"Left Behind"

Submitted by: Lex McAulay, Australian Army

In November-December 65, Operation "New Life" was intended to have the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, including the Australian 1st Battalion, secure the rice harvest in the La Nga River valley. This was done. We were flying back from Binh Tuy Province to Phuoc Tuy, in CH47s, and one had some sort of malfunction so made a forced landing. The platoon of Aussies aboard spread out to provide security while the CH47 guys fixed the problem. Call came to remount, and no time was lost doing it.

Safely airborne again, the platoon sergeant (who was in command) counted heads.... 37, 38...opps: there should be 40! Count again... 37, 38...that's it; two soldiers were left back there; uh-oh. These two were not members of the platoon, which moved by squads and under command of squad leaders, so were not part of any 'family' group and somehow missed the word to remount.

A message was radioed and a couple of Huey gunships took off for the location. No trouble finding it, because the two men out there in the bush were the supply platoon guys who called in the resupply choppers and had plenty of smoke grenades. The gunships could see this big column of cloured smoke piling up out of the trees.

Two very relieved Aussies climbed out of the Hueys, but had a few words for the platoon.

Lex McAulay
Australian Army
3 tours RVN