James was deployed to South Vietnam in 1964 as a Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV)
Interviewee: James Husband (JH)
Interviewer: Gary McKay (GM)
Date of Interview: Tuesday 29 May 2001
Place of Interview: Coolum, Sunshine Coast
Transcribed by Laura Manasserian: Monday 7 January 2002
Corrected and edited by Gary McKay: 11 February 2002
Final edit by Gary McKay & Caroline Foxon after interviewee perusal: 23 August 2002
Jim Husband was 19 when he joined the Army in Sydney in 1952. He served in Korea as a private signaller in a machine gun platoon and saw action at the Battle of The Hook with 2 RAR. He served in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF) and then, after a brief stint in Signals Corps, he transferred back to Infantry Corps and deployed to South Vietnam in 1964 as a Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV). He saw action as an adviser in I Corps and after serving in Commandos in Australia returned for a second tour with the 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (7 RAR) on their second tour of duty in 1970-71 as a company sergeant major. He took discharge from the Regular Army in 1977 having served as Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of 6 RAR and completed 25 years of service.
Subject of Interview: Australians in Korea, the Korean War, United Nations (UN) forces, the tactics and equipment of Australian forces. Allies, the enemy and Japan. South Vietnam, the Vietnam War 1965-72 (particularly 1964-65 and 1970-71), the AATTV, advisers, American Special Forces, training for war, training courses, combat and battle, deploying to Vietnam, tactics, the ARVN, casualties, morale, discipline, leave: R & R and R & C, return to Australia. Paratrooping, Commandos, Montagnards and Special Forces.
James Husband oral history - part one [29.3 MB]
James Husband oral history - part two [17.8 MB]
GM This is a recording of an interview with Jim Husband recorded at Coolum on Tuesday 29 May 2001. Recorded by Gary McKay for Maroochy Libraries’ Veterans’ Voices Project.
Jim, firstly thanks very much for allowing us to interview you. Could you tell us why you joined the Army and in what year?
JH Yeah, I joined the Army in June 1952 and I joined it because I was rather looking forward to going on National Service and I missed out on National Service, so I joined the Regular Army instead.
GM This was the three-month National Service that they had for everybody?
GM Well, for all males anyway. How old were you when you joined?
GM Well Jim, so you were 19 when you enlisted and did you have any choice of what corps you went into?
JH No, not really. Went to infantry and strangely, well not strangely so much, but my father was in the First Machine Gun Battalion and my brother was in the Second/First (2/1 MG Battalion) and unbeknown to me my father wrote the CO or something and said he’d like to keep the machine gun tradition going, so I ended up in 2 Battalion, firstly in the rifle company and then as a result of the thingo, in Machine Gun Platoon. But I was too young to become a (gunner) - we didn’t have enough time left to train as a gunner - so I became a signaller which was much easier.
GM Righto, so how did you get to Korea?
JH We went on an old migrant ship called the (SS) New Australia, pretty posh it was too it’s… yes, we had waiters waiting on us at the tables and pretty good tucker. The only one bad point about it, for the ten-day journey I was on CB and had to run up and down stairs for the duration, I didn’t get any beer ration.
GM And for the tape, CB is ‘confined to barracks’ which is military punishment, what did you get that for?
JH Oh, I’m not quite sure, I think it was fighting.
GM But you’re a soldier that’s what you’re supposed to do. Now what, whereabouts did you actually arrive in Korea, whereabouts did you disembark?
JH We arrived in Pusan on the southern end of the Korean peninsular - a pretty grim old place. People may or may not know that it was pretty well near destroyed in the early stages of the war.
GM What did (you know) about the war at that stage?
JH Well, I sort of knew it was a police action, but like all other 19-year olds - nothing.
GM Yeah, yeah. So you went from Pusan to where?
JH Pusan to Seoul, beyond, beyond Seoul - I forget the name of the place where we got off the train. I remember the train journey - it was freezing cold, and we passed 1 Battalion (RAR) going home somewhere.
GM So this is in May wasn’t it? About May.
GM March. So pretty cool.
JH Yeah, really cool.
GM And what was 2 RAR’s job when they got in the country?
JH Well, they relieved 1 Battalion and took over their positions at the 157, no - 257 position, which was about in the middle of the 28th Brigade. The British Commonwealth Brigade.
GM And by this stage, what sort of warfare was going on?
JH Static trench warfare, you could almost say, with lots of patrolling and things like that. Although I didn’t participate in any of that because I was a headquarter sig(naller) with platoon headquarters.
GM Okay. Do you think you were well prepared for the job you had to do?
JH Well, very well prepared. I remember down at Puckapunyal when we were doing our training that David, Captain David Butler - who ended up as a general - insisted we all learn Morse Code and of course nobody could see the point in it with these new fancy radios but, on the …when The Hook battle was on, it was the little stuff we did learn came in very handy because a lot of the fire orders were … messages were sent by Morse Code.
GM Is that right?
GM I never knew that. Then, you would have I suppose, a fair smattering of Second World War blokes in the unit?
JH Yeah, my, one of my sergeants was a Second World War bloke. A bloke by the name of Boyce. And our OC Major Wilson, and he was a Second World War. Colonel Larkham was Second World War, but I think most of the Second World War guys served with the earlier battalions.
GM Oh yeah. Right. Okay. What do you think was the hardest part about soldiering in Korea?
JH Well, the weather and when the truce was declared we had to dig in along the Imjin River on a feature called the Kansas line - and it was solid blue metal.
GM Oh no.
JH Just about solid rock. So that was chipping away with pick axes and all that, but the weather was really cold.
GM Did it get hot as well?
JH Yes, it did actually.
JH And I, when it was cold, I wasn’t there in the middle of winter by the way and it was...
GM But it was still cold.
JH It was still cold.
GM What was the equipment like that you had to wear?
JH Good. We had - unlike the 3 Battalion and 1 Battalion soldiers who wore old Second World War uniforms - we were kitted out in the latest British stuff and it was quite warm. Long johns and winter stuff.
GM So what sort of, what sort of jobs did you actually do, while you were there? What sort of things did you actually do as a sig?
JH Well, well mostly being a sig I sort of spent most of the time in the CP - which is a command post - but when I wasn’t working there - and during the day time - I used to look after the porters who carried our food and ammunition in from behind our position. It was about a mile from the road and I used to go and pick ‘em up and take ‘em in and then escort them back out again.
GM So you’re actually up in the hills are you?
JH Yeah, well you may of heard of (Hill) 355 called ‘Little Gibraltar’, there was a valley running behind it and we were sort of behind that or half behind it, about 7 o’clock.
GM So really talking about static defensive positions in high terrain? Was it treed or were they just bare?
