the times we were at the Shoe I never saw it fired. By this time I had my gear fixed a little different. I had a Yank "A" Frame which was metal and the bottom part of the frame had a ARVN, that is a South Vietnamese Army Pack attached. it had a lot of room. At the top of the frame I had three water bottles attached. In the dry season I had a water bladder which could hold about 3 pints of water.

On the move the bladder would be drunk first. Then the water from the A frame and finally the ones on my basic webbing. If you made a brew you would use water from your pack bottles and not off your belt. In the wet season the bladder was not carried because you could fill up your water bottles from the many streams or water flowing off a hutchie. To protect us from any bugs you would place in water purification tablets At least I had a better set up except I needed the straps from a set of suspenders, the ones that went on the basic webbing so I had to keep finding sets, as the straps would break now and then. When I was given the platoon medical kit I was able to attached it to the A Frame. After Pat got wounded I never tied the med kit on to my gear again.

The action above was not the only time A Company had a contact with one of its own sub units. One in November 1970 was to result in the death of 3 Platoon's Commander, Lt Rex Davies. On another occasion I nearly shot a member of CHQ one morning, when Headquarters were moving out of a harbour position. That story is next.


During November 1969 it was getting close to my R & R so I had to move back to Nui Dat so I could get my gear and fly to Saigon and then Australia. Meeting with Company Head Quarters I was handed over as CHQ would be moving closer to the Horseshoe and transport. I was put into the rear section and after a couple of days we moved along a track in to a harbour position, I was not happy about that as 3 Platoon never walked along tracks in the jungle. The key to this position was the track moved in a large "U" shape, a near fatal error occurred when we moved back out of the position the next morning along the same track.

My section at the rear of CHQ stayed on the ground as the rest of CHQ moved out of the area and became invisible in the jungle, till at last it was our time to move. As I stood up and picked up my place in the section, I had only gone a few paces when I saw movement through the trees ahead of us. My heart skipped a beat, I looked around to see if any of the other Diggers could see him, but they were looking mostly behind us, covering the move out.

The Diggers in front of us had moved forward and then turned to my left but I could see a head moving across my front and it was a Vietnamese face, a VC moving away from CHQ? I moved quickly to a nearby tree dropping my pack & using the tree to lean on, I took aim. taking up the pressure on the trigger I then decided that I would shoot him in the chest giving me a better chance to hit the target, I relaxed the pressure on the trigger. Putting the sight picture on the middle of the chest, as the soldier was now nearly right in front of me, I started to take first pressure on the trigger again. "Hay, what are you doing", without taking my finger off the trigger I looked across to my left front, to see through the jungle an Aussie Digger, carrying an M60 looking right at me.

It was then clear to me I was looking at the front section of CHQ who had moved across our front and I was looking at our Bushman Scout, who was a ex Viet Cong. Of all the faces in the front section I could have seen it was a Vietnamese face that I spotted. As such my training took over as I did not recognize him at that point. I guess I was 'expecting' to see a Viet soldiers face and when I did I reacted as I was trained to do so with no thought of not pulling the trigger?

Jumping back to my gear it was clear that the worst had nearly happened as I saw that the other members of my section had split left and right off the track, weapons at the ready just waiting for me to fire. "Its the bloody bushman scout" I said to the others "I nearly shot him". By the time I was able to put on my pack I was shaking all over. Even when we harboured for the night I was still unable to stop shaking at what I had nearly done. While I knew that had I been working with 3 Platoon the move to the right after leaving the posting would have been signaled it would not have been left to chance. I still felt I had put everyone in danger.

It was still my fault and only the choice of shooting the man in the chest and not the head had perhaps saved an other shoot up and maybe dead or wounded Diggers? The CSM came over that night and asked me what had happened. I told him all the details what I had been thinking and what I had done. He left with the comment "not to worry about it, you did the right thing".

This calmed me down a little but I could not get away from the horror of what I had nearly done for some time putting the whole unit in danger. I shook for about two days before finally calming down. For some reason I had forgotten the big "U" turn into the harbour position, something the CSM mentioned to me. However the fact was had I been working with 3 platoon I would have been signaled that the Platoon were moving off direction and away from the track. The other stange thing was I knew the Viet Soldier to speak to and had bough a couple of items of him. That wsa November and although I saw him from time to time when we were back in Nui Dat until we left in February 1971, I never told him that I nearly shot him that day.

Thinking perhaps I had overstayed my welcome I was picked up by the CO's chopper the next day as it had dropped in to CHQ with some written orders for the OC. I was given a very exciting and fast low level flight back to the Horseshoe. A trip in maybe 20 minutes that would have taken days to walk? I can't remember how I got back to the Dat, perhaps a truck ride?


A day or so later, wearing my summer walking out uniform and slouch hat with my just issued Vietnam Medal Ribbons and Infantry Combat Badge I waited with other Diggers on the tarmac at Nui Dat and loaded on to a RAAF Caribou for the flight to Saigon. (SEE IMAGE BELOW ) While the plane was banking over the Dat and that area I took some photos that would give a clear picture from the air as to why it was so difficult working in this area. To see some of those images go to page:- [Sky Images]

At Saigon it was all chaos and people massing in the airport while we waited to board our aircraft to Australia. It was an Aussie 707. Talking off I remember we headed nearly vertical into the night sky looking at Saigon lit up like any city in Australia, crazy! After many hours we landing at Darwin, back in Australia again after 10 months away. We all got off for a while and not used to real beer I was soon half pissed before getting back on board.

Flying over Australia was awesome. Mile after mile. Hour after hour it just seemed to go on and on. It started to get light and then you could see the wide brown land. The aircraft did a half circut of Sydney, not sure if that is a 'normal' flight path. But we flew over the city and then the Harbour Bridge as the aircraft turned in to finally land. It was to be an eventful time before I was finally back in Vietnam, a couple of weeks later.  

Caribou of the RAAF Skippy Flight, flying in to Nui Dat. To see some images of the Province from the air, go to page 12 "Arrival in Vietnam" and use the link to see the Page 12a, "Images from the air". Some of them show the damage from amount of artilery shells that were fired during the war. [Sky Images]




[contact wait out 14] [the enemy in P/T Province 15] [the odd angry shot 16] [advance to contact 17] [Sky Images]

 Copyright (c) 2004-2008 Grunts View. All rights reserved