Errol Wayne Noack was the first Australian conscript killed in Vietnam. He was a rifleman in 4 Section 5 Platoon, B Company, 5RAR (‘The Tigers’). He was shot dead at the junction of two creeks in thick jungle at dusk on ‘Cracker Night’, 24th May 1966. Much controversy still surrounds his death. The ‘official version’ was that he was killed by a Viet Cong sniper as he prepared to fill a water bottle from a small creek. The view of the other Australian soldiers present at the time (and therefore eye-witnesses) was, and still is, that Noack had been mistaken as enemy and shot by a soldier from another Australian rifle company from across the creek, being unaware that Noack’s patrol was in close proximity. This interpretation is not ‘popular’ in some quarters as it implies a ‘loc.stat’ error had been made by perhaps one or two senior commanders in one or both of those companies concerned. Noack had just turned 21.
     Because he was a conscript, and because he was the first killed on the first day of battle, Noack’s death stands as a symbol of the tragic mistake of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. Whilst ever some continue to deny that it was indeed a mistake, Vietnam sadly remains a festering sore, incapable of healing.
     The poem below embraces the contents of a reply letter his elderly father sent to the author in 1988. 

                                                 “The Conscription Ballot is a ‘Lottery of Death!’ ”
                                                                                                                                          - Arthur Caldwell, 1966. 

                   ♪♪ The old man rocked ... among his dreams ... a prisoner of the porch!
             The light he saw ... at the end of the tunnel ... was nothing but a burglar’s torch!
                        And them that was caught in the covers ... are all rich ... and free!
                                    But they chained my mind ... to an endless tomb,
                                             When they took my only son from me!
                                                    I know it’s true ... Oh, so true! …
                                                         ‘ Cause I saw it ... on T.V. ♪♪

                                                                                              - from the song I Saw It On T.V. by John Fogerty. 

                              “In peace, children inter their parents. War violates this
                             order of Nature and causes parents to inter their children.”

                                                                                                                                   -   Herodotus, 439 B.C. 

                                           “The wounds of the Vietnam era are slow to heal                                                                      
                     because many insist upon picking the scabs!”
                                                                                                    - from A Noble Cause by Gerard De Groot, 2000.

Who  Killed  Errol  Noack ?

​​         

Hello Paul,                                    Kangaroo Island, 1st August 1988


​I thank you ... for that tribute you wrote,
Thought I’d reply if I may ... with this brief note.
About my son ... most folks are not aware,
Of things, years ago ... I’d like you to share.
’Cause he walks daily … across my troubled mind,
Just these images … all that’s left behind!
(And you know ... it seems just like ... yesterday!)


A God-fearing lad … he was taught to be,
Always an excellent son … he was to me!
As a young athlete … Nordic ... he stood quite tall,
College trophies testify ... up on the wall.
A grand future awaited him … lay up ahead,
Just shattered dreams … now that he lies dead.
(’Twas in all the local papers!)

*

As the years flash by ... a somewhat foggy haze,
Great times together ... during holidays.
Spear-fishing and camping ... treasured all,
Precious memories each ... as I now recall.
Sharks cruising ‘round ... and beneath our feet,
Errol showed no fear … offered them fish to eat.
(And you know ... it seems just like ... yesterday!)

No other parent … he ever knew,
Sole custody I had ... since he was 2.
As a teenager here ... at the Cannery,
In Port Lincoln he worked … alongside me.
Later, he took a job … with Myers’ rag trade,
As a sports-wear model … up on parade.
(’Twas in all the local papers!)

*
Then suddenly, it changed … they drew his name,
An unfair ballot … his call-up came.
Some folks told him how … he didn’t have to go,
’Twas a mere matter … of whom you know!
Yet, on Friday 13th … nigh midnight,
Claimed he just had to leave … and do what’s right!
(And you know ... it seems just like ... yesterday!)

His final days spent ... down here at home,
With me ... an old man ... now left on my own.
’Twas a lonely trip … that day I made,
600 Ks from the airport ... in Adelaide.
Foreboding images … filled my head,
And then it happened … news that he was dead!
(’Twas in all the local papers!)

*
An Army chaplain ... brought a telegram,
Saying my son was killed … in Vietnam!
They said he’d be buried ... over there!
I strongly objected ... claimed it wasn’t fair!
They’d taken from me ... my only son!
I demanded his return ... and guess what? ... I won!
(And you know ... it seems just like ... yesterday!)

Today they lie together … side by side,
Errol’s mate, Bob Lubke ... soon also died.
Last year in Sydney … as the bugle played,
I held his flag ... in a Welcome Home Parade!
‘ERROL NOACK HOUSE’ ... honours his sacrifice!
Named after him! … Oh God! … What a dreadful price!
(’Twas in all the local papers!)

                                                                        Regards ... Wally Noack.

©

All photos courtesy of Wally Noack

Who  Killed  Errol  Noack ?