Michael Gunther Joseph BARON VON BERG MC OAM

BARON VON BERG, Michael Gunther Joseph

Service Number: 216701
Enlisted: 25 January 1962
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)
Born: Germany, 7 November 1943
Home Town: Sydney, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: St Josephs & St Michaels CBHS
Occupation: Regular Soldier
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Vietnam War Service

25 Jan 1962: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2)
19 Apr 1966: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Second Lieutenant, 216701, 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)
19 Apr 1966: Embarked Australian Army (Post WW2)
30 Jan 1974: Discharged Australian Army (Post WW2), Captain

Reconnaissance Platoon




Daryl Henry

The shooting stopped as abruptly as it had begun, and an ear-ringing silence descended over the jungle. There wasn't even a whisper of wind to move the acrid blue smoke that lingered over the guns.

The Digger next to me began to chew his gum slowly, deliberately, as he inserted a new magazine into his M-16. Then he squinted into the tangle of ferns in front of him, wiped the sweat from his eyes with the mesh towel he wore around his neck, and waited.

"Anybody hit?" the Skipper asked in a half-whisper, half-shout. He was former Aussie-Rules footballer Mike Deak, 23-year-old second lieutenant from Sydney, leader of the first and still (in 1967) the only reconnaissance platoon in the Australian Brigade in Vietnam. Then, when there were no answers in the affirmative, "Did anybody see which way they went?"

"That way, sir," an unshaven soldier said, using his FN rifle to point off to our right.

"Keep your eyes open on the flanks," Lieutenant Deak commanded, just loud enough for the other 21 men in the platoon to hear.

We kept our eyes wide open, but couldn't have seen an elephant 10 meters away.

The Skipper radioed the situation back to Delta Company, the nearest friendly unit, four kilometers-- or two difficult hours-- behind us. "Ah, this is King's Cross One Actual," he said into the handset, a bit out of breath. "We've sprung some Charlies on the perimeter of what appears to be a base camp. Ah, position follows..." Deak was already studying his map. "Up three-niner, left zero-seven. Request standby arty. More data when we have it."

Our presence in the middle of what the Aussies enjoy calling "Indian Country" (honoring their brothers-in-arms, the Yanks) was no longer a secret.

Nevertheless the questions were muffled as they radiated out to the perimeter of our tennis-court-sized "harbor." In answer to queries of "How many?", "What were they wearing?" and "What weapons did they have?" came replies indentifying the Vietcong as at least five-strong, clad in black pyjamas, firing automatic weapons, with at least one light machine-gun, either an RPD or BAR.

I watched Mike Deak's grim face as he evaluated the information (where was the carefree smile I'd seen back in the O-Club tent two nights before?).

Private Tony Twaits, a freckle-faced 20-year-old from Melbourne, calmly withdrew a new 100-round belt of 7.62mm ammunition from its plastic sheath and inserted it into his M-60. He was sprawled in the middle of a mound of still-warm ashes from a VC cooking fire. A few feet to his front was a three-man bomb shelter, presumably empty.

The fresh-cut leaves camouflaging its new log roof was evidence it had been built only the night before. Ahead of him were a half dozen more, spreading out to left and right. How many were hidden in the dense foliage beyond there was no way of telling.

One of the three section-leaders, Corporal Bernie Smith, 28, from Sydney, squinted through a shock of black hair that tumbled out from under his frayed bush hat and lit up his first cigarette on patrol-- the recce platoon forbade it unless and until there was no more reason for remaining clandestine.

"It might be a trap, Skipper," he suggested. He meant the VC force the unit had just engaged at close range might have withdrawn only to lure the Diggers into an ambush.
The fresh bunkers suggested a jungle base elaborate enough to shelter many times the number of our understrength platoon. It was uncharacteristic of the VC to spend all night digging a fortified camp only to evacuate it after a brief skirmish the next morning.

The job of the reconnaissance team was to locate the enemy, and only to attack him unaided if there was a chance of success. I expected us to pull back and wait for reinforcements. But I underestimated the Digger's traditional enthusiasm for combat.