JH Well, scrubby where we were, because we were on a machine gun position which was sited so we could maximise fire down in front of our battalion area. And that was rather treey and all that, it was scrubby. Nothing like the bush we have in Australia.
GM Yeah. And rock hard.
JH And rock hard.
GM What, anything ever scare you or make you apprehensive when you were on operations in Korea?
JH Yeah, well when I wasn’t on the set, if the lines went out, I had to go fix the lines and it was one of my jobs and you didn’t take anyone with you. We just walked down the line by yourself. And the line itself was just a black ‘Don-10’, they called it. So you couldn’t, people used to just lay another line over the top, so you ended up with a snake about 4 or 5 inches thick (100 – 125 mm) and you always lost your line. It used to be scary, sort of, down there by yourself trying to find out which line was which.
GM So using telephone communications between the CP and down to the companies?
JH Yep. Mainly we, we had telephone communication down to support company headquarters.
GM Right, now with the forward companies, did they have like wiring entanglements and such?
JH Yeah yeah, yep. Barbed wire and minefields. Just about the lot and the features themselves they were in like sort of a Second World War, First World War stuff - like bunkers and trenches and things like that.
GM Did you ever get shelled or by the Chinese or…?
JH Yes, yes. I remember one of my friends was the first bloke killed about, just about a quarter of a mile (400 metres) away from where I was and quite often shells just used to come over if you exposed yourself. I remember once with C Company - who were actually up on (Hill) 257 one lunchtime and a shell come over and landed almost just off the lunch area - and that’s where I made my famous dash for safety and they’d just filled in a slush pit where all the food scraps were and just put fresh earth over the top, and I went running across and sunk down to the waist in it. I thought I’d been hit or something and all the guys around me started laughing. They didn’t tell me what it was.
GM In the Machine Gun Platoon they would’ve been using the Vickers medium machine gun (MMG)?
JH Yes, the Vickers medium machine gun. And the only, I think, improvement on the on the Second World War was they used the more high-powered ammunition, Mark 8Z ammunition.
GM What is a person that most stands out in your memory from Korea?
JH The RSM. I think.
GM Who was that?
JH A bloke by the name of Peter Steer and he was sort of a real tough nut but he was fair and used to look after troops, although we didn’t see him all that much but I have fond memories of him.
GM You became an RSM yourself Jim. Did he provide a good role model for you?
JH Yes, he did actually. That, coupled with my hatred of RSMs, taught me to be more tolerant to Diggers and all that. And I think it paid dividends actually. Yeah.
GM Yeah. What was the worst time you experienced in Korea?
JH Oh, that that would be on The Hook I’d say. It was pretty sustained there for a couple nights.
GM Tell us about what happened on The Hook.
JH Well, it was just before the breakup, or the truce, was signed and we were on the left flank of the Commonwealth, of the British Commonwealth Brigade, or Division, adjoining the first American Marine Division and I thought that the, the word is that if the Chinese would’ve broken through there, it might’ve prolonged the war a little bit longer and sort of would’ve gave them more bargaining power. But our battalion sort of held on which was good. Where previously the Black Watch, I think and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, had to withdraw and then retake (it). But…
GM And what sort of fighting was it?
JH Well, on The Hook it was mainly sort of from trenches, firing at waves of troops, in fact, although I wasn’t on (Hill) 111, which is where we had a machine gun section with the Marines. We had a section of guns there and the Marines moved out and then came back again, so virtually the machine gun section there got it pretty tough. I remember one of the signals that we’ve got, that Colonel Larkham had got onto the blower and said, ‘Sergeant Cooper, if you take that prisoner that’s holed up in the, in the bunker,’ - there was a prisoner sort of caught, because it’s pretty hectic - he says, ‘you’ll get an immediate MM.’ Well, history shows that he got an MM.
GM Is that right?
JH But unfortunately the prisoner was in no fit state to talk.
GM Yeah, yeah, so your job while all this fighting was going on was the transmitting the orders coming for machine gun fire, being passed down the line to the sections?
JH Yes, yes. And on some occasions we also relayed messages for other parts of the (battalion).
GM Oh yeah, when the lines go out and that.
JH When the lines go out.
GM What was the scariest part in The Hook action for you?
JH Well, I did have to go and repair some lines as I told you before - the thick snakes and that - and I was start, and they started shelling. Then I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the lines. One incident I remember there as I was going down, the CSM of A Company 3 RAR was a well known bloke, Jack Morrison, who had a DCM and subsequently got another one in Vietnam, and he said, ‘Where you going Digger?’ And I said, ‘I got to fix this line,’ and he said ‘Well, you’d better take this flak jacket,’ and it was the first time I’d tried, I’d seen one. It was quite heavy. Well I didn’t fix the line but it was scary being down there by myself.
GM Yeah, yeah. What about nighttime?
JH Well, that was in the night.
JH Well in the nighttime, that’s when most of the action used to take place because the … with the rifle companies, they went in on night patrols, standing patrols and things like that. Sometimes they’d lay up during the day and remain in position - the normal infantry stuff.
GM You were just too vulnerable during the day?
JH Yeah, if you stuck your head up - I remember on The Hook a couple of guys walked down the ridgeline, which was a bit silly and a shell got ‘em. I think they were Pommies who were with a tank up on that ridgeline too, which used to attract a fair bit of attention.
GM Yeah. Slush pit, what was the, any other funny times from Korea?
JH Well, not … it didn’t occur to me personally, but the Sergeants’ Mess put on a review at Camp Casey after the truce was signed and apparently was well planned but they didn’t plan on all being bloody drunk, when it was, I think the CO walked down on it - pretty rugged. It was funny, it got the Diggers going good, going well.
GM Yeah, yeah. What actually happened when the Armistice was, or the truce agreement was signed? What, what did everybody do? Did they just stay where they were or…?
JH Well, we stayed there and we cleaned up the battlefield. And the Chinese come in. There were quite a few thousand dead in front of our lines by the way.
GM Few thousand dead?
JH Estimated. Because our machine guns were on (Hill) 111 they were firing, firing like on what’s called a swinging traverse, where there’s no, it’s just straight out firing and with the gun traversing backwards and forwards. And that’s probably what saved the day on that flank. Because there were a few tanks got up in between the two positions too. Our tanks. But we stayed there and then, and then when it was officially over, after we cleaned the battlefield up, we then started removing all the defence stores to rebuild the line, and dismantle the defences with all the good timber and all that. Discovered a few bodies that had been buried by shells and things like that. So it was pretty bloody. And then of course after that we withdrew to Camp Casey and we then, we still kept training and we went to up on to the Kansas line and started digging in.
GM And the Kansas line was part of the truce line separating the two forces?
