On 17th November 1969, with the main contingent of 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, being a National Serviceman infantry rifleman, I embarked from Brisbane aboard troopship HMAS SYDNEY sailing to what was then a sovereign country – South Vietnam – with the objective of aiding in its defence against the long running North Vietnamese communist insurgency.
It was a relatively uneventful voyage – certainly no pleasure cruise as we experienced very hot & uncomfortable living conditions on board below decks, and were occupied as one would expect in endless weapons drills (incl live fire at floating targets released from the aft deck) and fitness training. My recollection is we were issued with one can of beer per day and showered in salty sea water, with a 10 second rinse-off allowed with desalinated water. On the 28th November, we disembarked from ship to shore on WW2-style landing craft to a beach at Vung Tau – a major regional port in Phouc Tuy Province, South East of Saigon – for transport by truck convoy to the Australian Task Force operational base located at Nui Dat, roughly in the centre of the Province.
So now almost exactly 49 years later, I’m once again bound for Vietnam, but this time as a 71 years old tourist flying in the relative luxury of an SIA jet liner. I’ll initially spend 11 days in the company of several other ex-8RAR veterans, travelling as a group in the South of the country. Then after we part company, I’ll travel solo exploring some of the key cities and resorts of Central and Northern Vietnam. Both of my children have toured Vietnam in recent years and enjoyed the experience. So now it’s my turn to generate fresh experiences that I anticipate couldn’t be in greater contrast to my personal recollections (and to TV reportage) of war torn Vietnam, all those years ago.
Image shown above, evidence of my 1st visit to Vietnam, back in 1969-70.
This is the President on my WordPress account. Wishing you a most satisfying and enjoyable return to a place so changed from our time there. Please keep your observations and feelings coming on the blog as they will be assuredly worthwhile and insightful for those who have served as for those who have watched from afar. A tantalizing start to your story in this post. Nov 11 this year is shaping also to be a significant time for remembering those who have given all and those who gave so much – keep a watch on the date as you travel. Thinking of you Geoff.
Hi Geoff Thanks for the update re your travel plans. No doubt you will have a great time but perhaps also some challenging moments. Do hope it all goes well for you. I’m busy working for the Victorian Electoral Commission running the Burwood District election. Look forward to hearing all about it on your return. Travel safe Cheers Richard
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I was amazed when reading the start of your story and what happened on that day 17 Nov.1969.
That in such a way, your infantry was brought to Vietnam, I have never known. You all were brave men. Not knowing what kind of situation you would land in. An unknown country with a different culture where they were fighting a war.
I am so pleased that you were going back , which is brave of you because you will be dealing with quiet some emotions. So good that you went with several veterans.
This time Geoff you will have a great time to travel. It is a beautiful country and the people are so lovely and friendly. Enjoy it all and safe travel. Thinking of you.
Love, Ephy xx
Best wishes and enjoy your “journey”. travel safe cheers Jennie and Lex