The Registry Of Ex-Military Land-Rovers Au, NZ, etc


A Truck Driver at War: Vietnam 1969 - 1970

These photographs come from Bruce Wilson. He was kind enough to give us high resolution versions of the images that appear on his vietnam war diaries / blog. He has given us permission to put these images up as a part of REMLR. There are some excellent images of International Trucks, Land Rovers, and the way live in Vietnam during the war was.

Read the full story at Bruce's Blog, A Truck Driver at War: Vietnam 1969 - 1970

Bruce was a Nasho and served with 85 Transport Platoon, 26 Company RAASC. This is an abbreviated version of the blog, for the full version, visit the link above. Larger versions of these images are in the archive. if you want a copy just let me know.

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April 19
I went to the transport compound after breakfast and handed some greens into the laundry. I started to change a tyre but halfway through I was lobbed with another CSM’s work party (What about some driving?) We collected rocks all morning to make a retaining wall and in the afternoon shovelled sand to re-grade the floor of the picture theatre.

Physical work here is very hot and hard. It only takes a short time before you have perspiration dripping everywhere. It runs into your eyes and up your nose and into your mouth. All the dust then settles on you and it feels like being in a wallow with a buffalo.

I knocked off at 6.00 p.m. after putting a tent cover in place over the theatre and attending evening pill parade. On parade, I was told that I was to be detached to Vung Tau as part of a group to work with 86 Transport Platoon. I am to get packed up and ready to leave in the morning.

Transport Office at Nui Dat

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April 22
Today I worked as a ’shotgun’ on a truck carrying gravel to Nui Dat. It was cooler up on top of the cabin roof through the cupola than it was inside and it was interesting to see the villages on the road for the first time. The other blokes seemed pretty casual about the trip but as it was my first time out in the open, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I probably had my rifle much more at the ready than I really needed to.

Many of the houses are rather small and nothing more than shacks made out of rubbish such as flattened Coke cans

We took another load of sand up to the Dat after lunch. Driving here is like being in a dodgem car; having to miss cars, motor bikes, trucks, buses, ox-carts, lambrettas and even a few old Australian Holdens. The villages look a bit like they appeared in the books that I had seen - slapped together, smelly and crowded. The little kids were cute and all the blokes seem to give them a special bit of attention.

Nui Dat is about twenty miles from Vung Tau but it seems a lot longer with all the traffic. We passed through about five villages and a few tiny hamlets on the way. All the paddy fields are dry and cracked as it is now the dry season. Water buffalo with big wide horns have a cord through their nostrils which is tied behind their horns. Many are looked after by little kids who look to be only about five or six years old.

1ATF Base - Nui Dat

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April 24
I worked all day carrying gravel locally from 17 Construction to 102 Field Workshop as hard topping. In the afternoon I did four loads from the quarry.

My truck is so stuffed that it will hardly get up the hill to the quarry when empty. I have to use 2nd low gear. I did one turn taking a load of rubbish to the dump and had Noggie kids climbing all over the truck collecting rubbish before I could even tip it off. At first I was worried about hurting some of them as I dumped my load, but then decided that I would just tip it out anyway. They could look after themselves!

I missed out on a one and half mile run because I was late getting back from the tip. I got back to find the rest of the blokes puffing around the base and looking very hot.

2 Transport Platoon reported that they were shot at near Baria today.

86 Transport Platoon Compound

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April 28
A routine day in which we took three loads of sand and screenings to the Dat.

I put in an application to go to Australia on R&R in November.

A few drops of rain fell this morning. The skies have been getting more cloudy each day and the ‘Wet’ can’t be far away now.

Loading screenings.

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1 May
We ran to the Dat again with screenings and had another two punctures in our convoy. We stayed at the Dat for lunch where we think that the food is much better than at Vung Tau. I saw a couple of the new replacements who I knew from 87 at Pucka. (Brian Egan and Colin Davis).

I had to do the fogging tonight and I enjoyed this job. It meant taking a Landrover over to the American base near the airport and picking up a trailer full of insecticide. I then drove through the back streets of Vung Tau and around the Australian Base spraying for mosquitoes. Fifty five U.S. Gallons of diesolene were mixed with five gallons of some form of insecticide. The fogger pumps this mixture out in a very fine fog spray which blows over everything.

