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AFORMER soldier who
served in Vietnam in 1971
gave closure to the family
of a Viet Cong (VC) soldier
he killed in action when he visited
them in October last year.
Pte Ian Williamson was a National
Serviceman and forward scout in
9 Pl, C Coy, 4RAR, during Operation
Overlord, when he had a one-on-one
contact with a VC soldier on June 13,
1971, resulting in the VC’s death.
A few weeks after the incident
back at Nui Dat, Mr Williamson’s pla-
toon commander, Lt Andrew Grecian,
handed him the VC’s hammock and
US-pattern compass, which had been
taken from the body.
Mr Williamson retained these items
for 44 years and said the concept of
trying to locate the relatives of the VC
soldier started to form in his mind after
a number of years.
“They would have had no idea what
happened to him and if I was in their
position, I’d want to know,” he said.
“My intention was to finally give
them some solace or closure, as they
no doubt would have suffered over the
loss of their loved one.
“In Vietnamese culture he would
have been regarded as a ‘wandering
“His status could not be put to rest
until information was known as to how
and where he died.”
Two things initially held Mr
Williamson back from starting a
“Firstly, how and where do I start
looking?” he said.
“Secondly, what would their reac-
tion be towards me if I succeeded
in locating what relatives were still
In mid-2013, Mr Williamson con-
tacted Bob Hall, of the ADFA-based
Operation Wandering Souls, with
details of the contact.
“Through Australian Army records
he confirmed the grid reference and
the VC’s details as squad 2IC Sgt
Nguyen Sy Huy, of C24 Coy, 274 VC
Regt,” he said.
“My daughter, Lt-Col Amanda
Williamson, had been following my
search, as I have followed her military
“In early 2015, Amanda stepped
in to my search for the relatives of
Sgt Huy and contacted the Defence
Attaché at the Australian Embassy in
Hanoi, with what information I had.
Seeking war closure
Former 4RAR digger returns to Vietnam to close a sad chapter, Sgt Dave Morley reports.
March 10, 2016
“He contacted MARIN (Martyr’s
Information Service) and within two
weeks they had received more infor-
mation about Sgt Huy and located his
brother, sister and fiancée in a village
200km south of Hanoi.”
MARIN is a non-government
organisation run by volunteers, dedi-
cated to sourcing information on about
300,000 Vietnamese soldiers unac-
counted for or missing in action.
According to Mr Williamson,
MARIN was particularly helpful and
actually visited Sgt Huy’s family in
Vietnam to discuss his intention to
meet them and return his belongings.
“Finally, after much ground work,
especially by my daughter, great
assistance from the Defence Attaché
and his staff, and valuable input from
the people at MARIN, we set off for
Vietnam in mid-October 2015,” he
“My daughter, my partner Gayle
and my sister Valerie came with
me and when the ABC heard of our
intended journey, they sent their
South-East Asia correspondent
Samantha Hawley and a cameraman.
“Two days after we arrived in
Hanoi, we made the three-and-a-
half-hour drive to the village, Thieu
Nguyen Commune, Thieu Hoa district.
“The Australian Embassy’s
interpreter went ahead of us with
an advance party to prepare for our
Mr Williamson said the Defence
Attaché Col Darren Kerr and his wife
Suzanne accompanied them and were
extremely helpful in guiding him
through the protocols and ensuring
customs were honoured and respected.
“To Col Kerr’s knowledge, this
type of trip had not been done before,”
“The village committee greeted us
and we were overwhelmed by the lav-
ish reception in their meeting hall and
speech by the village headman.
“We went to Sgt Huy’s family’s
house, where we were even more
overwhelmed by the sight of the whole
village, some 200 people, waiting to
greet us, not to mention three film
crews from Hanoi TV stations.
“We were taken into the house and
sat at the table opposite the brother,
sister and fiancé, where formal intro-
ductions were made through our inter-
A shrine on the main wall of their
house honouring Sgt Huy showed they
still missed him deeply.
Col Kerr suggested Pte Williamson
not to be too specific in the details of
the contact as the fact that he had gone
to the trouble of meeting them was
sufficient, and they understood soldiers
on both sides died in war.
“I was also advised to emphasise
Sgt Huy had been treated with respect
on the day,” he said.
“I told them he was buried with
due respect as he was a warrior, fight-
ing for, and had given his life for, his
“Through MARIN, I discovered
when Sgt Huy didn’t arrive at his des-
tination, his squad back-tracked his
compass bearing two weeks later and
found his grave, exhumed the body
and reburied it in the Ho Chi Min
“The brother, sister and fiancé were
understandably emotional and all of us
shed a few tears.”
When Mr Williamson handed the
hammock and compass to Sgt Huy’s
brother they shook hands.
“My daughter and I had brought
offerings and were invited to place
them on the altar,” he said. “We were
overwhelmed by the crowd of villag-
ers, the TV crews and the sense of the
occasion, and the three relatives were
even more overwhelmed than us.
“Apparently, some of the villagers
hadn’t seen Europeans before.”
Mr Williamson said initially Sgt
Huy’s family and himself were, under-
standably, just taking in the whole idea
of what was happening, however, they
were soon all warmly shaking hands
and taking group photographs.
“We spent a few hours in the vil-
lage and I left with a great sense of
relief that I had actually achieved what
I wanted to do,” he said.
“I was amazed we had been able to
trace Sgt Huy’s relatives after so long,
considering the limited records kept by
“Most importantly, I felt I had
achieved my objective of giving the
family some peace of mind that, hav-
ing been involved in this action, I
could tell them what happened.
“My personal war has some
giving the family
some peace of
mind that, having
in this action, I
tell them what
former 4RAR soldier
Vietnam veteran Ian Williamson meets the brother of the Viet
Cong soldier he shot in 1971. Inset: Pte Williamson in Vietnam.
Leut Andrew Ragless
MORE than 100 soldiers from Force
Support Element (FSE) Three have
returned to Australia following a success-
ful seven-month deployment in the Middle
Comprising members from 23 Army
units across Australia, FSE 3 provided thea-
tre logistics and the reception, staging and
onward movement of ADF personnel in the
Their efforts included combat service sup-
port across eight locations in five countries,
including Iraq and Afghanistan.
OC FSE 3 Maj Ash Crosby said the men
and women of FSE 3 had reason to be proud
of their achievements.
“Rotation Three members have trained and
equipped more than 2100 ADF personnel to
go forward and perform a variety of opera-
tions across the Middle East,” he said.
“In addition, they provided superior reme-
diation and redeployment effects to dependent
units in the region. Our standout achievement
was the retrograde and closure of Camp Baker
at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, after near-
ly 10 years of operation.”
The camp closed on October 22 last year
after the completion of the Australian-led 205
Corps Advisory Team mission.
Eight Bushmaster PMVs, two Mac trucks,
one 20-tonne trailer, 68 aircraft pallets and
135 personnel were flown out of Kandahar
Airfield as part of the retrograde.
FSE 3 personnel also moved more than
1200 tonnes of cargo and dispatched 5200
bags of mail.
During the transfer of authority parade,
Maj Crosby thanked his FSE 3 members and
their families for their contribution to opera-
“Your support has enabled the execution
of Australian and coalition tasks which are
playing an important role in the Middle East,”
OC FSE 4 Maj Christine Pope also paid
FSE 3 heads home after seven months
“FSE 3 maintained a very high tempo and
provided excellent combat service support to
the task groups across the Middle East,” she
“We are hoping to sustain and improve on
what they’ve been able to deliver.”
Maj Christine Pope
during the transfer of
authority parade at
Photo by Sgt Hamish Paterson
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