GREG Negus considers himself lucky not to have been in the middle of the Battle of Long Tan but he saw the destructiveness of the conflict.
The 76-year-old City of South Perth RSL member served with the 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment in the Vietnam War and was responsible for clearing up the area after the battle.
This Thursday marks 50 years since the battle, in which 17 Australians were killed in action and 25 wounded, one who later died.
Mr Negus remembered being flown out to the battlefield during the morning after the conflict.
“We were on the edge of rubber plantation and we went into the jungle area and my platoon picked up one of the two Australians who had been left behind,” he said.
“There were rubber trees down everywhere because the artillery just splits and knocks them down, and there were quite a lot of bodies.
“The Australians dragged most of theirs out and so did the North Vietnamese, but they still had to leave some behind because the artillery was so bad.”
Mr Negus said it was distressing to see the bodies of Australian soldiers but he could not help but feel thankful his battalion did not cop the brunt of the attack.
“You say thank God I wasn’t there with that company that had to wear the brunt of it… we had clashes but mainly small ones,” he said.
Mr Negus said unlike some Vietnam veterans, he felt welcomed when he came back to Australia after 12 months serving his nation.
“We had a good march through Sydney; 1 RAR were the first to come back and they had red paint thrown at them, but we didn’t,” he said.
“I didn’t have anybody ever say that ‘you shouldn’t have gone over’ but I was a regular soldier and some of the national servicemen felt like they had been used but at the reunions we are still a tight group.”