John William WHEELER

WHEELER, John William

Service Numbers: 235407, 235407
Enlisted: 9 December 1969, Canberra, Australia Capital Territory
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR)
Born: Cremorne, New South Wales, Australia, 25 April 1948
Home Town: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Schooling: Lyneham High School
Occupation: Soldier
Died: Killed in Action, Phuoc Tuy, South Vietnam, 2 March 1971, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Norwood Park Crematorium, Mitchell, A.C.T.
Ex Service Wall Row 3 No. 2,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Grafton Clarence Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Kallangur Vietnam Veterans' Place, Pooraka War Memorial, Port Pirie Vietnam Veterans Honour Wall, Seymour Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk Roll of Honour
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Vietnam War Service

9 Dec 1969: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Canberra, Australia Capital Territory
12 Feb 1971: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lieutenant, 235407, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR)
12 Feb 1971: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Lieutenant, 235407

A Story of the street named after him

When John Callaghan and his partner Louanne de Laeter visited a memorial at Henderson Reserve, Montague Farm, which Honour's Vietnam veterans, they were deeply touched. Returning to their home in the same suburb, they decided to research the meaning behind their street name, Wheeler Avenue. Streets in the Montague Housing estate were named in dedication of South Australians who were killed in Vietnam. The suburb had been developed with the help of a Vietnam Veteran. Through their research John and Louanne discovered that their street was named as a tribute to 22-year-old Lt John Wheeler who died in combat in an explosion that occurred during an enemy attack on 2nd March 1971.When the explosion took place on the evening of the 2nd March Lt John Wheeler died along with his friend and comrade Private Paul Manning. John and Louanne's research found that not only had both men died together that night; they are also united in the street names of the suburb. Wheeler Avenue adjoins Manning Crescent in the suburb.
John and Louanne have put together a touching memorial to Lt John Wheeler inside their home. On the front door of their home a photograph of John Wheeler has been installed along with the Vietnam veteran ribbon.
"We just want to say, hey, we know what you did, and we honour you and respect you," John says.


Notes from ACT Memorial

John Wheeler was the grandson of an original Anzac, represented the ACT in schoolboy rugby and graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1969. After training at RMC Duntroon he spent a year at the army base at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills. He served in Vietnam from 12 February 1971 with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment but was killed by a grenade during a nine hour night contact in Phuoc Tuy Province in March 1971. He is commemorated at Norwood Park in Canberra and by Wheeler Avenue in the Adelaide suburb of Pooraka.


Everyone Had a Long Night

by Lt Robert Lewis, 9 Platoon, C Coy, 3 RAR 1971

The 4 Infantry Companies (A, B, C & D) had been deployed from Nui Dat on the 27th February, just two days after arriving in Vietnam. The “in theatre" operational training had commenced allowing all soldiers to familiarise with the duties expected of them in a theatre of war. Up to this point the climate and the work load had, I am sure, exhausted everyone. It was now the evening of the 2nd March.

Contact with the enemy, presumed to be VC, had been reported by various elements of 3RAR during the day. Later in the afternoon, the Charlie (C) Company, 3 RAR Platoon Commanders were ordered by Company Commander (OC) to Harbour in a Company position a short distance away from Delta (D) Company in dry, scrubby country dotted with patches of bamboo and tall trees.

From memory, the Harbour went in quickly and without too much fuss considering it was a sizeable manoeuvre practiced only once or twice before in Australia. The 3 Platoons (7, 8 & 9) linked on the circular defensive perimeter, back to each Platoon headquarters located in depth, and then to Company HQ in the centre of the large circle. We had on this night 3 Centurion tanks join the Harbour and one of these tanks was located out on the 9 Platoon perimeter. There was no moon and the night was pitch black.

The multi company night Harbour of approximately 250 men had “gone in” efficiently and quietly extending over a large (now defended) area.

After the evening routine of placing gun picquets and other infantry duties had finished, a heavy contact was initiated with Delta Company nearby. Charlie Company immediately stood to as is the practice. The essential task was to keep alert for the enemy who were moving onto our position and to keep rules of engagement foremost in our minds. Firing at night could cause havoc among friendlies as well as the enemy. I remember thinking at the height of the battle several hundred meters away how terrifying all this really was - with gun ships, artillery, mortars, flares and tanks all firing - but, how calmly and efficiently everyone was going about his business preparing to defend the Company perimeter. The artillery flares with their ghostly shadows among the undergrowth added to the spectacle.

Word soon came through over the radio network that "Snow" Strickland had been severely wounded and several others badly hurt as well. About the same time, we heard the news that Pte Paul Manning and Lt Johnny Wheeler had both been killed.

The RAAF dustoff was unable to come in for the priority wounded because the Landing Zone was not secure. An American medivac helicopter en route from Vung Tau to Long Dien saw and heard the Delta Company contact activity and offered to assist. The pilot directed in, under fire, over the Delta Company position and, apart from calmly keeping in touch with the boys on the ground who were hooking up "Snow" and the others in the dark, he only once asked without a tremor, "Hey you guys, can ya hurry up!!". The helicopter was receiving ground fire with the helicopter's blades swinging just millimetres over the tops of the trees, but he and his crew refused to leave the hover which I thought was so typical of Americans, particularly their medivac pilots. The Americans awarded "The Team" a citation. Whatever unit flew those bloody medivacs should have received a similar commendation.

Things quietened down eventually. We maintained a heightened alert and were all left quietly considering our thoughts. Everyone had a long night.

JW (Lt John Wheeler) had many very good friends... He was a career soldier and trained at Duntroon Military College, a highly respected leader because of his competence and personality... His death really bowled me over, and none of us were able to say goodbye to him until 20 years later. Such was the nature of the war.

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