Peter Jarratt (Australian Army), The Australian Army Training Team Vietnam

Peter Jarratt served with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, the first Australian unit to arrive, the last to leave, and the most highly decorated of the Vietnam War.

Running time
2 min 6 sec
Copyright
Department of Veterans' Affairs

Transcript

In 1962, the first 30 Australian soldiers were sent to Vietnam. They were called the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam and they provided training and assistance to the South Vietnamese.

"They were experienced officers, or warrant officers, many with World War Two experience; certainly many of the warrant officers had fought the Communist terrorists in Malaysia so they'd had jungle experience.

We were issued a weapon, 45 automatic American pistol, a tin hat "" steel helmet which I never ever wore; some other bits and pieces of American kit, all our ID cards, the whole thing, which was plugged into the American system so that we then became a part of the American structure. If we got wounded we went to an American hospital to be sorted out.

But the first eye-opener for me was when General Timmes stood up on our briefing, he was the head sharang of the military advisory group in Vietnam; and Timmes stood up at the front and, you know, forty years ago, but he went through 'God is on our side, the Communist pagans,' or whatever, 'We will defeat them, it is our role, our mission in the world.'

And I didn't think God was on my side at all, I didn't think there was any God in any case, so I wasn't sure that he was sitting behind me at all. When you're involved in a fire situation where people are actually shooting at you and you're shooting back, and you can't speak the language, you feel pretty vulnerable, which is why we always sent advisors out in pairs, so that one man could watch the other's back. You look after each other."

The Training Team were 'first in, last out' and became the most decorated Australian unit to serve in Vietnam.

"Looking back on it, it was a very important time in my life, a time when I had more power and control and freedom to do what I wanted to than I've ever had. I was glad that I was there but I was glad to come home. At the end of it I waved Vietnam farewell and said, 'That's it'."

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