W3 Company - Operational Timeline

index of individual and service stories

October 1970 - W3 COMPANY ACTIVITIES

This section has a detailed timeline for W3 Company activities from 1 to 31 October 1970

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glossaryxxxxH is a time in 24-hour clock, if six-digit the first two are date.  YSxxxxxx is a 6-figure map grid read left to right then bottom to top.  KIA killed in action - WIA wounded in action - BT blood trail       full glossary here 

Rain fall figures are for NUI DAT.

Research Issues.  The 2RAR logs available on-line are hand written and generally messy to read and difficult to understand.  Night locations were not recorded for several days in the month.  Many gaps in the timeline have been filled by using detail reported by 2RAR/NZ to the 1ATF CP.  The 2RAR/NZ logs in their unedited state do offer some insights into unit operational thinking.

Summary.  W Coy started and finished October 1970 working from their lines in NUI DAT.  For the first week of October W Coy were the 1ATF ready reaction force.  During this period when not on sentry, patrolling or being called to react to VC sightings the troops relaxed in an attempt to regain health, tidy up the lines and anticipate their withdrawal back to Singapore.  When they returned to AO JUDY [centre of mass YS360700] on 8 October, there were only three weeks of operations left in the 12-month tour.  There was only one contact with VC in October 1970.2Pl sorting equipment under Sgt Harry Hemana [wearing shorts on right] prior to returning to the field on 8 October 1970

It is likely however that October is remembered by many veterans mainly for the accidental wounding of four servicemen, one of whom succumbed to his wounds.  This in turn will confuse in many memories the proud record of service attained in the previous eleven months.  The accident has been researched and is only lightly covered in the timeline as all the detail can be read here.

Rear Details.  W Coy rear details conducted section strength [x1 NCO and x10 soldiers] TAOR ptl on dates as follows:

4 - 6 October x2 patrols deployed to approximately the centre of YS4767 and YS4865

2Pl sorting equipment under Sgt Harry Hemana [wearing shorts on right]

1 October
Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DAT

Rainfall today .03 points, humidity 84%

2 October
Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 85%

3 October
1010H 2Pl were reacted to assist SAS patrol c/s35 deal with a large cache of VC ammunition at YS334825, the explosives were considered dangerous and destroyed in situ at 1745H by 1 Fd Sqn RAE: 
contents of cache located by SAS 3 Oct 70

contents of cache located by SAS 3 Oct 70

1Pl assumed the ready reaction role again following 2Pl's deployment at 1010H, however with the arrival of the 1Fd Sqn combat engineer team [with 600lbs of HE] 2Pl were stood down and returned to NUI DAT during the afternoon.

Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DAT

Rainfall today 102 points, humidity 85%

Nui Dat lines during heavy monsoon rain
such as during 3 October 1970 [Brooker]

4 October
Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DAT 

Rainfall today 5 points, humidity 85%

5 October
Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DAT

Rainfall today nil, humidity 81%

6 October
Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DATPre-operation admin in 2Pl  lines at NUI DAT - Lt Upton on left in shorts

Rainfall today nil, humidity 84%    

 Pre-operation admin in 2Pl lines at NUI DAT - Lt Upton on left in shorts

7 October
1445H 3Pl, Ready Reaction platoon on 7 and 8 October, were warned-out to assist a SAS patrol who had located a cache of VC weapons hidden in a well.  3Pl were advised they would remain in the field and rejoin W3 Coy after 9 October.  This task was later cancelled. 

Late afternoon 3Pl was again warned-out to guard a crashed Australian helicopter, but stood-down without deploying at 1920H.

Night Location:  W Coy were in lines NUI DAT

Rainfall today 1 point, humidity 82%    

8 October Pl Sgt Sig - Sig Paul Salt 3Pl
Pl Comd Sig - Pte Charlie Lee 3Pl
[left] and Pl Sgt Sig - Sig Paul Salt 3Pl [right]
1015H 3Pl were
warned-out to support C Coy who had located a large VC camp.  HQ 1ATF issued the order to deploy at 1031H and 3Pl were located with C Coy YS348758 at 1110H.  3Pl were c/s16 on the 1ATF comd net but on arrival at C Coy were directed to flick frequency to the 2RAR comd net as c/s53 and act as a radio relay between 0A [Bn HQ] and c/s30 [C Coy HQ].  It is both an irony of jungle warfare that 3Pl could get comms to 0A from the same area as C Coy when C Coy had no success, both having the same radio equipment, and a testament to the skill of the 3Pl W Coy radio operators.

