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.
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. He knew enough of war to keep these young diggers alive and the young Aussies respected Riddle and his battle experience. When the platoon was thrown into one of the biggest fire fights 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.
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.
Soft cover, 352 pages.