Story 57 - Withdrawing from South Vietnam

Royal Australian Corps of Signals

 

By Denis Hare

 

Terms Used
1ALSG = 1st Australian Logictic Support Group
1ATF = 1
st Australian Task Force
AAAGV = Australian Army Assistance Group Vietnam
AATTV = Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
ACV = Armoured Command Vehicle
  (M577)
ADS = Air Delivery Service
AFV = Australian Forces Vietnam
ANZUK = Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom
AUSTCAN = Australian Communications Army Network
ARDF = Airborne Radio Direction Finding
Comcen = Communication Centre
CP = Command Post
DCA = Defence Communication Agency (USA)
HF = High Frequency
LO = Liaison Officer
LPA = Log Periodic Antenna
MRS = Major Relay Station (Telegraph)
RASigs = Royal Australian Corps of Signals
SAS = Special Air Service
SDS = Signals Delivery Service
SIGINT = Signal Intelligence
Sig = Signal | Also Signalman (Private Soldier in the Royal Australian Corps of Signals)
Sqn = Squadron (Company size)
Radio Relay =
    A radio system for point-to-point transmission of multichannel duplex signals
                           employing carrier waves in the VHF or higher band.
RR = See Radio Relay
RTA = Return to Australia
Telegraph =
 Telegraph.  Communications system in which information is transmitted over a wire
                     or radio through a series of electrical current pulses, usually in the form of baudot code.

TF = Task Force (1ATF)
TG = See Telegraph
TAOR = Tactical Area of Responsibility
Tp = Troop (Platoon size)
VHF = Very High Frequency

Introduction

The story highlights the Royal Australian Corps of Signals (RASigs) withdrawal of the communication network from South Vietnam. 

Not addressed or detailed is the detail planning, de-installation, cleaning of equipment, weapons and vehicles, packing, plus the problems of stores accounting after over six years in a war zone.  Unlike the Americans, all equipment, weapons and vehicles sent to the war zone, had to be accounted for and ideally returned to Australia.

 Network Overview

The Force communication network was the product of over six year’s piecemeal development.  The network by late 1970 was essentially based on commercial VHF/UHF multichannel equipment triangle between Saigon, Vung Tau and Nui Dat using telegraph relays and communication centres.  The link to Australia was high powered HF equipment of mostly Australia design.  Task Force communications used US manufactured Telegraph, HF, VHF and Radio Relay equipment’s.   Telephone systems were US tactical switchboards using Australian designed phones.  The network, managed exclusively by the RASigs elements, was integrated with the theatre and worldwide systems provided by the US Army 1st Signal Brigade and the US Defence Communication Agency (DCA).

 Communication Changes (1969)

By mid-1969, the RASigs communications in South Vietnam had developed into a very complex network that served the Australian Force Vietnam (AFV) and included the important high powered HF telegraph link to Australia. 

The tactical elements were owned and operated by the Task Force Signal Squadron (104 Sig Sqn) which included a large base camp at the Nui Dat using a mixture of tactical and fixed communication equipment.  The rear links from Nui Dat were operated by a detachment from the Force Communication Squadron (110 Sig Sqn).

Also at Nui Dat was 547 Sig Tp with the role to provide timely Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) to the Task Force and Detachment (Det) 152 Sig Sqn supporting the Special Air Service (SAS) Squadron.  

Nui Dat was also the location of the Australian Communications Army Network (AUSTCAN) HF Transmitters for the link to Australia.  The Transmitters were relocated to Nui Dat in late 1968 after an enemy attack near the Saigon Phu Tho site during May of that year.   The AUSTCAN HF Receivers were located at Long Binh.