We had stumbled on the VC installation unexpectedly, thanks to the Aussie insistence on avoiding all trails (nor had the confident enemy posted any sentries). The afternoon before we had flown out with Delta Company to the base of the ridge in a composite squadron of U.S. and Australian Hueys. But not directly. Each flight touched down in at least three tight, dried-paddy LZ's, disembarking the Diggers only at one-- random-- location. As a result, any Charlie OP would only have known we were on the prowl, but not from which direction.

We set up a defensive perimeter, digging in first the 75mm pack howitzers, then ourselves, but not without grumbling-- the ground was hard-baked red clay. Just before dark we suffered what was to become an ongoing assault-- the dreaded III Corps "mossie" (rhymes with Aussie), which materialized in regimental droves. Naturally I'd only brought along one half-empty bottle of repellent.

The reccee platoon, assigned the fringe of the company harbor nearest the forbiding hills, sent out an LP (Listening Post) and went to sleep discussing the scuttlebutt that the Long-Dien mountains were home to a 150-man VC Heavy Weapons Company, and that our job the next day was to pin it down.

The drill was for Delta Company to monitor our fortunes from the valley floor, and come running when we called.
If we called.

I listened to Lieutenant Deak announce into his handset: "That's a negative, Picadilly Three, we're all right so far. However the installation looks a bit too strong to assault just yet. I prefer to let the artillery have a go." He gave the coordinates and requested HE with standard fuses.

I for one was relieved. If there were only 10 VC dug in they could have stopped cold any assault we might have mounted. With 30 men they could have out-flanked us, with 50, surrounded us, and with 150, it would have been, as Deak agreed when I asked him, "History. Past tense for us, mate." Flaxen-haired, with pale blue eyes, Deak spoke pure "Strine" even though he had been born in Germany the year before the end of WWII. Rumor was his father had been a Wermacht general; he never said.

We all burrowed very close to the ground and listened to the artillery rattle overhead. The first rounds, all the way from the New Zealand 105mm battery supporting the 5th & 6th Battalions RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) from the Task Force base at Nui Dat, landed a deliberate 300 meters to our front. Gradually Deak walked them closer until soon they were exploding in the midst of the enemy installation, shattering hardwood trees as though they were made of balsa.

When three-quarters of a ton of high explosive, some 50 rounds, had landed in the base camp, Deak was still not satisfied (neither was I). He decided to pull back a further 200 meteres and saturate the area immediately to our front.

It took us more than half an hour to struggle back along the boulder-strewn shoulder of a stagnant creek to a new harbor.

Lieutenant Deak routinely counted off every step we took-- it was the only way to accurately determine our position at any given moment, vital if we needed accurate fire support. All machetes remained sheathed, naturally-- they were too noisy.

The column climbed over, crawled under or detoured around knots of undergrowth too thick to penetrate. There was no talking, no smoking, no eating. All commands were hand signals. It was laborious, but it was safe. At least up to that point in the war, no Aussie infantry column had ever been ambushed. And not many Diggers had tripped booby traps, either.

On our way up the Long-Dien ridge that morning the odds ran about even that we'd make contact with Charlie. Some men said we would: "Playin' the little bastard's own game, we always surprise 'em." Some men said we wouldn't: "Damn nogs hear you comin' no matter what." One Digger told me he didn't give a damn either way, it was just a job to him. "Beats the hell out of muckin' about for a living in the outback, mate," he explained.

To the volunteers of the recce platoon this was just another of the 30-odd patrols they'd made during the past six months. Carrying food for four days, water for one, ammunition for three hours at most, the team was armed with one M-60 for each of its three sections. It had no mortars nor LAAWs. A quarter of the men were armed with the Belgian-designed Nato-caliber FN (the "SLR" of Aussie terminology), the rest with M-16s. It was accepted, at this stage of the war, that the 7.62mm bullet was more effective for sniping and penetrating thick bush, while the faster 5.56mm slug was deadlier in the open.

Given the option, everyone would have carried the American weapon-- it was lighter. In addition each of the three sections carried an M-79, but as extra, not primary weapons.

As had been the ANZAC custom in jungle warfare since WWII, none of the platoon wore steel helmets. In fact every infantryman in the Australian Task Force wore a soft bush hat, invariably with a strip of colored cloth threaded around the crown (to distinguish it from enemy headgear), although all troopers were issued U.S.-designed steel pots-- "for use in air raids," as one Digger put it.

