Archive number: 1493
Preferred name: Sam
Date interviewed: 06 February, 2004
Force Communications Unit
Military Information Support Company
You are listening to the interview audio
Okay Sam we’ll make a start now, can you give us an introduction to your life story?
Sure I was born in Ingham North Queensland and we moved down to Brisbane when I was about two years old, grew up in Paddington Brisbane. I went to the Marist Brothers. And then I went to University of Queensland to study social work and decided that wasn’t for me.
So I started on journalism and then I joined the army when I was eighteen and a half. Folks come from Sicily and all of my brothers and sisters were born over there. We all moved to Brisbane together. Straight into the army?
Went into the army when I was eighteen and a half. And I went down to
Kapooka in New South Wales and I was there for twelve weeks. That was a little bit difficult for me because being a smart mouth university fellow I sort of opened my mouth a couple of times too often and was straight into the toilets cleaning them with toothbrushes and what not. Didn't like it the first couple of weeks, it was a culture shock and I was homesick and all of that. But then I started to settle down. We had a mid-course break and when we went
back it was good. I was originally posted to armoured corps, and I got my posting order which was C squadron 1st Armoured Regiment because that was at Puckapunyal where the tanks were. And in those days if you got posted to Puckapunyal it was a death sentence, you weren’t going anywhere else because that’s the only place we had tanks. But they changed that to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment which was in Sydney those days, so that was good.
Went from there to Brisbane to the 4th Cavalry Regiment. Went to America with them for eight weeks on exchange to Texas, and how old was I? I would have been twenty-two, twenty-two and a half, and I am thinking ‘I like this, I like this life.’ And I decided then to stay in for twenty years. But I looked at armoured corps and I thought even thought I love the army, this isn’t for me.
Because it was dealing with armoured vehicles, I became a troop sergeant, sergeant major but it is still dealing with a very defined area of the army. So I got out a book called Manual of Personnel Employments Within the Army, and it lists every trade that it is the army. And I went through page by page until I came to the Intelligence Corps. ECN 263 BAR 2 that’s the employment
classification number. And I looked at it, and it had use your own initiative, work unsupervised, think for yourself and I liked that because it reminded me of when I was a civilian I guess. So I applied to join the Intelligence Corps and the screening process for me took over six months, because it involves a top-secret clearance and they had to go back to Italy and Sicily
and try and get background on my family. So it took a long time to get my clearance. It came through and I did my corps training at Canungra just off the Gold Coast there. And from there the world was my oyster I guess. I went to Townsville first, then Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns and a couple of tours overseas.
Just briefly what were the tours overseas?
Apart from the attachment to the Americans which was just an exchange, I did two tours of the Western Sahara with the United Nations. And I did two tours in East Timor one with INTERFET [International Force East Timor] and one with the UN Mission.
Can you just introduce us briefly to the distance between those two tours in the Western Sahara and East Timor?
Yep. 1991 my OC, my officer commanding came up to me and said, “Sam how would you like to go to the Western Sahara?” and I didn’t even know where the Western Sahara was, and the First Gulf War was arcing up and we were sending people there, and it didn't click west, east, so I thought he was asking me to go to the [Persian] Gulf, so I said, “Can I think about it overnight Sir?” “Yeah of course you can.” So I came home and grabbed the atlas, “Oh it is over near Morocco, it is nowhere near Iraq.”
The UN mission to the Western Sahara was a UN mission to monitor a referendum. The Spanish had left Sahara in 1976 and the Mauritanians moved up from the south and the Moroccans moved down from the north to grab that area that had been a Spanish Colony. The Mauritanians had to withdraw because they were too poor to maintain a military presence there. So the Moroccans took over the whole area.
What the UN was there to do was to monitor a referendum between the ethnic Western Saharans I guess, Berbers and Bedouins, that sort of thing, to see whether they wanted to have an autonomous country, stay with Morocco or a mixture of both. That was supposed to be a six-month mission in 1991,
purely a monitoring mission. What are we now? 2004 and it is still going. Yeah that was interesting. East Timor was, INTERFET I guess as a result of the elections they had where the East Timorese decided they wanted to be autonomous, and Australia decided to support that move I guess. Particularly because of the militia and the, I can’t say the Indonesian armed forces were involved but they were.
We went there to help in that transition process and once INTERFET finished the UN took over and it became an international, well it was an international mission with INTERFET led by Australia. And it was to nation build basically. And it was excellent because with INTERFET, General Cosgrove went in with very clear rules of engagement and I think it is because
of those rules of engagement that the nation building process has been successful in East Timor as opposed to a lot of United Nation missions where it is very political and there is a lot of other interests involved. I guess for instance in Rwanda we had an Australian company standing by watching a slaughter going on, and they couldn’t do anything because they weren’t directly involved, they weren’t to be fired upon or whatever. So their rules of engagement
were leave it alone unless it affects you, same as Somalia. But in East Timor it was different; it was not only us and our equipment, but any of the locals or UN staff that were there. That’s the main difference I guess between a UN mission and something like INTERFET. The UN has to take in to account everybody’s feelings and sensitivities. Whereas we were there to do a job, and the Australians are very good at doing
a job. Up until East Timor I guess the UN has always been a little bit cautious about employing Australian combat troops, because we are very good at what we do, and we don’t stick in our compounds, we get out and actively patrol and we dominate the ground, it is a military term. Go out dominate the ground, do the job, Australia is a very ‘can do’ organization. Whereas most other countries
will participate in UN missions but not really want to do the dirty work. Came back from that and retired from the army in 2001, enlisted in 1974 and finally retired in 2001, I was getting a little long in the tooth I guess. And since then
I have got married to Jacqui and I have been married for two years. I have travelled to Europe, done the Kokoda Track. Lots of work around the house, I do a lot of volunteer work with an organization called the Abused Child Trust, with the RSL [Returned & Services League], Jacqui is a naval welfare officer on a volunteer basis. So she drags me out to the hospitals to visit all of the navy pusses, which is funny because
I am an army bloke; I carry all of the navy newspapers. It has been very active since I left the army.
