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Thread: Vietnam War

  1. #1
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    Default Vietnam War

    I came across this story when I was researching my family, I am Brian Henry Aspinall so the name Henry Aspinall came up. here is the sad story of a man who was sent to war in Viet Nam and was not given a heroes welcome. I hope you find it interesting.
    This is also going on today with our Afghan Veterans, NO SUPPORT from the Politicians. , LIVES WRECKED.
    .

    . “His actual name was Henry but everyone called him Harry”

    Harry Aspinall was an infantry soldier who fought his last battle when he died on Wednesday 13 October 2004. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War. His actual name was Henry, but everyone called him Harry.

    This is Harry’s story. (At least the bits I know)

    I first met Harry when he joined 2 Platoon A Company 2 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion in Vietnam in 1970. He was a ‘Reo’, a reinforcement soldier. Now there are a lot of traditions with infantry soldiers. For example, we never call anyone by their first name. We are not the RAAF. They may call each other Roger, Rupert or Charles. But we call our blokes Johnno, Smithy, Digger, Dickhead and Hey You. So what will we call Harry? His surname, Aspinall, was too hard for the average infantry soldier to say, and ‘Asp’ was equally as difficult. ‘Harry’ was out of the question; so we settled on ‘Harry The Black’. Because that’s the way it was.

    So Harry The Black was posted to 2 Platoon. They put him in 6 Section. An infantry section is made up of ten men. It is divided into three groups: Scout, Gun, and Rifle Groups. And just like a football team there are glamour positions, but there is also a group of blokes that specialised at nothing, but could always be relied upon to take the ball up, especially when the going got tough, they would do anything that was asked of them and they could be relied upon 100%. I refer of course to the Rifle Group. Harry The Black was a rifleman.

    The life of a rifleman was pretty tough. They carried a lot of gear, their own personal equipment and some of the section equipment. After all, the glamorous scouts who were up the sharp end, needed to travel lightly; they couldn’t carry a lot of the section’s gear. The big burly blokes in the Gun Group were the firepower of the section with the GPMG M60 machine gun; so they couldn’t carry any extra gear either. The riflemen carried it. As well as their own personal weapon the SLR, a rather long heavy rifle not really suited to jungle fighting, (but gee it was tough and it packed a big punch) they carried seven magazines, about four days water (eight water bottles – 20 lbs), six days food, some sleeping gear, two grenades (kept securely in their ammo pouches and not clipped onto their webbing like the silly Yanks used to do). Then there were the claymore mines, the M79 thingo and some ammo for it, maybe some spare rounds for the machine gun (those burly gun group blokes were pussies after all) and a few smoke grenades to signal the choppers. A total weight of 80 - 100lbs (40-50kg) all up. When you put your pack on, your eyes bulged under the load and you patrolled stooped over to bear the weight.

    Patrolling was conducted all day every day. The riflemen were down the back. If you were a rifleman, your job was to cover to the left or right, or to the rear if you were the ‘tail end charlie’. In the jungle the enemy seemed a remote threat when you had to deal with tangling vines, leeches, ants, snakes, scorpions, spiders, and every other biting insect known to man and they were all waiting to pounce on YOU. And I haven’t even mentioned the MOSQUITOS. The heat and the humidity were oppressive. You were always drenched in sweat. Because you needed to conserve water, you didn’t drink enough and you were always thirsty. Some days when the exhaustion clouded your brain you daydreamed of a large, ice cold chocolate milkshake. It would be so thick that you had trouble drawing it up through the straw; and the effort made your cheeks ache. With each step you grunted when the load on your back shifted as you picked your way through the jungle, your eyes continually scanned for the enemy. ‘Grunt’ was the nickname that would apply to the infantry soldier in Vietnam. Harry the Black was a grunt.

    When late afternoon came, you harboured up for the night. If the patrolling was done right, you had a track nearby where you could lay out an ambush. A track and creek was the jackpot. While the physically and mentally exhausted scouts rested, and the gun group prepared the gun pit; you went to work and did everything else. You cleared tracks on and within the perimeter and put up a cord at chest height from tree to tree to allow easy movement between pits at night. You did sentry duty. You carried water from the creek for the rest of the section. You set the claymores. You conducted the clearing patrol (a quick last look around just before last light). When you were advised of your time on gun piquet and the digger you had to wake at the end of your stint; you practiced the route so that you could move easily and silently about the position in the dark. A piquet was a two-hour stint behind the machine gun with one of your mates during the night. You would be lucky to get six hours sleep during the night. That’s of course if no enemy showed up.

