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Gallantry awards for Vietnam veterans



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EMBARGO: NOT TO BE PUBLISHED OR BROADCAST BEFORE MIDNIGHT EST,

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6. -

FOR PRESS No. 4717

GALLANTRY AWARDS FOR VIETNAM VETERANS

' Statement by the Minister for the Army,

the Hon. Malcolm Fraser, MP.

Top awards for gallantry in Vietnam have been approved by JIM

Queen Elizabeth II for a former Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion,

Royal Australian Regiment, a member of 1 RaR, and two advisers of the

Australian Army Training Team, Vietnam.

The Minister for the Army, Mr. Malcolm Fraser, today announced

•awards of a Distinguished Service Order, a Military Cross, Distinguished

Conduct Medal and Military Medal.

The Distinguished■ Service Order has been v/on by Lieutenant-Colonel

Alexander Vogler Preece, 40, of The Gap, Ashgrove, Queensland, for

setting by personal example the very highest standards of courage,

leadership and professional skill.

Under his leadership the 1st Battalion, RAR, played a full and

effective part in turning the tide against the Viet Cong and in

restoring many thousands of South Vietnamese people to Government control.

Lieutenant-Colonel Preece was at present attending the British

Army Staff College at Camberley, UK.

. Other awards were:

• MILITARY CROSS - Captain Felix Fazekas, 37, of Blackwood,

South Australia, for outstanding leadership

. under fire.

. DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL - Warrant Officer Kenneth William

Stoker, 34, of Booragul, NSW., for

determination, professional competence '

and personal bravery in action.

. MILITARY MEDAL - Corporal Walter Brunalli, 24, of Armadale,

Western Australia, for aggressive and firm

leadership while acting section leader and

outstanding tactical handling of his patrol ■

. on operations although wounded himself.

Captain Felix Fazekas, former adviser in Vietnam, v/as at present

serving with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, based at

Woodside, South Australia.

Warrant Officer Kenneth Stoker, former adviser in Vietnam, was

serving with 12th Cadet Battalion, Adamstown, NSW.

Corporal Brunalli, who served with 1st Battalion, RAR, in Vietnam,

had been posted to the Infantry Centre, Ingleburn, NSW.

..../2

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CITATIONS: '

PSΟ - Lieutenant-Colonel A.V. Preece: Was appointed to command 1st

Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, in Vietnam on December

3 , 1965, at short notice when the previous commanding officer

(Lieutenant-Colonel I.R.W. Brumfield) became a casualty.

At that time the Battalion was participating in operation

. "New Life", a divisional sized offensive operation against the

Viet Cong in Binh Tuy Province,

, Without any hesitation and with great determination he

assumed immediate and effective command of the Battalion

tactical group and maintained pressure on the enemy forces until

the operation was brought to a successful conclusion two weeks

; later.

During the next four weeks Lieutenant-Colonel Preece planned

and, with outstanding success, commanded three battalion group

heliborne assault operations deep into Viet Cong territory in x

Binh Hoa, Nau Nghia and Binh Duong Provinces.

During the.third of this series of operations, operation

"Crimp" which lasted from January 8 to January 14 1966, his

battalion after carrying out a well planned assault against

enemy opposition in the landing zone, located a major Viet Cong

tunnel complex. This complex proved to be the target for the -Brigade, the Viet Cong Headquarters which supervised enemy operations

in the Bien Hoa and Gia Dinh Provinces which includes Saigon,

The Battalion group cleared, searched, and destroyed many

thousands of yards of tunnels deep underground, large quantities

of documents were captured which provided valuable intelligence

to the Government of Vietnam. v . ·

In the following four months Lieutenant-Colonel Preece continued

to command his Battalion during a further four major and successful

operations, three of which included heliborne assaults.

Between these operations the Battalion continued to dominate

its area of responsibility in the Bien Hoa airfield defences by

using a well co-ordinated and aggressive patrol programme.

Throughout this period of six months of command, during which his

Battalion was in almost continuous contact with a militarily

proficient and fanatical enemy, Lieutenant-Colonel Preece set by

personal example the very highest standards of courage,

leadership and professional skill.

Under his leadership the Battalion has played a full and effective

part in turning the tide against the Viet Cong and in restoring

many thousands of South Vietnamese people to Government control.