JH Yeah, yeah, along … well our particular part was along the Imjin River high up on the hills.
GM You mentioned the Chinese out in front, did they send recovery parties out or did you just…?
JH Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Chinese came out and collected all their dead.
GM Did you see the enemy at that stage?
JH Oh I could see from a distance from (our position).
GM Oh yeah.
JH But from where I was we were sort of, the role of machine guns is to provide covering fire in normally, you’re…
GM In depth?
JH …in position, in depth. But yeah, they were milling about. It was just like a sort of picnic thing, except it was …
GM wasn’t too nice?
JH Wasn’t too nice.
GM Yeah. What do you think was the toughest time either physically or mentally that you experienced?
JH Well, physically I already described digging in, but mentally I thought that in addition to radio pickets, when I had to do ordinary pickets too, so I didn’t get much sleep. I’d have to do my shift on the gun and then a, and then I still had to hourly checks on the radio. By the time you had done eight hours of a night, plus you’re hourly radio checks, you’d had it.
GM Starting to get a bit tired?
JH Oh, I did.
GM Yeah. This digging in on the Kansas line, are we talking about full overhead protection and cover?
GM The whole nine yards.
JH Yep, the whole nine yards, yep.
GM Tough work.
JH Yeah, really tough it was, really solid rock in some spots. Used to blast holes and all that.
GM And how long did you stay on the Kansas line?
JH Well, they, the battalion stayed, stayed on the line until they withdrew from Korea or came home from Korea, but I left before that because I had an injury to an eye. And I was subsequently made Class 2 and medical and evacuated to Kure in Japan.
GM Oh, what happened to your eye?
JH Oh, I’d never sort of noticed it, but I’d received a bump on the eye and it destroyed the mechanism behind the eye and like a… I couldn’t see what I was looking at but I could look, I could see around it. I had only peripheral vision. But how I managed then to stay on in the Army is another story. .
GM What did you think of the enemy in Korea?
JH Well they were pretty proficient, I didn’t actually have to come hand to hand with them but they held that - all that firepower the Yanks had and all that - they held up against all that. Pretty cunning.
GM What did you think of these human wave attacks, but?
JH Well, that’s the way they used to do things, I think. It was a reported that they were a bit doped up on The Hook attacks. You know they used, they came in in waves and…
GM It must have been scary down in the front line for those guys?
JH Well, it was, I had several mates down there and they said it scared the hell out of them.
JH I was happy in my own little shell-shocked world.
GM What about, did you get to talk with or get to meet any of the other Allies, the Brits or the Yanks?
JH Yeah, when we first went there, I went up in the advance party and the crew that were on the hill that we took over, they were from the 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, yes. They were quite, they were proficient, and showed us what we had to be shown. With the, with the, met the odd American when I used to go over to (Hill) 111 to take stuff over to ‘em, only a couple of times it might have been, it might been code changes or something like that, I forget now. I don’t know, the Australians seem to have a different quality about them than the Americans and I think perhaps a lot of them were conscripts. I’m not sure but I know I remember Sergeant Cooper I said to him, ‘What’s all these bags doing along …?’ - trucks had come in and the Marines had jumped off and thrown their kit bag, heavy gear, on the side of the road and most of them didn’t come back to collect it. They suffered pretty horrific casualties here. But I spoke to a few of them and they seemed, and they seemed to be willing, they had to be willing.
GM It was either that or die wasn’t it?
JH Yeah. With the Koreans, we had Kapcoms, or they called them Kapcoms - I forget what it stands for now - but they served with us as interpreters and Diggers in some cases and they weren’t too bad, but I don’t think their Army was up to much.
GM You mentioned the porters that brought, were they Korean civilians?
JH Korean civilians, yep.
GM And they were just sort of brought into our service?
GM To do all that.
JH They were pretty well paid and fed I think. [JH: In fact they were not paid, but volunteers who were too old for service in the Korean Army]
GM Now, you came back from Korea in September ‘53?
JH Yeah and that, I spent two years in Japan.
GM And what sort of jobs were you doing there?
JH Well, I was downgraded medically and I went to signals as a dispatch rider and then I eventually changed corps to signals for a few years. My dispatch riding days were a bit of a laugh. I ran into a … for some unknown, this Sergeant Pascoe his name was and he come out with me sitting pillion on the motorcycle and you had to have the speedo covered up and sort of judged 30, 30 miles an hour (45 kph) and I went on the inside of this bus and ended up in a storm drain. So he made me practice going around and round in circles in the transport yard and I had this young English kid with me and the English kid kept going round and round and round in circles, got bigger and bigger till he pranged the bike. Yeah, good old days those.
GM So, that was part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF)?
JH Yeah, yep. [JH: Actually this is wrong. The occupation was over. The force was BCFK, British Commonwealth Forces Korea]
GM And whereabouts did you serve in Japan, where was it?
JH I served at BritCom Base Signals Regiment in Kure in the Don–R Office or Dispatch Rider office and then I used to do escort duties taking sort of diplomatic bags up to our embassy in Kobe and Tokyo and then I got posted as an instructor at the, to Haramura Battle School up in the mountains.
GM What was it like serving in a country where the whole nation must of felt pretty ordinary about with the way the Japanese were with losing face? What was it like serving in Japan?
JH Well, I enjoyed it immensely being 19 to 20, you would’ve too, and the people didn’t seem too much about it at all. You know, in fact one of the little bars I used to go, one of the Japanese guys there served in the First World War on the other [JH: our] side, but there were some nice people and there were others weren’t so nice.
GM Okay, so you came back from Japan in late ’55?
GM What sort of things happened to you between then and 1964 when you went to the Training Team in Vietnam?
JH Well I was still in Signal Corps, I went to National Service, 19 National Service (Battalion) and then from there I did a Phys(ical) Ed(ucation) course and I stayed in Phys Ed for a fair while serving at Kapooka in the Army Apprentices’ School.
GM This is as a physical training instructor.
GM How’d you get into that?
JH Oh, I got sick of square bashing.
GM But you were a pretty active sportsman, weren’t you?
JH Yeah, I used to play a fair bit of sport, not very good at it.
GM But you had a go. You had a go at it?
JH Yes, yeah, started playing rugby when I was 15. Last game was when I was 43 and in all that time I’d scored four tries! I was appalling.
GM Right. Okay. Now, so you did that sort of stuff. You then came back to infantry?
JH Yeah, what happened with the PT people, they decided they’d change it first of all to Education, then they said, ‘No, you’ll go to Artillery Corps,’ and then I said I didn’t want to change to Artillery Corps, so Signals posted me to as mess supervisor of the Sergeants’ Mess at 1 Div Sig (Regiment). So I went down and told my CO and I said I’d rather go back to Infantry, which I did. I stayed on at the Apprentices’ School until ‘63 when I went up and did the course at Canungra, then was posted with Training Team in ‘64.