The night before the operation began the platoon spent the hours of darkness close up behind Nui Dat's wire. The infamous VC 5th Division was reportedly on the prowl, and stand-to was ordered until dawn.

I expected to find the men serious, perhaps even apprehensive. But they had been at war too long for that. "There ain't one of us," insisted lanky Corporal "Blue" Mulby, 24, from Melbourne, "who wouldn't rather be out in the scrub than back here in base."

Then, probably for the benefit of the regular infantrymen of the 5th Battalion, a dialogue began that went something like this:

First recce trooper (a downy-chinned tiger): "I can hardly fuckin' wait to get home to go dancin'."

Second trooper (older, cynical): "Shit, you'll probably trip a booby trap tomorrow and blow your bloody legs off."

The first trooper got down on his knees, defiant. "So what, mate? I'll just hobble around on me stumps, like this."

But there was more than their bizarre humor to distinguish them from ordinary riflemen. Forty had volunteered for the dangerous job; Mike Deak had hand-picked 28 of them for special training. (Some were currently away on R&R.)

Every man could act as medic, work the radio, read a map, call in arty or air, fire any of the variety of weapons they carried, move like a snake through the bush, and out-hike the average mountain climber. And only half were professionals-- the rest were National Servicemen, "just doing our two bloody years"-- although I couldn't tell them apart.

The platoon, the mainstay of Brigade recconaissance until the SAS arrived later in the war, was as diabolical as it was tough. The day before the column had chanced upon an unexploded USAF 500lb bomb glistening green at the foot of a vine-draped tree. No one had to be told to step around its unpredictable fuse with caution.

The leader of the forward section, "Blue" Mulby, had passed the menacing cylinder slowly enough to leave a note impaled on a low branch. Addressed to Corporal Smith, soon to rotate back to the world, the message was adorned with skull and crossbones. It read: "Watch out, Bernie-- only 11 more days to go! Tch, tch."

But now, after our recent close-range fire-fight, the platoon was more subdued as it settled into the new harbor. It was hot and dry, pushing above 35 degrees Celsius, and the LOH was long overdue with our water resupply. As the men formed a defensive circle the jungle grew unusually silent. The ubiquitous gibbons, who had resumed their raucous banter following the arty barrage, went quiet again. The men had barely slipped off their heavy packs when a shout broke the stillness.

"There's five of the bastards comin' this way!" a Digger yelled at the same time as he pulled the trigger on his M-16.

Our whole front rank started shooting at the same time. Seven automatic weapons pulverized the shadows with more than 50 rounds per second. The rest of us, unable to see beyond spitting distance, hugged the ground. Several incoming rounds snapped the twigs at what would have been knee-level overhead. They sounded like .30 caliber, possibly an M-1 carbine. Soon they were joined by the unmistakeable crunch of AK-47s.

"One of them ran to our left, Skipper," Mulby shouted. "The other four went right."

The shooting eventually stopped for want of targets. Palpable, thick silence collapsed over the blue-green tangle of ferns and roots. "Anybody hit?" Lieutenant Deak wanted to know. From several directions came reassuring, negative replies. "Then let's go get the bastards," hollered the Skipper, ordering Mulby's section on a rapid sweep around the front of our perimeter.

They hadn't gone 30 meters when Mulby yelled back, a note of absolute triumph in his hearty voice, "We brassed one, Skipper!" Mulby's six-man section kept going. Deak dispatched John Lea-Smith, 27, from Melbourne, the platoon sergeant, out to search the body.

"It's a Sheila! the sergeant yelled back. From somewhere behind me came the irreverent suggestion: "Throw her on the hexy and keep her warm!"

I followed Sergeant Lea-Smith through the bush. The black-clad girl was face down in the middle of a wide trail. No more than 18, she wore a gold wedding ring on the second finger of her left hand. She had been hit in the eye with a single .223 calibre bullet travelling close to Mach 2. The back half of her head was missing. Cerebrum, cerebellum, bone fragments and long strands of black hair mingled in a puddle of blood.

