It's 50 years since this quiet, bookish bloke showed us all what leadership, guts and a dedication to looking after others really mean.
Never judge a book by its cover!
Peter Badcoe didn't drink grog, didn't smoke and didn't raise hell on leave.
Not the typical Aussie Digger of the day, he was quiet and bookish preferring to read and discuss military history than play mess rugby. He was short and chubby with horn-rimmed glasses - more geek than grunt, but my God, underestimate him at your peril as the enemy discovered.
In 1966 after 16 years in the Army and at the age of 32, Major Peter Badcoe joined the Australian Army Training Team - Vietnam and was the Australian advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in Thua Thien province near the border with North Vietnam, far removed from the Australian AO in Phouc Tuy province near Saigon.
On February 23 1967, he monitored a radio transmission stating that a US Army Officer advising a platoon of South Vietnamese Popular Forces had been killed during a contact, his body lying in front of a troublesome enemy machine gun post, and a US Army medical officer severely wounded. Sprinting across 650 metres of open ground, swept by machine gun fire, he married up with the besieged troops, tended the wounds of the medical officer, rallied the friendly forces, then led a frontal attack on the enemy inflicting heavy casualties and neutralising the machine gun post himself.
He picked up the body of the dead US officer and still under fire, led the troops on a fighting withdrawal over the 650 metres of open ground.
Two weeks later whilst commanding the Ready Reaction Company of the province, he led a series of assaults which saved the besieged district headquarters of Quang Dien and its defenders, routing the enemy and forcing them to flee.
A month later, working with the ARVN 1st Division Reaction company and some APCs, the company came under heavy attack and withdrew to cover, abandoning Badcoe and his signaller. He ran back to the South Vietnamese troops, rallied them and spurred them to advance. They halted again, but Badcoe continued forward.
A stubborn machine gun post attracted his attention and he started lobbing grenades at it in an attempt to silence it. As he rose to throw another grenade, he was cut down by enemy fire.
For his service to his country and for these three individual acts of bravery, this unlikely hero from South Australia was awarded Australia’s highest honour… the Victoria Cross.
His medals were purchased by Kerry Stokes and are on display at the Australian War Memorial. Badcoe Hall at Royal Military College - Duntroon is named in his honour.
|Australian Active Service Medal 1945-1975 (with Vietnam clasp)|
|Australian Defence Medal|
|U.S. Silver Star (with oakleaf cluster)|
|U.S. Purple Heart|
|U.S. Air Medal|
|Knight of the National Order of Vietnam|
|South Vietnam Gallantry Cross (with palm, gold star and silver star)|
|South Vietnam Wound Medal|
|South Vietnam Campaign Medal (with 1960 clasp)|
|South Vietnam Armed Forces Honour Medal, 1st Class|
This man embodies the ethos of the pre-Morrison Australian Army.
Leaders who put their men and others first.
Officers who fought hard and at the front line.
Duty and service before self.
Lest We Forget.