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  Special Air Service(SAS)

Operations - Vietnam

March 1966 - October 1972

On The 10 June, 1957 approval was given to raise 1 SAS Company at Swanbourne, Western Australia. The Company was to consist of 11 officers and 168 other ranks(ORs). The Company was to be raised using personnel who were "trained parachutists or volunteers, of appropriate age and undoubted  medical fitness", possessing " a reasonable standard of education", with a slightly higher aptitude that that applying for ordinary soldiers, between 18 and 35 years of age, with a good disciplinary record, between 5ft 3ins(160cm) and 6ft 1in(185cm) in height, and weighing no more than 13 stone(82.6 kilograms).

The SAS were a highly disciplined and well trained force and operated mostly in secret and in small numbers, and saw service in Borneo and Vietnam.
In Vietnam, the force became feared by the Viet Cong, who aptly named them the "Ma Rung", the 'phantoms of the jungle'.
Today the SAS is Australia's crack anti-terrorist unit.

SAS Operations - South Vietnam

580 SAS soldiers served in South Vietnam. There were 298 contacts with the enemy, inflicting 492 kills, 106 possible kills, 47 wounded, 10 possibly wounded and 11 taken as prisoners. 5366 enemy were sighted in 801 separate sightings. The Australia and New Zealand casualties were one(1) killed in action, one(1) died of wounds, one(1) killed in a grenade accident, two(2) accidentally shot on patrol, one(1) missing on a hot rope extraction and one(1) died of illness.

Abbreviations: Sqn = Squadron. KIA = Killed in Action. WIA = Wounded in Action. DOW = Died of wounds.NK = Not Known. VC = Viet Cong. NVA = North Vietnamese Army

Squadron Dates Patrols
3 SAS Sqn
1 SAS Sqn
2 SAS Sqn
3 SAS Sqn
1 SAS Sqn
2 SAS Sqn
NZ Troop SAS
1 Apr 66 - 5 Jul 67
2 Mar 67 - 8 Feb 68
29 Jan 68 - 4 Mar 69
3 Feb 69 - 20 Feb 70
3 Feb 70 - 8 Feb 71
8 Feb 71 - 15 Oct 71
12 Dec 68-20 Feb 71
134 in 9 months


Types of Patrol

Type Aust NZ
Total Patrols


Patrol Composition
Patrol composition varied, dependant on the mission. A typical patrol consisted of five men, a lead scout, patrol commander(usually a sergeant or lieutenant), signaller, medic and a second-in-command (2i/c). The most common patrol in Vietnam was reconnaissance patrols consisting of four to five men. The next most common patrols were ambush patrols often consisting of 10 men but on some occasions as small as five or six men.

Patrol Dress
Each Member of a patrol was given a high degree of individuality in choosing his own equipment. Dress was either the US pattern camouflaged "cam suits", or the normal Australian olive-drab "greens". Many patrols adopted the habit of wearing scarves around their foreheads instead of the standard green bush hat and allowed their to grow longer than normal. A number of SAS owe their lives to the fact that the VC were often hesitant in identifying SAS in the gloom of the jungle. All parts of the SAS dress would be checked for rattle or shine. Personal camouflage cream was used to break up features and the shine on skin , this would be maintained throughout the patrol. Boots were either Australian issue, British jungle or American pattern. Mesh gloves were sometimes used to protect and camouflage hands.




Conduct of Patrols


Apr - May.  3 Sqn stores and equipment is forwarded to Vietnam by HMAS Sydney.
27 April - 26 May. 3 Sqn conduct final training for Vietnam in New Guinea.
15 June. 3 Sqn main body depart Pearce WA for Saigon on Qantas 707 charter flight.
16 June. The Sqn arrive at Vung Tau.
17 June. The  Sqn deploy to Nui Dat.
20, 21 and 22 June. The Sqn conducts 24 hours familisation and acclimatization patrols several kilometres out from Nui Dat.
26 June. The Sqn is now ready for operations and is used largely for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering.  During 3 Sqn's 9 months tour they mounted 134 patrols with 27 contacts, killed 46 enemy with a possible 4 killed, 13 wounded and 1 prisoner of war. The patrols sighted 198 enemy in 88 seperate sightings.The most common patrol consisted of four men only.
15 February. 1 Sqn advance party arrives at Nui Dat.
2 March. 2 Sqn main body arrive at Nui Dat
8 March.  2 Sqn conduct "shake down" training in preparation for missions.
13 March. 2 Sqn take over the old 5 RAR lines on Nui Dat Hill.
15 March - 3 Sqn main body depart for Australia.
18 March - 5 patrols from 2 Sqn are inserted into an area beyond Nui Dat
24 March. 3 Sqn rear party depart for Australia.
March 1967 - February 1968. 2 Sqn conducted 246 patrols for 83 enemy killed, with a possible further 15 killed and had sighted 405 enemy.

The information contained on this page is an extract from the publication, " SAS - Phantom of the Jungle", by David Horner and published by Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd.  Highly recommended reading and available at all good book stores.

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Copyright 1997 VSASA
Last modified: April 04, 1998