 110 Sig Sqn Phu Tho Compound on firePhoto:  110 Sig Sqn Phu Tho compound on fire.  Note the Tx Antenna down (April 1968).
Photo supplied by Ian Willoughby

 110 Sig Sqn at this time had the unit scattered over four areas as follows:

Saigon           HQ AFV Comcen and the Major Relay Station (MRS).
Long Binh     AUSTCAN HF Receivers
Vung Tau      HQ 1ALSG Comcen, Rear links from 1ATF and the Sqn HQ and
                        Q Store.  Also a repeater site was located on VC Hill.
Nui Dat          AUSTCAN HF Transmitters and rear links from the Task Force

In late 1969 it became evident that the Australian presence in South Vietnam would eventually contract towards Vung Tau as the Americans had started withdrawing troops from the war zone.   110 Sig Sqn also had manpower problems in Saigon with the Officers, Senior NCO’s and junior members of the unit in widely dispersed locations.  Proper after-hours supervision could not be exercised on the soldiers not accommodated in proper military lines.   Testing, planning and the approval for the relocation of the Telegraph Major Relay Station (MRS) from Saigon and the AUSTCAN Transmitter and Receiver Stations to Vung Tau was started and given.

On the 16th December, following the withdrawal of 25,000 US troops from South Vietnam, and plans by the US Government to withdraw another 50,000, the Prime Minister, Sir John Gorton, advised any further substantial reductions would include Australian forces.

 Relocation to Vung Tau (1970)

With the national rear link receivers relocated in Vung Tau in late 1969 and the move of the transmitters from Nui Dat to Vung Tau begun in mid-1970, only the Saigon MRS needed to be moved to concentrate 110 Sig Sqn's major communications facilities in Vung Tau.

Planning for the move of the MRS was well underway in early 1970.  In September the squadron took delivery of six AN/TGC-5AX transmit consoles and six receive/monitor consoles on loan from the US Army Signal Corps.  These were installed in the Saigon MRS in place of the Australian equipment which was then moved to Vung Tau.  The squadron undertook the complete change-over and installation from within its own resources and MRS Vung Tau was activated on 30th October 1970 while the MRS Saigon closed a few days later.

A notable feature of the campaign was the extraordinarily willing assistance received from the US Army and the good working relationship between the US and Australian Signal Corps.  This came through units of US Army 1st Signal Brigade which operated five Signal Groups throughout Vietnam and Thailand. 

There were delays in completing the transfer of the transmitters and it was not until January 1971 that the installation was complete and operations began from Vung Tau.  The station at Nui Dat remained on standby for another month until the last transmitter was moved and then the horizontal log periodic antenna (LPA) was also relocated in Vung Tau.

 Transmitters at Vung Tau 1971   Communication Equipment at Vung Tau 1971Photo Left:  110 Sig Sqn Transmitters at Vung Tau  mid 1971 (AWM EKT_71_0751_VN)
Photo Right:  110 Sig Sqn Communication Equipment at Vung Tau mid 1971
(AWM EKT_71_0790_VN)

The squadron was supported in the upgrading of its horizontal and vertical LPA’s at Vung Tau with a rigger team from 127 Sig Sqn.  This team, led by Capt Bill Files, had been working on antennas of 9th ANZUK Sig Regt in Singapore and no doubt found their sojourn in Vietnam a little different.

The Prime Minister announces on the 22nd April 1970 that 8RAR would not be replaced at the end of the year, some support elements will be withdrawn from South Vietnam and the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) will be increased by about 120 soldiers.   On the 12th November 1970, 8RAR left South Vietnam, at the end of its 12 month tour and was the first 1ATF unit not to be replaced.

110 Sig Sqn started replacing the old telephone TCC-1 switchboard (Emu) with the two shelter AN/MTC-1 equipment in late 1970 at Vung Tau.  However because of missing parts improvements to the telephone systems at 1ALSG did not occur until February 1971, when the new switchboard became operational.  In the same period the US Army loan AN/MTC-1 was replaced at Nui Dat by 104 Sig Sqn with an Australian owned AN/MTC-1 switchboard (Ebony).

On the 7th November, the call home telephone service was ready and at 0800H, the service was handed to the troops for use.   Use by soldiers on a reverse-charge basic at $12 for three minutes to Australia and $13 for three minutes to New Zealand.

During 1970, 104 Sig Sqn continued to support 1ATF, which included a number of forward deployments and the normal problems of maintaining the communications in and around the Task Force Nui Dat base.   The unit also mounted many TAOR patrols near the Nui Dat base.