Although nobody liked to fight teenage girls, there was evident relief when the sergeant brought back her U.S.-issue carbine with its one 30-round and two spare 15-round magazines of ammunition. She carried enough bullets to do each one of us in three times over.

Mulby's section returned to report no further contact, and we settled in to continue our original mission, directing artillery fire on the VC bunkers. It took about 15 minutes for a total of 108 shells to landscape the installation.

Lieutenant Deak backed the barrage right up to our noses-- he didn't want anybody left alive between us and the base camp. The rounds kept falling closer; the concussion was becoming unpleasant. When a knuckle-sized fragment of splintered metal struck the tree under which Deak was sheltering and fell sizzling to the ground beside his ear, somebody suggested we "give it a miss" and the skipper called off the shoot. Since it was now getting dark, he informed Delta Company we would harbor 200 meters away and investigate the results of the barrage in the morning.

When Lieutenant Deak asked what to do with the girl's body, Delta Company's commander radioed: "Better do the decent thing," and we buried the remains where they lay. As vulnerable as we were on the well-worn trail, the silent funeral was unhurried. I watched a Digger pluck a spray of leaves and plant it near the head of the dirt mound, but whether he was serious or joking I couldn't tell. Then we melted into the densest bush we could find to spend an uneasy night.

I didn't get to sleep until I watched the moon go down about three o'clock. As far as I was concerned we were effectively surrounded. The first fire-fight had been west along the ridge, the second to the east. We lay up about 25 meters off the main trail listening to faint whistles and Ho Chi Minh footsteps all night long. It was no consolation to hear the Skipper speculate that the VC felt just as insecure as we did.

For the rest of the platoon it was just one of a hundred nights similarly spent. They wrapped up in their mossie netting, curled up under the vines among the red ants, ticks, spiders, snakes and mosquitoes, and apparently slept soundly.

As it turned out the night was uneventful. The Vietcong had either heard about the reputation of the recce platoon (as one Digger insisted) or they figured us to be better supported than we were. As was their SOP, they chose discretion as the more enduring part of valor, and abandoned their installation by the time we reached it at dawn.

It was just as well-- we counted 51 bunkers. At three men apiece, brigade intelligence had been right after all. We found two elaborate field kitchens, scraps of blue ignition wire for recoilless rifle projectiles, some 12.7mm heavy machine-gun cartridges, various spent PRC 10 and 25 batteries and dozens of cigarette butts, mostly black-market U.S. brands.

The Charlies apparently withdrew to the back side of the ridge-- which ironically overlooked the Aussie's favorite in-country Rest & Rehabilitation center, Vung Tau, known to the Diggers as "Vungers" (in the same shorthand way they refered to Hong Kong as "Honkers").

We staked out the complex and waited for Delta Company to join up. Their job would be to dismantle it while we pushed out to track its former occupants. As the lead troopers of D company filtered past our unkempt bunch I was impressed by their silent respect-- the reccee platoon was the elite, and they were the grunts.

We ran into the Viet Cong only once again--close enough to talk to-- but there was no communication, not even a friendly fire-fight.

The recce platoon had traversed the last 3000 meters of Long-Dien ridge and was poised at the summit, a granite outcropping that had once housed a Buddhist shrine, more recently a Charlie OP. The VC had abandoned it for the same reason we didn't linger-- it had recently been saturated with CS gas. Merely climbing over the rocks kicked up the insidious powder, and we hurriedly stumbled downhill on the far side, eyes stinging.

Just then we heard a distressing radio exchange. An Aussie APC transporting a section of Delta Company along the valley floor had been tossed upside down by a command-detonated mine, apparently a resurrected 250lb bomb.

Bouncing Bettys planted nearby did in many of the survivors, as well as some of the troopers who came up to tend the wounded. The VC responsible, another element of the tenacious 5th Division, were reported withdrawing up the ridge in our direction.

Lieutenant Deak was ordered to set up an ambush. He selected a ravine that cut through to the South China Sea like a machete scar, the only logical escape route. But we hadn't gone 20 meters when he had to call it off. The CS gas had so debilitated the platoon nobody could keep quiet-- sneezing, coughing, eyes blurry, the men were in no condition to ambush anyone except maybe a school for the deaf.