GM So you were a sergeant when you Corps transferred.
JH Sergeant yeah.
GM Did you have to go and do any special training or courses?
GM So, the AATTV really starts with a very small team in 1962 and it was starting to expand wasn’t it by the time?
JH Yes, yeah.
GM Now, you went to Canungra and did some sort of course?
JH Yeah, went to Canungra and did the adviser’s course up there although not a lot of the people instructing on that course had a great deal of combat experience because the roles were different when they were there. In fact I was on the hill just away from there, is where I remember hearing over the radio that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
GM Oh yeah.
JH But we did the course there and then hung around for a while and off we went to Vietnam.
GM How long was the course?
JH I think all up it was about six weeks, I think.
GM Yeah. And what sort of things did they try and instill?
JH Well our infantry minor tactics. Oh, suppose, navigation things of that nature - it wasn’t tremendously appropriate I thought, in hindsight, but it was what they knew about the place, it was the best they could come up with.
GM Did you have any idea about what was going on in Vietnam?
JH Yes, a fair idea.
GM Now, were you married when you went to Vietnam?
GM Okay. So you got promoted to Warrant Officer WO2.
JH Warrant Officer.
GM And in 1964, away you went.
GM How did you get to Vietnam?
JH Flew over via Singapore on civil airlines. And of course being the exulted rank of warrant officer, we flew First Class.
GM You went to war pretty classy?
JH Yeah, civilian clothes, civilian clothes.
GM And you arrived in Saigon?
JH Arrived in Saigon and was introduced to the Ambassador, Green I think, Green - oh I forget his name - and went to a couple of nice sorts of receptions. It was pretty easy it was in those days; it was quite luxurious in Saigon. And then I was posted to my unit which was a training group up in place called Phu Bai, south of Hue, up in I Corps and eventually Americans took it over as a base for their Marines, but it was pretty remote. It was just a palatial sort of building near the Phu Bai airport. In fact they used to call it ‘the hotel.’ And from there, we used we used to just train Vietnamese soldiers, although not speaking the language you just advised on things and dealt mainly through officers.
GM So you had interpreters there to …?
GM Yeah. Now were they the days when you weren’t allowed to go out and do fighting, you were only allowed to do training?
JH Yeah, yeah, they were the days where they … I was in the transitional period where they did go out.
JH And, quite good dramatic circumstances.
GM Now, so you really, in the ‘64-‘65 tour, you’re an adviser to what, a battalion commander or a …?
JH No, well, in the Phu Bai stage, before I went out to a battalion we were, we had sort of two chains of command - the Australian chain of command, and they were subservient to the Americans. The American was the senior adviser and the Australians were the …
GM Assistant advisers?
JH Assistant adviser.
GM Yeah. And what sort of things were you training them in?
JH Mainly the small arms, small arms skills and infantry minor tactics, I suppose.
GM Okay. What was your, what was your impression when you arrived in Phu Bai and you looked around?
JH Well, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the Diggers, the Vietnamese Diggers - how they were looked after and all that. They lived in pretty grotty circumstances with the country as absolutely beautiful and in those days, it was pretty remote although they, out in the training areas, it was the odd mine incident with the, with the Vietnamese soldiers.
GM What sort of enemy were you up against in the Phu Bai area?
JH Well, I think they were just guerillas, guerillas. Guerillas.
JH You know they’re all local - local VC (Viet Cong).
JH No Main Force.
GM So, the sort of conflicts and contacts were going to be basically leg infantry; one on one, using just weapons that you carry?
JH Yeah, it’s a, in fact some of the times we deemed it unnecessary to carry a weapon, a fair dinkum one. You know, you could carry a pistol or something like that. But of course that soon all changed when we got, went out bush, into the battalions.
GM Tell us about what it was like going out with a, with an ARVN infantry battalion?
JH Well, it was pretty hairy first up. But the setup with my battalion was I had an American captain adviser who was a good guy - Glenn T. Garner - and there were two sergeants and myself and we were the advisory team for that battalion and everywhere they went, we went, what they ate, we ate, and it was sort of whatever they did, we did. If it was a big battle, we’d be in the big battle if they were.
GM What was the, what was the first action like that you got involved with?
JH The first action was I think in the sand dunes along the beaches just near Tam Ky and we, we’d put in a night operation. It was reasonably successful, we got a quite a few VC and it was there that I said to my senior adviser, ‘This is not on, shooting prisoners,’ and I was advised to shut up because I’d end up a becoming a casualty myself. I mentioned it too, I mentioned it back at the Training Team, at the headquarters, and I was told well that’s their way of fighting the war. But it was, that upset me a little bit, but then later experiences taught me that it happened on both sides. So it didn’t matter, it just shocked me a bit.
GM That was one of the questions I was going to ask, is what was it like watching Vietnamese fighting Vietnamese?
JH Well, actually you weren’t watching them. You were there in the thick and thin of it and you had to be … you had to do your bit, you couldn’t just sort of sit there like, you know, an umpire at (Exercise) Kangaroo 3 or something like that. And you know yourself that perhaps you couldn’t see half the enemy - you were just firing in the general direction or get a glimpse of movement and (hook) into it. I remember on that night operation, I didn’t actually see anyone, but we got a few with a couple of grenades I tossed. We found ‘em in the morning but just no intent in it. You just do what your supposed to do.
GM And what sort of operations did they do, were they search and destroy or…?
JH Yeah search, we had search and destroy and then we had major ambushes. On two occasions, my battalions were - I suppose you’d call them the ‘ambushees’ - and they were pretty hectic moments the … You could pick it, you know, we’d be, we’d be moving into an area and all the local populace would be moving out and that sort, and if you didn’t wake up to something going on there, and we got in a couple of big stoushes that way. The one that was at Qui Sonh. Where you could feel all the warning signs there of something going to happen and when we got in position, we did get ambushed, a fairly big ambush. We lost about 200 blokes I suppose...
GM This is out of a battalion of probably what, 800 blokes?
JH 800, or perhaps, if you were lucky 400.
GM So battalions were really under strength were they?
JH Oh yeah, they were like our battalions.
JH All right on paper, but when you got down to the nitty gritty things like that you didn’t have many troops on the ground.
GM That’s, that’s pretty horrendous casualties isn’t it?
JH Well it was a pretty horrendous action too. And it’s a, but with our superior fire support, it got us out of strife.
GM Who did all the calling for artillery and air?
