The Day My World Went Quiet

12 May

In 1970 I was posted to South Vietnam for service with AATTV, Australian Army Training Team. Specifically the MATT teams, Mobile Army Training Team element. These were teams of six members spread throughout Phuoc Tuy province to assist and train local PFDF and RF soldiers of the South Vietnamese army. I served in three Matt teams during my time in Vietnam, first at Hoa Long then Lon Son Island followed by Ang Ngai at the base of the Long Hai mountains, home of the dreaded D445 Viet Cong battalion. Long Son island gave me my first introduction to actual physical warfare. At the time I was with the Matt team there, we had only four members comprising the team. I was allocated the task of accompanying a section of the PFDF for a number of days on a reconnaissance and surveillance exercise. Our camp site was a high mountain hilltop that overlooked the whole island. Our surveillance located a number of Vietcong in the mangroves along the shoreline, miles away. Their location was forwarded to base for follow up action, we were then ordered to advance further up the hilltop for investigation as activity was reported in that part of the hilltop. We moved out in platoon formation and proceeded up the hilltop, from here on in my story loses time, suddenly gunfire opened up all over us, it was coming from further up the hill, I hit the ground and tried to get orientated to what was happening, suddenly a hand grenade landed about six feet away from me, I froze, I couldn’t move, everything went quiet, I knew how long the grenade would take to explode, I counted the seconds, I could smell the earth, I heard the wind and felt the peaceful calmness of the blue, sky above. I couldn’t move, I got to 15 seconds in my counting in my mind and realised the grenade wasn’t going to explode, soon as I realised that it wasn’t going to explode, all noise came back to me, shouting and gunfire, I started running up the hill but did not fire as there was nothing to fire at, It is a habit I learnt later that in a firefight it is a natural instinct to fire even if there is no enemy to see. We reached the summit of the hill and located a number of freshly vacated VC campsites. The pursuit was called off and documents and cooking utensils were recovered. That was my introduction to an actual contact; I had other contacts later in my service in Vietnam. But I have never forgotten the contact when the grenade never exploded, that was the day the world went quiet for me for fifteen seconds.

 photo 10275999_475493839247666_7757467713059320335_n_zps58a60fc9.jpg


Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


37 responses to “The Day My World Went Quiet

  1. cindy knoke

    May 25, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Oh my. Gives me goosebumps to read and they are still here as I type. Horrific experience. Excellent, economical writing fully conveys the terror~

    • The Emu

      May 27, 2015 at 6:59 am

      Hi Cindy, thanks for reading my post, certainly was a memorable moment in my Army life.
      The years are fading the experience now, but it will always be a part of my life.
      Kind regards.

  2. reocochran

    May 2, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    You were a handsome young man. It would have made my heart stop, which is how you expressed it as quiet. Lovely piece of writing and I am sure you have many horrific stories to tell. So glad it did not go off, Ian!!

    • The Emu

      May 3, 2015 at 3:08 am

      Thank you for your beautiful comment Robin, you made an old man blush.
      It was an unfortunate incident but I have many beautiful memory’s as well.
      Kind regards.

  3. Monica

    April 27, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Beautiful passing along of your wisdom. Thank you, Ian. I have had only one encounter where the world went quiet, and it cannot compare to yours. It did not involve combat, but the possibility of death existed. I was snorkeling and a large shark emerged from the darkness, perhaps from my mind’s fears. Luckily his mouth was closed and stayed that way as he swam by me. We were like cars passing on a two-lane road. He seemed merely curious and swam up to the boat, which was then a long way off, turned, and disappeared. I believe sound returned at that point.

    • The Emu

      April 28, 2015 at 2:10 am

      What a fascinating experience Monica, your experience sounds more terrifying than mine, in the fact you were face to face with your predator.
      That is certainly not an encounter I would willingly place myself into, but then again all snorkelers are aware of the environment they are entering.
      Incidents like yours and mine do completely numb the mind for a few moments.
      Kindest regards.

  4. Sue Dreamwalker

    April 25, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I remember well this one Ian.. I hope those 15 seconds get less with time.. x ❤

    • The Emu

      April 26, 2015 at 1:48 am

      Thanks again Sue, PTSD does have a tendency to rekindle old memory’s, the secret is not to linger in the past, to try and gloss over the dark areas and concentrate on the good, I simply accept that moment in time now.

