The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (15561) Lance Corporal Kerry Michael Rooney, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam

Place Asia: Vietnam, Phuoc Tuy Province, Long Tan
Accession Number PAFU2015/057.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 17 February 2015
Access Open
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Michael Kelly, the story for this day was on (15561) Lance Corporal Kerry Michael Rooney, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Vietnam.

Film order form
Speech transcript

15561 Lance Corporal Kerry Michael Rooney, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 17 February 1967
Photograph: P07711.001

Story delivered 17 February 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lance Corporal Kerry Michael Rooney.

Kerry Rooney was born on 7 February 1943 to Bernard and Jean Rooney. He was the second of two children born to the couple. With the Second World War at its height, Bernard, a sapper with the Royal Australian Engineers, was away on active service over the next two years.

Kerry’s parents separated when he was quite young, and he and his brother remained with their father. He grew up in Red Hill and attended Ithaca State School, but left aged 13. He worked as a storeman, but his driving ambition was to join the Australian army. The day after his 17th birthday, he enlisted.

After training at Kapooka and Ingleburn, Kerry was posted as a rifleman to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. As he settled into his posting, he undertook and successfully completed his second class certificate of education.

In 1963 Kerry deployed with 3RAR to Singapore for two years. He was promoted to lance corporal and was a well-known battalion identity for his constant companion, a spider monkey.

Back in Australia Kerry transferred to 6RAR, having heard this battalion had been warned for active service in Vietnam. He joined 5 Platoon, B Company.

On 4 June 1966 Kerry flew with his company to Vietnam. Following familiarisation patrols near Vung Tau the company travelled to Nui Dat to assist in securing the 1st Australian Task Force’s recently established base.

Kerry was involved in most of 6RAR’s patrols and operations over the next eight months, including locating the enemy mortar base-plate two days before the battle of Long Tan. He and another soldier were also responsible for the capture of a Viet Cong radio operator in the Nui Dinh Hills. By year’s end he had been promoted to acting corporal.

On 17 February, following attacks by enemy units on ARVN compounds, 6RAR was sent in to assist. In what was known as Operation Bribie, A Company, 6RAR was airlifted to the area of operations. After moving into the light jungle, the company came under fire, suffered several casualties and was forced to withdraw to the landing zone. B Company followed on the next lift, but enemy fire stopped them from landing and the men jumped from their hovering helicopters.

On the ground a reconnaissance party, including Kerry, was sent out and soon came under fire. The men withdrew to their start positions and, as the enemy’s numbers were believed to be few, it was decided to carry out a quick attack.

B Company set out, but 5 Platoon, now 50 metres ahead of the rest of the company, was soon under fire from all sides and began to take casualties. With other platoons pinned under enemy fire, 5 Platoon was ordered to advance and take out a machine-gun holding up the rest of the company. When he heard the order Kerry yelled back that “going 30 metres was no good as the machine-gun was 30 metres in front of his section,” he added “we should go 60 metres and clean them out”.

This was relayed back to the platoon commander, and the order was given to advance “on the run”. The men of 5 Platoon fixed bayonets and rose as one, yelling and ran straight at the enemy positions.

Three machine-guns on the right opened fire, decimating the two forward sections and forcing survivors to ground. Kerry was last seen firing his rifle and charging towards the enemy.

Armoured Personnel Carriers were called in to provide fire support and to extract B Company. The surviving troops were taken to their initial landing zone, where the wounded were evacuated. The following morning the bodies of the fallen were recovered along with a wounded member of 5 Platoon who had been presumed killed. The battalion suffered seven men killed, including Kerry Rooney, and a further 26 wounded. All but one of the dead and almost half the wounded were from 5 Platoon.

For his actions Kerry was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches. The citation praised his “superb leadership” and noted that he had previously demonstrated “skill and bravery of a high order … aggressive leadership and a disregard for his own personal safety”.

His body was returned to Australia and laid to rest in Pinnaroo Lawn Cemetery. He was 24 years old. His father’s dying wish was to be reunited with his son, and when he passed away in 1994 he was laid to rest with Kerry.

Kerry Rooney’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with more than 500 others from the Vietnam War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lance Corporal Kerry Michael Rooney, and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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