JH Well the Vietnamese and the American advisers mainly, the … actually it was the days before you were allowed to sort of get … the Australians in the Special Forces, you commanded somebody, but in the battalions, you were sort of part of the advisory support team, you know, it’s a bit hard to explain, so you’d sort of didn’t say my advice is to do this; is to do that, it’s just take orders from your boss. And do as he ordered you to do. Things like, I remember once we got strafed by our own aircraft - a Vietnamese aircraft. As an adviser I just pulled out a (marker) panel, and put that on the ground and of course that signified that we were friendly troops - but not before we took a lot of casualties. Well, not a lot, about 20 I think. But things of that nature or all funny sort of things … I remember one particular (action), everyone shot through. I must’ve been doing something and didn’t see ‘em go. I came along and of course all our blokes were (gone), we had about 20 wounded all lying down there and the medic stayed with them and I said to this to this guy, ‘I’ll take one of these out.’ And they had some radios and anyway, they came, our planes came over and we have dropped napalm and that near our guys, I don’t’ think they got ‘em. But when we went back to clean the battlefield up the following day, all the casualties had been shot, so they shot them on both sides and they were wounded laying down on the ground. And the medics, I think, we never found the medics. I think they were conscripted into Vietnam. VCI (Viet Cong Infrastructure) yeah.
GM Pretty brutal isn’t it?
JH It was brutal yeah; it was pretty scary and especially, I had a different adviser then. The first guy was good, this other guy wasn’t too bad, but he just forgot to tell me he was shooting through.
GM That’s not very handy. Now, when you look back on all this, do you think you were well prepared for what you had to do as an adviser?
JH Yeah, it’s hard to say because it didn’t actually have hands-on advising, not like the Special Forces guy, who took out patrols and things like. See we never did that, because we were there more or less for logistical and fire support as a basis, and, I suppose, a mutual protection team for each other.
GM Yeah. Did you feel apprehensive going out with the ARVN?
JH Yes, yeah, you know, they used to have a go and they would - if the odds were against them - well they’d certainly withdraw, but when they were caught out, they used to have a go, because it deteriorated later on - because I [JH: they] just couldn’t keep up the troops and of course this was well before the Tet (1968) offensive. It was in ’64 -‘65.
GM So the battalion really moved around as a unit?
JH Oh yeah, yeah.
GM They didn’t sort of break into company patrols or anything?
JH Oh yeah, within their TAOR, their tactical area, and we ran outposts out in the boonies (jungle).
JH Which I did not like.
GM What do you think was the hardest part about serving with the Training Team?
JH Well, I thought with the infantry battalions there was sort of all… you were the sort of a grunt with rank in lots of occasions, because you didn’t have a direct role, and I refer to the Special Forces again and some of the people who were in the (AATTV) training local force, they were actual commanders.
GM Commanders of that force, yeah.
JH Yeah, or sort of commanders, joint commanders where, where the advisers in the battalions in those days you stuck together as a group, all the advisers stuck together.
GM So you thought that the ARVN weren’t bad soldiers?
JH Well, they were certainly brave enough in the circumstances. Their tactics especially their moving tactics, moving from point A to point B, used to be a little bit hairy. And then you’ve come near a hill, they’d all trudge up on top of the hill and all stand up there…
JH Yeah, a gaggle.
GM Yeah. Who, on that tour with The Team, who’s the bloke who most stands out in your memory?
JH Well, a captain called Captain Glenn T. Garner, my first adviser. He was a top bloke and on the Australian side I suppose it would be George Chinn. Old George, or Wally Thompson.
GM And what was George’s job?
JH George was sort of RSM of The (Training) Team at that stage.
GM Yeah. And Wally was doing what?
JH Wally was a battalion adviser the same as I was. Unlike me, Wally, when he went to Vietnam, he went straight to a battalion because that training depot phase had sort of dwindled out, although they did have, still have some staff there. It was not as intense as it was.
GM How long did you spend in that training phase before you went to the battalion?
JH About probably about three or four months.
GM Is the lack of language, is that a real frustration?
JH Oh, it was definitely. Although I had, in the two (ARVN) battalions I was with, both commanders spoke English and both spoke very good French because they were involved against the French most, well a lot of them were, or with the French. And you could pick up a smattering of the language yourself, but it wasn’t flash…
GM Like ‘didi mau’.
JH ‘Didi mau’, yeah.
GM ‘Let’s get outta here’.
JH My advice is ‘Let’s go home’.
GM What do you think was the worst time you experienced?
JH Oh, Qui Sonh. That action. I think it was, that was a big, a really horrific sort of battle and those wounded people really shocked me.
GM That’s when you lost your wounded?
JH Yeah, I think that was bad. But it did have its funny side, if you could call it macabre humour. We were cleaning up the battlefield and this, a chopper came run by an American and we built these, built these little stretchers and just put all the bodies in. And then this Negro crewman was loading them in. He said, ‘That’s enough.’ I said, ’No, we can fit more in.’ He said, ‘No, all these are wounded.’ I said, ‘Not, they’re dead,’ and he … God, he nearly fell out of the plane!
GM Did he?
JH Because we just put ‘em on top of each other.
GM Oh yeah.
JH Oh, he was just putting them on the floor and must have thought that is the way we do it. .
GM Yeah, that’s right.
JH Yeah. Like the guy I carted out of there went, he survived of course, and he was very thankful but he mistook me for the Yank. He mistook the American officer for me and thanked the American officer very much in Vietnamese and I said, ‘What’d he say?’ ‘Oh, he just thanked me for saving him,’ and I said, ‘but it wasn’t you, it was me,’ and he said, ‘oh, it doesn’t really matter,’ and I said, ‘It bloody matters to me,’ because he’d shot through this (American) guy. He eventually got killed; his unit got wiped out and he was eventually killed about two weeks after I left, which was sad. But they got really decimated. And this, remember, was before the Americans arrived in force.
JH In fact, the team, my team number was team Number 5.
GM So real early days?
JH Yeah, they numbered the teams.
JH Yeah. And then of course they got more people in.
GM So, what other incidents stick out in your memory from that time with the battalion?
JH We, I was in the action where Jack Morrison got his Bar to his DCM and…
GM What was Jack doing?
JH Jack was advising with a battalion on top of this outpost, which had a bit of armour up there too so. But he was the adviser up there and he did fairly well. And he was a good hand, old Jack, and the, one of the skills came in there, that we’d learnt at the Infantry Centre and at Canungra was the, we could hear their mortars going off - or I could hear the mortars, and you did the same - take the bearing and count the seconds and all that, but we couldn’t seem to sort of convey this sort of method to the Vietnamese. And that was a bit frustrating because I’m sure he knew where the mortars were coming from.
JH And it was a real foggy day - and this is funny - with sitting down right in the middle of this bloody battle where there are mortars going everywhere. I heard this Caribou and it flew right through this battle and I saw the kangaroo on the tail and it’s the first time I’d seen an RAAF plane there.