  5. The Emu

    April 23, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Reblogged this on Welcome To Aussie Emus World.

  6. kcg1974

    June 3, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Yes, a whole lifetime in fifteen seconds. Thank you for your service.

    • The Emu

      June 16, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      Good morning my friend and thank you for your visit and comment.
      I apologise for the lateness of my response, I do have a habit of getting behind in reading and commenting on posts,
      however I keep all posts in my in box and catch up as I can, I notice I have a number of yours to read as yet.
      Thank you for recognising my service, I did go on to complete 20 years in the army.
      Wishing you much love and happiness.
      Emu aka Ian

      • kcg1974

        June 17, 2014 at 2:02 am

        No problem, Emu. I am ALWAYS behind. So kind of you to read and comment, anytime! 🙂

        • The Emu

          June 23, 2014 at 9:37 am

          Thank you for your kind understanding Kim.
          I do eventually get around to reading posts and answering comments.
          Hoping you are in good health and happy in life.
          My kindest regards
          Emu aka Ian

  7. natswans

    June 1, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Very good post Emu that 15 seconds has stayed with you for a life time. The stillness of it what an experience , so good you were saved .Thanks for sharing this , best wishes Sheila
    A bit going on here on my home ground , good to be back.

    • The Emu

      June 2, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Hi Sheila, a pleasure to hear from you, I do hope you are well.
      Yes that 15 seconds is destined to haunt me all my days.
      I havent done much lately as I have a bit of the Winter flu.
      Coming good and should be okay soon.
      Wishing you well and a great week.
      Emu aka Ian

  8. auntyuta

    May 24, 2014 at 5:13 am

    Ian, you say: “Unfortunately those fifteen seconds have become a lifetime now.
    Something I live with every day, it has actually changed my perspective on many things.”

    This happened in 1970, some 44 years ago! And there were probably some other scary moments later on. I imagine only someone with similar experiences can truly understand how it affects the rest of your life.

    If a hand grenade lands pretty close to you there is a pretty good chance that it may go off. So you are aware that it might very well have been the last second that you were alive.

    I was in a bomb raid as a ten year old. I reckon the bombs either hit you or they don’t. There is a pretty good chance that you survive a bomb raid. Actually several bombs hit the five story solid brick building we were in. The whole building was raised to the ground. We were in the cellar. The cellar did not get damaged at all and one of the escape routes was not affected by any rubble. So it was easy to get out after this disastrous attack. We were very lucky, that nobody was hurt.

    I am still trying to work out whether it went through my mind that we could all be dying. I cannot remember such thoughts. What I do remember is thinking that it was soon to be over. We could hear the bombs coming down right on top of us. But this could not last for very long, could it? It had to be over soon. And then we would be saved. And we were saved!

    This happened in Leipzig in April 1945, just before the end of the war. I would not be so sure we could survive some attacks with nuclear bombs!

    Sorry, that I haven’t looked at you posts for quite some time. Hope you and Ana have a lovely weekend. Thanks for all your recent likes to my posts! 🙂

    • The Emu

      May 27, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Thanks for that great comment Auntyuta, you certainly went through a horrific experience for a young ten year old.
      You may not have recalled if you thought you were going to die at that age, as a young girl or boy would be occupied in the mind as to when the bombing would stop, which is a part of the minds safety valve to relieve the anxiety on a young mind as to the inevitable consequences of the bombing.
      I think adults in the same death scenario would think of the inevitable first, but then to live with that same emotion long after the bombing has stopped and the war still goes on.
      Either way, children or adults still carry that memory for the rest of their days.
      Wishing you and Peter good health and happiness

      • auntyuta

        May 27, 2014 at 12:07 pm

        Thank you, Ian, thank you very much.

