Thursday, November 28, 2013

ANZAC Doctors, Nurses, Medics Part IV


The first medical support group set up in Vietnam that was not American is believed to have been a New Zealand surgical team that arrived in 1963. Arriving two years prior to the
deployment of Kiwi combat troops, the six-person team set up in Qui Nhon, South Vietnam. These medical personnel treated civilian war and ordinary patients from the central area of Binh Dinh province. Meanwhile they 
'trained Vietnamese medics and nurses in all aspects of modern hospital medicine, including maternity, paediatrics and public health promotion."a

New Zealand Surgical Team 1962
Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnama

Memories of a Kiwi Medic with W3 Coy (6&2RAR ANZAC Bn) 

Royal New Zealand
Nursing Corps badge

Royal New Zealand
Nursing Corps shoulder patch

Memories of a Kiwi nurse,
Karen Pilcher (link)

New Zealand had a long and close relationship with South Vietnam with the training of nurses and doctors,  along with the care of civilians in various clinics and hospitals particularly in Qui Nhon in Binh Dinh province. 
"By 1966, the team had grown to 14: three surgeons, a physician, an anesthetist, an administrator, a laboratory technician, six nurses and a maintenance officer. It continued until March 1975 when it evacuated to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) a few days before Qui Nhon fell to North Vietnamese forces. The last team member, Dr. Jack Enwright, left South Vietnam in late April 1975."b

It's almost impossible to imagine that any other group could be overlooked after their selfless contributions to the care and well-being of Australian military men wounded in Vietnam, the instruction and education of Vietnamese doctors, nurses, and medics and the healthcare given to the Vietnamese population in general. 

43 RAANC (Royal Australian Army Nurse Corps) nurses served in Vietnam between 1966 and
1972.  Military nurses  were ordered to Vietnam with no special training (in the types of catastrophic wounds they would be treating), they were not warned about the primitive and life-threatening conditions under which they would be working-they were poorly prepared in general. But they did not shrink from their charge and performed beyond their abilities. Upon returning home, they were not debriefed, but were cautioned against discussing their time in Vietnam and told to "get on with their lives". RAANC nurses had cared for Australians at war and served admirably since WW1.

210 Australian civilian nurses volunteered and served between 1964 and 1972. Fifty years after their service, these women have been denied any medical or health care by the military they served in a civilian capacity. All were entitled to a "worker's compensation" stipend, but that benefit ended at 67 years of age and many have exceeded that. They were expected to simply quietly fade into the mists.

Please listen to and read their stories. We have provided some links so readers may receive the information in the nurses' own words.

Royal Australian Army Nurses
with Vietnamese baby
Hoa Long, Vietnam 1967
[AWM negative GIL/67/483/VN]

Australian Nurses Remember (link)         

Trailer to Film About Australian Nurses
in Vietnam

We are proud to honor and recognize all of those who sacrificed their safety and well-being out of a sense of duty to their fellow man under unimagineable conditions.

Lest they be forgotten.

Thank you nurses of the
Royal New Zealand Army Nurses Corps

Thank you nurses of the
Royal Australian Army Nurse Corps and
Australian Nurse Volunteers

b (NZ Medics Start Work in South Vietnam)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Australia and New Zealand In For The Long Haul Part III The Battle of Xa Long Tan

By Summer 1966 Australian and New Zealand forces increased military personnel to include naval and air forces. The communications between the American command and the Australians were poor and, essentially, Westmoreland's instructions to the Australian commander, Jackson amounted to a flimsy "suggestion" that the Aussie forces, along with their New Zealand comrades, take over the full responsibility for protecting Phuoc Tuy province. 