104 Sig Sqn 85C and RR from 110 Sig Sqn at Courtenay Hill 1971Photo:  104 Sig Sqn Callsign 85C SIGCEN and Radio Relay from 110 Sig Sqn plus other
HQ 1 ATF  ACV's  at Courtenay Hill during Operation Overlord June 1971.
Photo supplied by Pete Bird

547 Sig Tp continued its SIGINT task of monitoring enemy radio transmissions from its set room at Nui Dat and at fire support patrol bases (FSPB) using its Armoured Command Vehicle (ACV), Callsign 85D.  It also used aircraft to fly Airborne Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) missions. 

 547 Sig Tp Set Room 1966Photo:  547 Sig Tp Set Room.  Monitoring and Df'ing enemy Radio Traffic in 1966.
Photo supplied by Roy Deem

The SAS Sqn was replaced by 1 SAS Sqn in Feb 1970 which included Det 152 Sig Sqn manpower changeover.   The SAS RASigs maintain a base station at Nui Dat for scheduled and non-scheduled traffic while ever SAS patrols were deployed.   Communications were via small HF radios using morse code.

 Det 152 Sig Sqn Comcen in 1971Photo:  Det 152 Sig Sqn Comcen working morse code to deployed SAS Patrols in 1971.
Photo supplied by Creagh Bramley

Beginning of the End in South Vietnam (1971)

In January 1971 the AFV communications were as per the following diagram.

Map AFV Communications Jan 1971
Diagram:
  Overview AFV Communications in South Vietnam January 1971

On the 30th March 1971, Prime Minister McMahon announces further cuts in Australian forces in South Vietnam, including the withdrawal of the tank squadron, RAAF Canberra bomber squadron and some Caribou transport aircraft.

SSgt Bill Burgess from 127 Sig SqnPhoto:  SSgt Bill Burgess from 127 Sig Sqn supervising the construction of a 25.6 metre high antenna (LPA) at 110 Sig Sqn, Vung Tau in April 1971.  (AWM PJE/71/0196/VN)

On 18th August 1971 the Prime Minister announced that the force would be withdrawn.  Generally the resulting Operation Interfuse required to have the combat elements home by Christmas and as much as the logistic element as was prudent. 

The early hard work of relocating all the 110 Sig Sqn facilities to Vung Tau simplified the communication plan for the RASigs units, with the withdrawal of the force through Vung Tau.

The plan was to maintain the existing communications system as long as necessary and to deactivate it piece by piece as the requirement ceased.    

Perhaps not surprisingly in August the ‘Emu’ telephone switchboard, in Vung Tau, handled an average of 8,000 calls a day - the highest load ever.

Closing down the Task Force Communications (1971)

By the end of September 1971, Operation South Ward was in full swing with RASigs scaling down tactical communications and planning to cease operations by mid-October at Nui Dat.

 Detachment 152 Signal Squadron

2 SAS Sqn and Det 152 Sig Sqn return to Australian on the 10th October 1971.  The SAS role in the Vietnam War was over.  However 104 Sig Sqn Radio Operators, Sig Pete Bird and Sig Neville Williams, flew “phantom” helicopter SAS insertions and extractions across Phouc Tuy Province, after the SAS return to Australia, to cover their departure.

 547 Signal Troop

547 Sig Tp relocated to the 110 Sig Sqn area at Vung Tau and commenced operations on the 1st October with no loss of SIGINT cover or circuit time.  Two ARDF missions daily, from the Vung Tau airfield were also conducted.   A rear party remained at Nui Dat commanded by Lt Ian Bowen with a circuit from the Troop’s ACV (Callsign 85D).  The two man rear party departed Nui Dat with HQ 1ATF on the 16th October and the 547 Sig Tp ACV was the last 1ATF vehicle to leave Nui Dat.

 110 Signal Squadron (Nui Dat Detachment)

104 Sig Sqn withdrew with the assistance of 110 Sig Sqn; this was not without problems, as many of the assets were fixed and had to be progressively replaced by mobile assets starting some 6 weeks prior to the final evacuation of Nui Dat.  For example, 110 Sig Sqn removed the Siemens bearers, replacing them with AN/MRC-69 Radio Relay (tactical) equipment on the 21st September to maintain communications from Nui Dat.

Sig Ken Gregson remembers stripping out the Siemens bearers and recalls; “I blew the shit out of a pair of heavy cutters as we were stripping the place out.  Yes all power was off; well it was after the cutters were sacrificed!” 

