THE first Australian soldier to die in combat in Vietnam will be reinterred at the Cleveland Cemetery on Monday.
Residents are invited to the ceremony on Monday, June 6 for Warrant Officer Class II Kevin George Conway.
Redland City Mayor Karen Williams said Warrant Officer Conway was a decorated soldier, military adviser and the only Australian serviceman attached to a US Special Forces team that was attacked by the Viet Cong during the Battle of Nam Dong in July 1964.
“Born in 1928, Conway grew up in Wellington Point and enlisted with the Second Australian Imperial Force in 1947, where he served with the first Australian War Crimes section in Hong Kong,’’ she said.
“Discharging from the Army on 18 February 1949, Kevin Conway worked in farming and on the railways before reenlisting on 19 November 1952. He saw active service in the Korean War and Malaya with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, before deploying to Vietnam in November 1963 with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV),” she said.
“A highly-skilled specialty officer, Conway was the only Australian serviceman attached to a United States Special Forces team A-726 stationed at Camp McBride, Nam Dong, which was attacked by a force of more than 700 Viet Cong in the early hours of 6 July 1964.
“Along with US Master Sergeant Gabriel Alamo, Conway fought off the attackers from a mortar position just outside the main gate of the camp, however, both were found dead at their posts following heavy attack from small arms rifle fire and hand grenades.
“Described by the camp’s commanding officer as ‘the most experienced guerilla fighter at Nam Dong’, Conway was a highly decorated veteran including a recipient of National Order of Vietnam (South Vietnam’s highest Award) and the rare Campaign Service Medal with Clasp (South Vietnam).
“A recommendation that WO Conway receive the Victoria Cross for his actions in the Battle of Nam Dong was ultimately denied because Australia was not officially at war at the time.”
Cr Williams said Conway’s family had welcomed the public ceremony and the council was more than happy to help organise the event, in consultation with the family and the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs.
Warrant Officer Conway’s niece Kathy Woodford said a number of people had played a key role in the repatriation of the Australian veterans.
The “Bring them Home" campaign by the AATTV Northern Territory was instrumental in last year’s offer by the Australian Government to repatriate the remains of 35 service personal from Terendak, in Malaysia and Kranji in Singapore, as were the veterans associations and strong representations behind the scenes by people like Major General David Ferguson.
“The family is extremely grateful to the Hon Tony Abbott, the then Minister Michael Ronaldson and Bob Shewring from the "Bring them Home Campaign" for making this happen as well as Redland City Council for all their dedication and help through all the planning of Kevin's ‘final’ burial.”
Deputy Mayor and Wellington Point Councillor Wendy Boglary said bringing Kevin back to the Redlands after 52 years was important for his family and the city, “which is proud of all of our service people”.
“Initially laid to rest in South Vietnam, Conway’s body was exhumed and interred at the Ulu Pandan Cemetery in Singapore, then moved to the Kranji War Cemetery in 1975 and will now be brought home to his final resting place in the Redlands,” she said.
“Conway spent his youth around Wellington Point, an area rich in military history with the United States Navy operating a gunnery school there from 1943 to 1944.
“Our city is home to many current and returned servicemen and women and there is growing membership of the local Australian Defence Force cadet units.”
Cr Peter Mitchell said veterans and members of uniformed services should wear their medals to the service.
“The Redlands has played a significant role in military history, hosting the US Army’s radio signal base at Birkdale during World War II, which was the first place in Australia to learn that war was over,” he said.
“The Cleveland Cemetery, where Warrant Officer Conway will be reinterred, also hosts a memorial to the four brave airmen who tragically died while practicing air fighting tactics over Moreton Bay in 1942.”
The ceremony will take place at the south-west corner of the cemetery on the corner of Clarke and Coburg Streets, Cleveland. Parking will be available on Clarke Street.