In August 1966,  D Company of 6RAR first encountered enemy forces in the village of Xa Long Tan-skirmishes took place from the 16th day until the 18th when Australian forces backed by New Zealand artillery saw Diggers suffer the worst losses of the war. Please have a look at the attached video:

Dedication of Memorial at Long Tan

16 - 18 August 1966

We Remember
and to those survivors
Welcome Home

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Australia and New Zealand In For the Long Haul Part II


By June 1966 two infantry battalions were set to serve under 1ATF (First Australian Task Force)- they were 5/6RAR (5th and 6th Royal Australian Regiment). The area under their command would be in Phuoc Tuy Province, a wealthy coastal area with an historically active agricultural and coastal economy and, in spite of its relationship with the Diem heirarchy and the Catholic Church, a strong base for Viet Cong activities. The province was situated within the III Corps Tactical Zone. Due to all of these factors, the area was considered to be a good match for the skills and abilities of Aussie forces. The landscape was not much different from what these troops had encountered in Borneo and Malaysia. There was excellent air and sea access and a secured evacuation route.The port of Vung Tau was a critical supply staging area on Route 15 on the way to Saigon and Bien Hoa. Overall this province was critical to the well-being of the Republic of South Vietnam. Everyone wanted a piece of it.
Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, November 1966
6RAR troops following APC during "Operation Ingham"-
a "search and destroy" mission".
AWM PO 1404.028

The exact locale for the Task Force would be Nui Dat situated near Route 2 heading north through the center of the province. This positioning put something of a choke hold on the enemy operating in that area. Included in the 4,500 strong Task Force would be artillery- some from New Zealand. Link   All was commanded by General O.D. Jackson whose center was Vung Tau. Active here was the 176 Air Dispatch Co, 2 Field Ambulance, 33 Dental Unit, 2 Composite Ordnance Depot and the 101 Field Workshop of Australian and Electrical Engineers. Finally, there would be No. 9 Helicopter Squadron Link and since 1964 the No. 35 Transport Squadron RAAF had been stationed in Vung Tau.
No 9 RAAF Badge

 New Zealand Artillery Badge
Australia and New Zealand
were now involved in the war
and would see thousands of their citizens fight and die in the jungles of Vietnam.

We welcome home all of those who served. As we continue this wee remembrance to young men and women who risked their lives, often not knowing exactly why, we hope that those of you who care to share your photos, memories or what-have-you will do so. You are welcome to post comments and remarks Anonymously if you wish, either on our Facebook page or here in the comments section. We certainly do not wish to put undue pressure on anyone to feel free to speak out and up, but we always request consideration for your fellows. Comments are monitored prior to publishing by adminstrators. Remember: Think twice and post once! Cheers. There's more to come. We will plow through the various years and as many actions as we can; meanwhile, we will also be spotlighting the medical corps- nurses and doctors- who cared for the wounded.

Attributions: Many thanks to the Australian War Memorial website for photographs.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Australia's Increasing Involvement In the War


As mentioned in a previous post, the AATTV (Australian Army Training Team Vietnam), a contingent of 30 men arrived in Vietnam with the objective of training ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) in the use of weapons, jungle warfare, tactics and strategy. Meanwhile, Australian troops were also engaged in battles in both Borneo and Malaysia (1963-66). 

The threat of the spread of communism in Southeast Asia had become a worry for countries in the region; and the economic losses that would be incurred should communist interests overcome were far more than the allies were willing to incur.

It was in 1964 that the Australian support began to grow- at least from Canberra and the military. Additionally, up until this time, AATTV personnel were prohibited from engaging in operations with those they had trained; this, it is said, created a stressful scenario for those folks and eventually, due to circumstances, were forced to engage regardless. By the end of their tour, the AATTV unit would become the most highly decorated in the war.
A member of AATTV, Capt. Peter Shilston, confirming by radio
that the village he is about to search with South Vietnam troops
has been properly cordoned off.
[AWM FAI/79-0/0595/VN]

In August of 1964 the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) would send a "flight" of Canadian-built deHavilland Caribou, a tough, stocky utility STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) aircraft. Designated CV-2 and  later C-7 by the US Air Force, the stocky aircraft, with its upswept tail was capable of maneuvering on short runways. The Caribou saw intense duty during the Vietnam War, used by both the US and Australia. The aircraft could carry 32 troops, two jeeps or other light vehicles. It's tail gate allowed for paratroopers' use as well. The RAAF retired its last Caribou, A4-140 on 27 November 2009. It was donated to the Australian War Museum.

