This is a tribute poem to those young men (from D Coy 4RAR) who were killed or wounded on 21st September 1971, on the very last patrol conducted by Australian infantry troops in Vietnam.
♪♪ There’s somethin’ happenin’ here!
What it is ... ain’t exactly clear!
There’s a man with a gun over there,
Tellin’ me ... I gotta be-ware!
Sayin’: ‘STOP! Hey! What's that sound?
Everybody look what’s goin’ down!’ ♪♪
- from the song For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield, 1969.
‘Big Business’ roared,
As the death toll soared,
Vested interests pushed this war to last;
Greed to blame,
In this power-play game,
And so defeat was the die they cast.
Harold Holt long dead,
McMahon ‘led’ instead,
Both fawning puppets, ‘all the way’;
Yet, Johnson’s Mafia ties,
And Nixon’s lies,
Meant nothing to these men that day.
This last patrol,
Had as its main goal,
A small hill, mere contours, on a map;
Unbeknown to them,
Some other men,
Had set an ambush, a well-planned trap.
This knoll Nui Le,
In northern Phuoc Tuy,
A jungle base for the NVA;
’Twas well overgrown,
In this border zone,
A battalion had dug in this day.
So ‘Delta Four’,
Was given the chore,
In September, 1971;
A combat team,
With an Australian dream,
Their tour of duty then almost done.
To return home at last,
Their nightmare passed,
A fantasy waiting, just down the track;
And yet no one knew,
Of a rendezvous,
With the ‘Grim Reaper’, dressed all in black.
On the 21st,
A platoon was cursed,
Appointed to the task out front;
In single file,
A staggered style,
Forward scout, another conscript ‘grunt’.
Minds alert, awake,
For signs enemy make,
All moving, at a really slow pace;
’Twas an eerie sound,
Silence all around,
Sweat droplets flowing down each face.
Patrol dropped their packs,
Down off their backs,
Safety catches switched ‘OFF’, on each gun;
Webbing dug right in,
To already chaffed skin,
Of these young men, aged 21.
A sudden: “Contact Front”!
In this sucked-in hunt,
Should’ve stayed down there, where they were;
Then an order came,
What a bloody shame,
To follow up along that spur.
When Cong pulled the noose,
All hell broke loose,
And yet to some troops, ’twas nothing new;
Grenades and rocket sounds,
As if Dante’s nightmare had now come true.
RPGs into trees,
Shrapnel down from these,
Enemy entrenched in bunkers ahead;
The ‘Louie’ was down,
From a sniper’s round,
Four machine gunners lay silent, all dead.
Gunships in support,
Yet counted for nought,
‘Hug the belt’, the enemy’s objective;
Where ‘No-man’s-land’ space,
Was too small a place,
So ‘arty’ became ineffective.
This close-quarter fight,
Raged on through the night,
Then ‘all quiet’ prevailed next dawn;
From where it had been,
That battlefield scene,
All NVA had departed, withdrawn.
Success was the claim,
But claimed in whose name?
At such a cost, for so little gain!
Old men had lied,
Too many young men had died,
A sacrifice for nought all in vain!
War sure destroys,
‘Pollies’ play-thing toys,
’Twas a dreadful, final, fatal toll;
With wounded galore,
And six dead Aussies the score,
Five were ‘Nashos’, on their last patrol.
Courtesy of T. Andrews - modified