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Vietnam tragedy echoes through the ages

AAP logoAAP 25/07/2016 Max Blenkin, AAP Defence Correspondent

Forty-seven years ago man first walked on the moon and that same day in Vietnam an Australian soldier set off a landmine, with devastating consequences.

The blast killed one soldier, Lieutenant Peter Hines, and left 19 others wounded "in a maze of blood and torn flesh" as one of those present later described.

The event was the inspiration for the signature anthem of Australia's Vietnam war experience I was Only 19, which was released by the band Redgum in 1983.

And years later, it led Lieutenant Hines' nephew Phillip McMinn, 21, to join the army. He's now in Iraq serving as a guardian angel with Task Group Taji.

"Mum's brother was a lieutenant in 6RAR and I've always been interested in joining the army because of him," he said.

In I Was Only 19 Redgum singer songwriter John Schumann wrote: `And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon. God help me - he was goin' home in June'.

Frankie was Private Frank Hunt, one of those injured in the blast. However, the official history of the Vietnam War Fighting to the Finish says it was actually Lieutenant Hines, the platoon commander, who set off the mine.

At this stage of the war, landmines were taking a growing toll of Australian soldiers and the incident on July 21, 1969 was the worst.

As the wounded were treated, a second mine exploded, killing another soldier. A total of 23 were wounded, many with horrific injuries.

As a guardian angel, Private McMinn, from Wangi Wangi, on the NSW Central Coast, is one of a group of soldiers from 7RAR who stand watch over Australian and New Zealander instructors and their Iraqi army trainees.

That's to guard against any attack by insiders or by Islamic State terrorists.

He turned 21 in Iraq last month, admitting an alcohol-free military base wasn't the best place for a celebration.

He and some mates celebrated with a few "near beers" - a beverage which tastes something like beer but with no alcohol at all.

"I'll have to wait until I get back to the Wangi Hotel to have a real beer," he said.

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