By the end of 1964 there would be 200 military personnel in Vietnam - including en engineer and surgical team as well as a larger AATTV team. In November 1964 conscription by ballot began and by April 1965 after some pressure by the Johnson administration, which had deployed US Marines to defend air bases, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announces he will send 1 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) to assist in defense of American bases. The 1RAR served under the US  173rd Airborne Brigade defending Bien Hoa AFB.

In May 1965 the first combat force of 1,100 Australian soldiers were deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam.

It would be in July 1965 that New Zealand would send 120 soldiers from the 161st Battery, Royal New Zealand Army (RNZA). These gunners were equipped with L5 pack howitzers. L5 Pack Howitzer (link) RNZA personnel and their equipment were based at Bien Hoa air base and provided support to the American 173rd Airborne Brigade under whose operational control they were placed. Along with the gunners came a detachment of engineers who withdrew back to New Zealand soon as they had complete the task of setting up for the gunners. Clearly, New Zealand was very reluctant to go all in with their allies in Vietnam, being still engaged in confrontation in Malaysia.

Although the mission of the 1RAR was, initially, to serve in defense of the air base- by the end of 1965, Australian troops were participating in offensive actions with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Most of these sorties were confined to areas within a 20 mile range of Bien Hoa. It was clearly a struggle for the single-minded, seasoned Diggers (a term Australian soldiers used to describe themselves) to remain under the command of the American MACV out of Saigon. Different tactical strategies, outdated weapons and gear, and some other issues caused the troops and their commanders to chafe. By March 1966 Canberra would announce its plan to establish an independent Australian Task Force (1ATF).

(to be continued)

Attributions: Some information take from "Australia's Military Involvement in the Vietnam War" by Brian Ross

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Psyops in Vietnam: And A Little "Something" About SEATO Allies-and more

Often Delivered By Air Drops and Hand

Amazing Details About RVN Allies...and More (click here)

Attributions: Thanks to SGM Herbert A. Friedman (USArmy, Ret.) for his amazing work to inform those interested. Additional link:  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Remembering Vietnam Veterans From Australia, New Zealand, and Canada


**Read through series by clicking on NEWER POST at bottom of pages**

In July and August 1962, at the request of then-US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk- Australia sent 30 military advisers to Vietnam. Because of the experience the Aussies had with jungle warfare and counter-insurgencies in Malaysia and Borneo the Americans regarded their input as invaluable.
"Australia's initial commitment to supporting the American stance in Vietnam consisted of the deployment of a team of military advisers. On 26th July, 1962, the Minister for Defence announced Australia's intention to send 30 instructors to the Republic of South Vietnam, 4 going to the Military Aid Council Vietnam (MACV) Headquarters in Saigon, 22 to regional locations in the Hue area and 4 to Duc My.(1) This team would be headed by Colonel F.P. Serong, previously Commanding Officer at the Jungle Training Center, Canungra, Queensland and would fall under the command of the Australian Army Forces, Far Eastern Landing Forces Headquarters in Singapore.(2) The Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) arrived in the Republic of Viet Nam in August, 1962." Quoted from "Australia's Military Involvement in the Vietnam War by Brian Ross  (additional citations below)*

Personnel and aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force
Deplaning August 1964
Republic of Viet Nam

The Americans and Australians, with their varying types of experiences, possessed very different tactics and fighting styles.

"Whilst American instructors expounded the virtues of the rapid deployment of large numbers of troops, massive fire power, and decisive battles, Australians concentrated on individual marksmanship, the independence of platoons from battalion HQs, small scale patrols and ambushes. These differences frequently brought Australian advisers into conflict with their American superiors. The Australian policy of "economy of effort" was directly opposed to the American idea of "concentration of force".(6)

In addition to ground forces, eventually there would be medical personnel, air force personnel, infantrymen, tankers, and naval forces hailing from Australia and New Zealand. These combined forces were known as ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). This would be the first war which involved New Zealand that did not include forces from Great Britain.

And, although the Canadian Government was not involved politically or militarily, many Canadians joined or allowed themselves to be drafted into the US Military- mainly in the Marine Corps and the US Army.