GM Oh yeah.
JH And it just nonchalantly flew past.
GM In the middle of the battle?
JH In the middle of the battle!
GM Yeah, is that how you got your resupply?
JH Well, we used to get by Vietnamese chopper, they mainly, we because we were Vietnamese Army, we were just advisers with the Vietnamese Army.
JH You used to develop chopper ears. You could hear a chopper coming for miles almost.
GM You mentioned that you ate Vietnamese rations as well.
GM Was that hard to exist on that?
JH Oh, no you’re … it was food.
JH You know, you’d have some goodies of your own but it would not, not like they were all the Australian forces or later on when you had decent packs. You know, we’d eaten; we’d eaten, oh, prawns and things like that and rice. I lost a lot of weight. We were skinny. They had a huge typhoon there once and we were on this high ground and down the other end was, I think, were some VC or something and because we’d declared a truce, this is what I was told, but I know I was on this little high ground and we managed to get a good bit of tucker and I said to the bloke, ‘What are we eating? It tastes nice,’ and he says some Vietnamese word and so he demonstrated on all fours, like a dog. One must of floated by or something…, but all, we survived on what the Vietnamese survived on and we could, if you had the, the Vietnamese were strange that they’d like scented soaps and things like that. So you’d go into town, when you’d go into town, you’d bring back some soap and give it to the bait layers and they always sort of looked after you with a bit of tucker or something like that.
JH So it was all right, and other goodies.
GM Yeah, did you get R & R?
JH Yeah, yeah we got R & R. I went to Hong Kong, I think, yeah.
GM What was it like going on R & R?
JH Well, it was a bit strange at first because you didn’t know what you were; you felt sort of out of place.
GM And were you by yourself or did you have someone with you?
JH Oh, I was with a mate. And we went up, when I was in Hong Kong anyway, we went up to where the Marines, I served with the Royal Marines for about nine months and my unit that I served with in England were over in Hong Kong. So I went up there and we had a couple of good nights up there. But it was all right, but too short.
JH Too short.
GM What about going back, was it hard to go back? And get into it again?
JH No, well you were apprehensive because we were losing…we’d lost Billy Hackett (Sergeant W F Hacking) who went early in the piece, but oh ‘Grunt’ (Kevin) Conway he was the first one to, when we moved out to the battalions, he was the first one to get killed. Then there were a few more. I suppose you were apprehensive but well, you know yourself it’s no good saying that you weren’t worried, you know, because you were scared shitless at times.
GM What was the toughest time physically or mentally that you think you experienced? On that first tour?
JH Oh, it’s hard to sort of pick an individual time. It was all pretty full on when you’re in operations. I was much taller than the Vietnamese and unfortunately taller than all the Americans, so I used to feel a little out of place.
GM When you went out on these operations, were they just several days long or weeks long or..?
JH Oh sometimes you’d be out for a couple of weeks. Lot of outpost work, and then lot of like large-scale operations; battalion size, or brigade size.
GM Where were they getting their intelligence from? To the ARVN, to do their operations?
JH Well, the usual sources I suppose. When the information we always got was right because we were always ran into the enemy.
GM So there was no shortage of enemy?
JH Yeah well they used to, I remember once we were, we were in an ambush, out in an, out at an outpost out at Tam Ky and this young American officer who was just officer just sort of come there, he sort of kept on and on and on at the bar, and wouldn’t go home. And then he wanted to go, he wanted to go home on the… go out to the outpost, when it was getting dark and they said no, they would signal me, you’ll find out, they’ll let us know we’re coming - we’ll cop it if we’re not careful. And we got to listening, and someone fired a shot, not at us, it was just a signal shot. So that convinced him to turn around. So it’d be stuff like that. But I mean you got to remember I was only a sort of baggy arse in the battalion. Well, my American advisers never even bothered to include us in the O(rders) Group really. Because that was in the early days, you see, but not that there was much of an O Group. Even our regimental, regimental chief adviser, he was sort of subordinate to the Vietnamese commander.
GM Did Chinn ever come out and visit you?
JH No, not really.
GM So you were really thrown out there into the boonies?
GM And just existed the best way you could.
JH Well, it was a bit of a change from Korea; because in Korea you were serving with an Australian group - you always knew you were pretty safe. Yeah, but when you were just out with the Vietnamese, it was different altogether, although I made lots of friends with the Vietnamese - I can’t remember their names and all that - but used to get on well with them. You’d meet ‘em in town and they’d grab you by the hand. They had the funny (custom) and you never knew what to do.
GM You feel very self-conscious when you walk down the street holding hands with a bloke?
JH Holding hands with a Vietnamese.
GM Yeah. But it’s a sign of friendship.
JH Yeah, well I met, I met one guy who took me home to his wife and kids and all that and we walked down the street holding hands.
GM What do you think of the enemy that you came across on that first tour?
JH Oh, I reckon they were resourceful and not the mugs they were made out to be at Canungra. They were pretty cunning and, and perhaps we could’ve learnt something off them.
GM Okay. What I’d like to do is … 7 RAR and because you, you’ve got this, you were there right at the early days. And then you were there right at the end for the Australian involvement with 7 RAR, so you came back from the Training Team in 65, what did you do between ‘65 and ‘70?
JH Okay, I went to, I was posted to the Commando Company and with CMF and of course I didn’t want to go there and I wrote a letter and 1 Battalion were gearing up to go over and I offered to drop rank and all that and they sort of said, you’re going to CMF and that’s it, just shut up and go. So I went there, and as it turned out it was great, I really enjoyed that. And that gave me the opportunity to do the parachuting, which eventually was instrumental in probably getting me the posting as RSM of the Parachute School. But I did diving courses, and climbing courses, and with the climbing, they sent me over to the, to the Royal Marines for nine months. And I’ve got that a bit mixed up too with that R & R.
GM That was your second R & R?
GM Where did you go for your first R & R?
JH Hong Kong again.
GM So, you went back to Honkers?
JH Yeah, went to Hong Kong again.
GM Right. Okay.
JH Then from there I went to the Parachute School as an instructor and then back to Commandos again and then (Lieutenant Colonel) Ron Grey had sacked one of his CSMs and they wanted another CSM.
GM This was from 7 RAR?
JH 7 RAR. So that’s how I got that posting.
GM Right, so this was the, so you joined 7 RAR for their second tour. This, all this commando stuff and parachuting and it’s really, you hadn’t been planning it, it just sort of happened to you?