Reluctantly the recce platoon was told to bivouac for the night. It was dark by the time we manoeuvred into a cliffside harbour some 50 meters up the side of the ravine, too far away to stop anybody, even by rolling boulders down on him. But Charlie wasn't winning the war by being dumb-- he never went near the ravine. He climbed straight up the rock face of the mountainside opposite and camped on a secure ledge for the night, well out of sight of the valley.

We figured this out about 0100 when the skipper's signalman, Private "Moose" Benham, 20, from Melbourne, pointed at something halfway up the opposite side of the cut. "Hey, there's a cooking fire over there!" he whispered hoarsely.

Sure enough, only 200 meters away on the other side of the gorge was an enemy camp fire. Charlie was boiling up a cauldron of rice in plain view of our perch, while we were huddled in a shivering wind drinking the dregs of cold tea.
There was no percentage in engaging him in small arms fire-- we were too exposed. Arty was the only answer.
It took the Skipper an hour to pry a section of 81mm mortars loose from Battalion HQ--all the other guns were occupied with fire missions to the east.

Due primarily to the on-shore wind the first rounds landed everywhere but on Charlie's ledge. Nevertheless, at the first explosion, his fire was quickly doused. Then, while Lieutenant Deak worked the busy frequency to adjust the aiming point the VC grew confident and the fire leapt back into full flame; apparently they had merely shielded it with a poncho. When the next bombs came in, again off target, the fire disappeared once more.

This continued for 45 minutes, during which time we grew almost as uncomfortable as Charlie. More than one mortar round drifted across the ravine to explode on our side.
Despite the good-natured pissing and moaning, Lieutenant Deak persisted, but a direct hit proved impossible and Charlie kept cooking, determined to eat a hot meal.

We developed a certain respect for his perseverance, and at the same time, an even healthier respect for the vagaries of lobbing mortar bombs through a stiff breeze. Finally Corporal Mulby made a welcome suggestion: "Oh, let the little fuckers eat in peace." When the cooking fire disappeared from view the next time, Deak was technically truthful when he radioed, "Fire extinguished, end of mission."

So we went to sleep, or tried to. All night long a U.S. battery of self-propelled 8-inch guns directed H&I fire beyond the ridge. The rounds skimmed our position like errant freight trains. Deak radioed down to make sure they knew where we were. The answer came back: "We know, old buddy; go back to sleep."

Our patrol terminated the next day following a fruitless Bird Dog search for Charlie's whereabouts (conducted by RAA Captain John Wright in the standard Aussie observation aircraft, an unmodified Cessna 180 with both doors removed).

The score for the operation: one Charlie KIA versus six Aussie dead and twelve wounded. As good as they were, the SEATO troopers were taking it in the ear at about the same discouraging rate as the Yanks, ROKs and ARVN. And the war had eight years to go.


Awarded the Military Cross - Vietnam 1966

Citation accompanying the award of the Military Cross to
2/Lt. Deak. (Baron von Berg)

On 17 October 1966 during Operation Queanbeyan in Phuoc Tuy Province South Vietnam, Battalion Headquarters of 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment was held up by Viet Cong in a natural ambush position on a steep mountain track. 'The Anti-Tank Platoon commanded by Second Lieutenant Deak was directed to clear the area. The enemy were located in natural fire positions on both sides of a deep re-entrant with a gradient of one in two. One section of the platoon, covered by the remainder, swept up the re-entrant but the Section Commander was mortally wounded and the remainder pinned down by fire.
Second Lieutenant Deak redeployed the remainder of his platoon and under fire directed additional covering fire onto the objective from another Company 800 metres away. He then successfully directed the fire of armed helicopters onto the enemy positions and then led his platoon back into the re-entrant and cleared the enemy position without Joss.
At all times during the three and one quarter hours engagement, Second Lieutenant Deak showed complete disregard for his own safety even when it became apparent that the enemy were concentrating their fire on leaders. The calm and competent manner of Second lieutenant Deak was a major factor in steadying his platoon under fire in a difficult situation. The success in clearing the Viet Cong ambush position was due in the main to the fine example of leadership and courage set by Second Lieutenant Deak.

