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Profile of the 5RAR soldier ~ Vietnam War

The Diggers in Vietnam - as others see them

UC DAI LOI is Vietnamese for Australia

The Vietnamese say that Uc Dai Loi literally means "continent of great interest."

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 fictional.
   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 hand signals.

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 communists.

   Meanwhile the Phuoc Tuy Vietnamese, and a lot of Americans, have been "discovering" the intriguing Australians: 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 something else.
   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."

   Vietnamese children near the Australian base have of course, begun to learn English with an Australian accent.

This phenomenon was considered charming until somebody noticed that the children, and a few adults, too, were picking up the Australian-slurred greetings 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 dialect.
    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 sah."

   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 people's.
   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 different mould.
   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, and complain.

   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 business.
   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 excessive noise.
   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?"

 Shows of strength like these have understandably, gained the Diggers a reputation for being wild men.
   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 fair dinkum.