. ,/3

- 3 -

MC - Captain Felix Fazekas: Following service in the Citizen Military

Forces, Captain Fazekas was granted a Commission in the Australian

Regular Army in September, 1959» .

. He served successively in the 1st Recruit Training Battalion,

. 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and at the Infantry

Centre Ingleburn and in September, 1965 was posted to the

Australian Army Training Team, Vietnam. .

. On November 13, 1965, Captain Fazekas was the senior adviser to

a Vietnamese Civil Irregular Defence Group Company, engaged in a

search and destroy operation in the Tra Bong Valley, 15 kilometres

east of the Tra Bong Special Forces Camp in Quang Ngai Province.

The company was operating on three platoon axes. Captain

Fazekas accompanied the centre platoon, whilst two other

Australian Army advisers, Warrant Officers K„A. Wheatley and

R.J. Swanton accompanied the platoon on his right flank.

At about 1.30 p.m., on that day, Captain Fazekas' platoon made

contact with a small Viet Cong Guerilla force and a fire fight,

directed by him, ensued. The enemy withdrew, leaving one weapon

behind.

While this action was in progress the platoon on the right came

under heavy accurate machine gun and rifle fire from what was

later found to be a dug in Main Force company of Viet Cong. ^hey-

were in a prepared and well sighted position. The right platoon

suffered heavy casualties in a short period including Warrant

Officer Swanton, Assistance was called for from Captain Fazekas1

platoon. ■

Captain Fazekas immediately rallied and led a force of fifteen

Vietnamese soldiers at the run over a distance of some 800 metres

to the scene of the action. At this stage his personal example

emboldened the Vietnamese groups sufficiently to stay with him and

the remainder of the platoon to follow at a distance.

On arrival, Captain Fazekas led his group in an immediate assault

on the fl^nk of.the enemy position through knee deep rice paddi in

the face of direct and flanking automatic fire.

Though at one stage forced to adopt a firing position in the

paddi from where he shot at least two enemy, he again rallied

seven of his group and together they continued the assault,

returning ^.fire while on the move.

This resolute and offensive action caused the enemy to abandon

his advantageous position and move rearwards leaving behind a

significant number of weapons, dead and wounded.

Firing now broke out in the vicinity of the rear elements of his

platoon. Captain Fazekas returned to that position through

continuous enemy flanking fire and proceeded to reorganise his

platoon and direct their fire with such success that the enemy

ceased firing and withdrew.

. . . ./4

- 4 -

' He then organised the evacuation of casualties and directed a

successful air strike onto the suspected enemy assembly area to the

rear. The Vietnamese Company Commander decided to withdraw,

' ^...Captain Fazekas, aware that two wounded Australian advisors were

still unaccounted for, organised a relief force which arrived in

the area at last light. He led a search force next morning and

recovered the bodies of Warrant Officers Wheatley and Swanton,

The complete engagement resulted in 38 enemy killed and 40 wounded.

Captain Fazekas displayed heroic personal courage and outstanding

resoluteness and aggressiveness in all his actiops during this

’ engagement,, whilst continually under enemy fire, and with complete

disregard 'for his. own personal safety.

His actions inspired the Vietnamese soldiers to stand and fight,

caused the, rout of an enemy party of superior strength, inflicted

■ significant casualties and enabled the capture of a considerable

number of enemy weapons.

Throughout the engagement, Captain Fazekas demonstrated

outstanding leadership attributes.

His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of

individual bravery and professional dedication to duty in the

Australian; Army.

PCM - Warrant Officer Kenneth Stoker: Enlisted in the Australian

Regular Army in 1951 and served in Korea with 1st Battalion, The

Royal Australian Regiment. In 1954 he joined 3rd Battalion, The

Royal Australian Regiment and between 1957 and 1-96>5 he served with

the Air Support Unit as a parachute jump instructor and with 1st

Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment as an instructor. In

October, 19§5, he was posted to the Australian Army Training Team,

Vietnam. .