W Coy passed the ready reaction role to V5 Coy at noon and deployed by air at 1500H to blocking positions south and SW of C Coy. 

[1510H 8Pl C Coy had a contact with approx 30 VC during which x1 Aust was killed and x3 Aust WIA.]

3Pl activities, and those of W Coy for 8 and 9 October are covered in detail at his link.  It had been 2RAR's intention [as at 1300H] for 3Pl to be released from supporting C Coy and to move west to the area of the fire trail but this was changed during the afternoon.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS328722, 1Pl YS322724, 2Pl YS340730, 3Pl YS347758 [co-located with C Coy].

Rainfall today 29 points, humidity 84%file photo of Pte Ron Johnson 2 RAR with dog MILO [AWM]

9 October
3Pl activities for 8 and 9 October are covered in detail at his link.  In outline 3Pl took a tracker dog team to where 40 VC inflicted casualties on 8Pl C Coy on 8 October to then follow the track of the VC party the following day.  The remaining W Coy elements remained in their designated blocking positions in hope that a VC party would blunder into their ambush.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS328722 [or YS347713], 1Pl YS322724, 2Pl YS340730, 3Pl YS356743 [approx]

Rainfall today nil, humidity 79%         file photo of Pte Ron Johnson 2RAR with dog MILO [AWM]

10 October
3Pl activities for the morning of 10 October are covered in detail at his link.  In outline 3Pl followed the tracker dog team along the route the VC party had used after the 8Pl contact.

1215H at YS360739 3Pl report being in contact - after a period of confusion the report was changed to a 'blue on blue' accident.Map of W Coy movements 10 October 1970  Four soldiers were wounded before it was realised that the platoon were firing at themselves.

    Wounded during the accident:
       Lcpl Bill Samson         Pte Ian Herd          
      LCpl W Samson    Pte I Herd

               Pte Ross Dunlea         

     Pte T Cooper         Pte R Dunlea


Map of W Coy movements 10 October 1970


3Pl activities for the afternoon of 10 October are covered in detail at his link.  All four casualties were winched from the location around 1300H and flown to Australian or US hospitals.  2Pl joined 3Pl to provide support and added protection in case the VC party being pursued was still in the vicinity.  An official investigation into the accident began, the investigating officer being Capt Jim Brown MC, the former 2ic of W Coy.
Samson and  Dunlea on the jungle penetrator [Brumm]

Samson and Dunlea on the jungle penetrator [Brumm]

There is no mention of the 3Pl accident in the 1ATF daily SITREP for 10 or 11 October [which may explain why the incident is not mentioned in Lt Col Church's book], nor is there a mention of friendly losses however the accident is covered in detail in the 2RAR/NZ CP log and mentioned in the 2RAR/NZ After-action Report for Op CUNG CHUNG III dated 18 Nov 70, page 146.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS347713, 1Pl YS315730, 2Pl and 3Pl co-located at YS360739 [approx]

Rainfall today 38 points, humidity 6%

11 October
News was received that Pte Tom Cooper had died of his wound at
the US 24th Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh.  2Pl left 3Pl in location during the afternoon and patrolled south in the direction taken by the original VC party.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS347713, 1Pl YS315730, 2Pl YS361730, 3Pl YS360739

Rainfall today 17 points, humidity 81%

12 October
3Pl took a MAINTDEM during the morning and then moved south. The tracker dog team was withdrawn back to NUI DAT on the MAINTDEM helicopter.

1210H locstats are 1Pl YS324723, 2Pl YS367727

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS347713, 3Pl YS365720

Rainfall today 101 points, humidity 91%

13 October
1245H locstats: 1Pl YS325717, 2Pl YS371721, 3Pl YS368732.

1405H locstat ptl 2Pl YS374722.

