A night ambush in the village of Dat Do
Once we were soldiers



australian infantryman's combat badge
Night Ambush in the Village of Dat Do

© Trevor Cheeseman Both Tours


author: trevor cheeseman

This day will be a long one as usual as patrolling was always tedious as it sapped your strength to the core. Today our task will be to search the outer perimeter beyond the minefield on the coastal side of Dat Do, South Vietnam with 5RAR in 1969.

We also received our 'Warning Order' that morning that a section ambush will be required from our platoon inside the village. My section was given the task and needed to be in place by last light. On our return from patrolling we will be relieved of all platoon tasks, so that we can rest eat and prepare ourselves for the night's ambush.

Dat Do village was sympathetic towards the Viet Cong (VC) and we knew they were returning to the village at night for food and water, and to rest. The village was heavily mined around its edges on one side facing the hills on the coastal fringes where they had camps, and which they operated from.

The VC would move through areas that were covered by manned outposts with ease. The South Vietnamese Army Regional Forces, and the local militia manned them, and we knew some were bribed, and out of fear for their own families being threatened let them through. Families followed and lived with their soldier husbands in static positions as they manned the post 24 hours a day.

The minefield never stopped them either, as they would disarm them and replant them in areas we moved about in. It was very effective, as we lost a few blokes killed and wounded that way.

No reconnaissance of the ambush position would be taken because of the concern, if they knew, or had the inclination that we were to ambush in a certain place, the villagers could have informed the Viet Cong and warn them not to move through the area, or maybe mines could have been planted at that spot. That is the reason no reconnaissance was attempted from the ground. All recon initially was from the air by helicopter the day before.

Our task was to ambush a street junction somewhere in the centre of the village one kilometre from our location.

The location was shown on a mud map in our orders. The timing that we were to leave had to be spot on, as we wanted to arrive on last light, so as to position ourselves on the ground just on dark rather than in daylight.

A curfew was also in place throughout the village, and everybody had to be inside their homes and was not to move about until curfew ended the following morning from 6pm to 6am. Any movement around the village would surely be the VC.

Before we left, all our packs were placed in a central spot, and the only gear we had was our basic webbing and weapons. No claymore mines would be used so were not carried because of the close vicinity of the villager's homes and causing injury.

I was getting concerned as dark was fast approaching and we were not there yet, and told the scout to step out a bit. Night here is normally pitch black so I was concerned that we could bypass the ambush position. Once there, we quickly placed ourselves on the ground. It was very open and flat, not a skerrick of grass or cover of any kind. Darkness was our only friend as it gave us a little protection from enemy hostile aimed fire if contact was activated.

Three streets crossed on the junction with homes surrounding us on all sides, and the only noticeable thing was low light shining through the gaps around the doorways and windows. Rain started to fall and made its own noise, but you could pick up other sounds and which we were able to differentiate. Your hearing became quite attuned after months in the field. We were told that if a red light was shining from a house, they were in fact warning the VC not to travel through the area, and in one such hut we noticed such a light.

That night the ambush was uneventful thank God, as we were surrounded by homes. We all were uneasy all night; not one person dozed.

Anyway as first light appeared we scurried off quickly back to the company position and rested for a few hours. But no respite, off again patrolling.