|C Company &
to the disagreeable consequences of holding
a particular belief in order to show that
this belief is false.
It is dangerous ground
for those who claim to believe in democracy,
to use the argument that any war is wrong
because it brings cruelty and destruction. History teaches that
you can only enjoy as much freedom as you can
defend. It was the Spartans who said 2300 years
ago "He who has the best argument about borders
is the man with his hand on his sword."
Notice; Any and all
movement by persons within the strictly
prohibited Free Fire Zone's as designated by the
armed forces of the Australian Task Force. Will
be considered unfriendly, and could be fired on
day or night.
On moving into the Phuoc
Tuy Province in May 1966, the Australian Task
Force declared an area at first four and later
kilometres around the base at Nui Dat along
with other areas within this Provence, to be
Free Fire Zones. Vietnamese civilians were
forced to leave villages that were located close
to the base, such as Long Phuoc and be resettled
elsewhere. Then all unauthorised movement within
the areas designated FFZ (Free Fire Zone), be it
via person or vehicle could be fired on.
This placed extreme difficulty on the local civilian population.
They had requirements of food collection such as
from banana plantations and gardens they owned
within or close to the FFZ. Things such as
firewood collection around and rubber tapping
within the plantations, though always dangerous.
due to VC activity (over 50 rubber workers had
already been killed by the VC) had become even
more dangerous. Due to VC activity Highway 2 (the
main rout north/ south within the province) was
closed and normal communal interaction between
village populations, visiting relatives, market
days etc was severely disrupted.
The local Viet Cong cadres had imposed forced taxation and youth
recruitment on the local village populations. One of the RARs'
(Royal Australian Regiment) prime tactics to prevent the
VCs' effective movement between populated areas
was the Ambush. Some of the local population
chose, either because of need or were forced by
the VC, to take the risk to enter these Free Fire
Zones. This was an extremely dangerous thing to
September 1966, 4 kilometres South of Binh Ba
That's right, it was
at the boundary that sudden change from low
forest and woody scrub one often found at the
edge of rubber plantations. He remembered the
section commander had signalled him to change ―
go from single file to arrow head formation. Of
course it made little difference to him what the
section's formation was, as the scout of the lead
section, he was at the sharp end ... and the most
If scouting, he had made it his habit to always
quietly observe as long as he could any clear
space before moving into it. He hated to move
into relatively cleared areas such as this
rubber plantation and did so only when given no
other choice. Today was such a day. There was no
way to avoid it. There was some kind panic on
the radio, something about a large enemy force
nearby. Captain Milligan's famous 'Binh Ba 1000'
again I suppose! All C Company platoons had been
ordered to get to the village of Binh Ba as a high
priority ... probably about four clicks away, it
was late afternoon and he was being pushed
From his position at the plantation edge he
could see long corridors of rubber trees their
smooth grey trunks running away in perfect rows.
Because rubber trees were planted in rows the
gaps between made natural fire lanes and it
always seemed to him you could be seen for
The trunks of the trees being narrow and soft,
they were useless for cover as the Sixth
Battalion blokes had recently found out. The
areas used for plantations were invariably flat
with only very shallow drainage lines, so there
could be little protection from any possible
mortar attack. In the dry season the foliage was
sparse, giving only light shade, so it was often
bloody hot . . . he hated the rubber.
Having waited in cover for as long as he dared
and about to stand, he suddenly caught a
movement to his left.
Two black pyjama clad figures, one following the
other were moving along the plantation edge. They
were about 150 metres away and appeared to be
following a faint rubber workers track. If they
continued they would move from left to right
across his front.
At this distance they did not appear to be
armed; perhaps they were rubber workers or local
villagers. This was a dangerous situation, they
should not have been here. He was sure they had
not seen him. They appeared oblivious to their
surroundings and preoccupied with their labour,
focused only on getting to where they were
going. Lying on his left side he turned to make
eye contact with his section commander to
indicate 'two people who appeared to be unarmed
moving from left to right'.
The section leader who had obviously already
seen them, signalled him to let them pass.
People such as rubber tappers or wood collectors
found unarmed within the FFZ would normally be
apprehended and sent back to Nui Dat for
questioning. On this occasion for whatever
reason apparently this was not going to happen.
Perhaps the village of Binh Ba was closer than
The platoon remained hidden in heavy cover along
the boundary of the plantation and waited as the
two women crossed in front of the lead section.
With that strange bent-knee gate Vietnamese use with such grace, two baskets each on bamboo
shoulder poles bouncing to the rhythm of their
step, the two small women approached. They were
heading north, probably toward the village of
Bin Bah just few clicks away. Their baskets
though shallow appeared heavy with what looked
to be fruit. He noticed the section commander strongly
signalling the platoon behind in the negative and hoped the rest of his platoon understood
what was happening ― it was a tense situation.
Though not involving his platoon, unauthorised
movement within the FFZ areas had unfortunately
led to some incidents in the past.
A platoon is made up of over 25 individuals,
some are nervous, some frightened; a recent
reinforcement might get just plain confused.
What they all have in common though... is a
lethal weapon in their hands.