86 Transport Platoon’s Compound.

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6 May
I dismounted from Duty Driver at 6.45 am. and slept for most of the day as I have today off following last night’s duty. In the afternoon, I went to the YMCA, read a few books and wrote some letters home. Last night was pretty quiet, probably as it was the day before pay day and no-one had any money to spend.

Three Dust-Off choppers came in today. Max Dong tells me that a part of his job is to take the ambulance down to the American hospital and pick up different types of blood to meet the helicopters as they come in.

He says he has to take the rubbish from the hospital to a different tip and it is full of Nogs looking for garbage that they can use or sell. He has to beat them off with a sticko that he can dump his load. The best way, he says, is to let them climb onto the truck and then brake suddenly so they all fall over and then tip them off with the hoist.

A ‘Dust-off Chopper’ coming in to the hospital at Vung Tau.

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21 May
We had all day to work on trucks again and I helped Poobah’ to finish his service.

The army has changed its mind again and after lunch I took all the equipment off my truck ready for it to be scrapped.

For the rest of the day, I did nothing in particular.

Tippers in 86’s yard. The dust-off pad is to the left.

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24 May
Another day of riding shotgun to Nui Dat and doing local work there all morning and working to Baria all afternoon. Most of the work at Baria was the building of a market car park for the buses which take people to shop there.

It was not my day - I got bogged in the middle of the market.

I talked to a number of kids who were minding some cattle. One reckoned that he had lost an eye in a grenade explosion. Another said that he had been shot in the foot by the VC. I Don’t think that he was for real.

It rained all night.

Travelling through Baria with an APC escort.

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29 May
We are still doing odd jobs. I helped change tyres, paint cabins and clean out some trucks. I am eating a little and feel better again. I didn’t work too hard today.

At night I went to the Badcoe Club to watch a movie.

Dumping screenings at Nui Dat. This image shows excellent detail of the hydraulic resevoir, jerry cans and oil can.

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31 May
We had a while to recover from last night’s party and I think we needed it too! (The previous day was the RAASC's 3rd birthday in Vietnam)

We ended up doing the same old work to Nui Dat all day.

Tonight there is a swimming carnival on at the Bad­coe Club. All the races are novelty events; a Jungle Jim swim with clothes on, egg and spoon race, waiters race, underwater endurance competition etc.

I am starting to get a lot of discomfort from prickly heat and I am very grateful for everyone at home sending me tins of prickly heat powder.

Adding to the rock pile at Nui Dat.

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July 19
Today, I became a garbo again driving the garbage truck on the 1ATF garbage run - we have to collect from 1 ARV, Provosts and PW Compound, HQ and TFMA.

After finishing, we saw a show put on by a group of Sydney entertainers and spent some time at the new 5 RAR pool (an above ground pool near the water point). We also filled in some time at the Everyman’s Club and knocked off at 5.00 pm. This run is pretty easy compared to the CSM’s garbage run and it is hard to fill in the whole day. If we get back to the compound too early, they will expect us to do it all the time.

We have a new bore at the water point and the water is heavily chlorinated and looks like second hand bath water. No wonder most people here drink gof­fer or cordial rather than straight water.

1OFP (Ordinance Field Park), Nui Dat

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July 21

First Moon Landing

Somehow, I’m back on the CSM’s work party. We spent all day pulling down dead branches from the rubber trees and taking them to the tip. I learnt how to tie crown knots and splice rope today. The hoist on the truck stopped working so I had to take it to the LAD for repairs.

We all took some time out during the day to keep an eye on the TV set in the recreation hut and watch the men on the moon. It seems incredible that man can actually be on the moon, let alone that we can see it on TV during a war.

We finished off the day by cleaning up the canteen.

The Artillery fired consistently tonight. There is a bang and a whoosh and then some time later, a second bang when the shell explodes. Our gunners like Australian Ammo best as they only have to set the fuse. With American Ammo, they have to make up the fuse, prime it and set it in the round

The TFMA Garbage Truck.

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August 18
Today, we are taking loads of boulders to the bridge near Baria that had been blown up by the VC. We left our tail­gates in the quarry as these rocks are far too big to fit under them.

After two trips to the bridge in the morning, we car­ried blast rock to Route 23.