    So what happens when the shooting starts while you are on patrol? You as one of the riflemen have to close up to the guys up front. This means you conduct a darting run fuelled by adrenalin. The bullets from the AK47s crack, crack, crack, over your head. Leaves and stuff fall down on top of you. The rounds seem only inches away from your head. You don’t know what’s up front but you hurtle through the jungle to support your mates; vines and vegetation cling to your pack trying to slow you down. You drop to the ground and cover the flanks and the rear. You have praticed this drill many times. You know where everyone is. Your mouth is open, sucking in as much breath as you can, your throat is dry, you turn your head sideways so that your profile is lower and those bullets have less of a target.

    When the shooting stops, guess who have to get up and check out the area where the enemy were seen to fall? That’s right, the riflemen. This is when it gets really scary. Out there could be a wounded enemy just waiting for you to walk up to him so that he can blap you with his AK47! He knows he’s gone, so he is going to take as many of you with him as he can. Even the dead pose a problem as the fleeing enemy often popped a grenade under the dead body. You move the body. Bang! The grenade explodes sending hundreds of hot, tiny metal fragments into your body. That pounding heart which started bouncing up through your throat when the first shot rang out is still there. It’s a reminder that your body is saying to you, “keep your head down, stupid!” But you stand up and move forward to clear the area.

    The dead have to be searched. Yep, it is the riflemen’s job again. No one else volunteers. You have to do it. The dead must be brought back to the section position, now in all round defence. You never know when the enemy may counter attack. You drag the dead enemy by their feet. This is easier than carrying them. You grasp the end of their trousers. They feel damp and they are slippery because of the blood. As you drag a body into the section position, the shirt gets pulled up around the neck, exposing the bloodied torso; it is not a pretty sight. The arms are stretched up behind the head. The bodies are bent and broken from battle. They are still sweaty, and stained with blood. You gaze at the enemy soldier. His life is spent. It is then you realise that he was just like you. He was doing his job for his country. But it cost him his life. Maybe you should feel sorry for him, but you are just numb. You feel nothing. Your throat is still dry from a mixture of exertion, fear and dehydration. You take a sip from your water bottle. The water is warm and doesn’t quench your thirst. What I’d give for an ice-cold chocolate milkshake right now. Your pounding heart has eased somewhat, and the shakes are beginning to set in. That’s what the smokes are for. After a couple of quick puffs on a smoke, you start the searching. No special gloves here. You take out your bayonet and cut the pockets open. You pinch at the clothing with your fingers, searching for weapons or documents. The bodies are photographed for identification, and then they are buried. The boss records the details in his diary, including the map co-ordinates. Who digs the graves? You are getting the picture now….. the riflemen.

    You move off with the rest of the section. You are totally exhausted, but you can’t relax, not yet. You move to a night location and begin the night routine; tomorrow it starts all over again.

    2 Platoon conducted 318 operational days in 12 months in Phuoc Tuy Province, and never lost a battle. Unfortunately a couple of blokes were killed and a couple were wounded. Guess who loaded them onto the choppers and stood and watched helplessly as the downwash from the chopper made the blood soaked bandages dance in the breeze? Yep, blokes like Harry.

    This was Harry’s lot in Vietnam. He did his service for his country. He put his body and his mind on the line. The continual alertness, the relentless patrolling in the heat and humidity under that overbearing pack, the lack of sleep, the adrenalin charged contacts with the enemy, and the most enduring memories of all, putting his dead and wounded mates on the chopper, were to have a profound affect on him for the rest of his life. And just like all his mates in his section and the platoon, he was proud of what he did. He did it tough and he did it right. He did make a difference. He earned his place in that brotherhood of very special men. Those men who are prepared to come forward and fight for their country.

    He came home to Australia. We all know the response that was waiting for him. Apathy. No, it was worse than that. Derision. So Harry retreated inside himself. He had trouble sleeping. He was often depressed. The gunfire had dulled his hearing and he had flashbacks. He found it difficult to concentrate. His memory was shot. He had a number of jobs, but the war never left his consciousness. Society had made him feel guilty for being a Vietnam Veteran, Harry and his mates were labelled baby killers and druggies.

    A few beers helped, then a few more. It was OK at first he could cope. But as the years passed his body started to fight back and he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 1995, but he had lived with it since 1971. Some people get it with one traumatic incident. How many traumatic incidents did Harry endure? A hundred maybe? The beer numbed the pain. It allowed him to survive. But the body can only take so much.

