For 39 years the Australian Defence Force strenuously denied a unit called the 2nd Defence and Employment Platoon existed during the Vietnam War.
The platoon was a makeshift rapid deployment force of 38 men, all regular troops, based at the Australian Task Force Headquarters at Nui Dat in 1969 from late April to June.
The ragtag unit was thrown together with diggers left behind in Vietnam when their regiment returned to Australia. It was so slapdash it didn't even have an officer or sergeant in charge.
But a rugged ex-Royal Marine stepped forward to take the lead. Jim Riddle was ten years older than most of the young diggers and only an acting corporal as he'd been in too many bar fights and insulted too many officers to keep his stripes. But he knew enough of war to keep these young diggers alive.
The young Aussies respected Riddle and his battle experience. When the platoon was thrown into one of the biggest firefights of the Vietnam War against hundreds of enemy, Riddle proved his leadership, bringing all his men through unscathed and leaving the battlefield littered with enemy bodies.
It was a highly successful operation, but immediately afterwards Riddle's platoon was mysteriously disbanded, the team broken up and scattered throughout the army. There were no official records. It was as though the platoon never existed. It was a Ghost Platoon. Something happened at that ambush that compelled the army to bury the platoon's existence, and the secrets that went with it.
Three decades later the men of the platoon set out to prove their unit had existed. They ran into bureaucratic brick walls and official denials from the top brass and official historians. What's more, the army strongly denied darker deeds done after the fighting, deeds which some of the men allege were war crime atrocities.
Proving their unit existed required diligent detective work until they broke through and beat the system. After an investigation the government finally acknowledged the unit had existed and praised the brave leadership of Jim Riddle. But the long battle caused immense psychological damage to the veterans. They'd fought for their country, but then had to fight their own country.
Frank Walker traces what happened to the men of the Ghost Platoon, the impact the war had on them and their long battle to prove the unit existed. His findings are a shocking indictment of the long term effect of war: a private who murdered his senior officer still doesn't know why he did it; some are still afraid to speak 40 years after the war; veterans of the platoon alleging they have been beaten up for speaking out; and there are demands for a Royal Commission.
This is the story of the men of the Ghost Platoon.
- Publication Date:
- 27 / 09 / 2011
- 155 x 236 x 26mm
Frank Walker should really have done his homework in researching the details for this book. Among the soldiers who were a part of this alleged sub unit there is so much disagreement and disputing that it is doubtful the truth will even be found.