Pre-election village search by diggers DPR/TV/682

Accession Number F03910
Collection type Film
Measurement 5 min 53 sec
Object type Actuality footage, Television news footage
Physical description 16mm/b&w/silent
Maker Coleridge, Michael
Place made Vietnam: Phuoc Tuy Province
Date made 26 August 1967
Access Open
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

As the current national elections of South Vietnam draws near, troops of the 1st Australian Task Force this week were "choppered" in aboard Iroquois helicopters to the wealthy fishing village of Phuoc Hai, in Phuoc Tuy Province. The Diggers were to search the village of 8,000 people for signs of Viet Cong pre-election terrorism and activities aimed at disrupting the elections. The coastal operation, 15 miles from the Task Force base and code-named "Ulmarra", was a contrast to seeking Viet Cong in jungle thickets. Phuoc Hai has always been attractive to the Viet Cong because of its abundant supplies of fish and its large fleet of motor driven sampans. These boats have sometimes been suspected of ferrying urgently needed food and medical supplies to Viet Cong units operating north and south of the village. An early find for the Diggers was a Viet Cong suspect discovered hiding in a hole under the floor of one village home. The man was questioned by a Vietnamese interpreter working with the Diggers. The interpreter is among several of his country men who accompany the Australians on operations. The Diggers search thoroughly. They cannot afford to leave a stone unturned while there is a chance it could be concealing a Viet Cong suspect, a food cache or weapons, ammunition and medical supplies. The Viet Cong is a master at hiding his goods of war. The villagers who have nothing to hide look nonchalantly as the troops continue their search. Corporal Peter Harris, of Dee Why, Sydney, has discovered another Viet Cong suspect. As the man waits for questioning, Corporal Harris discusses his capture with the Officer Commanding "D" Company, 7th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Major Don Paterson, of Greensborough, Victoria. The prisoner was one of 20 Viet Cong suspects, sympathisers and Army draft dodgers rounded up by the troops. After questioning, he was searched by Private Les Brown, of Richmond Victoria. Once again, the search was through. Valuable documents are sometimes found hidden in the clothing of suspects. After they are searched and questioned, all detainees are handed over to the Vietnamese police authorities. More thorough questioning follows until the suspects are cleared and released or charged. Prime suspects are those found in hiding or without identification papers. Some known Viet Cong and sympathiers are revealed by the village people. As more suspects are rounded up, the Diggers spread their search to the seaside edge of the village. This young girl is spreading out fish fillets on a drying table in prepartion for the market. Her job intrigues Private John Greaves of Ballarat, Vic. who stops by for a closer look. They manage to converse in a mixture of Vietnamese, French and American slang. The search switches to the beachfront itself, where more than 500 sampans are drawn up. Every one of them has to be seached for signs of Viet Cong presence. The Sampan is one of the enemy's most common resupply vehicles. They are often comandeered, stolen or borrowed to ship supplies to coastal points and along Vietnam's myriad of inland waterways. But there seems little to worry about here. The villagers continue working over their nets as the Diggers probe through the boats. This is the last stage of the operation. The lack of Viet Cong activity and assurance that the Australians are nearby points to a trouble free election for the fishermen and their families of Phuoc Hai.

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