Showing 2 of 2 stories

Biography contributed by VWM Australia

Introduction: Audio Interview with Michael von Berg MC OAM

Author: Megan Spencer

The interview with Michael von Berg MC OAM, was conducted by Megan Spencer on behalf of the Virtual War Memorial Australia on the 25th of August 2020, in Sellicks Beach, South Australia.

The topics covered in this interview are the experiences of Michael von Berg as an Australian Army officer during the Vietnam War, between 1966-1967, with a focus on the ‘impact of service’ before, during and after deployment.

Michael was born on the 7th of November in 1943 in Germany, migrating with his family to Australia in 1950. He enlisted in the Australian Army on the 25th of January 1962, SN 216701, serving with 5 RAR in Vietnam.

Michael “enlisted in the Army in 1962 and after two-and-a-half years in 1 RAR was accepted for the Officer Cadet School, Portsea, graduating as a Second Lieutenant in December 1965:”

“He was immediately posted to the newly raised 5 RAR (The Tiger Battalion) and served with that unit 66/67 during which time he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. Upon returning to Australia he continued his career with postings to the Special Air Service Regiment, (SASR) and 2 Commando Company (ARES) Victoria as ARA Cadre and Adjutant.”

“Michael is retired but still active in veteran’s matters. He is a former member of the Veterans Advisory Council of SA, Ex-Service Organisation Round Table of the DVA and a former member of The Prime Ministers Advisory Council on Military Mental Health [6 years]. He is also national Chairman of The Royal Australian Regiment Association.”(Source: Robert Kearney, 2014, VWMA researcher and co-author of ‘Crossfire: An Australian Reconnaissance Unit In Vietnam’.)

This interview is in 4 parts (total duration 1 hour and 35 minutes), and accompanying transcripts are provided.



Many thanks to Michael von Berg for his generous time and for sharing such valuable insights into the impact of war.


Discusses: military life and training, impact of service, war, the Vietnam War, jungle warfare, PTSD, injury, mental toughness, teamwork, 5 RAR, losing comrades-in-arms, life after deployment, military families, civilian life, empathy, resilience, recovery, work, friends, military service, rules of engagement, returning home, moratorium protests, reception at home after service, ADF, Army, suicide prevention, getting help, work, young people, SAS, Selection Course, Reconnaissance Platoon.

Mentions: Kapooka, WWI, WWII, Korea, Malaya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sydney, 5RAR, SAS, 2nd Commando, Reconnaissance Platoon, Viet Cong, North Vietnamese Army, civilians, Navy, Airforce, Welcome Home march.

Need help?

If this interview raises any issues for you, contact:

Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling on 1800 011 046

ADF Mental Health All-hours Support Line on 1800 628 036



Audio Interviews such as this rely on the memories, perceptions and opinions of individuals; they are personal, experiential and subjective, and may contain the views and language from another time. While all reasonable attempts are made to avoid inaccuracy, interviews should not necessarily be understood as statements of fact or opinions endorsed by the VWMA.



Biography contributed by VWM Australia

Michael Gunther Joseph Deak MC.
(Now Michael Gunther Joseph Baron von Berg MC, OAM)

Michael was born in Germany in 1943, during WW 2.  After the war, in 1950, his family emigrated to Australia.

He enlisted in the Army in 1962 and after two and a half  years in 1RAR was accepted for the Officer Cadet School, Portsea, graduating as a Second Lieutenant in December  1965.

He was immediately posted to the newly raised 5RAR (The Tiger Battalion) and served with that unit 66/67 during which time he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. Upon returning to Australia he continued his career with postings to the Special Air Service Regiment, (SASR) and 2 Commando Company (ARES) Victoria as ARA Cadre and Adjutant.  

Michael was posted as Staff Captain for Ministerial Investigations for the then Minister of the Army before being assigned and posted back to the Tiger Battalion 5RAR as adjutant and acting company commander.

He resigned his commission for personal and family reasons in 1973 but immediately became an active Army Reserve Officer in 1 Commando Company (ARES) New South Wales.