On December 8, 1965, Warrant Officer Stoker was a military advisor

with the 1st Battalion of the 5th Vietnamese Regiment, engaged on

offensive operations in Thang Binh District of Quang Tin Province,

Republic of Vietnam,

At about 3,00 p.m., on that day, the 1st Battalion was halted by

heavy enemy fire and forced to adopt a hasty defensive position.

^his position was then attacked by a Viet Cong force estimated at

two battalions, whose morale was high, having already over run

another battalion of 5th Regiment on the right flank of 1st

Battalion. The attack continued through the night. All Battalion

officers and the majority of its Non-Commissioned Officers were

killed. The defences held and the attack was repulsed. Throughout

this attack Warrant Officer Stoker organised and reorganised

defensive fire positions, directed mortar fire and personally incitec

the defenders to repel the enemy. He continually exposed himself to

hostile fire with no regard to his personal safety.

/5

• In darkness at b.30 a,m, , on December 9, the Viet Cong again

attacked under cover of heavy bombardment. It was evident that

the superior strength of the enemy would over run the- position and

the decision to break out to the rear was taken. Warrant Officer

Stoker was wounded by shrapnel during this attack but disregarding

this, he took charge of the situation, organised and directed an

orderly withdrawal and by his example, encouragement and professional

ability, prevented a probable rout. ■ -^e regrouped the remaining

Vietnamese troops into fighting squads and directed their movement,

to a point some 3000 metres to the rear. Approximately 100 men

remained but with these, he organised a new defensive perimeter.

This was attacked at midday and the defenders commenced to break.

Warrant Officer Stoker rallied them again and his coolness under

fire,, personal influence and control was such as to impel them .

to stand and fight effectively so that eventually the position was

held and the attack repulsed with heavy casualties to the enemy.

In the series of attacks on December 8 and 9 enemy casualties

were estimated at 720 whilst 1st Battalion suffered some 500 -

casualties.

By his coolness and exemplary conduct under enemy fire, in the

face of three consecutive enemy attacks in some twenty four hours,

Warrant Officer Stoker prevented the defeat of■the Vietnamese Unit

to which he was advisor, was instrumental in saving the lives -

of friendly soldiers including United States Army Advisors and

finally brought about the defeat of a numerically superior enemy

force,

The determination, professional competence and personal bravery

which he displayed throughout was outstanding and in the highest-

traditions of the Australian Military Forces.

Corporal Walter Brunalli: Enlisted in the Australian Regular Army

in 1962, He saw service in Malaya during 1963-64 and accompanied "

1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment to Vietnam in June, 1965.

During Operation "Rolling Stone", east of Ben Cat, Corporal

Brunalli was acting as Section Commander of 10th section, 4th Platoon

1B 1 Company, On the night of February 3, 1966 he was commanding a

standing patrol of 6 men forward of his company locality to give

early warning of enemy attack, and to destroy any enemy within his

capability.

■At 2.15 a,m., a three battalion enemy attack was launched against

HQ 1 United States Brigade located 500 metres away. Caught in .

cross-fire between enemy and friendly- forces, Corporal Brunalli

was wounded twice but retained his position. Shortly afterwards a

three man Viet Cong patrol approached but was dispersed at 25 yards

range, with one Viet Cong killed. ' . ; , . . .

- 6 -

♦

A

Brunalli then adjusted his patrol's position, and at 4.00 a, m.,

a further 15 Viet Cong approached. These were surprised again

at close quarters, a platoon commander and three others killed,

two seriously wounded and later captured, the remainder fleeing.

Ordered now to return to his company, Brunalli detected agroup

of Viet Cong following him. He organised a quick ambush, killing

the leading Viet Cong at a distance of 5 feet and dispersing the

rest. A daylight patrol recovered 6 dead and two wounded

. Viet Cong, 7 weapons and a quantity of ammunition and important

documents,

Provate Brunalli carried out his mission in an outstanding

! manner against considerable odds. His aggressive and firm ■

leadership, his outstanding tactical handling of his patrol

and his cool conduct, although wounded himself, were an

inspiration to his men and in the highest traditions of the

Australian Army. .

Lists: A-B-C

. Further information:

CANBERRA : Major Barrie G'illman (65-4θ6ΐ)

‘ (QBN 1046)

OTHER STATES : ADPR AT COMMAND HEADQUARTERS.

6 December, 1966.