The 110 Sig Sqn detachment was under the command of 104 Sig Sqn providing also a temporary Comcen at Nui Dat, in a Pantech Truck, beside the 1ATF Comcen which became operational on the 1st October 1971.    The 110 Sig Sqn detachment maintained the communications until the last moment, closing down the Comcen at 1200H and the Radio Relay at 1205H for the return to Vung Tau in the last 1ATF convoy on the 16th October at 1230H.

  110 Sig Sqn temp Pantech Comcen Oct 1971   110 Sig Sqn RR Shelter Oct 1971Photo (Left):  110 Sig Sqn temporary Comcen Pantech at Nui Dat beside the 1ATF
  Comcen in Oct 1971.  Photo supplied by Andrew Clyne
Photo (Right):
  110 Sig Sqn RR Shelter (AN/MRC-69) at 104 Sig Sqn in Oct 1971.
L/Cpl Greg Hadaway leading on the mast.
  Photo supplied by Ken Gregson

 104 Signal Squadron

The last fighting patrol by 104 Sig Sqn was conducted in AO Kingsgrove on the 10th September.  The patrol involved nine unit members and was commanded by Sgt Denis Boland.  No contact was made with the enemy.

The 104 Sig Sqn advance party of nine returned to Australia on the 30th September to prepare for the unit’s return to be co-located with 1 Sig Regt at Ingleburn.  In the advance party was the SSM, WO2 Brian Fisher.   Brian explained that the OC (Major Tony Roberts) requested he return early, as he was the only person in the unit that had served in 1 Sig Regt and tasked him to keep 104 Sig Sqn as an independent unit – not a Squadron of 1 Sig Regt.  Brian managed to maintain the unit’s independency! 

104 Sig Sqn deployed a detachment to Vung Tau on the 7th October to establish the new 1ATF CP. Capt Reinhold “Bob” Semple quickly got the team working on the task.   At the same time a VHF retransmission detachment was deployed to VC Hill, Vung Tau.

The ‘Ebony’ telephone switchboard AN/MTC-1 was disconnected and replaced by a SB-86/PT switchboard on the 11th October.  The ‘Ebony’ SB-86/PT was closed at 0600H on the 16th October.  

Ken Mackenzie, recalls; “Not all went as planned. Without reference to anyone, SGT Ken Casey, the Line Sgt, took it upon himself to attack the Main Distribution Frame with a Fire Axe, immediately severing all communications between the 1ATF CP and the radio bunker on Nui Dat Hill, putting the 1ATF Command Net off the air. Frantic moves to repair the damage occurred and the TF Comd Net was back on the air in record time.”

 104 Sig Sqn MDF Oct 1971   104 Sig Sqn Radio Bunker on Nui Dat Hill in 1971Photo (Left):  104 Sig Sqn 1ATF Comcen MDF Frames and on the photo left,
SB-86 Switchboard in 1971.
   Photo supplied by Ken Mackenzie

Photo (Right):
 
104 Sig Sqn Radio Bunker on Nui Dat Hill in 1971.  Bunker is being
manned by Sig Raymond Jenkin.
  Photo supplied by Ken Mackenzie

4RAR/NZ Group had been tasked with securing part of Nui Dat with the balance of the Task Force base being occupied by South Vietnamese forces. The bulk of the Task Force had already been redeployed to Vung Tau or returned to Australia, but 4RAR/NZ was reinforced with a Troop of APCs including a section of Fire Support Vehicles, engineers, a platoon of 155mm guns from the 5/42nd Battery (US) and helicopters to hold Nui Dat until room could be made for them at Vung Tau by units leaving for Australia.

A basic defensive position was occupied, centred on Ap An Phu lines with SAS Hill fortified and Fire Support Base Hornbill resurrected to provide defence in depth for the Group.   More than 1000 Claymore mines were placed on the perimeter along with plenty of wire to ensure that the VC was not tempted to throw a farewell party for the Australians.

Luck was with the ANZAC's who were left pretty much alone apart from the odd shot taken at clearing patrols by the South Vietnamese defenders on the other side of the base. 