Vietnam Service

In 1966 during his service with the 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam Michael was honoured and privileged to have been tasked to establish the first Reconnaissance Platoon in an Australian Infantry Battalion.

Professor, Dr. Robert O’Neill AO, was the Battalions Intelligence Officer and Captain at the time.  He writes in his book Vietnam Task “Space precludes description of the large number of individual reconnaissances and ambushes which the platoon undertook. Suffice it to say that the platoon was kept extremely busy, being lucky to have one night a month in base at Nui Dat. The platoon was very successful in its operations, killing many Viet Cong in swift encounters in the jungle producing a great deal of intelligence information to assist my work.”

The platoon was trained by members of  3 Squadron SASR in country over a two week period and all other tactics, operational procedures, patrol methods and communication skills were developed “on the job” in the initial period of operational activity, to where the platoon became totally self-sufficient and capable in engaging in long periods on patrol and interdiction activities.

The platoons’ activities have been acknowledged in the book “Crossfire” by Peter Haran and Robert Kearney and Channel 9 developed the documentary “The Eyes of the Tiger”.

The establishment of the 5RAR Reconnaissance Platoon was ground breaking at the time and in some quarters questioned as to its role vis-à-vis SAS and its role, which was easily countered through the SAS being engaged in “long range recon patrols” up to 30,000 metres inside enemy territory and the Battalions reconnaissance patrols, filling the gap up to 10,000 to 12,000 metres and never out of direct artillery support range.

In February 1967 a somewhat unusual event occurred where Michael was summoned by the Commanding Officer and staff to a naturalization ceremony, which was to be his own.

Interestingly,  Michael had been able to enlist in the Australian Army, accept a Queens Commission and now be operating in Vietnam as a German citizen, which created some “angst” in Canberra as Germany was a neutral country in the Vietnam War. Four months previously he had been recommended for a Military Cross which created more anxiety.

Michael had been born in Germany in 1943, and his family emigrated to Australia in 1950.  As was the practrice at the time, he was included as a minor on his mother’s passport. She had been naturalised earlier and Michael had assumed he had been as well but that was not the case. Michael was once again asked to swear his allegiance to the Queen which he had done twice before on enlistment and commissioning. Michael’s naturalisation certificate signed by Lt Col John Warr DSO, the Commanding Officer in Nui Dat is a unique piece of family and Australian history.

Very pleasingly the work done by the original Reconnaissance Platoon has now been adopted as doctrine by the Army, where every Light Infantry Battalion has on its order of battle a Reconnaissance and Sniper Platoon.

Michael engaged in many specialist training opportunities; he became a qualified parachutist, assault swimmer and diver, small scale amphibious raids leader, small craft boat handler, climber, linguist, demolitions, aerial surveillance and intelligence assessment and escape and evasion. His physical fitness at the time was no more evident in Michael representing the Army and Combined Services in Rugby, Swimming, Water Polo and Athletics. He also boxed for the Army whilst at Kapooka. He was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 for his contribution to national rugby as a player, coach and administrator. He was a Director of the Australian Rugby Union and the only South Australian to have held this post. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queens Birthday Honours list for his services to rugby in particular in South Australia in 2015.

After his Army career,  Michael held senior board positions with public and private companies and for the last 20 years has managed his own consultancy operating in the areas of strategic planning and risk management. 

Michael is retired but still active in veteran’s matters. He is a former member of the Veterans Advisory Council of SA, Ex-Service Organisation Round Table of the DVA and a former member of The Prime Ministers Advisory Council on Military Mental Health [6 years]. He is also national Chairman of The Royal Australian Regiment Association.

Robert Kearney 2014 - 2021




Part 1_Interview with Michael von Berg

Duration 10hr 48min 21sec. Recorded by Megan Spencer on 25 Aug 2020

Part 2 Interview with Michael von Berg

Duration 11hr 00min 48sec. Recorded by Megan Spencer on 25 Aug 2020

Part 3 Interview with Michael von Berg

Duration 10hr 55min 39sec. Recorded by Megan Spencer on 25 Aug 2020

Part 4 Interview with Michael von Berg

Duration 10hr 51min 00sec. Recorded by Megan Spencer on 25 Aug 2020