MISSION STATEMENT


Col DeLuca briefs Gen Ewell at the "Y" Bridge
in May 1968. Maj Booas looks on

In the 1960s there was a popular comedy TV show by Rowan and Martin called “Laugh In”. In the show the exclamation, ‘Sock it to ‘em Baby’ was frequently used. Why is this book called, “Sock it to ‘em Baby”? Well, you are going to have to buy the book to find that out!

“Sock it to ‘em Baby” has been written for two main reasons. The first is that, although there have been a number of books written from the Australian Army’s perspective in Vietnam, there has been few written about the RAAF and not one about the Australian FACs giving a detailed description of their operations. Chris Coulthard-Clark wrote an excellent book about Australian FACs but it was, in essence, a collection of short personal stories with some history that I will not cover here. I would hope that this book will give an insight into the day to day activities of the FAC, particularly operating under the complete control of a foreign power. Throughout the time the Australian FACs served with the USAF they all had different experiences.

Even FACs who were in Vietnam at the same time had different experiences. It depended a lot on location, enemy activities and just when the FAC was in Vietnam. About a third of Cooper’s flying was at night, which not many of the other Australian FACs experienced. Cooper put in air strikes with ‘troops in contact’ on 68 occasions which not many can lay claim to. However, this does not detract from the gallantry all 36 of them displayed. It only takes one bullet to spoil your day and just flying around Vietnam in the lower levels on a daily basis took a lot of courage.

The second reason is to put the record straight. Over the years Cooper has received considerable ridicule from a number of Australian sources from persons who should know better and have made statements based on bar-talk and second hand stories. The Government’s Review, with its’ predetermined outcome, mentioned in the Appendix of the book, devoted to Awards, has done nothing to help. By trying to cover up their immoral conduct by suggesting the action on 18 August 1968 never happened, despite the statements of many senior US Officers, they have provided Cooper’s sceptics with ammunition to further deny and denigrate his service.

These sceptics have acted on rumours, without the full facts available to them, and in some cases, pure jealousy. To some people, to be trained for combat and not see any is cause to develop resentment against others who have been in combat. The implementation of the Australian awards system during the Vietnam conflict fostered resentment amongst our own people. On two occasions Cooper has been forced to take legal action to quell a line of libel being levelled at him.

Some people have been heard stating that the FACs wrote their own US Awards, which can only be the thoughts of an ignorant person. Any US recommendation had to be accompanied with two or more eye-witness statements. The recipient’s immediate superior had to initiate the recommendation based on these statements. The exception to this was with the US Army where a Brigade Commander could make an immediate award ‘in the field’. Usually a Bronze Star. The recommendation was then evaluated by the Unit’s Awards Branch and verified before being signed by the Commanding Officer, usually of full Colonel rank. It was then forwarded to Headquarters in Saigon where it was evaluated and verified again before being approved, or disapproved. Final approval was then given, in the case of USAF personnel, by the Commander of the 7th Air Force. With this process, how could a junior rank, foreign officer write his own awards?!

GARRY COOPER’S GRATITUDE

     There are many people whom I must thank for their assistance and, insistence, that this book be published. Firstly I owe a debt of gratitude to Lieutenant General Julian J. Ewell, USA ret, who has stood by his award recommendation on me since 1968. A man of his stature should not have to chase after an award on a foreign, junior officer. But he has, and that shows how dedicated and compassionate he is towards ‘his’ soldiers. Colonels William L. Walker and Richard F. Nelson, USAF ret, who were my immediate commanders along with Colonel James T. Patrick who all tried to bring my service to the notice of the Australian Government, are all men I admire for more than that.

Garry Cooper at the 5th 60th Battaliion Reunion in 2006

     To all the members of the 9th.  Infantry Division and, in particular, the members of 5th.  Battalion, 60th.  Infantry who have accepted me amongst their gallant ranks as a life time friend, I say, it's an honour to be one of you. That they have flown my wife and I across to the US for their bi-annual Reunions speaks greatly of the calibre and generosity of these men.

     I owe a debt of thanks to Robert Hillier who battered me into writing this book, led me through the procedure and co-wrote many sections.

     There have been many people who have supported me over the years, too many to mention here, who were an enormous help but have dropped by the wayside due to ill health or disillusionment at the Australian Government's negative attitude. Colin Benson, himself a Vietnam, spent hours at research and on the computer trying to bring the facts to the notice of our government and, only recently due to personal disasters, has reduced his very thankful input. .

Garry Cooper at the 5th.60th. Reunion in
St. Louis - June 2006.

     One in particular who has hung in there is Laurie Schneider who has worked untiringly forwarding the facts to the Government and the RSL to no avail.

     Others I must mention are Fred Kirkland, Bill Connell, Vern Lewis, Vic Cannon, Jim Flemming, Gene Rossel, Don Handsley and the many others who have given assistance and shown their support.

     In writing this book, I have relied on my flying logbook, memory and diary. Unfortunately, my diary has been retyped by a number of well meaning individuals and errors have occurred. Through research, subsequent discoveries are numerous, and they have added to the bulk of the book. Every effort has been made to accurately describe the incidents in which I was involved. The memory is fallible and it is possible that some of the dates and events may not have happened in the exact sequence described. Nevertheless, I have tried to faithfully draw a picture of my experiences. Some of the names have been changed for the usual reasons, or made up, when I could find no record of them.

Garry Cooper.
Brisbane - May ,2006.