AATTV Payne, Keith

John Robertson

Staff member
  • UNIT
Royal Australian Infantry
  • RANK
Warrant Officer Second Class
Victoria Cross,Distinguished Service Cross(US)
South Vietnam 1969
born 30.8.1933 Ingham,Queensland
son of Henry Thomas Payne,Ingham,Queensland
husband of Florence Payne,North MacKay (5 sons)
served Korea with 1 Bn Royal Australian Regiment
joined AATTV from HQ Northern Command
attached 212 Company,1 Bn Mike Force,S.O.G.,US Special Forces
A legendary soldier in his homeland of Australia, Keith Payne is the last Australian recipient of the original Victoria Cross, and one of only two living Australian recipients of the original Victoria Cross. With the exception of three Vietnamese Soldiers, he was the only member of an Allied Foreign military force that was awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Cross in Vietnam, or since. A veteran of the wars in both Korea and Vietnam, he retired from the army in 1975, but saw further action as a captain with the Army of the Sultan of Oman in the Dhofar War. [ MILITARY TIMES ]


Distinguished Service Cross (USA) : The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Chief Warrant Officer (WO-2) Keith Payne, Australian Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with the Australian Army Training Team. While personally leading the 212th Company, 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion, in Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 May 1969, his company was attacked by an overwhelming force of the North Vietnamese Army. The attack isolated the two lead companies. They then came under heavy rocket and mortar fire and an infantry ground assault from three directions. This intensive attack caused the strike force to begin withdrawing. Warrant Officer Payne, exposing himself to enemy fire, rallied the troops by firing his personal weapon and running from position to position, collecting and hurling grenades at the attacking enemy. He was wounded in his hands and arms. Despite his outstanding efforts, the indigenous soldiers retreated and the battalion commander and staff retreated with them. Warrant Officer Payne covered this retreat by firing his weapons and throwing grenades. Under heavy fire he ran across exposed terrain to stop the disorderly withdrawal - and as night fell - organized his company into defensive perimeter. He then proceeded into enemy held territory collecting some forty wounded and lost soldiers. Upon returning to the defensive perimeter, he found that his battalion had left. Undeterred he continued collecting staggers and led them and four American soldiers to a final rendezvous where he supervised the evacuation of all wounded personnel. He refused to be evacuated until all other wounded had departed the area. Through his sustained and courageous soldiery performance, he saved the lives of his American comrades in arms and many Vietnamese soldiers, bringing great credit to the Australian and United States Armies.


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