Today was just another routine day.

Looking towards the Long Hai Hills from Route 23.

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August 21
We all got up early to be around at 1 Field Regt. by 7.15 am to find out that they have a stand down day. Instead, we came back to the quarry to cart rock for 17 Const. to the bridge on Route 23.

These big boulders are really making a mess of the trucks. Nearly all have holes in the tray and one was loaded so hard that it ripped the back bogies out of alignment.

A truck, torn from its bogies by overloading.

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August 22
Today, we carried big boulders to the bridge site again.

Now we have to reverse down over the rock we have already laid and drop it so that it falls in the water. It gets a bit tricky reversing down a slope in 6 wheel drive low ratio with a river underneath. One big rock knocked a tail gate trunion off as it was sliding out so now I can’t carry a tailgate.

A good thing about this job however, is that we are working pretty well on our own and we don’t have to form up into convoys.

Johnny O’Keefe was here with a show today but I couldn’t get any time to come in and see it.

Dumping rock at the causeway.

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September 14
Sunday - 213 and a wakey!

I did some local rock and soil cartage in the morning. I took 100 yards to the 2/35th. US Artillery Battery and 15 yards to 8 Field Ambulance. In the afternoon, I didn’t do anything other than have a CES check and I was issued with a new air hose and a shovel.

All of 2 Platoon are up for the night so they can get away early in the morning to move one of the Battalions at a FSB. Scotty and Furmiston slept in my tent.

Getting loaded with blast rock in the Nui Dat Quarry.

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September 17
We worked out to the Horseshoe all day. We only did two loads before lunch - none before we had morning tea. After lunch we only did three loads so it was a pretty easy day.

On the way back we stopped at Mi’s for a drink.

The quarry was a good place to try some hill climbing. It's interesting to note in this image that the olive drab appears to have been washing off to expose deep bronze green underneath!

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September 26
Still in the workshop, I kept working on the truck and did some more jobs on the list. We fitted new weapon clamps, soldered some holes in the fuel tank, repaired the tail lights and fixed the brush guard.

The best thing about being in the workshop is the chance to get a real brew of tea in the mornings and afternoons The mechanics make a good brew of Tea!

85 Transport Platoon’s compound in the Wet.

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October 6
We’re working again for 17 Construction on Route 23. We had to wait until 10.00 am for them to arrive out on the job site.

This left us only enough time for one more load before lunch and we only carted another two in the afternoon.

Our trucks at the quarry

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October 12
Sunday - 185 and a wakey!

We cleaned up after last night’s party and after lunch I had to sling a truckload of ammo for Air Despatch.

We thought that we were going to settle down for a free afternoon but at 4.30 pm we were called out to fill in a culvert that had been washed away towards Phu My. I went out in the gun-jeep to support our convoy of sixteen tip­pers. The trucks worked hard and did three escorted trips to fill in the hole. Even though curfew is at 6.00 pm we didn’t finish until 12.30 because we also had to winch a Vietnamese truck out of a bog We had dinner back at the Dat at 1.30 am By then we were pretty hungry.

Waiting to load in the Nui Dat quarry

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October 14
I started as duty driver following the Doc’s instructions to keep out of the dust from the road. This meant that I spent all day running around in a Landrover like a taxi service picking up mail, taking officers to conferences and taking signals to the Sig. Centre at 1ATF.

I had to stay in the office at lunch time and picked up meals in lunch bags for the three of us on duty.

Our Landrover

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October 17
In the morning I had to take an officer from 52 Supp­ly Platoon around to the messes to check on some canned milk that was going off.

In the afternoon I had to pop into Baria to collect a pane of glass to replace the one in a broken picture frame.

The airstrip was buzzed by two Canberra bombers this morning.

NZ Bristol Freighter at Nui Dat Airstrip

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November 9
Sunday - 157 and a wakey!

I drove the water truck again this morning and filled up sealskins at the Pelican Pad.

I was in the standby section in the afternoon and we worked to load our tippers for tomorrow’s work. We blew up a flat tyre on another truck and tied down a 1000 gallon bladder on a cargo truck and filled it.

Our cargo trucks can be set up in a number of ways; high sides, center seating, flat top etc. No matter which way we get them set up, we get ordred to change them around another way. Bladders lie on the tray and are strapped down with webbing.