1500H locstat 1Pl YS326715.'slicks' lifting a platoon

1750H Arty comd 1ATF advised arty and air cells that location YS3366 [1km north of the NUI DINH peak] was a non-fire zone as W Coy were to deploy 14 October into the area.  W Coy was warned out for an air insertion to secure a suspected VC location at YS335665.  1Pl would be inserted into a block position at YS3266, the remainder would be inserted at YS335665.  The LZ for the block force would be assaulted by Bushranger LFT while the main company LZ would be 'prepared' by artillery with Bushranger support.  At 0800H a section of 107 Bty was moved from FSPB LE LOI back to NUI DAT to be in range and operational by 0830H.

'slicks' lifting a platoon

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS347713, 1Pl YS327716, 2Pl YS374722, 3Pl YS369732.

Rainfall today 66 points, humidity 87%                        

14 October
W Coy was inserted into the two LZ during the morning.  It is not indicated in the logs when the air assault started but the company was in the area of the VC camp before noon.

During the insertion of 2Pl Cpl Wally Goodman received eye damage from debris stirred up on the LZ.  Cpl Goodman remained with 2Pl to allow them to quickly move against the suspected VC installation and the follow-up during the afternoon.Cpl Wally Goodman with his eye injury received during the 2Pl helicopter insertion 14 October 1970 [Wolfe]

Cpl Wally Goodman with his eye injury received during
the 2Pl helicopter insertion 14 October 1970 [Wolfe]

1241H locstats were Coy HQ YS345661 [remaining at this location throughout the afternoon]. 1Pl YS320664, 2Pl YS344657, 3Pl YS345661.

1600H locstat 2Pl YS343656

1800H at YS346655 2Pl finally requested a DUSTOFF for Cpl Goodman who was extracted 50' by jungle penetrator and flown to 1AFH.  There had been no contact with VC.

Night Location:  Coy HQ (+) YS341666, 2Pl YS346655

Rainfall today nil, humidity 83%       

15 October
Night Location:  Coy HQ YS341666 [or YS347662]

Rainfall today trace, humidity 79%           the area of W Coy last days of operational service were the high ground in the centre of the photo, Coy HQ remaining stationary in the area to the right of the dark mass in the centre of the high ground.  Toward the end of the month platoons had moved to the flat ground out of sight to the right [Young]

The area of W Coy last days of operational service were the high ground in the centre of the photo, Coy HQ remaining stationary in the area to the right of the dark mass in the centre of the high ground. Toward the end of the month platoons had moved to the flat ground out of sight to the right [Young]

16 October     
Night Location:  2Pl YS325657, some other elements appear to have been at YS350659 as a POSSUM reported a fire at that location and was advised the fire 'was W Coy burning off' [meaning burning MAINTDEM packaging].

Rainfall today nil, humidity 78%

17 October
Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675 [high in the NUI DINH feature], 1Pl YS329679, 2Pl YS338675, 3Pl YS345675.

Rainfall today trace, humidity 81%

18 October
Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675

Rainfall today 32 points, humidity 86%

19 October
[FSPB LE LOI closed]

Contact:  1133H at YS342688 3Pl were halted when x5-7 VC approached their rear from the south and downhill from the 3Pl location.  3Pl waited to identify the target before firing but the VC spotted the 3Pl sentry.  After 3Pl initiated the contact the VC withdrew SW, nil result.  INT assessed the contact as likely having been with CHAU DUC guerrillas.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675, 1Pl YS336684 and YS338689, 2Pl YS341695, 3Pl YS346691.  W3 mor sect were in lines at NUI DAT.

Rainfall today 53 points, humidity 86%NUI DINH range west of NUI DAT - last area of operations for W3 Coy October 1970

20 October
Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675

Rainfall today trace, humidity 79%

21 October
Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675

Rainfall today not known, humidity not known

22 October
Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675

Rainfall today trace, humidity 86%

23 October
0850H Coy HQ advised Bn HQ that the weather in the area was poor and that the CO would be unable to visit.  C Coy also reported similar conditions.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675

Rainfall today 382 points, humidity 82%,

24 October
Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675 but Sunray flew to NUI DAT at around 1730H.

Rainfall today trace, humidity 83%

25 October     
W Coy stretched their eastern boundary down onto the flat ground to YS376700 to YS368680, 2Pl were already in the area and actually east and outside of the new AO boundary.  This is the area where 2Pl had
Pte Rau TeHaara and Lcpl Dave Waaka both 2Pl [Brooker].  Rau typically carried 1200 rounds of linked ammunition [six belts] for the M60, considered a phenominal weight. two encounters with turtles.

