The obvious enemy for the Australian troops during the Vietnam War were the Viet Cong/NVA forces. Yet, besides these and the atrocious living conditions, insects, snakes, scorpions, spiders, rain, heat and humidity, the troops faced the underlying and often overt, ubiquitous antagonism from large sections of the community back home. These included extreme left-wing unionists, such as the postal workers and ‘wharfies’, radical university academics and students. Sadly, many of these so-called ‘activists’ openly supported the Viet Cong directly with propaganda and medical supplies.
Members of the Liberal-CP Government and their supporters who had sent the troops to Vietnam, did little to stop this treasonous behaviour, other than mouthing the usual token platitudes and rhetoric.
“The fight against the guerrilla must be organised methodically
and be conducted with unrelenting patience and resolution.
Other than rare exceptions it will never achieve spectacular results,
so dear to laurel-seeking military leaders!”
- retired French Colonel Roger Trinquier (veteran of Dien Bien Phu) in Modern Warfare, 1964.
♪♪ We didn’t start the fire! ... It was always burnin’, since the world was turnin’ …
We didn’t start the fire! … Though we didn’t light it, we tried to fight it! …
We didn’t start the fire! ♪♪
- Billy Joel from the song We Didn’t Start the Fire, 1995.
Photos courtesy Hanoi Museum
In August, defeated,
The Viet Cong, retreated,
To Nui May Tao, in the north east;
Yet, guerrilla trained troops,
Harassing cell groups,
Ensured frequent contacts never ceased.
Against such dogged persistence,
And local resistance,
We ambushed and patrolled in platoons;
Whilst at home unsupported,
So newspapers reported,
Another enemy inflicting more wounds.
From our camp not so far,
We cordoned Binh Ba,
‘The Big Frenchman’ claimed they’d gone, ‘di di’:
“Oh non, non, Monsieur,
S’ il vous plait, j’ assure:
Ces Viet Cong n’ habitent pas ici!” **
So back at our base,
Showing not even a trace,
Of concern for potential attacks,
All base wallahs in style,
‘Sat fats’ in their ‘hootchies’ relaxed.
Ten Ks from ‘The Dat’,
In the swamps of Rung Sat,
Or in caves up on Nui Thi Vai,
On old ox-carts disguised riding,
To shelters there hiding,
Enemy bases all ‘round Long Hai.
In such villages we’d look,
Like Hoa Long or Long Phuoc,
Xuyen Moc, Dat Do or Phuoc Le;
And plying the Song Rai,
Fishing the coast off Phuoc Hai,
Sampans sailing the South China Sea.
A rice cache revealed,
In a bunker concealed,
Clearly its construction of cut logs brand-new;
On a fresh track located,
Our ambush awaited,
In a thicket of tall spiky bamboo.
And finally at last,
Three patrolled slowly passed,
A.Ks ready, safety on ‘OFF’, unslung;
Just a few seconds later,
All met their Creator,
One woman and all far, far too young.
Amongst sweat and red mud,
Scratches of freshly dried blood,
Our skin ’twas bitten, attacked every night;
And we’d come to discover,
Under this eerie black cover,
Our enemy preferred then, to engage us, to fight.
Morale meanwhile decreasing,
Anti-war protests increasing,
Ideals and ignorance, a dangerous brew;
Such psychological tension,
'Twas beyond comprehension,
Since back home we had an enemy too.
** Trans: "Oh no, no Sir, please, I assure you!
Those Viet Cong don't live here!"