    At age 55 he was dead. How could this happen? Where was the support for Harry? We’ve seen the footage on the TV from the politicians as they waved the young boys off to war, “Don’t worry boys, we’ll look after you.” Famous last words.

    Harry sought help from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) four years ago. He applied for a pension. He hadn’t worked for some time. His chronic PTSD and alcohol dependence saw to that. DVA would later agree that these conditions were caused by his war service. Surely Harry was entitled to the TPI Pension? A brief description is shown below.

    The Special Rate takes into account incapacity from war or defence caused disabilities, that alone, are so great that a veteran cannot undertake any employment totalling more than 8 hours per week.

    DVA gave Harry the 100% disability pension at the general rate with extra assistance because of his disabilities; but not the TPI. The pension he received was for blokes that suffer war caused disabilities but who can still carry on in a productive work environment. The reason DVA refused Harry the TPI pension was because he was not actively seeking work.

    Harry was on the Newstart Allowance, just like anybody else who was unemployed. Harry received this allowance for about nine years. To receive Newstart, he must be seeking work. Yet DVA refused to pay Harry the TPI pension because he was not seeking work. It seems that Centrelink was prepared to look after Harry while DVA meticulously followed its rules.

    DVA’s vision is: To achieve excellence in service delivery. That’s exactly what they did. An excellent job. The rules were followed exactly as they were required to be followed. I do feel sorry for DVA staff. They are directed to follow a process of nit pick, delay, block and deny sick veterans seeking help; a process put in place by the politicians and the boffins.

    Harry died before he could get to the Review Board. He was only a couple of weeks away from being heard by them. He had been fighting for the TPI pension for four years, but his body gave out.


    The DVA Vision Statement should be amended to read: To achieve excellence in service delivery the cheapest way possible.

    This will be achieved by a system that will: nit pick, delay, block and deny those tired, sick and broken veterans a just pension all the way to the Review Board.


    R.I.P. Harry the Black 1949 - 2004

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Vietnam War

    And sadly so many others just like this.
    How terrible at times can War be forgotten and the Heroes that fought !
    RIP all those brave !
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website

    R697530

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    Default Re: Vietnam War

    Many of the veterans of the Vietnam war that came home to Australia were treated badly by the gov and many citizens who thought Oz should not have been involved.

    The story here from Brain reflects what happened to so many on their return.
    It is only in recent years that the attitude towards these man has changed.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: Vietnam War

    Quote Originally Posted by happy daze john in oz View Post
    Many of the veterans of the Vietnam war that came home to Australia were treated badly by the gov and many citizens who thought Oz should not have been involved.

    The story here from Brain reflects what happened to so many on their return.
    It is only in recent years that the attitude towards these man has changed.
    John, what about the veterans of the Malaya campaign? I was in drydock in Sembawang in 76, I believe we were the first ULCC in the new dock after it was taken over from the RN. On a hill perched above the main gate, was the old RN officers club which had been taken over for the use of Aussie officers engaged in the anti communist insurgents still causing bother up the country. They made us welcome to use the facilities, except on one day when we were asked to stay away due to a chopper crew who had just been killed. At that time, I dont think the wider world even new what was happening, but Aus was still taking casualties.

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    Default Re: Vietnam War

    We seem to be faced with scrutiny of our armed forces as it now appears that soldiers who took part in shootings over 45 years ago and have been cleared several times are being brought back to the attention and an enquiry into their actions is being demanded by some groups in Northern Ireland the problem today is that when our soldiers pull the trigger rightly or wrongly they are under Close scrutiny I don't know how they can operate as a soldier in those conditions we don't praise and Laud our heroes anymore we persecute and prosecute them
    Rob Page R855150 - British & Commonwealth Shipping ( 1965 - 1973 ) Gulf Oil -( 1973 - 1975 ) Sealink ( 1975 - 1986 )

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    Default Re: Vietnam War

    When we took 3,000 Australian Troops to the war in Malaya in 1955, the first to go since 1941, we had to land them in Penang instead of at Butterworth, which was in the War Zone, because the Australian Prime Minister said there was an Election due so he did not want any body bags to come back and ruin his election results.
    We took all the cargo, Ammunition, weapons etc etc to Butterworth after wards.
    Two years later I met one of the Soldiers in Brisbane and of the ten mates who used to drink in my cabin two had been killed.

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