Retired major recalls memories of the Vietnam War

Major Carl Guy OAM (Retd) and president of Club Taree recounts some of his experiences from the Vietnam War.
Major Carl Guy OAM (Retd) and president of Club Taree recounts some of his experiences from the Vietnam War.

THE sight of wounded soldiers being unloaded from an American aircraft was one of the first times it really hit home to a young Carl Guy that he had entered a war zone.

Then 22, he had just arrived in Vietnam as part of the 3rd battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment, ready to set up base camp in a rubber plantation at Nui Dat from where Australian soldiers would join their allies in an offensive against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.

For his commemoration address at Monday's Vietnam Commemorative Service at the Club Taree memorial, Major Carl Guy OAM (Retd), who is the current president of Club Taree, recounted some of his experiences from Vietnam.

The service saw the community gather together to remember those who fought in Vietnam, and other wars, and the enormous human sacrifice they paid to protect Australia, our liberty and our way of worship.

"Remembrance Day is an important day for us and one we should never forget," said Mr Guy.

Part of the infantry, he said they were well trained (he received four years training at the Adelaide Hills before being deployed) and well aware of what they were arriving into.

"We thought we were six feet tall and bullet proof."

A section commander, the young corporal oversaw 10 men (including five National Servicemen) during the 12 months he was in Vietnam.

The role of the infantry was to seek out the enemy and destroy them and the strategy included a heavy patrolling team.

"This was a new type of war for Australia with quick changes to tactics, no front lines or trenches (as had been the system during World War II) and continually on the move.

"Each war is different with different objectives and different strategies."

The Vietnam War was fought to stop the spread of communism.

Mr Guy said that at the time (10 years since Korea and 20 years since the end of World War II) there was a real belief amongst politicians about a real threat of the communism movement moving south towards Australia.

They joined with the South Vietnam government to stop a takeover by the north.

"We as a country were concerned enough to help stop the spread of communism."

He said while the war took a heavy toll on their troops, they also had good success against the Viet Cong.

Interference from politicians and the media caused issues for the soldiers.

Vietnam was the first time on TV and reporters were allowed in and reported back each day.

An example of the interference was one occasion where they had boxed in the Viet Cong, who had nowhere to go, and were preparing for their final assault when they were ordered to cease operations and ordered out. The order had come from Canberra following the media reportage of the losses and injuries of Australian and allied soldiers.

"We knew that all this information going back through the media was having adverse effect."

In closing, Mr Guy said he saw the harsh side of the war and in hindsight it "is something you would never change".

"I often look back and think of the futility of war... the threat was real enough and we responded to that threat."

He came away from Vietnam with two sayings.

"If you want an advocate for peace, ask an infantry soldier who has seen the worst," and "For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavour the protected will never know."

Following his 12 months in Vietnam he returned home, only to return later on a fact finding mission with the special forces.

"But it was basically all over by then."

Mr Guy retired from the regular army in 1998 following 32 years of service.

The commemoration service also included a wreath laying ceremony, the sounding of the Last Post and Reveille by bugler Alex Bell, the prayer for commemoration of the fallen by RSL sub-branch committee member Darcy Elbourne, the prayer for peace and freedom by RSL sub-branch treasurer Stuart Debnam, recitation of The Ode and a prayer from the sub-branch chaplain, Father Keith Dean-Jones.

Mr Elbourne also read out the honour roll of local soldiers who went to Vietnam and never came home.

They were Sapper Peter J Bramble who was killed in action on May 22, 1969, Captain Robert B Milligan who was killed in action on February 14, 1967, 2nd Lieutenant Kerry P Rinkin who dies of wounds on April 2, 1967, Private Allen J Wallis who was killed in action on May 16, 1968 and Lance Corporal Michael P White who died of wounds on April 26, 1969.


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