1715H 2Pl were advised of a VC location at YS382655 and directed to check.  A mousetrap was granted from YS376700 to YS380700 then south along and including the river to YS395654.

Pte Rau TeHaara and Lcpl Dave Waaka
2Pl [Brooker].

1906H Bn HQ advised that 2Pl postpone the camp check as US 8" arty would engage the area of the VC camp that night.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675

Rainfall today nil, humidity 88%

26 October
[8RAR withdrew from operations in preparation to return to Australia.]

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675claymore AP mine, 2Pl like most ANZAC elements deployed up to six in a line connected to a single initiation point [internet]

Rainfall today trace, humidity 84%     

claymore AP mine, 2Pl like most ANZAC elements deployed up to six in
a line connected to a single initiation point [internet]

27 October
0355H 2Pl fired their claymores unexpectedly and the 2Pl MFC immediately called for an arty lay-on fire mission as was standard procedure following the initiation of an ambush, 107 Fd Bty reported ready.  It was likely the MFC also reported that there was no further SA firing as would be expected following an ambush initiation.  It was quickly known within 2Pl that tortoises had spooked the sentries, however this information appears to have been kept from Bn HQ and the arty fire control net, possibly also from Coy HQ. 

0358H CP to c/s5 [Coy HQ] 'we have a lay-on msn from shelldrake [arty] for c/s52.  Also c/s52 has fired claymores.  Can you supply more info..?' / 'wait out'.tortoise as found in Vietnam [internet]

tortoise as found in Vietnam [internet]

0404H Coy HQ advised the CP 'cannot give anymore info until morning'.

0800H CP log records that 2Pl advised and the OC reported 'detonation of the claymores was a mystery, unsure of detonation cause.' [yeah right...]

0810H CP was suspicious 'have you any more information..?' / 'investigation found nothing'.  CP: 'was it initiated by natural causes..?' / 'we do not know'.

1010H CP to W Coy: 'brief CO on claymore incident and ask CO if any requirement for follow-up action'.  [the CP were perhaps concerned about ammo technical failure and the requirement to universally replace that batch of claymores.]

Question:  Did Lt Upton 'fess up to Sunray..?  if so did SUNRAY keep a straight face when discussing with CO..? 

[FSPB GAIL closed]

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675, 1Pl YS348700, 2Pl YS372689, 3Pl YS349689.

Rainfall today 1.91 points, humidity 91%

28 October
[a cyclone was expected to pass along the coast with 70 knot winds]

0900H locstat 2Pl elm moving west then south, other c/s no change.

1153H locstat 3Pl YS360684.grub & mail - Pte Colin Drylie, Pte Vic Hill & Pte Roy Whatarangi 3Pl [Brooker]

grub and mail - Ptes Colin Drylie, Vic Hill and
Roy Whatarangi 3Pl [Brooker]

During the afternoon all W Coy elements received their last MAINTDEM, strength states for the MAINTDEM collated and passed by the CSM to the CQMS were:  1Pl - 30, 2Pl - 28, 3Pl - 28, Coy HQ - 22 = 108 personnel in the field at the end of the tour.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675, 1Pl YS348700, 2Pl YS372689, 3Pl YS360684.

Rainfall today 51 points, humidity 97%

29 October
1050H locstats 1Pl ptl YS341700, 2Pl ptl YS376685, 1110H 3Pl YS363677.

1732H CP warned Coy HQ of a VC location near YS365677 and requested advice when 2Pl could search the general area.  At 1810H Sunray advised the CP 'ref checking of area in vicinity YS365677 by c/s52.  The creek between c/s52 and that area is not able to be crossed except at c/s53 present location and even there a crossing is hazardous.  However c/s53A has been across and checked out the area to the SE - there is no fresh sign at all.  c/s53 is ambushing the only feasible stream crossing at present'.

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675, 1Pl YS348700, 2Pl YS372689, 3Pl YS360684.

Rainfall today 1.5 points, humidity 88%

30 October
[Sky was overcast with low cloud from the cyclonic weather being experienced with rain falling across the AO.  0700H 2RAR/NZ CP advised 1ATF CP that 'air task deep into the DINH's temporarily postponed due to inclement weather.  2RAR will advise when area clear to go in'.  At the time visibility for helicopters was around 100 metres, a dangerous scenario for helicopters flying in mountainous terrain. Note the rainfall that day was recorded as 350 points.]

