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Michael Walker

Michael Walker

Corporal, Australian Army



Corporal Michael James Walker

4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Australian Army
Service number: 2792497
Rank on discharge: corporal

"I felt survival was the key word.

And some people call it fight or flight. I enjoyed being out in the bush. I always was a bit of a loner anyway. It might have been hot and sweaty and uncomfortable but funny things happened too.

The one thing I really liked about Vietnam was the resupply. To me it meant chocolate milk and fresh socks. I always requested socks ’cause I hated my feet being wet. I didn’t mind the mud, being wet and filthy. As long as my feet were dry, I was happy.

I did like to cook for the bloke that buddied up with me at night. I would say, “You set up the hootchie and I’ll do the cooking for you.” But what he didn’t realise was because I was cooking, I’d use the food from my pack first so I could lighten my load."

Mick Walker thought about joining the Navy, but you had to go in for nine years. He thought about the Air Force, but that was six years, and the Army was three. “If you went in as a Nasho, it was only two years,” Mick said. “So, if you don’t like it …”

Mick mostly enjoyed the Army and he wanted to put his training into practice. “My National Service was due to finish the month we were supposed to go overseas,” he said. “I thought, what’s the use of training in a football side and never going to play, so I extended for 12 months. To me it was like a little adventure.”

Mick nearly didn’t make it to Vietnam. “I had an asthma attack and they told me I was going to be downgraded and couldn't serve any further north than Brisbane. But they didn't get rid of me, they just wanted to see how I'd go in jungle training at Canungra in southeast Queensland. After three weeks there, they decided I was medically fit to go overseas.”

“When we got to Vietnam, we were getting off the choppers and two ARA (Australian Regular Army) were getting on to go home. They were saying, ’365 days and a wakey’, meaning we’re out and you’re in.”

Mick was in a section with nine other men. “I used to say to myself, I’m going with nine men, and I want to come back with nine men. I want to be a survivor, and I want them to be survivors too.” He said, “As it turned out, we had no casualties and only two contacts.”

Mick hated doing the training exercises back in Australia, but he enjoyed patrolling in the jungle in Vietnam. “I enjoyed being out in the bush, I was always a bit of a loner anyway. It was hot and sweaty, and I hated my feet being wet. I used to take six pairs of socks because it was good having a fresh pair. My backpack was half-full of socks.”

Mick said, “I liked to cook for the bloke that buddied up with me at nighttime. I said, ‘You set up the hootchie and I'll do the cooking for you.’ What he didn't realise was, because I was cooking, I'd use all my food so I could lighten the weight in my pack. I was a skinny bloke then.”

“On patrol we’d walk for 50 minutes then have 10 minutes break. When we stopped, some blokes would read a letter from home, others would write a bit of a letter, others would make a tea,” said Mick. “Since we had ration packs with smokes in them, I took up smoking. It was something to do during the break. Smoke and just think you’re in the bush, it’s not too bad. I only smoked for about 18 months.”

“Sometimes we'd go through areas they had bombed years before. It would take about three hours to go 20 metres through the lantana and all that. And normally at the end there was a bomb crater full of water.”

“I said to an SAS bloke, ‘You blokes keep telling us we've got to go out because the place is running with [Viet Cong], but we never see anyone. He said, ‘We do our patrol and then you blokes go out there with choppers landing or APCs belting their way through the bush. They're not going to hang around waiting for you. Soon as they hear a chopper they rack off or go underground or back to the villages.’”

Mick has some good memories of his time in Vietnam. “One thing I really liked was every time we had a resupply, they'd come out with chocolate milk. It was better than anything, and it was cold. Plus, I’d get some new socks.”

“The row after row of trees in the rubber plantations and the colourful silky dresses that the women used to wear, they are good memories for me too.”

“Sometimes, out in the middle of nowhere a couple of Salvation Army people would turn up in a Land Rover and you'd get a cup of tea. They were the last people I’d expect.”

As well as jungle patrols, Mick’s section did guard patrol at the Australian accommodation in Saigon. “We only had to do two hours on the gun each day, so that was our R&R, the ten of us being there,” he said. 

“I think we were there for seven days and the night before we left one of the blokes came back in absolutely full. He didn’t know where he was, and it was his turn on the machine gun. I asked the bloke he was replacing if he’d stay another two hours, but he wouldn’t. So, we shoved this bloke in the gun area and put sandbags around him to make him look like he was sitting up. Then I went upstairs.”

“Then I thought what if he wakes up and panics, and opens up on the machine gun, there goes my career. So, I went down and took the firing pin out of the M60 and went back up to bed.”

Mick said, “When you came home to Australia, you were frowned upon if you’d been in Vietnam. Well, I wanted to go. I didn't want to be in a football team that trained and never played. But I'm not sure how to explain to people why we were there, other than the Americans wanted us there and the South Vietnamese wanted us there. It would've been a lot easier just to say, no, we won't go, and just let the South join up with the North.”

“If we went to war today and my sons wanted to join up, I’d say it's not worth it. Wear a white feather in your hat.”