JH Well I’d been, I was down seeing this guy in postings and I went in there and he told me well you’d been posted to … I forget the guy’s name now, Christie, Crisp, Doug Crisp, Major Doug Crisp, and he said yeah well you’ve been posted to the Parachute School and you’ll be going after your posting at commandos. And then the phone rang, this is fair dinkum, the phone rang and said, ‘Oh that’s all. Colonel Grey wants a CSM,’ and I said ‘What about me?’ He said, ‘I just got you posted to the Parachute School.’ I said, ‘Can you scrub it out and send me to the battalion?’ So we did it within all about half an hour - so I got posted to a battalion.
GM Did you, that was pretty, you just happened to be there.
JH Yeah. Funny Gary, and this is just on the side, on my, on my final night with Commandos I was sword fighting with a fellow commando bloke - I think he was a lieutenant - with Samurai swords because I’d done a bit of fencing before, not properly fencing, you know, fencing with a epee and sabre and all that, and we were, and I showed him how to do a special riposte. Anyway, I copped the Samurai sword in my leg, bleeding profusely and one of our guys was a medical officer for Ford Motor Company and he poured whisky on it and stitched it up and everyone was sort of out of their mind as a farewell.
JH And then when I went to 7 RAR of course I was sporting a walking stick. Old RA (Grey) was pretty upset and not too impressed.
GM Now, so you joined, you joined 7 RAR, had they gone to Canungra at that stage?
JH No, they hadn’t gone to Canungra. They’d just sort of reforming or getting brought back up to strength again for their next, their next tour. And we went to Canungra which was… that was good training there because the methods had been established, where with the Training Team they hadn’t been and of course you were with Australians and…
GM It was pretty slick in ‘70 wasn’t it?
JH Yeah, it was, it was very good, it was good training - it was good training.
GM Yeah. And you would have done a few Shoalwater Bay-type things (training exercises).
JH Yes, now which one did we do, (Exercise) Cold Steel, I forget the names of them but yeah we did a few there.
GM Yeah, so how long did you have with 7 (RAR) before you went to Vietnam?
JH I suppose about five or six months.
GM Okay. And probably half the battalion were Nashos?
JH Yeah, a good percentage.
GM What did you think of the National Servicemen?
JH Well I, to tell you the truth, you couldn’t really pick em, they were all just good soldiers but they were good. They were more mature than a lot of the younger Regular guys and but everyone got on together. There was no animosity between National Servicemen and Regulars and there, and as late as last ANZAC Day I went to Sydney and it was all mixed together, all the National Service and the Regs.
GM Yeah, yeah. How did you get to Vietnam with 7 (RAR)?
JH On the (HMAS) Sydney.
GM About time you traveled in the normal way.
JH In the normal way.
GM So, 7 RAR left from…?
GM From Sydney, probably about a 10-day, 12-day sail?
JH Yeah, about that yep.
GM Into Vung Tau?
GM And then into Nui Dat?
GM How did you get from Nui Dat, from Vung Tau to Nui Dat? Chinooks?
JH No, trucks.
GM Okay. So you arrived in Nui Dat, what did you think of Phuoc Tuy Province, because you wouldn’t have seen that part of the world would you?
JH I’d been down there once, I went down on R & C (leave) to where the RAAF were.
GM Oh right.
JH At Vung Tau. Well, just the normal Army environment, what you expected I suppose. It was a bit like Camp Casey was in Korea, the old tents and sandbags and things like that and the winter was much nicer.
GM Yeah. Okay. You look back at your time with 7 RAR, what company were you in?
JH I was with A Company.
GM And who was your company commander?
JH A bloke by the name of Chris Thompson.
JH He was an ex-Ghurka officer.
JH Great bloke.
GM Who is, who’s the person who most stands out in your memory from your 7 RAR tour?
JH Oh, ‘Father’ Thompson was my OC, excellent guy, really.
GM Father, you called him ‘Father’.
JH Yeah, Father, our Father who art in heaven, yeah, Father Thompson, they still call him Father.
GM Do they?
JH He’s still around; works in Brisbane now yeah.
GM Was it a good company?
JH Oh, it was an excellent company. Had a character all of its own, I think, because every CSM says that. But the camaraderie was terrific and every one got on well and we used to have happy times, it you could, even at Holsworthy. We all, we used to do things exactly by the books, like where the other companies would wander on parade, we used sort of make the section commanders do what they had to do and all this and every body got involved. It was, it was a ‘company’ company, is what I mean.
GM When you went out on operations, with A Company, did you always go out or was it the Company 2IC or…?
JH No, no, I, I went on every operation except the time I was on R & R.
GM Okay. So your Company 2IC tended to stay behind or…?
JH No, strangely enough we all went out and we left and just about Ronny Allen looked after the admin(istration), our staff sergeant, CQMS
JH He looked after us there. Although occasionally we did have the odd officer back. But most of the time we all went bush.
GM What’s the incident that most stands out in your time with 7 RAR?
JH Well, I think, the saddest one was when Lieutenant Davies didn’t…
GM Is that Rex Davies?
JH Yeah, he walked into an ambush. He moved into the company and I’d never met him because he came out to the company when he was on operations, I think he was a…
GM CMF full-time duty?
JH CMF full-time duty.
JH And that was, that was sad.
GM What about memorable actions?
JH Oh, yeah, with CHQ, it sort of … well the set up, you sort of didn’t get right into it. Oh yeah, we did once, we were just a chance encounter with a group of, a group of Vietnamese (Viet Cong) and one had a tremendous amount of money on him and we evacuated him and after the operation the Military Police come and interviewed me and informed me that I’d stolen his money out of his wallet and all, that he said the ‘chung wei’ - or the warrant officer – ‘had taken all my money’, and of course I denied it vigorously.
JH Several, several thousand American dollars he had, so we…
GM Pay man?
GM Probably a pay man.
JH Oh, no, wouldn’t be several thousand, about a thousand I suppose.
JH Mixed currency.
GM What did you find the greatest difference between your tour with your Training Team and your tour with 7 RAR?
JH Well, well, well, they weren’t even comparable. I found that, well, starting from the Australian point of view we’d been serving with fellow Australians, I found that the Training Team so widely dispersed that you didn’t know half the people in it. Of course and the Special Forces blokes tended to think they were…
JH Special. But even though some of them used to, sort of, weren’t really proficient soldiers, this is only in my opinion, but whereas in the battalion you were with Aussies and you just, it was good. I, one of my mates was bloody Simmo.
GM We’re talking about Ray Simpson (Victoria Cross)?
JH Yeah, Ray Simpson and he come to my company once and I never used to go in the Diggers’ boozer much because they’d throw cans at you all day, in a friendly way what I mean.
JH Anyway, Ray came in and I introduced him, well you could’ve heard a pin drop and the thing with he said to these troops, he says ‘Well, I’ve always been jealous of Jim because he actually got to be a CSM of a company on active service.’ And I thought that was good!
