- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

As April 25th approaches, let us remember the tremendous contribution of the Australian military to the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom: In the air, its FA-18 Squadron; at sea, the ANZAC and the DARWIN, along with Navy divers; on land, its elite SAS, an Army Commando Task Group and other units.
A component of coalition special-operations forces, the SAS, for instance, captured 60 senior Iraqi officials trying to leave the country with $600,000 in U.S. currency and, more recently, discovered a huge armaments cache that included 51 MIG jets, or half the Iraqi air force. They participated in western Iraq operations that neutralized potential use of SCUD missiles. With their air force and navy counterparts, they will observe Anzac Day thousands of miles from home, but only 900 miles southeast of the site where that day was born.
First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill believed that a daring amphibious assault on what he termed "the soft underbelly of Europe" would force the Germans to pull combat forces from the Western Front to meet the new threat. Guarding the entrance to the Dardenelles, through which the naval force would sail so it could threaten Constantinople, was a place called Gallipoli. The newly formed Australian-New Zealand Army Corps, commanded by Gen. Sir William Birdwood, landed there the morning of April 25, 1915, at what has been known ever since as Anzac Cove. Col. Sinclair-MacLagan's 3rd Brigade were first to hit the shingled beach in the largest amphibious operation ever attempted. They were a mile north of their landing objective at a sector planners and commanders described as impossible for such an assault. Withering enemy fire continued. The dead and injured toll rose. Facing the troops was a 300 foot cliff, but being Anzacs, they fixed bayonets and charged ahead. Dawn found them in complete control of the hill. But that was just the beginning of their eight-month saga of courage, valor and perseverance as they fought the Turks under Lt. Gen. Mustafa Kemal, destined to become president of Turkey. When the Anzacs were withdrawn, they left behind 10,100 comrades in shallow graves, killing grounds named "Wire Gully," "400 Plateau" and "Lone Pine" seared forever in their memories. And that was just the beginning.
A reconstituted I Anzac Corps, followed shortly by II Anzac Corps, deployed to the Western Front in the spring-summer of 1916, just in time for the battle of the Somme. The year after it was bloody Passchendaele.
In October 1917, the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade earned its piece of immortality, charging heavily defended Turkish positions at Beersheba, capturing them in dismounted combat. Afterward, a German military adviser to the Turks said of the Aussies: "They are not soldiers at all, they are madmen."
Australians and New Zealanders continued to prove themselves faithful allies and superb soldiers during World War II, in North Africa, the Mediterranean theater, the islands and jungles of the southwest Pacific; from desert victories and coastwatching and commando operations, to the grim months along New Guinea's muddy, deadly Kokoda Trail.
Through the 1950s, Australian units served in the Korean war and Malayan insurgency, which prepared them for combat in a place called Vietnam, not to mention Indonesia. The Australian and New Zealand Special Air Service (SAS) Squadrons first saw action during the 1963-1965 Borneo campaign under the British 22nd SAS Regiment. (Maj. Peter de la Billiere commanded A Squadron. During Desert Storm, Gen. De la Billiere commanded all British forces.) They soon gained a reputation for jungle patrolling and ambush expertise, which they carried over to Vietnam. Asked about SAS missions there, an Aussie officer responded, "We will do the lurking."
Off the coast of Vietnam were ships of the Australian Navy. In the air above the Delta, coastal plains and Highlands flew helicopters, combat and cargo planes of the Royal Australian Air Force. In the southern half of the country, infantrymen of Royal Australian Regiments proved themselves worthy of their gallant Digger forbears in battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, and at Long Tan, where D Company, 6th RAR earned a Presidential Unit Citation.
In the central Highlands and elsewhere, the Australian Army Training Team, equivalent to U.S. Special Forces, exemplified their unit motto "Persevere." Though small in numbers, AATV personnel would earn more than 80 decorations, including four of the highest, the Victoria Cross.
This Friday, Australian and New Zealand veterans, families, friends and others will attend memorial services on Anzac Day, then march to nearby war memorials to lay wreaths and remember fallen comrades. Among them will be my friends Bob Gibson, Holt McMinn and Lex McAulay. Laurence Binyon's poem, "For The Fallen," will be read. Its last lines: "They shall not grow old/ As we that are left grow old/ Age shall not weary them/ Nor the years condemn/ At the going down of the sun/ And in the morning/ We will remember them." And the men in Iraq, 88 years and 900 miles away, will remember, too.

John B. Dwyer is a military historian and author.

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