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Donald William Tate (1949- )is an Australian veteran of the Vietnam War. Born in Brisbane, Queensland, he enlisted in the Australian Regular Army at age 18, and went to Vietnam on December 23rd, 1968 as a reinforcement, aged 19. After a three week stint at the Australian Reinforcement Unit, he was posted to the 4th Royal Australian Regiment in January 1969.

On his very first patrol, he was the 'tail-end charlie' who spotted a small unit of Viet Cong trailing his platoon, and opened up on them. Only one Viet Cong was killed, but he prevented his platoon from being ambushed from the rear. Later that day, his platoon killed another two Viet Cong, before being ambushed themselves- a few hundred metres from the Battalion's Company position. On this occasion, Privates Joe Ramsay and Sam Graham were killed, and Tate was one of the soldiers who collected the body parts of one of the men, and helped carry the dead body from the jungle. Not long afterwards, his platoon ambushed half a dozen enemy sampans from a cliff overlooking a river, and destroyed them.

After a number of other contacts and ambushes, Tate's platoon hit an enemy bunker complex in April 1969, which resulted in a number of casualties. On this occasion, Tate was pinned down directly in front of enemy machine-guns, along with Privates Garry Winchester and Brian Holborow. The three soldiers were caught in a crossfire between the enemy bunkers and the rest of their platoon for some considerable time, and all survived without injury. Private Tate acknowledged that their survival was in great part attributed to the professionalism of his section-commander, Corporal Tom Douglas, and Privates Jim Riddle and Ian Morrison.

When the 4th Battalion went home, Tate and 40 other regular soldiers remained behind. They were formed into the 2nd Defence and Employment Platoon- an infantry platoon that operated on armoured personnel carriers. One of the APC drivers, at one time, was Trooper Normie Rowe. One of the Troop commanders was a Captain Arrowsmith. The infantry unit had no officer commanding it, and Corporal Jim Riddle assumed leadership of it. After some unfortunate adventures, this D@E Platoon eventually carried out a successful ambush at the gates of Thua Thich. Initially sent out by Captain Arrowsmith as an early warning unit, they eventually engaged a very large force of North Vietnamese regulars who were forming up to tackle Arrowsmith's carriers, in ambush further up the road. The armoured corps took all credit for the success of the ambush- Riddle's unit got next to no credit, despite being manifestly outnumbered.

The 2nd D@E Platoon was disbanded in early July, 1969. This may have been partly because of an unsavoury incident when the platoon placed a number of bodies in a hole and blew them up in an 'engineer's burial'. Afterwards, Private Tate was posted to the 9th Royal Australian Regiment- his third posting in less than eight months. On the 19th July, whilst with 7 Platoon, "C" Company, his platoon walked into a Viet Cong bunker complex. In a two-hour battle, Private Ray Kermode was killed outright (after his section commander, Corporal Andy Ochiltree had swapped positions with him) and Tate and eight others were injured. The three worst wounded men (Privates Derek Nixon-Smith, Tate, and Johnny Walker) were taken out later that night, in a monsoonal downpour, by a United States chopper, when the Australian helicopters refused to do so.

Private Tate was hospitalised for the next two and a half years, completing his military stint, and being transferred from I Military Hospital to a repatriation Hospital at Greenslopes. The hospitalisation included 6 months in traction, and 15 months in a full body plaster (chest-to-toe).

Tate, who carried a small Super 8mm movie camera into the jungles of Vietnam, is believed to be the only veteran of the war who captured the entire experience on film. This included a clip taken in the hospital the day after he was wounded. In 1992, this film was valued at being worth in excess of $90,000, and was donated to the Australian War Memorial.

Don Tate met and married his wife, Carole Marskell (Coombes) and they were married in 1976 at Shellharbour. They raised five children: Paul Marskell; Joanne Marskell; Lisa Tate; Brad Tate; and Laura Tate. All five children went on to professional careers, and not one ever brought disrepute to the family.

Don Tate went back to school to get his HSC, and graduated as a teacher four years later, in 1979. However, it wasn't for another four years before the NSW Education Department found him a position. He taught at Dapto High School for 10 years before being bashed on a school excursion in 1992, and medically retired.

Tate wrote a number of books: "Becoming Successful Student"; "Quiz-Master"; "The Long-Distant Vietnam War Veteran". He also invented a game "Quiz-King", published by John Sands.

Despite a permanent hip disability, Don Tate played cricket to representative level, and in 1977, won the South Coast District Cricketer of the Year Award after taking 64 wickets at 12.4- a record for a fast bowler that still stands (to 2006). He was involved in a number of controversies as a cricketer. At one point, he was called for "chucking"- a sensation at the time, but ultimately cleared of the charge. (Only Ian Meckiff and Brett Lee have been similarly called!) He was suspended from cricket in 1987 for life after a minor altercation off the field with another player (Greg Stevens) but this was overturned on appeal to the NSW Cricket Association which ruled that Tate had every right to defend himself against attack. He went on to captain-coach the Gerringong, Oak Flats, and Albion Park Rail Cricket Clubs. His achievenments included organisation of the very first night cricket match played on the South Coast, when his Oak Flats team took on an invitational "All-Stars" side, and the development of the cricket field in the Croome Road complex which included the planting out of hundreds of trees as a 'commemorative walk' to honour veterans og the Vietnam War.

He was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 for services to the community in the area of sport.


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