We will focus our spotlight on each of these nations and their involvement with the war in Vietnam and that includes any and all medical personnel whether military or civilian. We will first begin with the largest contingent to serve in Vietnam, and that would be the folks from Australia whose Army is known as "Diggers". The soldiers from New Zealand, nicknamed "Kiwi" because of the presence of images of their national bird on emblems. The origin of the nickname "Digger" has been widely debated. Knowing that our friends from Oz love a good argument, we will stand by to see their comments!

Attributions: (1) p.8, Australia's Military Commitment to Vietnam, Paper tabled in accordance with the Prime Minister's Statement in the House of Representatives on 13 May 1975. (2) p.1, Horner, D.M., Australian Higher Command in the Vietnam War, Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No.10, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National Univsersity, 1986. (6) pp.56-58, McNeill, I. "Australian Army Advisers: Perceptions of Enemies and Allies".

Monday, November 04, 2013

To All The American Women Who Served in Vietnam: Part VI Final


We always hear about the American women who served in Vietnam in the context of military nurses or Red Cross volunteers- the fact is, there were many other women who served. To them, we will now offer our heartiest thanks and a tribute to each group.

US Marines/Vietnam
In 1967 plans were set in motion to send one officer and nine enlisted women to fill desk billets with the MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam), based in Saigon. The section
provided administrative support to Marines assigned as far north as the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). Later, two more officers were added and served as historians with the Military History Branch, Secretary Joint Staff, MACV.

There were about 28 enlisted women marines and 8 officers between 1967 - 1973.

US Army Medical Specialist Corps/Vietnam
With the number of military personnel increasing from 23,000 to 550,000 between 1964 - 1969 medical facilities were enlarged and established including 23 additional fixed installations. "There were surgical, evacuation units along with field hospitals, and a 3,000 bed convalescent center, supported by a centralized blood bank, medical logistical support installations, six medical laboratories, and multiple air ambulance ("Dust Off") units".a   Between 1966  and 1973  43 Army physical therapists, 33 of whom were women, served in Vietnam. In 1966  two Army dietitians were added to the medical mission. Eventually, a 20 women would serve in all four combat tactical zones. Seven of these women, served as dietetic consultants to the MACV (Medical Assistance Command Vietnam) Surgeon. While the majority of occupational therapy support for Vietnam casualties was provided by therapists in military hospitals in Japan, Hawaii and the States, one occupational therapist was assigned in Vietnam in 1971. Many of these Medical Specialists treated members of the SEATO (Southeast Asian Treaty Organization)- Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, South Vietnam and, of course, the US. Some patients were also civilians and prisoners of war. Within this group were many consultants. The majority of Army dietitian and physical therapists who served in Vietnam were lieutenant 
colonels and majors. b

US Air Force Women in Vietnam
The US Air Force Command refused to send women into a war zone until the war itself escalated and casualties increased beyond the capacity of male nurses and medics. Consequently, sixteen female nurses arrived at Cam Ranh Bay air base in 1966. Still,
because of the requirement for WAF squadrons and separate dormitories, only a limited number of enlisted women  were stationed in Vietnam at any one time. Most enlisted women served in Thailand assigned to units of the 13th Air Force at Korat, Udorn, Nakhon Phanom, Takhli, and Don Muang. They also served out of Bangkok and at U-Tapao. WAF officers served in many different capacities including supply, aircraft
maintenance, public affairs, personnel, intelligence, photo-interpretation,meteorology, and administration. 
* We have not seen a figure for how many Air Force women (even nurses) served in Vietnam. We are not sure if that is a function of Air Force policy or some other reason. As always, we are open to any information or suggestions readers may have. Just post your remarks in the comments section below.

US Women's Army Corps
Women have served in the  US Army since World War II when, by 1944 the Women's Army Corps reached peak strength at 100,000 enlisted and officers. Shortly after the war, Congress folded the corps into the Regular Army of the United States.

