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- HMAS Sydney III
- December 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
THE VUNG TAU FERRY – HMAS SYDNEY and Escort Ships (Vietnam 1965-72)
By Rodney Nott and Noel Payne
1998 has certainly been a bumper year for Australian Naval histories concerning the Vietnam War. Firstly we had `In the Oceans Dark Embrace’ by Lex McAulay which described the role of Clearance Diving Team 3. Then came `Up Top’ by Jeffrey Grey (the RAN’s history as part of the Official History of Australia in South East Asian Conflicts series) and last but by no means least `The Vung Tau Ferry’. Effectively the number of books written about the RAN in the Vietnam War has doubled in the space of one year.
The Vung Tau Ferry details the involvement of the Fast Troop Transport HMAS Sydney in her 25 voyages to South Vietnam between May 1965 and November 1972. The book also includes details of her escort ships (Frigates or Destroyers) and the voyages made by the MV (later HMAS) Boonaroo and the MV (later HMAS) Jeparit.
This history describes the events which lead up to Sydney being used as a Fast Troop Transport, her time in South Vietnamese waters and there are a number of interesting stories from several of her crew and soldiers who were transported to and from Vietnam. The book also goes into depth concerning the lengthy fight, by the Vietnam Logistic Support Group, to gain official recognition for the role played by Sydney, and her escorts, which culminated in the issue of the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal in 1992.
This later fight for official recognition makes interesting reading and reminds me of a story told to me by one of my high school teachers who had served in Sydney as a Naval Reservist. He claims that several Sydney sailors attempted to have Australian troops ashore fire on the vessel, in order to strengthen future claims that the ship had served in a `War Zone’. Who knows, but why in this case let the truth spoil a good story.
This hardcover book is well illustrated with several interesting and very clear photographs and also includes a comprehensive list of all personnel who served in the RAN during Logistic Support Operations during the period 1965-72.
This book is an excellent addition to the Navy’s history of the Vietnam War and one which all keen Naval historians, and those interested in Australia’s role in the Vietnam War, should have on their bookshelves.