104 Sig Sqn ACV (Callsign 85C) moved to support the 4RAR/NZ Group, on the 12th October with two Comcen operators, Cpl Mick Tierney and Sig Rob Drummond. The ACV used a secure VHF radio teletype link back to Vung Tau using RT-524 radio set, secured with KW-7 teletype encryption equipment. The secure TG link was only worked during day light hours.   Rob recalls they got no special treatment from the grunts - having to do gun pit duties during the night.

104 Sig Sqn Deeco Mast in mid 1971Sgt Michael Joseph, Sig Bob Martin, Sig Mick Jauncey and Sig ? in the final days, were the radio detachment to work with the 4RAR/NZ Group, maintaining the 4RAR/NZ sub-station on the 1ATF VHF Command Net.   The detachment was also a sub-station on the VHF Command Net Secure, using the KY-38 voice encryption equipment but because of the non-availability of secure retransmission device (MX-9331/URC), the VC Hill retransmission site, had to use relay procedure.

The VHF Command Net Secure had a long range issue, in the final days, because the Deeco mast, that housed many of the VHF Antenna’s, including the log periodic array AS-2236/GRC, had been take down, before 104 Sig Sqn departed Nui Dat.

   Photo:  104 Sig Sqn Deeco Mast, including the log periodic array AS-2236/GRC,
   at Nui Dat in 1971
.   Photo supplied by Ken Mackenzie

During the final weeks a number of radio tasks including LO, were required to be maintained or provided by the 104 Sig Sqn.  They include;

Radio Detachment with 161 Recce Flt redeployed to Vung Tau Airbase on the  27th Sept.  
(Cpl Edwin Pyke, Sig Haskett and Sig ?) 

Radio Detachment with 3RAR withdrawn 2nd Oct.
(Sgt Mick Didsman, Sig Donald Ross, Sig David Lovell and Sig Harry Sinclair)

Radio Detachment with LO at Bearcat (RTAVF) withdrawn 7th Oct. 
(Cpl ?, Sig Irvin Smith and Sig Peter Sothman) 

Radio Detachment with LO at Xuyen Moc withdrawn 8th Oct.  
(Cpl ?, Sig Philip Barbary and Sig ?) 

Radio Detachment with LO at Dat Do transferred to 2/43 ARVN Inf Bn, Nui Dat on the 2nd Oct.  Withdrawn 18th Nov.   (Cpl ?, Sigs ?) 

Radio Detachment with LO at Duc Thanh withdrawn 10th Nov. 
(Cpl ?, Sig Alf Marcer ?)

Radio Detachment with LO at Long Le withdrawn 10th Nov. 
(Cpl ?, Sig ?)

Radio Detachment with LO at Bien Hoa (US Army 3 Bde, 1st Cav Div) withdrawn 10th Nov. 
(LCpl Alan Blayney, Sig Les Mankey, Sig Bob Petch) and Sig Doug Knight)

Radio Detachment with LO at Xuan Loc  withdrawn 10th Nov.
(Cpl Doug Purcell, Sig Bruce Breslin and Sig Rod Parsons) 
All the detachment members received a certificate from the local Mayor for their  assistance during a ARVN farewell parade for the Australians and Americans.
Click to see Doug’s certificate.

1ATF completed the moved to Vung Tau as planned on the 16th October.  Sig Peter Bird remembers moving with the HQ 1 ATF ACVs as swarms of Vietnamese moved into the area. 

 1ATF ACV leaving Nui Dat on the 16 Oct 1971Photo:  Three of the HQ 1 ATF ACV's (Callsign 85, 85A and 85B) ready to lead the convoy out of Nui Dat on the 16 Oct 1971.  Vietnamese vehicles line up on the outside waiting to help themselves to the goods being
left by the Australians.  Photo supplied by Pete Bird

All RASigs communications at Nui Dat, other than by the ACV (Callsign 85C) and the Radio Detachment working with 4RAR/NZ Group were closed, equipment removed or destroyed. No line was recovered. The operational commitment of 104 Sig Sqn passed to the Rear Troop under the command of Capt Reinhold “Bob” Semple.  The special troop had 37 OR’s, under command of 110 Sig Sqn for admin, provided the tactical communications for 1ATF, now in Vung Tau including 4RAR/NZ Group still at Nui Dat plus the LO’s still deployed.  Many of the 104 Sig Sqn radio operators did not arrive at Vung Tau until mid to late Nov.  In true Army fashion the 104 Sig Sqn guys in the main body referred to the ones being left to complete the mission in South Vietnam, as the “Pack of Bastards”.