  9. giselzitrone

    May 23, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Schönes Weekend lieber Freund lieber Gruß Gislinde

  10. giselzitrone

    May 14, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Danke dir lieb Gruß..Gislinde

    • The Emu

      May 17, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Good evening Gislinde
      Hope you are well and enjoying a beautiful weekend my friend.
      A cold Saturday night here.
      Wishing you much happiness

  11. sudiste1359

    May 13, 2014 at 8:07 am

    hi dear, you’re lucky getting out of that moment safety,
    I’m always grateful for soldiers losing their lives during that war ,

    • The Emu

      May 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Thank you Dear Sudiste for your comment
      There were many situations that I was lucky to get out of.
      Hoping you are well and enjoying a beautiful weekend.

  12. giselzitrone

    May 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Schöner Bericht,wünsche dir eine schöne sonnige Woche liebe Grüße Gislinde

    • The Emu

      May 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      Danke Gislinde, Samstag Abend hier, wo ich lebe, als Winter-kalten Abend beginnt, in gesetzt, ich hoffe, Ihre Woche war großartig und Sie genießen ein schönes Wochenende.
      Ich sende euch aus Australien lieben.

  13. prenin

    May 12, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Thank God it didn’t go off!!! 😮

    That fifteen seconds was the beginning of a new life!!! 🙂

    Glad you made it home in one piece my friend!!! 🙂

    God Bless!


    • The Emu

      May 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      That fifteen seconds Prenin has become a lifetime now.
      I live with those fifteen seconds every day of my life.
      Hoping you are enjoying a beautiful weekend my friend

  14. Sue Dreamwalker

    May 12, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Ian, that must have been a ‘When time stood still moment’.. I am so thankful as well as you and your family are that the grenade didn’t go off….
    I could not even begin to imagine the horror of it.. I think the only thing I would be aware of would be how loudly my heart would be beating in my ears..
    I know its like when people have said everything slows down in an accident… I guess its the adrenaline.. I don’t really know…
    Thank you for sharing Ian.. 🙂 Love and Blessings Sue

    • The Emu

      May 12, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      You are correct Sue, my whole world slowed down.
      It may sound silly but I could feel the very earth,
      I smelt every leaf, I felt every colour and felt every emotion.
      I felt life.

      • Sue Dreamwalker

        May 12, 2014 at 12:41 pm

        I think Ian this is maybe what those who say they felt connected with the whole of Life.. mean… You thought for those last few seconds they were to be your last.. In that very moment you became WHOLE and at ONE with everything else.. This is my own opinion.. not many get to retell that moment here on Earth Ian.. x

        • The Emu

          May 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

          You are quite correct in your comment Sue.
          Those fifteen seconds and my whole world became clearer in my mind.
          I felt at peace until the realization that my life was not over
          Then the reality of the physical took over my mind and body.
          Unfortunately those fifteen seconds have become a lifetime now.
          Something I live with every day, it has actually changed my perspective on many things

  15. gpcox

    May 12, 2014 at 11:37 am

    15 seconds can be a lot longer than some people imagine…

    • The Emu

      May 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Those fifteen seconds my friend, have now turned into a lifetime.

      • Mélanie

        May 14, 2014 at 9:36 am

        correct statement and definition, Ian… 15 seconds or sometimes – even one! impressive and emotional… my father-in-law was in the French army and he spent more than 2 years in Indochina(actual Vietnam) in the late 40’s – beginning of 50’s before the Americans came over… he didn’t risk his life in Vietnam, but later, he was shot twice in Algeria…(he did make it, he’s 85!)
        * * *
        stay healthy and optimistic! respectful regards and friendly thoughts, Mélanie

        • The Emu

          May 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

          Good evening Melanie, thanks for your comments on my fifteen second post.
          Unfortunately those fifteen seconds have been with me all my life now.
          It was great reading of father-in-laws military background.
          He would have been in Vietnam during the Indochina war.
          France left some beautiful legacys in Vietnam, I particularly loved
          the French architecture in the French part of Saigon.
          When I was there I noticed many girls of French/Vietnamese backgrounds.
          If your father-in-Law served in Algeria, it makes me think he was a member of the French Foreign Legion.
          A world renowned military legion of soldiers of all nationalities.
          Wishing you a beautiful weekend Melanie.

  16. wonkywizard

    May 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

    A lot of lessons about the war to learn in those 15 seconds.

    • The Emu

      May 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      Those fifteen seconds my friend, have now turned into a lifetime.


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