57 Years Ago on 26th June 1965

On the 26th June 1965 at Bien Hoa, Vietnam, a grenade exploded as diggers were returning to their camp in a crowded semi-trailer at the time killing three and injuring ten. Two Australian soldiers and an American were killed in an explosion on that day. Another digger died three days later of his wounds.

Ten other diggers and two Americans were wounded in the blast in the C Company lines at Bien Hoa air base.

The grenade exploded as diggers clambered over the side of the semi-trailer, dubbed by the digger’s “cattle trucks”, when the pin of a grenade on the outside of the webbing of one of the diggers killed, caught on the side of the truck crowded with soldiers as they were returning to camp after their first operation.

Three U.S. helicopters were called in by radio to fly the injured to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Saigon.

The troops had just returned from the battalion’s first “search and destroy” mission since the First Battalion Group had arrived in Vietnam only about three weeks previous.

One of the two Australian soldiers seriously injured in the explosion at Bien Hoa died in the U.S. Navy Hospital on the 29th June 1965 He was Dutch-born Private Arie Van Valen, of Western Australia.

A fourth Australian was flown to the Clarke Air Force Base in the Philippines with serious head injuries. Eight other Australian troops of the 1st Battalion suffered minor injuries in the blast. An American 173d Airborne paratrooper was also killed and two other Americans were injured.

57 years on they are still remembered along with those wounded on that day.

The Australian soldiers killed were all members of C Company, 1 RAR:

37867    Michael Alwyn Bourke                   19yrs

37010    William Thomas Carroll                  21yrs

54320    Arie Van Valen                              20 yrs

The American killed only had 15 days left to serve in Vietnam.








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  • Pete Lindwall June 27, 2022   Reply →

    When the grenades went off I was down the rear of the truck and about to jump. I felt the shrapnel go under the tray and had I been a split second earlier I would have copped it all. I would surely have been a casualty either dead or wounded.

  • Richard Barry OAM June 29, 2022   Reply →

    Is that why we were ordered to put sticky plastic tape around the grenade handle at the time?

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