Also on the 16th October, the telephone switchboard (Emu) at Vung Tau was re-designated the 1ATF switchboard and all the extensions rearranged to meet the new requirements.  

Sgt Brian Dwyer recalls returning to Nui Dat by Helicopter in early November, to repair an issue with the TG equipment in the ACV working with the 4RAR/NZ Group.  Sgt Michael Joseph return to Vung Tau with Brian in the overloaded Kiowa.   Both Sergeants were veterans of two tours with 104 Sig Sqn.  Remarkably, Brian arrived in South Vietnam for his first tour, on the 26th April 1967, before 104 Sig Sqn took over from 103 Sig Sqn, on the 28th April.  He left South Vietnam, one of the last members of 104 Sig Sqn in South Vietnam, on the 26th November 1971.      

104 Sig Sqn main body boarded HMAS Sydney on 6th November to sail home to its new home in Ingleburn. 

 Members of 104 Sig Sqn boarding HMAS Sydney 6 Nov 1971Photo:  Members of 104 Sig Sqn deplaning from a Huey on the deck of HMAS Sydney for the voyage
home on the 6th November 1971.
  Photo supplied by Ken Mackenzie

At the same time 110 Sig Sqn came under command of 1ATF for admin.  It also was included in the 1ATF patrol programme.

On 7th November the final column Troop of 3 Cavalry Regiment APC's including the 104 Sig Sqn ACV (Callsign 85C) passed through Nui Dat's gates bound for the old Logistic Support Group's base in Vung Tau.

This ended five and half years of deployment at Nui Dat for 104 Sig Sqn and over six years since 103 Sig Sqn deployed to the area as the Task Force Signal Squadron and started digging in!

 Rear Troop, 104 Sig Sqn, November 1971Photo:  Some of 104 Sig Sqn Rear Tp “Pack of Bastards” preparing to fly home in 26th November 1971.
Photo supplied by Pete Bird

4RAR the last Australian infantry battalion in South Vietnam, less V and D Companies sailed for Townsville on board HMAS Sydney on the 9th December 1971.    The New Zealand V Company flew to Singapore to rejoin the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment on the 9th and 10th of December.  D Company remained at Vung Tau to protect the last elements of AFV engaged in back loading equipment to Australian.  A fitting end to the combat role was that 103 Sig Sqn, the first Task Force Signal Squadron in South Vietnam, now located in Townsville, maintained a HF listening watch, in case communications was required before HMAS Sydney anchored and provided the communications for 4RAR disembarking.

Closing Down Force Communications (1971/1972)

On the 13th December 547 Sig Tp ceased all operations and most members were returned to Australia, just in time for Christmas with their families.

The alternative rear link was established in October 1971.  The final solution was a combination of submarine cable, HF radio links and a number of radio relay systems.  It was partly under the control of the US DCA and partly under Australian control.  It was a rather marginal link, just acceptable for the low volume of traffic expected.

The HF rear link to Melbourne was closed formally at 0230Z 16th December.  It had been operating continuously for over 6½ years and carried approximately one and three quarter million messages over the longest HF circuit operating from the theatre.

Meanwhile 110 Sig Sqn, with reduced manpower, welcomed the 20% fall in traffic because of the hectic activities which followed in closing down many facilities and packing equipment to be returned to Australia. 

At the end of December 1971, 110 Sig Sqn reported that no new members had arrived in the theatre and 118 Signals personal left, as follows:

    110 Sig Sqn RTA                             53
    104 Sig Sqn Rear Tp RTA               29
    547 Sig Tp RTA                               36

127 Sig Sqn provided a small detachment to help de-commission the communication equipment.  The five man team arrived in November 1971 from Singapore and did not leave until late February 1972.  An additional three riggers arrived also from Singapore in January 1972 to assist in the dismounting of the Antenna Farm.

