Bullets and Boot Laces
Once we were soldiers



australian infantryman's combat badge
bullets and boot laces

© Bill O'Mara
B Coy 2nd Tour
author: Bill O'Mara

Late afternoon on the 6th June 1969 our Platoon (6 Platoon B Company), set up night a harbour on the edge of the rubber plantation east of the village of Binh Ba. As usual, our M60's were placed at 4, 8 and 12 o'clock and we each took our turn during the night for sentry duty of a couple of hours per two men.

It was raining slightly, just enough to give yet another uncomfortable night, so I had put up my hootchie, then foolishly removed my boots after I'd done my turn on sentry. This was something I'd not done before and was never to do again.

We had a rude awakening at daylight, when a force of NVA soldiers approached our position. Most of us were asleep, (me included) when our sentry on the M60 exchanged  'waves' with the NVA. Realisation dawned and I was woken by the sound of our sentry belting out rounds on the machine gun and a hard kick from my 'bed mate'  Peter Wardrope.

Not the best time to have your boots off ... but they were ... and I returned fire with a couple of magazines from my M16. I recall the green flash from the enemy RPG's (Rocket Propelled Grenades) and the sound of shrapnel into the rubber trees. I have no idea how long this lasted, but long enough to be scared.

I eventually dragged my boots on, (laces still undone) and with other platoon members walked up to the area where we had been attacked from by the NVA. No bodies, no blood trail and as none of our platoon had been killed or wounded, assumed that the NVA like us, had all fired too high. I found this amazing, but guess that's what can happen in the heat of the moment.

Wind the clock forward nearly 35 years !

We happen to live on a golf course, and between the 10th green and our backyard are the remnants of a pine forest. With a bit of imagination, they are like a Rubber Plantation, especially at around 2:00 - 3:00am.

Just before Xmas, I'm having another sleepless night as many vets will understand. You can't help but look at those pine trees and imagine another time and another place you thought was long gone. Eventually, I decided to go to bed again and undid my shoe laces. In looking down at my shoes, laces undone, for a gut wrenching split second I was zapped back to Binh Ba at that same time and place and my heart raced with all the uncomfortable feelings that I had on the morning of June 7th nearly 35 years ago!