One operation we were on was giving protective covering to an American land clearing team. Now this was different. It consisted of doing security patrols around the area of operations where they were doing the land clearing. Apparently these land-clearing operations would last four to six weeks, with various companies having turn about to do the protective coverage.

What were they doing, just that, land clearing? About ten to twelve bulldozers (D10), equipped with blades about three metres wide, and two metres high, with the inside corner of the blade sharpened like a carving knife. This was a nightly operation that drivers would carry out with massive angle grinders. What with all the manpower, equipment, and accommodation it was like a small village. All power being supplied by portable generators.

The method of operation was to line up in a staggered but uniform formation, [like wheat harvesters do in a field of grain]. They’d just work their way around and around a given piece of bush pushing, or if they were too big for that, they would just cut away at the trunk until the tree fell down. They [drivers] were well protected in their cabs, the blades in front, heavy steel plate under neath, and heavily protected cabs with steel plate and heavy-duty steel mesh walls around all sides. Along the top of the blade they had narrow slits cut out that gave them enough vision control if and when necessary.

If they came across a [manned] bunker system they would radio to the rest of the group whom each raised their dozer blades and went into attack mode; turning into the system and keeping on going until it was no more. They just drove over the top of it and run it down. If the enemy couldn't get out of their bunkers in time they were just buried alive. Who’s going to argue with a bulldozer that’s got a curved blade on it two metres high? If the ‘dozers’ didn’t get them; we did. Not very nice? Maybe, but that was war.

The purpose [or excuse] for land clearing was to expose the landscape so that the enemy movements could be observed with better application. And, it did not give them [enemy] anywhere to hide. In hindsight I think it did a lot more damage than good. There were literally tens of thousands of acres of bush felled, and cleared.

This protection game though was right on for us. We discovered how the American military looked after its units. For the purpose of this operation, [which lasted about three weeks], we were based inside the American base lines, which were quite big, and, open, which was ok by us.

Anyway they flew out a mobile kitchen, about the size of a small cargo container. Like a street food vendor only a tad bigger. They manned it with their cooks and ours. It was a real luxury not having to have field rations for awhile. The Americans were amazed at the versatility and imagination of our cooks. They couldn’t get over the fact that our cooks could cook up anything, so long as it was food. [Sic]

They even flew out a Post Exchange [PX] shop. This ‘was’ the size of a large shipping container. It sold beer, books, magazines, you name it, and they had it. It stayed there for the duration of the operation. Like I said the Yanks looked after their own boys.

Reference: 

David Page, V4 Company, May 1969-May 1970

How to cite this page: 'Land clearing operation', URL: http://www.vietnamwar.govt.nz/memory/land-clearing-operation, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Sep-2013