Story 40 - Field Trip to Phu My

By John Hunter

Background

It was some time ago and in a place called Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam 1969.  104 Sig Sqn as part of 1ATF just so we know where we are.  That’s where every one wore the same dress green tux and bush hat.

Location of Nui Dat and Phu MyThis is one of those funny short stories’s we spin on Anzac day.  This all took place at a Fire Support Base (FSP) on Operation Kings Cross, some where out the back of Phu My, off Highway 15 which runs from Vung Tau to Saigon. To get to Phu My do a right turn, at Baria and go over the bridge then past the Catholic Orphanage.  Remember the big white angle out side the Orphanage, that’s Phu My.

The Mission

Now on this particular day, I got volunteered to go out and repair the communication lines, they had been broken by mortar fire the previous night.  Also damaged where some Landrovers, mostly flat tyre’s that had been shredded by the mortars and they had to be replaced.  The LAD had used all available by cannibalizing the damaged vehicles. This much we new, but we had to take spare parts get the damaged vehicles back to the Dat. This would entail an overnight stay in the field.

Henceforth I was selected to carry out line repairs and to drive one of the vehicles. I had a Staff Sergeant (S/Sgt) Q and a brand new Lieutenant (Lt) Troop Commander.  With me being an ex grunt section commander and had been involved in a couple of gunfights, I was the only one in our little party that had any field experience.  That soon became obvious why my selection for this jolly little jolly joy ride.  Anywhere on highway 15 going north was evil country.  The VC used to count all the convoys and content going up the road.  This was ambush country or mined - either way it was bloody dangerous.  I had informed my two passengers the rules for action if we run into trouble.  I think I made them more nervous than the briefing we had got.  We picked up the rest of the convoy, a tow truck, and a mark three with spares and a convoy of about eight vehicles.

Huey GunshipOfficer carries his 9mm pistol and M16 rifle.  S/Sgt Q nine mil and M16 also - me I got the old reliable SLR.  But I also have four HE grenades, three smoke grenades and ten mags plus a bandoleer for the SLR.  Any one would think I was expecting trouble; I also carried map and compass. Anyway we got to the fire support base safely. I think it had some thing to do with the choppers that were up at the time (Gunships) - OUR LIGHT HORSEMEN OF THE SKY - That’s our 9 Sqn RAAF.

When we arrived it was strait to work and I carry out repairs which weren’t much damage at all, any one of our line crew could have fixed. I was just baby sitting so a couple of blokes could go home and tell of their time in the bush.  Got to be able to spin a yarn at the mess back home. Good luck to them.  

ARVN Dead

Late in the afternoon these dead ARVN soldiers are brought in by truck for identification and to be loaded onto choppers to be lifted out.  They were wrapped in their poncho’s and tied up with rope. - standard procedure for this type of operation as they get ripe very quickly.  There was this bloke from D&E platoon asked me if I would give these blokes a hand to load the choppers as they were only kids and couldn’t pick up there mates as they seemed to be too heavy to lift.  We soon found out why, some of the packages had more than one body or parts there off.  So we gave them a hand and it’s some thing you never forget.  These poor bastards had been massacred; they only looked to be about 15 or 16 as they are so small.  I return to my own mob where the Task Force APC’s have harbored up for the night.  That’s a horseshoe shape called a league, so if hit they can break out very quickly making less of a target.  A bit like opening a fan.  Most infantry don’t see these very much but D&E platoon do as they travel with the task force HQ for its protection.

Night at the FSPB

Tank with 40mm BufordsThat night was strange even to me, it was after stand to and this modified old tank fitted with twin 40mm Buford’s opened up.  Including tracer and they were shooting straight over the top of us. This is the first time I’ve seen this in action and it frightened the life out of me as the tracer looks as if it is coming straight for you and you dive for cover, well I did anyway better safe than sorry.  After stand down, we decide to get some shuteye; neither of these two with me can sleep and the Lt asked me what happens if we get mortared during the night.  I told him to get into the bunker outside our tent and be quick or he’ll have his head in my backside or he could stand there and catch it before it hit the ground, but I wouldn’t try it.  He looked at me as if to ask what I meant but I think he got the meaning of the conversation.  That night was a bit hairy as there was always a fire mission happening or Charlie prodding around.  These ARVN are trigger-happy.

Back to The Dat

Next morning it was back to the Dat and with no escort this time.  Instructions are if we hit trouble, call for help and fight it out, couldn’t happen; Padre was driving the second land rover, me in the first and it was a wild ride back to the Dat.  One short, the Lt stayed with the task force.  Oh well another day another dollar. Another successful mission.

Then debrief and chow, then later, the boozer.

John Hunter
coyote2k@bigpond.net.au

Note:  John served with 5RAR in Vietnam before transferring to 104 Sig Sqn in Sept 1969 during his tour. 


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