720th Military Police Battalion Reunion Association Vietnam History Project
TET 1968 - As seen by an RAC MP
This personal story was written in 1993 by ex MP, 33676 John R. Proctor who served in the Corps from 1956 to 1973. The story has been edited by CPL A. T. Buckingham in 2001. The original letter is courtesy of the author and the Royal Australian Corps Military Police Museum, Holsworthy, Australia.
Return To AFVN Home Page
        The words of the then Provost Marshal to SGT Maurice Evans and myself as we prepared to leave for SIB duties in South Vietnam 'Get yourselves some good civilian clothes. You will be living in an air conditioned villa overlooking the South China Sea. A good posting and good luck'. Well the luck held but we never did sight the villa and the civvies went mouldy in a kitbag.

        This is a short story giving a personal view of some events that occurred during the 1968 TET offensive in South Vietnam.

        The Saigon Detachment was commanded by a SGT Bob Popperwell and consisted of a mixture of Regular Army and National Service NCOs, Australian and NZ. CPL Derek Bligh was 2IC.

        Long Binh, attached to the USMP [720th] Battalion was the temporary home for myself and four CPLs, Albie Taber (Regular Army) and Ron Shaw, Neil Sherritt, Peter Stapleton who were civilian policemen doing their National Service.

        The night that the TET (Lunar New Year) offensive started I was at the rear section of a US convoy of fuel tankers bound for Long Binh. Manning a gunjeep with the rest of the detachment scattered throughout the convoy we received unexpected fire as we arrived at the Newport bridge crossing. This was in fact fire directed at the ARVN post at each end of the bridge by the VC force en route to the city. Although noisy and spectacular from our position high on the bridge no casualties were sustained by the Australian personnel. Daylight revealed bodies in power lines and the usual aftermath of battle. Subsequently a large span was blown out of the bridge. Perhaps the most vivid memory is being overtaken by a laden tanker, the driver of which thought the jeep escort was slow.

        Later that same night the US Embassy became a major target for VC Forces already in the city. As the night attack was launched the US guards were overrun and calls were made for MP assistance. As luck would have it CPLs Steve Wallis and Ray Wyse were on the scene in moments and soon joined by Derek Bligh and Dave Wills. Wallis and Wyse were immediately under fire from an automatic weapon and small arms. It should be noted at this point that Australian and NZ [New Zealand] MPs were only issued with sidearms. The system had decided that rifles were needed for the defense of desks etc at HQs. A problem only relieved by our American friends. Steve Wallis covered by Ray Wyse ran to an American with an M60 machine gun only to be told it was jammed and the soldier did not know how to clear it. Wallis took the M60, cleared it and silenced the VC weapons in the area.

        The Saigon Detachment under Derek Bligh (Bob Popperwell was cut off in another part of the city for some time) continued to join with others in various battles until the enemy withdrew from the city. Names like Mercer, Dickson, Coute and Buck Buchanan, Frank Brown and Cao Van Lai and many others who served with distinction at the Saigon Detachment. Who could forget The Great Pumpkin, Top Wilson and of course Lorraine.

        Meanwhile the Long Binh lot were part of a 140 vehicle group together with tanks, APCs, gunjeeps and gunships moving in convoy to Tay Ninh via Cu Chi to resupply unit in the "parrots beak" area. This convoy was totally controlled by USMP [Bravo Company, 720th MP Battalion] led by a 2nd LT. It was an education to see the US Military machine at work. This convoy was attacked continually with incidents ranging from snipers to B122 rockets at Cu Chi. The two leading APCs were lost to RPG fire on day one but the USMP just kept it rolling on.

        Medivac was carried out by helicopter from the back of moving trucks. At one village the opposition were firing from huts. You can only imagine the firepower of jeeps with M60s, trucks and jeeps with cab mounted .50 cal, APCs and helicopters. Still those VC kept up the attack. To this day I admire the valour of those on the other side.

        On return to the Saigon area Australian news people wanted to know if there had been any fighting involving Australians. They were told by a rather tired CPL that he had indeed fired "the odd angry shot". This remark received considerable coverage in the Australian press and later a film bore the same title. The USMP General expressed his personal thanks.

        Conditions stabilized and road movement allowed a return to AFV Pro Unit. Rather than being received with equal pride by the parent unit the group was split up and given a "rocket" as the saying goes. Apparently in our travels we may have crossed the unmarked Cambodian border. Each of the CPLs mentioned should have received some official recognition for their outstanding service as was the case with their USMP compatriots. They got less than a well done.

        Not long after all this CPL Jim Archibold was drawing straws at Nui Dat, a win that was to earn him a Military Medal the hard way. Perhaps one day he will be invited to write his bit of Corps history. I have written a small part.

        My observations were that all MPs Australian, NZ , US and ARVN QC [Vietnamese Army Military Police] fought bravely and defended Saigon and other places from attacks that were sudden and severe. The city was defended for some days by police units of various origins. Little if anything appears to have been recorded of the achievements of these detachments of AFV Provost Unit. There have been times when MPs, many of them very young, fought in combat and did the Corps proud. Unfortunately at the time the glory was for more high profile units.

        When told I was joining an MP unit in 1956 my father a police officer commented "They have not got much going for them". Well I can now say that is not so. The Australian Military Policeman has a proud history and it is still being written in foreign lands.

John R. Proctor

[   ] Brackets denotes Editing by 720th MP Battalion Reunion Association History Project Manager to specifically identify U.S. Army and other allied units for those members of the public that are not familiar with Vietnam era military acronyms.

Use Your Browser Button To Return