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.