0720H Coy HQ advised the CP that they had a U/S radio handset and requested a replacement on the POSSUM flying the CO in to meet with the OC.

0744H locstats were Coy HQ YS338675, 1Pl YS348700, 2Pl YS372689, 3Pl 360684

Night Location:  Coy HQ YS338675, 1Pl YS348700, 2Pl YS372689, 3Pl YS360684.Pte Tom Konia 2Pl - smile sums it up..!

Rainfall today 350 points, humidity 94% [historical note:  this was the worst monsoon storm to hit the region in 6-years, large areas of countryside were flooded, 293 officially reported killed and 200,000 people left homeless - for all intents and purposes the weather practically halted the war for a couple of days]

Pte Tom Konia 2Pl - smile sums it up..!

31 October
0855H an aircraft spotted smoke in the area of the NUI ONG CAU ridge E36-37, N66-67, at 0901H.  W Coy advised that one of its sub c/s had burnt off some rubbish [likely 3Pl].

0930H the CP logs the following message: for OC from CO, on last day operations, congratulations on job well completed from rest battalion'.  The message was also to be forwarded in written form to W Coy in their lines in NUI DAT.

[0924H while W Coy were engaged in their air move back to NUI DAT, 3Pl V Coy were in contact at YS276734 and despite a jammed MG a female VC was WIA (legs) and evacuated.]

1055H 2RAR/NZ log records W Coy as being at NUI DAT. 

[1240H at YS340734 1Pl V Coy advised they were in contact.  Eventually at 1300H they reported a contact with x4 VC who fired at them while both parties were crossing a stream, x1 NZ KIA [LCpl M Sutherland], x2 NZ WIA [Pte R Cairns - leg wounds, Pte A Putt - facial and limb injuries].  The enemy were then reported to have withdrawn west but leaving a blood trail.  DUSTOFF was called to uplift the three NZ casualties by jungle penetrator, two IROQUOIS being required with Flt Lt Robin Klitscher RNZAF flying the 2nd aircraft that extracted LCpl Sutherland's body.  The DUSTOFF of the x2 NZ WIA was completed by 1330H, Cairns going to 1AFH while Putt was flown to US 24 Evac Hospital at LONG BINH.  1Pl V Coy then reported following up the blood trail and claimed x1 VC WIA [BT].  In 1999 this 'contact' was finally disclosed amidst enormous controversy to have been a 'blue-on-blue' clash when a MG being carried across a stream accidentally discharged back into the troops, the troops and platoon hierarchy deciding at the time not to reveal the true circumstances.  What is interesting is that at 1240H the CP log records OC V Coy saying 'believe there has been an accident, OC checking on other means now, wait out', this first news likely passed over the fire control radio net.  At 1252H OC V Coy reported 'initial report received was there seems to be an accident, 3 of our own people hurt.  2nd report was that of a contact, at this stage [indistinct] can't raise c/s41' and then further detail requesting LFT cover.  At 1300H the c/s41 SITREP offered the story about the contact which would be revealed as a lie some 30-years later.  One can only reflect on the different approaches adopted by commanders between this accident and that experienced by 3Pl W Coy earlier in the month (ironically just 2Km east of the V Coy accident) and draw your own conclusions].

W3 Company held their final traditional post-operation BBQ starting around 5PM.  Not surprisingly W Coy was not invited to submit a team in the BARIA Sports Carnival held 31 October - 1 November to celebrate Republic Day.

final post-op BBQ 31 October 1970 - beer trailer in foreground [Brooker]
final post-op BBQ 31 October 1970 - beer trailer with selection NZ, Aust and US beers [Brooker]

Night Location:  W Coy complete in lines at NUI DAT. 

Rainfall today no record, humidity no record

W Coy remained in NUI DAT from 31 October until flying out on 10 November

References:

HQ 1ATF AWM95, 1/4/200, 201, 202
2RAR AWM95, 7/2/62, 63, 64, 67

www.awm.gov.au/collection/war_diaries/se_asian_conflicts/

the only W Coy contact after-action report for October 1970 is here [but wrong platoon commander]

read September 1970 timeline here          read November 1970 timeline here

full glossary here     anyone can offer corrections and updates to this detail - send here

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