MEMORIES: Jeff Kenyon is an assistant at the Returned Services League’s military museum. Memories of the Vietnam War are never far away for Mr Kenyon.

A wise observer remarked that there are two kinds of people in the world –those who have been to war and those who have not.

Jeff Kenyon, 71, fought in the Vietnam War and was on the edge of the famous Battle of Long Tan for which the 50th anniversary of victory will be commemoratedtoday.

Luck played a key role in Mr Kenyon’s war –he was called up as one of the early ones in the conscription lottery then, by chance, was not thrown into the muddy, monsoonal battle in a rubber plantation that gave the name to the yearly Vietnam Veterans’ recognition day, Long Tan.

“You carried yourrifle as your best friend,” he said, looking back on his 12-month tour of duty based in the Australian stronghold of Nui Dat in 1966-67.

He was an infantry rifleman, occasional machine-gunner, and sometime “tail-end Charlie” on patrol with 5thRoyal Australian Regiment which linked with 6RAR whose members wereambushed by the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong in the plantation.

“You were scared at all times. You held it together. It could be your turn next. You just didn’t know,” Mr Kenyonsaid.

“You were always wound tight,even in camp. The camp was a barbed-wire fence and you were in enemy territory for 12 months.

“Even when you went back for a rest, you were still more or less on high alert because they could attack any time and they did.

“I consider myself lucky. The enemy was going to attack a month earlier when they was only a battalion, 5RAR, there and 6RAR came six weeks later.

“The 6RARtook all of it. If we had been needed, we would have gone there. Onthe night of Long Tan, some of our machine-gunners went out in the armoured personnel carriers to help.

“Some of us went through to the 6RAR lines to protect their area. You could hear the battle that day and night. Artillery fire was going all the time.

“At the beginning of the battle we were watching a show with Little Pattie and Col Joye and, halfway through, we all had toget back in our tents.

“Little Pattie was shipped out straight away. We went from a resting position into a war position.

“If they got through 6RAR, they would have swept right through the task force and there would have been a lot more casualties.

“The 6RAR soldiers walked into an ambush. They were patrolling and came across a couple of Cong. Shots were fired and they followed them.

“There were a lot heroics that dayby brave men. The helicopter pilots were brave. They went out when they were ordered not to in monsoonal rain. They hovered above the trees to drop ammunition to our soldiers who were almost out of bullets.

“Four or five Port Pirie men were in 5RAR. It could have been 5RAR doing the patrol instead the others–you just don’t know.

“It is the luck of the draw.”

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