Ko Tahi Tatau - 3 Platoon V5 Company
I was Ruka Hudson's platoon commander when he was badly injured on 25 July 1970.
The incident occurred when we were following blood trails from wounded D65 engineers after a successful contact killed two NVA. We followed the trail into caves in the Nui Toc Tien mountains. We were very wary as we had seen mine sign – bits of cloth tied on twigs in the bush. We came under fire from an enemy force, who threw grenades from the caves above us. As we manoeuvred around the area we hit mines that had been buried amongst the rocks around the caves. The NVA engineers had laid the mines inside their own camp (which was unusual). They were made of explosive-filled red mackerel tins surrounded by glass and triggered by pressure switches on simple bicycle lamp batteries.
Ruka's life was saved by platoon members who, at great personal risk entered the minefield and administered first aid, including applying tourniquets with a neck scarf. They then moved him to a jungle opening so he could be winched out of the area by a 'dust-off' helicopter. All this took place in close proximity to the enemy and under fire. Doc Takuta was also badly injured in another mine explosion and his life was saved in a similar fashion by platoon members. We dusted off ten members of the platoon that day.
We were supported in this action by artillery fire from 105mm howitzers in a fire-base at Phu My; 8-inch self-propelled artillery based at Nui Dat and the Horseshoe; a helicopter heavy fire team (three gunships); and a solitary Australian Centurion tank from the valley floor – I never worked out where the tank came from.
Ko Tahi Tatau (We Are One) – 3 Platoon V5 Company motto which was proudly displayed over our tents in Nui Dat.