Author(s): Frank Walker
For 39 years the Australian Defense Force strenuously denied a unit called the 2nd Defense and Employment Platoon existed during the Vietnam War. The platoon was a makeshift rapid deployment force of 38 men, all regular troops, based at the Australian Task Force Headquarters at Nui Dat in 1969 from late April to June. The ragtag unit was thrown together with diggers left behind in Vietnam when their regiment returned to Australia. It was so slapdash it didn't even have an officer or sergeant in charge. But a rugged ex-Royal Marine, Jim Riddle, stepped forward to take the lead. When the platoon was thrown into one of the biggest firefights of the Vietnam War against hundreds of enemy, Riddle proved his leadership, bringing all his men through unscathed and leaving the battlefield littered with enemy bodies. It was a highly successful operation, but immediately afterwards Riddle's platoon was mysteriously disbanded, the team broken up and scattered throughout the army. There were no official records. It was as though the platoon never existed. It was a Ghost Platoon. Something happened at that ambush that compelled the army to bury the platoon's existence, and the secrets that went with it. Three decades later the men of the platoon set out to prove their unit had existed. They ran into bureaucratic brick walls and official denials from the top brass and official historians. What's more, the army strongly denied darker deeds done after the fighting, deeds which some of the men allege were war crime atrocities. This is the story of the men of the Ghost Platoon.
Thirty-nine years ago an Australian Army Platoon saw action in Vietnam. Years later, the army said they didn't exist. What secrets were they trying to hide?
Frank Walker has worked as a journalist for 35 years, most recently as chief reporter for The Sun-Herald covering defence, veterans affairs, national security and terrorism. He's worked on The Sydney Morning Herald, The National Times, for News Limited in New York and Deutsche Welle international radio in Germany. For three years he was The Sun-Herald correspondent in the USA. He's now left newspapers to freelance and write books. In 2009 Hachette published his first book THE TIGER MAN OF VIETNAM the remarkable true story of the secret war of Captain Barry Petersen in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was a bestseller. He lives in Sydney with his family. GHOST PLATOON is his second book.