5RAR Association Website
operations conducted 1966 - 67


 

australian infantryman's combat badge
operation queanbeyan
(Cont'd)

17 - 26 October 1966

Captain Robert J O'Neill MID

 

Hung's diary was very informative for he had begun each days entry with his current location, so that we were able to follow his movements for the whole of the first ten months of 1966. A great number of valuable deductions were derived from this study which occupied a great part of my time for the following three months. He also left other notes that related to the future activities of  the 274 Regiment so that we were able to formulate a detailed picture of what we would have to guard against during the following months.

Amongst the equipment finds it was interesting to see that the Viet Cong  were equipped with Armalite rifles and that they had left 125lbs. of Chinese Communist explosive. Several Chinese Communist Claymore Mines were captured whose diameter exceeded that of any others we had previously encountered by twenty per cent. The quantity of equipment that came out of the caves was such that it took eight pages of closely typed foolscap to list everything.

While A Company spent seven days in searching the caves, C Company had been patrolling through the south-western part of Nui Thi Vai where they had found further Viet Cong bases and huts and a sow with litter, all of whom had been carefully camouflaged. The huts and other installations were blown up and the company moved on over the southern ridge of Nui Thi Vai and onto Nui Toc Tien. Despite extensive patrolling over this hill, nothing more than dense jungle was discovered.

B Company examined a number of buildings which the Viet Cong had been using on the northern side of Nui Thi Vai before moving out into the jungle to take over the ambush role from D Company on tracks further to the east. After a few days of intense alertness to the extent of laying motionless for the greater part of every day, ready to fire with accuracy at a split second's notice, eating silently without heating food and forgoing smoking, B Company began a sweep around to the north of
Nui Toc Tien and the Dinh hills. This sweep discovered a small group of Viet Cong and more was learned of their movement patterns in the area

After three days of fruitless ambushing, D Company was ordered to ascend to the summit of Nui Thi Vai to search the upper slopes and the eastern side of the hill. On October 21st, Lieutenant Dennis Rainer's platoon crept down into the pass between Nui Thi Vai and Nui Toc Tien. Some alert observation by Lieutenant Barry Campbell, the forward observation officer from 103 Field battery who was accompanying this patrol in case it ran into trouble and needed artillery support, discovered some huts on the western side of the pass. These huts had been very carefully camouflaged and were in extremely thick bush. Further investigation showed not only were they surrounded by a belt of mines and booby traps but also they were occupied by a group of Viet Cong who were inside one of the huts. During a complete reconnaissance around the huts, the entrance path was found. By the path was a notice written in Vietnamese, displaying a scarlet skull and crossbones. The notice warned that the reader was passing through a minefield and requested that he ring the bell that was close by. Rainer's men did not stop to observe formality and crept up into the immediate vicinity of the huts. After stealthy movement and deliberation, Rainer launched his platoon into a surprise attack. Out of the eleven Viet Cong in the camp, ten were killed and one escaped for the loss of no casualties to our men.

In the camp the men found all the weapons of the former occupants, together with their ammunition and equipment. The survivor fled through the jungle for several days and gave himself up at the Duc Thanh District compound. He had been convinced that the days of the Viet Cong had passed in Phu Tuy since he had been finally tracked down in a hiding place deep in the jungle, even though his unit, the Chau Duc District Company, had not been engaging in offensive operations for some months. He verified that Rainer's attack had completely wipe out that particular post of the company.

As the days went by it became apparent that we were reaching the end of what was to be found on Nui Thi Vai and we prepared for departure on October 26th. However, we were certain that the Viet Cong would send replacement garrisons back to the hills once we had left, so we did what we could to deny the use of the area to the Viet Cong for some months. By spreading tear gas crystals in the caves and tunnels it was possible to create fumes which would linger for up to six months and so the last days on the hillside were spent in treating the caves. We were able to blow up all the surface installations and huts but nothing could demolish the great mass of fallen rock which contained the caves.

This operation had proved unexpectedly successful in view of the captured radio and diary and it also had been extremely difficult. These two factors combined gave the battalion a great feeling of mutual confidence amongst its members. Although it had not been significant in terms of the long term aim of our presence in Phuoc Tuy as the cordon of Binh Ba, it had the strongest impact on the spirit of the battalion and Nui Thi Vai became one of the most vital sections of the battalion's tradition. For bravery and leadership in this operation, Military Crosses were awarded to lieutenants Deak, Macaloney, and Rainer, the Military Medal was won by Private Fraser, and Corporal Womal was posthumously mentioned in dispatches.


 

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