5RAR Book Reviews Page



Author: Peter Haren

Reviewed By David Wilkins

It was a classic point. Caesar’s ears shot out, he went rigid and his body froze.

Book cover: TrackersThese words describe the final phase of a “track” where the war dog gives his troops the tactical advantage of surprise over the enemy. It is also within minutes or maybe just seconds of a ferocious jungle battle.

The author, infantryman, Private Peter Haran, was holding the lead to Caesar, as he did throughout most of this excellent book.

I found this account of Australia’s tracking dogs in South Vietnam to be both enthralling and moving. This is very much because Peter Haran is an outstanding storyteller. Indeed this is one of the most compelling publications I have read on the Vietnam War and I didn’t put it down until I finished it.

The author’s graphic portrayal follows his involvement as the dog handler, initially of the rogue, Damian, and then of the larrikin Labrador-Kelpie cross, Caesar, from the time of his early training days in the Tracking Wing at Ingleburn’s School of Infantry and on the austere and rugged Helensburgh training range, to the highly dangerous combat operations against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in the jungles of South Vietnam.

Told in the typical colourful language of the Aussie digger, this gritty story tells of relationships and bonds between man and dog, particularly the author and his mate, Caesar, as well as between fellow visual trackers/handlers and between their respective dogs. It is interesting, stirring, amusing, and most of all it is engrossing.

The Tracking Wing had a short life from 1966 till the end of Australia’s involvement in this war, but its products of tracking teams, visual trackers, war dogs and their handlers had a major impact upon infantry operations against the enemy. Anyone who experienced the benefit of having these trackers available to assist in pursuing a withdrawing enemy will not only enjoy this book thoroughly but will also gain a more intricate knowledge of how these courageous specialists at the sharp end executed their skills. I can also recommend this book to those soldiers further from the infantryman’s battles, as well as to those who have never worn a soldier’s uniform, as it will help bridge that gap of knowledge, which for non-combatants, is near impossible to otherwise comprehend.

For members of 5RAR, this book will reignite your own memories of your exploits with the tracker dogs, Caesar (who was handed on to other battalions following the author’s tour of duty with him in 2RAR), Juno and Justin.