Tigers and Diggers

At Baggy’s Court

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Written by   John R Cooke Maj. USA Ret.
68th AHC Pilot -Top Tiger & Mustang                                                 click on image to enlarge
                           Vung Tau & Bien Hoa, RVN   May 1966 - Apr. 1967


---We’re the Top Tigers and we have been working with the Diggers.  

That is to say that our unit, the 68th Assault Helicopter Company, “Top Tigers,” has been working with the newly arrived “Diggers,” the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Infantry Regiment in the jungles northeast of Saigon. (“Digger” is Australian slang for “farmer” or “peasant.”)  

We have found this to be a most agreeable assignment. The Aussies have great spirit and humor and are clearly brave, highly skilled, and dedicated professionals. Toward the end of this joint-training program we were their guest on a “dining-in night” at our hotel, our mutual residence, sometimes referred to as “Tiger Towers.” 

The scene could have been straight out of the pages of Kipling. The Australian officers were all dressed in white dinner jackets, black ties, and black trousers with broad red stripes down the sides. All brass and leather was highly polished and gleaming. The wide doors and high windows were open and long gossamer drapes were billowing in the pleasant evening breeze. On the veranda a band dressed in white tunics filled the tropical evening air with brassy music.   

The place was the old Pacific Hotel in the southern sea-side village of Vung Tau. And all this music, rum, spit and polish was the perfect formula for a most unforgettable dining-in. We discovered that it is traditional in the Australian military to take their dress uniform, or “full kit,” as they call it, with them wherever they go—be it Tasmania or Tay Ninh. (In this setting the US officers looked a bit drab dressed only in their combat fatigue uniforms.) 

After a fine dinner of steak and sea-food, all the proper toasts were made, and then the Aussies convened their “Baggy’s Court.” This is an early form of the Kangaroo Court in which the lower ranking company grade officers put the higher

ranking field grade officers on trial for such ghastly transgression as “firing your rockets on the Queen’s birthday,” or “failing to fire your rockets on the Queen’s birthday,” or “being totally unaware of the Queen’s birthday (April 21),” or “taking a shower in the nude,” or “taking a shower in uniform (in the rain),” or simply “drinking and swearing and telling war-stories at the bar.” The most awful offense of all was “wearing your hat in the bar,” and for that one might be sentenced to sleep in his hat for ten days. 

The American senior officers didn’t have a chance. They were quickly found guilty of all charges in a whirlwind of bush-league jurisprudence.  

After Baggy’s Court was recessed the Australian commanding officer, Colonel J. A. Warr of Melbourne, presented our commanding officer, Major James H. Cook of West Point, Georgia with an Australian slouch hat, and in turn, Major Cook presented Colonel Warr with an authentic Montagnard crossbow.  

Now many of our Huey helicopters sport on their Plexiglas the “Badge of the Rising Sun,” the insignia of the Australian Military Forces, just as most of the local Aussie jeeps bear the prowling tiger sticker of the 68th AHC.  

I feel sure you have heard it before that when it comes to fun and fighting the Diggers are mighty hard to beat. They are truly big-hearted and hard-hitting stalwarts. They can be counted on when the chips are down. They are the sort of people you want at your side at a party—or during a brawl.  When the Americans and the Aussies get together over here it’s like a mutual admiration society. We just can’t do enough for one another. I suppose that is what one calls camaraderie. - - -

---This article was written by John R. Cooke who served with the Top Tigers from May 1966 until January 1967.



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