The MRS in Vung Tau was closed on the 19th January 1972 and MRS re-opened in Saigon - hindsight would have been handy - as the MRS at Saigon need never have been relocated at Vung Tau!

The ‘Emu’ telephone switchboard was cut over to an SB-86/PT and then finally closed in February 1972.  SDS continued in Vung Tau and Saigon until near the end of February whilst the ADS, using a Kiowa helicopter instead of the previous RAAF Caribou flight, continued until 29th February, after the Vung Tau Area Comcen closed 0001Z 24th Feb 1972.

The last elements of 110 Sig Sqn left Vietnam 12th March 1972 and a new era started, but for less than a year, with the Australian Army Assistance Group Vietnam (AAAGV) and its Signal Detachment.

4RAR D Company left Vung Tau and returned to Australian by air on the 13th March 1972

Signal personnel manned the AAAGV Comcen using three shifts of three (two operators and one technician).  The communications back to Australia were very hard to maintain with problems always at sunrise and sunset.

The detachment maintained communications until 17th December 1972, when the Australian circuit was closed and the detachment plus other Australian service personnel were recalled to Australia by the new Labor government.

Conclusion

The communication plan for Operation Interfuse was completed by RASigs as a team and it is a credit to all involved, that the task was completed with no major loss of communications, as per the plan, for the withdrawal of the Australian Forces from South Vietnam.

 References:

1.    Pronto in South Vietnam 1962-1972 by Denis Hare
2.     104 Sig Sqn War Diaries AWM95 6/2/34 to 6/2/5
3.     110 Sig Sqn War Diaries AWM95 6/3/32 to 6/3/56
4.     HQ 1ATF War Diaries AWM95 1/1/92 to 1/1/102
5.     4RAR/NZ War Diaries AWM95 7/4/56 to 7/4/58
6.     HQ AFV War Diaries AWM95 1/4/177 – 1/4/255
7.     Notes from Andrew “Drew” Clyne 19 June 2007
8.      The Story of 547 Sig Tp South Vietnam 1966-1972
9.      The History of the Corps of Signals in SAS 1957-1982
10.    Op Order, 3Cav Nov 1971 (85C detailed)
11.    Exacts on 4RAR/NZ from http://www.hotkey.net.au/~marshalle/4RAR/anz1.html, which is based on an
         article from the Australian and NZ Defender Magazine
12.    Reminiscing, The Final Days (Abridged) by Ken Mackenzie.
13.    Discussions and emails with Brian Fisher, Ken Mackenzie, Robert Drummond, Brian Dwyer,
         Doug Purcell, Pete Bird, Nev Haskett, Keith Hunter, Nick Mazzarol, Ken Gregson and so others
         not recorded during the research period.

 

List of those withdrawing from Nui Dat (Oct-Nov 1971)

The list of names below and in the story, may not be complete or correct. 
If you have any details or corrections, please contact the webmaster on
pronto@au104.org

110 Sig Sqn Detachment

 Pantech Comcen (Last at Nui Dat)

Cpl Ray Lambert (16th Oct)
Cpl Keith Hunter (Technician) (16th Oct)
Sig Wayne Hoffman (16th Oct)
Sig Pat Fields(16th Oct)
Sig Terry Lowe (16th Oct)
Sig Andrew Clyne (16th Oct)

 Deployment Troop (Last at Nui Dat)

Cpl Peter Doherty
Cpl Russell Soderblom
Cpl Barry Badcock
L/Cpl Graeme Chaplin
L/Cpl Robert Coventry
L/Cpl Greg Hadaway
Sig Robert Burnet
Sig Keith Beahan
Sig Greg Sands
Sig Ken Gregson (16th Oct)

Note:  110 AWM95-6-3-51 details 1 Offr and 15 OR’s at Nui Dat week ending 6 Oct.   Week ending 13 Oct it was 1 Offr and 12 OR’s

Rear Party 547 Sig Tp

Lt Ian Bowen (16th Oct) (ACV 85D)
Peter Dencher (16th Oct) (ACV 85D)
Fred Mitchener (7th Oct)
Bob Watson (7th Oct)
Darly Singleton (7th Oct)
Jock Fulton (7th Oct) 

104 Sig Sqn Manning

Final Manning 104 Sig Sqn in SVN 1971

 


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