W Operation Twickenham 1
   
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operations conducted 1969-70


 

australian infantryman's combat badge
operation twickenham 1

2 May - 13 May 1969

Captain Mike Battle

Over-nighting in Nui Dat after surfside, 5 RAR was inserted by foot and APCs to ambush the approaches of the Nui Thi Vai and Nui Toc Tien. The AO (Area of Operations) was Illawarra.

The Nui Thi Vai feature had been cleared for years, and virulent rumours attesting to the enemy strength and fortifications in the mountains, were heard.

Clear aerial photography showed some of then enemy positions. Some caves were tourist attractions during the period of French occupation. These, possibly, would now be enemy hospitals or living areas. Although there were evidence of a lot of track activity no occupied enemy camps were known prior to the operation.

D67 was thought to have an unknown size force around Nui Thi Vai and agents had reported a company of D445 Local Force Battalion moving to the Nui Dinh's. Route 15 village guerrilla units were known to have bases in AO Illawarra and it was thought that the enemy logistic unit was operating from the eastern side of the Nui Thi Vai mountains.

On the morning of 3 May the battalion headquarters group move by road into Fire Support Base Susan, just off Route 15. The companies went into ambush positions around the mountain on foot with D Company coming in from the east in APCs from Nui Dat.

It soon became evident that the track A Company was on was part of a major track system leading in and out of the northern valley. They ambushed numerous groups of enemy and killed nine in four days. An indication of the fanatical fortitude of these enemy was seen in one of the contacts. An enemy officer was wounded in a contact by 1 Platoon late on 6 May. 2 Platoon moved into an ambush position in that vicinity and that night heard yelling and moaning to their front and received three shots into their position. Then there was quite. Early on 7 May this platoon moved to locate and, if possible capture the wounded enemy. Seventy yards from the ambush the forward scout was fired at by the enemy who was killed by return fire. This Viet Cong was found to have both legs shattered by the previous contact, but had still managed to drag himself away, put tourniquets on his upper legs, fire into the ambush positions, prop himself against a tree on the track, and although near death from loss of blood, to fire at the searching party. A courageous man!

Raw courage was the order of the day when A Company was met by elements of D67 in the northern valley of the Nui Thi Vai's. 1 Platoon was met by an aggressive group of VC firing from prepared defensive positions in caves. Lieutenant John Lee took a small group and set off up the steep rocky slope to reconnoiter the enemy position. About half way up the mountain this party was hit by heavy aimed small arms fire, grenades and RPG's. The Platoon Commander was hit in a fire lane and the remainder of this party were pinned down behind a rock ledge. Sergeant A. B. McNulty was sent from 3 Platoon with a section to provide fire support. When he arrived at the contact area he decided to move around to the right flank and move up the slope with his section to locate the wounded officer. Neither air or artillery fire support could be used because of the location of the platoon commander and the proximity of our own troops.

It was obvious that the enemy intended to stand their ground and fight. B and C Companies were moved into cut off positions on the south and west. D Company was sent up the mountain from the east, with orders to assault the enemy positions from above.

Sergeant McNulty reached the group that was pinned down and extracted them by fire. He was shown where the wounded man was. Throughout this time this group was being engaged by heavy AK 47, RPG and claymore fire. Lance-Corporal K. C. Bell, without waiting for instructions, dashed across a known fire lane to the platoon commander and was shot in the neck and cheek. he indicated that he was all right by commenting (in colourful terms) on the Viet Congs' shooting abilities. he was then extracted from the enemy's line of fire when two other soldiers dashed forward under the cover of heavy machine gun fire and dragged him to safety.

Flame throwers were then brought up. Corporal W. Ward directed the flame at the enemy position and was immediately fired on by enemy RPG's. Under the cover of the flame Private Williams, Private Donnelly and Private Leahy dashed out and dragged the body of the platoon commander back across twenty yards of open ground. The group then withdrew back to the company position in the valley. This contact lasted seven hours. Heroism was common place and it was miraculous that that only one other soldier was wounded.

The enemy position was pounded during the night and D Company did the assault the next morning, but the enemy had withdrawn under the cover of darkness. It was obvious that the base had been used for a long time. Captured was a complete enemy workshop including a furnace and tools.

5 RAR was then sent north to protect Long Binh on Operation Roadside. Mission accomplished. Ten days later we were to return to AO Illawarra.


 

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