The Australians say it means
"great continent to the south."
Both are essentially correct. The Australians are strangely
fascinating, and though they are
on the average smaller men than
most Americans, they carry with
them an atmosphere of hugeness.
In Saigon they dash around in olive-drab landrovers emblazoned with
bright red Kangaroos on the
doors ― the Vietnamese have no
word for Kangaroos, so they call
it "big red rat."
Australian "Tankies" wear black berets and the two battalions of
Australian infantry, wear
floppy, shapeless little bush
hats, no two of which look alike
either in shapelessness or in
the arrangement of the dirt
which usually encrusts them.
Altogether, the Australians are so colourful, they are almost
The 1st Australian Task Force has done handsomely in Vietnam.
Since last June 5, when the task force arrived 4000-strong. Phuoc
Tuy province, long a solid Viet
Cong stronghold, has been pretty
well cleaned up.
VC Bases have been uncovered by eerily silent Australian patrols
― all commands are given with
Australian artillery and the American and New Zealand artillery
batteries attached to the Task
Force have pounded the country
side until they can almost zero
in on a given rice plant in
seconds; villages have been
cordoned and VC guerrillas
rooted out; the Vietnamese are
going back to their rice and
fruit growing, fishing, charcoal
burning, and rubber tapping with
easier minds; and through it all
the Diggers have maintained a
startling 10-1 kill ratio.
They have killed well over 400 VC―by body count—wounded nearly 100,
captured 80, interrogated 159 VC
suspects, captured 135 weapons,
some of them crew-served and
appropriated nearly 2000 pounds
of VC rice.
At the same time, the Australian civic action team has undertaken a
wide variety of projects, from
building a village chief a new
office to distribute toys "to
demonstrate visibly to the
people that there is a better
way of life available to them
than that demanded by the
Meanwhile the Phuoc Tuy Vietnamese, and a lot of Americans, have
been "discovering" the
Australian speech for one thing.
Australian English is all but unintelligible to the untutored ear.
The grammar is roughly the same
as in American English, but
vocabulary and pronunciation are
In Australian English day is pronounced die, die is pronounced doy,
round is pronounced raund, and,
among the Diggers at least every
fourth word is bloody. This is,
or mostly is, of course, the
linguistic corner-stone of
American GI's conversation.
But the Australians have gone beyond a simple verbal habit and have
developed it into an art form.
Their versatility with the word
is astounding. They use it as a
noun, as an adjective, as an
adverb, as a verb, and
occasionally as an expletive.
They have yet to find a way to use it as a preposition, but
particularly fluent soldiers
make up for this national short
coming by inserting ― into the
middle of words such as "O―kay."
children near the Australian
base have of course, begun to
learn English with an Australian
This phenomenon was
considered charming until
somebody noticed that the
children, and a few adults, too,
were picking up the
like "Ahygoin, mite," and
somewhat more regrettable
morsels of slang.
At that point a Major began on
his own to teach the children a
more universally acceptable
How he greets
one boy. "Gooday, Lung," to
which Lung replies "Gooday thieu
ta" ― major.
"How are you
Lung?" and Lung answers
carefully "Verry well thak you
Australian slang is bewildering,
particularly when used with that
accent. A simple declarative
sentence like "the Regimental
Sergeant Major's pretty sick
today. He came through here like
a tornado and now he's
disappeared, no kidding," may
well come out an Australian
mouth as, "The RSM's bloody
crook today, came round like a
wooly wooly and now he's gone
bush fair dinkum."
You usually ask for a repeat of a statement like that.
Australian soldiers are almost to a man, good looking both in face
and physique. They are not
unusually big men but they are
wonderfully fit and muscular,
and it is difficult to find one
you might reasonably call ugly.
Australians spend a lot of idle
moments and some busy laughing
and joking with considerable
energy. Sometimes at their own
expense, sometimes at other
They also love to sing, though "Waltzing Matilda" is to the
Australians as "Yankee Doodle
Dandy" is to the Americans.
It is easy to laugh at them, not only because they have a fine
sense of humour, but also
because their language itself is
a bloody riot.
An Australian telling a joke to an American often finds his
audience weak with laughter long
before the punchline ― a
disconcerting experience for a
raconteur unless he realises
that his speech alone can reduce
Americans to tears of mirth if
he does no more than read the
army regulations aloud.
On the other hand Australian soldiers are anything but giddy. They
are intelligent, sensitive,
observant, and well-mannered.
Some may lack one or two of
these qualities, but in any army
you find the odd man from a
You also find other ranks who think more perceptively than their
better educated officers, and
among the officers you find a
normal balance of intellect,
devotion, strength and weakness.
Australians are not excitable, but they are far from phlegmatic.
Like Americans they do things
hard―play, fight, work, drink,
It is said that recently when a
couple of Diggers were
unaccountably roughed-up in a
Saigon bar by Vietnamese
"Cowboys" as city toughs are
called, a band of their Digger
mates returned the next night
and destroyed the bar utterly,
leaving no stone unturned and
the proprietor standing dazed in
one steaming wreckage of his
It is also said that not long ago a Digger indulging in a few hours
dalliance in a hotel room
received from the hotel
management a complaint of
He reportedly strode downstairs to the hotel lobby wearing nothing
but a machete, the blade of
which he slammed half an inch
deep into the top of the
reservations desk and inquired
"now what's the problem mate?"
of strength like these have
understandably, gained the
Diggers a reputation for being
Most aroused Americans are indeed somewhat less cataclysmic than an
irked Digger, but the Diggers
are not all that wild. They are
at the moment frustrated.
They are having trouble finding somebody to fight.
Phuoc Tuy province, about 120
miles square, no longer offers
the challenge it did last June.
The Viet Cong have split their
main forces remaining in the
province in small groups and are
avoiding major engagements with
the Australians ― wisely. You
might say except for the tactics
effects on the average Digger.
He won't go home for another three months; he has nothing to shoot
at except snakes and an
occasional charging water
buffalo angered by the smell of
foreigners; a lot of his time is
now taken up with stringing
bloody barbed wire and filling
bloody sandbags; the canteen has
run out of both beer and goffus
― soda ― and the blokes are
getting bloody restless. That's