|8th to 20th of March 1971, Vietnam|
We continued patrolling the countryside North of Xuyen Moc [zwan mock] during March. Bravo Company were operating south of Xuyen Moc, where it was reported that elements of the D445 Viet Cong Battalion were active.
As usual the intelligence was partially correct. There were elements of D445 active around Xuyen Moc, but they were North, not South.
On 17 March 1971 9 Platoon Charlie Company ran
into C3 Heavy Weapons Group, an element of D445.
A reminder that the other side also had fine soldiers in the bush.
Two things happened after this contact:
On 20 March 1971 one half of 8 platoon found a recently used track. They followed this track until they heard noises. When they went to investigate, they were fired upon.
The patrol withdrew leaving Paterson's body and one of the wounded soldiers where they lay. 8 Platoon had dropped their packs when they had heard the noises. They were now pinned down by accurate enemy fire and could not recover their packs. All their spare ammunition, water and smoke grenades were with their packs.
The blokes in 8 Platoon were in a fairly hairy situation. They were definitely outnumbered, low on ammo, suffering from the heat and unable to get support. The remainder of their platoon were about 1.5 clicks [kilometres] North of the fire fight. The closest unit to the action was 7 Platoon. We were 1 click South of their position. The other Platoons had been split into half sections, with a lieutenant controlling one half of the platoon and the seargant controlling the other. For some reason, The Goon Platoon was still working as a full platoon. We headed North as quickly as we could.
Woody was scouting with Boodgie as his number 2 scout. From the radio messages we knew that the blokes from 8 were doing it tough, and we were the closest. Despite the thickness of the undergrowth we almost ran through the jungle. Woody & Boodgie were small blokes and were cutting as little as possible to keep moving quickly. The big blokes like Junior were struggling to get through the small path cut by the scouts. Just before we reached the contact site we came across an old bombed out area. Woody was half way across this area when he spotted a bunker to his left. He called up Dogs and showed him the bunker. Dogs responded with "It must be an old one or you'd be dead by now. Keep moving!"
Woody moved across the clearing and then let Dixie take over the scrub bashing, he knew he was buggered ... normally he wouldn't have missed those bunkers. Both scouts were exhausted from the hectic pace. Dixie scrub bashed for awhile and then 1 Section took over the lead. The gunships were still coming overhead as we were trying to get to 8 Platoon's position and we were getting the red hot shell casings dropping down on us as we scrub bashed.
We arrived at the contact point, collected 8 Platoon's packs and secured a defensive perimeter with the remains of 8 Platoon.
Later on the APC's arrived from Fire Support Base Beth [about 11 clicks away], with the Pioneer Platoon. The dead and wounded were recovered and evacuated. Second Lieutenant David Paterson was carried to an APC by Woody, Junior, McComish and Big Wally.
By the time the rest of the Company arrived from about 2 clicks away, it was starting to get late in the afternoon. So we harboured up in defensive postions, ready to attack with tank support in the morning.
We didn't know it at the time, but the North Vietnamese were reinforcing their position in Phuoc Tuy Province, so that if we withdrew from South Vietnam they could tell the local populace that they had driven us out.
Looked like this could be a busy year.
HQ's ordered that we were no longer to patrol in half platoon strength, as it appeared that elements of D445 had returned to Phuoc Tuy Province and were preparing to become operational against us. Gee thanks for the advice guys.
The Minister for Defence, The Right Honourable J.G.Gorton MP, had also arrived at Fire Support Base Beth for a visit on 20 March 1971. As we were a bit busy at the time we asked if he could jump on one of the APC's and come out and visit us ... we wouldn't have minded a yarn to him. We don't know if the message was ever sent, but he didn't turn up.
by Bob Wood
© 1999 - 2001
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