|The 31st of March 1971, Vietnam|
The official report reads as follows "On the 31 March as A Company 2 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion moved north, 1 platoon was dispatched to search the area along the Song Rai. At 1430 hours 1 platoon found a track showing signs of use in the last 12 hours. Fresh signs of cut timber were found. The remainder of A Company halted while 1 platoon followed the track, and after only 40 metres, five enemy were seen 10 metres ahead by the forward scout. 1 platoon immediately initiated the contact with a sustained burst of machine gun fire. The enemy were surprised and slow to react, but after five minutes heavy enemy fire was being received from the west. 1 Platoon had been flanked on three sides, had taken casualties and were endeavouring to direct helicopter gunships onto the bunker system. 2 platoon had run out of smoke grenades and the Sioux helicopter went in to resupply them.
Confusion existed over who had thrown a yellow smoke grenade. The Sioux circled the bunker system to clarify the situation, took ground fire, and was forced to land.
The firefight continued for 45 minutes, with the enemy engaging 1 platoon with 60mm mortars, RPG 7's, grenades and satchel charges, wounding 3 more soldiers. 1 platoon commenced a fighting withdrawal and married up with the Pioneer Platoon. A Dustoff helicopter came in to evacuate the wounded. Both the Pioneer Platoon and the enemy threw smoke. The Dustoff went to the wrong smoke and a door gunner was killed. The platoons then withdrew to the eastern bank of the Song Rai and evacuated their casualties from there. The enemy followed up the withdrawal and Pioneer Platoon sustained one casualty."
We were one the east bank of the Song Rai comfortably lying up in our ambush positions waiting for some one to flush the enemy towards us, when the firefight broke out. We immediately broke camp and headed toward the contact. When we got there, we had to cross a branch of the Song Rai. This was a difficult crossing and we could hear the firefight raging.
We got close to the contact and tried to direct artillery fire onto the enemy. Scotty [CO 3 RAR] was flying overhead in his Possum Scout helicopter, assessing the situation. The arty wouldn't fire while he was in the area. Suddenly the Possum started to emit smoke and descend. There are various myths and legends that have grown up about the downing of the CO's chopper (including 7 Platoon shooting him down ... he was directly over us when the chopper starting emitting smoke). These are dealt with by Mike English (A Coy) on the Mildura Site. (Peter Scott's own description). With the departure of the Possum, the Arty opened up. We retired to a nearby hill while the Arty chewed up the jungle.
We were then forced to sit on that hill, waiting to go into the bunker system. I suppose we were waiting for reinforcements or something, but it was bloody frustrating. A cold silent camp was ordered. As usual they got something totally different. We wanted to support our mates down there and if we couldn't get in there, at least we would help them out by trying to stop the Nogs from following them up. We made heaps of noise and had big cooking fires, there was no way the Nogs could miss where we were and if we couldn't go to them, then maybe they would come to us. Whether it was related or not we don't know, but the Nogs stopped following up the platoons and withdrew back to their bunker system. We sat there listening to artillery pounding the bunker system.
by Bob Wood
© 1999 - 2001
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