Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Vietnam Veteran Remembers

A local Vietnam veteran has reflected on the incident that ended his campaign 53 years after the explosion.

Les Palmer was wounded in Vietnam on February 28, 1970, at the age of 22, when his battalion was involved in a landmine explosion.

“It was up in what they call the long, high mountains in South Vietnam,” Les said.

“It was notorious for the enemy hiding up in the mountains, they had boulders they could hide under and camps and kitchens and hospitals up in these mountains.

“The hierarchy said we’d better go and stir them up so instead of us stirring them up, they stirred us up.”

The landmine was buried at ground level with three prongs sticking out of the ground.

“When you stand on it, it jumps a metre in the air and goes bang,” Les said.

Two mines exploded, killing nine soldiers and wounding 16, one of which was Les, suffering multiple fragment wounds and nerve damage resulting in foot drop.

Les likes to commemorate the occasion each year, going out to dinner last week with his wife of 53 years, Sue.

“Even though my mates know me as a Vietnam vet, a lot of them don’t know the story behind how I got hurt and why I’m wounded,” he said.

Les had married Sue one month before he left for Vietnam on the HMAS Sydney aircraft carrier and four months before the explosion.

Mackay born and bred, Les returned to north Queensland and worked in service stations, cane carting and Queensland Rail before retiring in 1999.

He said he has no spare time despite being retired, with plenty of volunteer work to keep him busy for Legacy, Vietnam Veterans Association, Mackay Veterans Support Group and the RSL Mackay Sub Branch.

He plans to travel to Melbourne for ANZAC Day to celebrate a national reunion of his battalion, 8RAR.

Les Palmer was wounded in Vietnam 53 years ago. Photo credit: Sam Gillespie

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