Most of the women who were in the US Army Corps in Vietnam were volunteers. Although not permitted to fill combat roles, they filled positions (beyond the Army Nurse Corps) in communications, supply, and administration. In 1964, General William Westmoreland, requested that the Pentagon send a WAC (Women's Army Corps) officer and a non-
commissioned officer to help in organizing and training a Womens' Armed Force for the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN) and assist where needed with the men's forces. Later, in 1965, a request was sent for 15 stenographers to be assigned to MACV headquarters. By 1970, over 20 women were on duty. Eventually there would be WAC personnel stationed at Qui Nhon and Cam Ranh Bay- all officers and NCOs. Shortly thereafter, 80 enlisted women reported for duty at Tan Son Nhut Air Base (just outside of Saigon). All of these women were under the same threat of attack as their male counterparts with the exception of not being armed for self-protection, even though they had been trained with sidearms and rifles. A total of nearly 700 women, officers and enlisted, served in Vietnam between 1962 - 1973.

US Navy Women in Vietnam
Many women served in the US Navy during the war in Vietnam, although the majority served stateside, in the Pacific, Europe and on hospital ships. Only a handful, other than nurses, actually served in theatre. Their roles, like their sisters in the other branches, were primarily to take over those duties normally held by their male counterparts who were serving on board ships and other areas directly involved with the war. There were numerous ships stationed offshore of Vietnam. Nine US Navy women (all officers) served in Vietnam in logistical and
support administrative capacities at Cam Ranh Bay. No enlisted Navy women served in Vietnam. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt did facilitate some policy changes in 1972 whereby a limited number of women officers and enlisted were assigned to the crew of the hospital ship USS Sanctuary. The first group included 32 enlisted and 2 officers. These women served on the ship's deck, in supply and operations as well as administration. This group would represent the very first sea-going women sailors who were expected to perform the same duties and tasks as their male shipmates. 


THE USO- The USO (United Services Organization) was made up of 6 other agencies-the YMCA, the YWCA, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Salvation Army, Traveler's Aid, and National Catholic Community Services. This body was created in 1941 by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Since the request for USO volunteers was granted by the Department of Defense, each
volunteer was given the rank of GS-10 or Captain. At the peak of the war, the USO had 22 clubs in Vietnam.

Each club had 3 staffers at all times. They provided snack bars, barber shops, gift shops, overseas telephone lines, photo labs, and hot showers. Many of the clubs were on the beach as in the Da Nang and Vung Tau areas. The main clubs were the Saigon USO, four in the Da Nang area: China Beach USO, Freedom Hill USO, Golden Gate USO, and the Liberty Center. There were 3 clubs at Cam Ranh Bay: Cam Ranh Bay #1 USO, Aloha USO, and Coffee Bar USO.
*It is important to note that USO Shows and USO Clubs were totally separate functions of the national USO.

So many others...there were American women journalists, American women volunteers with humanitarian, aid, and religious groups. Considerable numbers of these women ran or assisted in operating orphanages, clinics, food banks and other facilities for Vietnamese civilians. We will dig down to uncover more about the women who served as we move forward with our blog.

At this point, we would like say THANK YOU and WELCOME HOME to all the American women who served and sacrificed. Politics aside, these great citizens did what they could to make a very miserable situation a little better while setting aside their comfort zone, psyche and personal safety. There is just not enough gratitude and certainly not enough words.

As we wrap up our month of tributes to women, Vietnam: My War Too would like to send out a very huge THANKS to 
Ann Kelsey, DAC, USARV Special Services, Library Branch, 1969 - 1970 
who took the time to offer us leads, answer our questions and engage in a "hands-on, been-there, done-that" style of informative, professional guidance. Without her balance and steadfastness (not to mention sense of purpose), much of the information we have shared would not have been uncovered. Having said this, a huge thanks goes out to all the women who took the time to write down and share their memories and experiences via the

Vietnam Womens' Memorial Foundation 

Please visit them. They have links to most of the information found here and we humbly thank them for providing a wonderful repository where Americans can forever visit  this historical archive.

(click here)

Vietnam Women's Memorial
Washington, DC
1993 - 2013
Twenty Years of  Honor

a "Army Medical Specialist Corps in Vietnam", Colonel Ann M. Ritchie Hartwick; Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation website 
b Ibid