GM That’s a big rap.
JH Good, a big rap for all CSMs.
JH And because he didn’t have that opportunity.
GM Yeah, yeah. Would’ve made the Diggers sit up and take notice?
JH Well, it did too, and you know they still talk about that and they always pull out photographs of them and Simmo.
JH He was a real down to earth guy.
GM Well, you don’t get to stand next to a legend everyday.
JH No, that’s right.
GM Yeah. Okay. Funny times with 7 RAR?
JH Oh, lots of funny times. You talking in Vietnam or …?
GM Oh yeah.
JH Yeah. I suppose it would be Ronny Sigg, it was the funniest thing I’ve seen. At the time he got sprung with a pistol and all that. All he had in the, in the pistol holster was a sweat rag. So he didn’t have to carry a gun - that was funny, I thought it was anyway. What else?
GM What sort of operations did 7 RAR do?
JH Oh, they call them search and destroy and…
GM How long were you out for?
JH Oh, we were very seldom in camp.
GM Nui Dat?
JH In Nui Dat. We’d come in for a couple of weeks then we’d be off again, prolonged operations and of course we, our company sort of volunteered to go to Fire Support Base Brigid, which was what they used to call Surf Side Seven. We enjoyed that immensely.
GM What was the, what was the hardest thing about, about soldiering with 7 RAR?
JH Losing friends. Or losing someone in your company.
GM Did you have any mine incidents?
JH Yes, we had a really bad one with 2 Platoon and Tommy Bourke, big Tom Bourke, he got hit. He was the platoon sergeant, he stepped on a mine and, a chap took over, a young sig, took over, a bloke by the name of Christie, his brother’s Colonel Christie, yeah well his younger brother, Lee. And this guy he sat there and directed them to prod their way in and all that and I think when Tom lost his leg, it must have been cauterised, otherwise he would have bled to death I think.
GM Yeah so he survived it?
JH Yeah and he (Christie), when the choppers come in and all that, he turned around then said, ‘You’d better take me’ because he’d been wounded too. And he just sat there and did his job and that was it.
GM What do you find your job is then as the CSM, I mean morale must take a bit of a kick in the guts?
JH Yeah, it did but well, you know from your personal experience you just got on with it, because you couldn’t afford to dwell on things. And a lot of repercussions, the mental repercussions and all that, never occurred until you had time to sit down and think about it. I found that was the same in the Training Team too. I was never … I was scared not to do the right thing. I was - how do you put it? - you’re scared but you’re not scared.
GM Were you just too busy doing your job?
JH You’re too busy doing your job you see and you just get on, but, but when you think about it you see, oh, poor bugger or something like that.
GM Did your OC use you as a sounding board?
GM For things like morale and…?
JH Well, I actually used to tell him.
GM The platoon sergeants that you had in A Company, were they on their second tour or were they…?
JH No, all our platoon sergeants and a great proportion of our section corporals, the Regular Army ones were all on their second tour.
GM Oh right, so you had a fair smattering of experience there?
GM To guide the Diggers.
JH Yeah it was good.
JH And I must say that some of our, with our platoon commanders, they were all sort of novices, novices in the sense that they hadn’t done the job before, not novices in how they did they job and they performed well. And most, with the exception of one guy, they were all National Serviceman.
GM Okay. Now, you came home in 1971, how did you feel leaving Vietnam and knowing at that stage too that that was it, - that was it for the war?
JH Yeah, well, I was quite relaxed about it, because I think our blokes in the battalion who came home on the Sydney they had time to sort of get back into a ‘fright free’ - I think it’s called, fright free I suppose - ‘fright free’ frame of mind.
JH And then it was very relaxed coming home where the pressure wasn’t put on me, we still kept them on the ball but…
GM More relaxed environment?
JH More relaxed and I think it…
GM Trying to wind down?
GM What, did you guys just spend, you came back on the Sydney?
GM Did you sort of soak up the sun, play volleyball or do whatever?
JH Yeah. I think we got concerts and a bit of boxing, things like that.
GM Ok. What do you think you learnt most from your time in Korea?
JH Well how to work as part of a team and it, this might sound different, how to be self-reliant too. If you get 40 self-reliant people in one group you’ve got a great team haven’t you. I matured a lot, came of age I’d say.
GM What about from your time with the Training Team, what did you learn from that?
JH Oh, I learnt that war’s bloody useless in my book. It achieved nothing and I never ever thought. In fact, when I went back with 7 Battalion, I was talking to old ‘Father’ one day and said, ’Well my job while I’m here is to stop as many of our people as possible from getting injured or hurt. I’ll do everything,’ because even then I never ever thought we do any good there.
GM I don’t think people, I think from about Tet ‘68 onwards, everyone knew the writing was on the wall.
JH Yeah, yeah.
GM It was, even though they got a caning during Tet ‘68
GM I mean when you, when your own politicians are not supporting the overseas servicemen it’s pretty ordinary. Did you have any regrets about going to Vietnam?
JH No, no, that, I joined the Army voluntarily and whatever they told me to do I did. That was part of it.
GM How did you feel, when in 1975 the North stormed into Saigon and took over the country?
JH Oh a little sad, but you knew it was going to occur. The thing that annoyed me is that we deserted them. We built up their bloody hopes - I’m not saying Australians only – but, and then for political reasons and in hindsight would those Nixon tapes that sabotaged a peace initiative for political reasons.
JH Yeah. Lot of men unnecessarily died.
GM I heard a lot of people express that. Was Australia’s effort in Vietnam worth it?
JH Oh I think so, yes because it, despite the opposition of the certain groups against the war in Vietnam and all that, it educated all those people who served in Vietnam in a personal way, I think, in personal reliance. They taught ‘em to be men. Without a doubt everyone I’ve spoken to about Vietnam have a, have stated that it was one of the most important things in their life. Except one guy.
GM Jim is there anything else that you’d like to mention about your time as a soldier?
JH Yes, I’d like, well I’d just like to finish up with just a demonstration of sense of humour of our blokes in adverse times. Tom was, Tommy Burke was six foot four and he lost his, both his legs and I went down to see him at the hospital. I said, ‘How are you going Tom?’ And he said, ‘Bloody six foot four one moment, four foot six the next!’ I thought that was great.
GM I think if a bloke can do that at that time, he’s gonna make it.
JH Yeah yeah.
GM He’s gonna get through all right.
JH Oh he was an inspiration to his troopies too.
GM Yeah that’s a pretty healthy attitude isn’t it?
JH Yeah it was.
GM Well, Jim, we’ll call it quits there and I’d like to thank you very much for your time.
GM Ta mate.
End of Interview