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CLOSE LEASHED

© 2012 Robert Cavill

C Company &
Assault Pioneers
author: robert cavill

Argumentum Ad Consequentium
pointing to the disagreeable consequences of holding a particular belief in order to show that this belief is false.

It is dangerous ground for those who claim to believe in democracy, to use the argument that any war is wrong because it brings cruelty and destruction. History teaches that you can only enjoy as much freedom as you can defend. It was the Spartans who said 2300 years ago "He who has the best argument about borders is the man with his hand on his sword."


Notice; Any and all movement by persons within the strictly prohibited Free Fire Zone's as designated by the armed forces of the Australian Task Force. Will be considered unfriendly, and could be fired on day or night.


On moving into the Phuoc Tuy Province in May 1966, the Australian Task Force declared an area at first four and later nine kilometres around the base at Nui Dat along with other areas within this Provence, to be Free Fire Zones. Vietnamese civilians were forced to leave villages that were located close to the base, such as Long Phuoc and be resettled elsewhere. Then all unauthorised movement within the areas designated FFZ (Free Fire Zone), be it via person or vehicle could be fired on.

This placed extreme difficulty on the local civilian population. They had requirements of food collection such as from banana plantations and gardens they owned within or close to the FFZ. Things such as firewood collection around and rubber tapping within the plantations, though always dangerous. due to VC activity (over 50 rubber workers had already been killed by the VC) had become even more dangerous. Due to VC activity Highway 2 (the main rout north/ south within the province) was closed and normal communal interaction between village populations, visiting relatives, market days etc was severely disrupted.

The local Viet Cong cadres had imposed forced taxation and youth recruitment on the local village populations. One of the RARs' (Royal Australian Regiment) prime tactics to prevent the VCs' effective movement between populated areas was the Ambush. Some of the local population chose, either because of need or were forced by the VC, to take the risk to enter these Free Fire Zones. This was an extremely dangerous thing to do.

CLOSE LEASHED
September 1966, 4 kilometres South of Binh Ba

That's right, it was at the boundary that sudden change from low forest and woody scrub one often found at the edge of rubber plantations. He remembered the section commander had signalled him to change ― go from single file to arrow head formation. Of course it made little difference to him what the section's formation was, as the scout of the lead section, he was at the sharp end ... and the most exposed.

If scouting, he had made it his habit to always quietly observe as long as he could any clear space before moving into it. He hated to move into relatively cleared areas such as this rubber plantation and did so only when given no other choice. Today was such a day. There was no way to avoid it. There was some kind panic on the radio, something about a large enemy force nearby. Captain Milligan's famous 'Binh Ba 1000' again I suppose! All C Company platoons had been ordered to get to the village of Binh Ba as a high priority ... probably about four clicks away, it was late afternoon and he was being pushed
A Rubber Plantation From his position at the plantation edge he could see long corridors of rubber trees their smooth grey trunks running away in perfect rows. Because rubber trees were planted in rows the gaps between made natural fire lanes and it always seemed to him you could be seen for bloody miles!

The trunks of the trees being narrow and soft, they were useless for cover as the Sixth Battalion blokes had recently found out. The areas used for plantations were invariably flat with only very shallow drainage lines, so there could be little protection from any possible mortar attack. In the dry season the foliage was sparse, giving only light shade, so it was often bloody hot . . . he hated the rubber.

Having waited in cover for as long as he dared and about to stand, he suddenly caught a movement to his left.

Two black pyjama clad figures, one following the other were moving along the plantation edge. They were about 150 metres away and appeared to be following a faint rubber workers track. If they continued they would move from left to right across his front.

At this distance they did not appear to be armed; perhaps they were rubber workers or local villagers. This was a dangerous situation, they should not have been here. He was sure they had not seen him. They appeared oblivious to their surroundings and preoccupied with their labour, focused only on getting to where they were going. Lying on his left side he turned to make eye contact with his section commander to indicate 'two people who appeared to be unarmed moving from left to right'.

The section leader who had obviously already seen them, signalled him to let them pass. People such as rubber tappers or wood collectors found unarmed within the FFZ would normally be apprehended and sent back to Nui Dat for questioning. On this occasion for whatever reason apparently this was not going to happen. Perhaps the village of Binh Ba was closer than he thought.

The platoon remained hidden in heavy cover along the boundary of the plantation and waited as the two women crossed in front of the lead section.

With that strange bent-knee gate Vietnamese use Village women awaiting release during a cordon and search by 5RAR with such grace, two baskets each on bamboo shoulder poles bouncing to the rhythm of their step, the two small women approached. They were heading north, probably toward the village of Bin Bah just few clicks away. Their baskets though shallow appeared heavy with what looked to be fruit. He noticed the section commander strongly signalling the platoon behind in the negative and hoped the rest of his platoon understood what was happening ― it was a tense situation.

Though not involving his platoon, unauthorised movement within the FFZ areas had unfortunately led to some incidents in the past.

A platoon is made up of over 25 individuals, some are nervous, some frightened; a recent reinforcement might get just plain confused. What they all have in common though... is a lethal weapon in their hands.



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