A GP vehicle fitted with a 1000 gallon water bladder.

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November 10
We left Nui Dat at 6.30 am to take loads of rock to Xuyen Moc. We took a big convoy of nearly 40 vehicles. All the earth moving equipment was up front; graders and dozers on tilt-beds. It took us three hours to do the 24 miles to get there. Our top speed was 11 mph in third gear. The rock had to be used to fill in culverts and bridge approaches so that the heavy equipment could get through.

When we got there some villagers came out with some coke for sale. What a sight for sore eyes! Some of us conned them into selling us some ‘Balmy Balm’, our name for Vietnamese beer. The brand of beer here is "333" and is pronounced Ba Ba Ba.

We cor­rupt it to ‘Balmy Balm’ because of the affect it has. The trip back was slightly faster but still slow over a very rough road. The ducks had to go today. We took them down to the dam and let them go. At Pill Parade yesterday the OC decided that they were getting a bit out of hand and that we couldn’t keep them.

Our earthmoving convoy leaving the Dat Do gates.

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January 2
Worked out to Dat Do all day for 1 Field Sqdn and were kept working to the road, filling in all the soft spots that had developed as it settled.

We had ration packs for lunch and ate them on the side of the road at An Nhut where we bought a few cokes. The Engineer Sergeant told us that we had to work until 5.00 we kept going unhappily. Out of four trucks in our packet today, we had four punctures.

Reading was always a good way to time spent where we had to ‘hurry up and wait’.

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January 17
I emptied a water bladder at 52 Supply Platoon as we washed out the servicing bay. After that we transferred the bladder to another truck and I took mine into the workshops for a service.

We took it for a test drive after lunch, and found all the faults. There were only five jobs to do so we had them finished on the same afternoon.

I filled in the rest of the day until knock-off time by sitting around the compound.

Kids from Hoa Long.

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January 20
Today became the usual story of how to get out of work.

I did the daily road clearing of Canberra Ave (the main road through Nui Dat) by driving a truck while the blokes from 52 Supply Platoon collected the roadside rubbish and then got lobbed to help on a garbage run. After lunch I talked to the Ford representative about buying a new car when I get home. Ford have a plan which enables us to order a car here and buy it in Australia without paying sales tax.

When I got back to the compound, I had to help load some trucks for a three day operation to Xuan Moc with stores, ammo, water, fuel. I will be going and my truck will be carrying 1000 gallons of petrol for the tanks as well as some spare gear for the other trucks.

Leaving the Dat at dawn for Xuan Loc.

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January 23
Our convoy left Xuan Loc at 7.00 am after breakfast and headed straight back to the Dat for home. We passed by Long Binh at 8.30 and reached Nui Dat at 1.30 pm..

We didn’t stop at all on the way back and changed drivers on the run. We came back at a high speed averaging about 30 - 35 mph. We unloaded the petrol bladders at 8 Pet. Platoon and refuelled the trucks.

After lunch I had to go around to 21 Support Troop and clean a concrete mixer. What a rotten job. Never again do I want to have to do this!

Our convoy in Xuan Loc.

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February 17
Today I have the same job on the CA Project.

We poured concrete into the formwork that we put up yesterday. Seeing that we had a couple of mixes left over, we made a paddling pool for the kids.

At lunch time we went over to Binh Gia which is a Catholic village set up here by people who have moved down from the North. They have a reputation for being very anti-communist and the story goes that the villagers have fought off a battalion of NVA. Apparently the last VC they found was crucified in the market place. The women there are very attractive

. I got back to Nui Dat at 6.00 pm

GP Cargo trucks in Nui Dat

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April 3
I went out to FSB. Anne in a Gunjeep and got held up by the Artillery wanting us to back load empty ammo boxes,

The road is still muddy, so we put the Landrovers across the paddy fields and the trucks on the road.

The ‘Happy Pills’ are making me crook today and the boss let me have the afternoon off,

Waiting to leave Nui Dat in a convoy.

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April 12
Sunday - 4 and a wakey!

My section was duty section today, but I got out of that. I spent all morning burning the rest of the letters I had saved and did some washing. In the afternoon I just sat around. Today I changed the last sheets for clean ones in-country.

Doing the CSM’s garbage run



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