Fantastic. Now can I take you right back to your early days as a Paddo [Paddington] boy can you give us a picture of life with your family and growing up and what you would do as kids? Fun say to start with?
Fun? Dodging the trams, because we still had trams when I was a youngster, used to come rattling around the corner there. We lived just near the fire station that was on a bend in the road. There weren’t many girls in my street unfortunately. So the normal thing, we used to go down to the park and kick a ball around or play table tennis, this is down near the swimming pool.
Park, swimming, a little bit of bush walking. In those days we would walk up to Mount Cootha from Paddo and do a bit of bush walking I guess. Normal Italian household, very chaotic. Lots of yelling and screaming, plates being thrown and family gatherings and all of the rest of it. we had Polish people in the street, we had Italians, obviously Australians,
but we weren’t in any kind of enclave, it was very much an integrated sort of street, La Trobe Terrace in those days. Nothing like it is now; it was all residential in those days.
And did your parents speak English; were you speaking English at home?
No we weren’t speaking English at home, but probably more my Mum than my Dad had made a very conscious decision that we weren’t going to live in an
Italian enclave. Dad worked for the Brisbane city council and Mum worked as a domestic and in restaurants and what not. So they spoke English, albeit with a strong accent. And at home it was Sicilian, which I really appreciate now because even though my Sicilian is not great I can get by very well. We went to Italy last year and we went all through Italy, and we went to Calabria
which is in the south, and the Calabrians and the Sicilians don’t really get one well. And as soon as I opened my mouth in Calabria they said, “You’re Sicilian aren’t you?” it was like bring out the knives. So yeah we spoke Sicilian at home and English outside. And if we had Australian friends come over it was English.
Brothers and sisters?
Yeah, two brothers, two sisters.
I am the youngest of the five of us I guess. I have lost my elder brother, and the two sisters and the other brother are still in Brissy [Brisbane]. Lots of cousins and things but they’re all at Stanthorpe and up north so we don’t see them much.
So did you kick around when you were young with your brothers and sisters or did you have other friends outside in the street?
With my family, it is just the way it worked out I guess, they all bolted as soon as they could.
I don’t know whether that was because the strictness in the family. My Dad was super strict with the girls, particular up north. Neda, she is the eldest, she got married when she was sixteen up in Ingham, she bolted as soon as she could. And my sister Tina joined the WAAAF, the Women’s [Auxiliary] Australian Air Force in those days; she joined when she was seventeen.
My elder brother was working in the cane fields and the tobacco fields up north, and my brother Angelo joined the army in 1968, so they had all gone to the four winds. My Dad unfortunately died in 1968 and so it was Mum and I until I joined the army. I had friends obviously; school friends and street friends and we hung around together.
And Marist Brothers Rosalie was a very tight knit school because we were so small then. So the friends I made then, which was what? Over forty years ago. I have still got them now, which is great. Nothing has changed. Insults come flying, you have got a group of us, as individuals we were always afraid to walk away from the group because there would be pss, pss, talking about each other, and you would come back and somebody else would walk away and you would talk about him. A
group of guys are worse than a group of girls. That’s true.
You mentioned that your dad was really strict in the house as you were growing up, can you give us a bit of an example on how?
He was more strict with the girls than he ever was with the boys. Frank my elder brother he left early. So I guess there was Tina, Angelo and I were home for quite a while.
He was very strict with Tina. I was his favourite because I was the youngest I guess. I remember one day he was lying, my Dad had a big gut, bigger than mine, he had a huge gut. And he was lying there having a little sleep, and I got up onto the bed board, I would have been three or four I guess, and I jumped off the bed board onto his stomach, bounced off his stomach and straight under the bed. And my brother Angelo, this guy, he just happened to be walking past, and he is six years older than me, so he was tennish.
He just happened to be walking past, and my Dad got up with a roar, and Angelo smiled at him, “Hi Dad.” And he grabbed my brother and he ran out the front door, and we had a little picket fence out the front and he booted him over the fence. He was only a tiny little thing, straight over the fence. Dad was pretty emotional I guess, strong man. And he has never forgiven me,
he tells that story over and over again. My brother tells that story over and over again. He was strict but he was very firm, very fair. I think Mum was the matriarch of the family, Sicilians are very much like the New Guinean people, they’re very much a matriarchal family, the fellow thinks that he is in control and in front of his mates, “Yeah just do what I tell you.” But it is the women in a Sicilian household
that run it. Mum was more the guiding star, she was the one that forced him to put the deposit down on a house and she was the one that saved the money. My Dad had an incredible love of life. He worked hard with the city council and on a Friday afternoon he would come home and I remember he would have his arms full of grocery shopping. And there would be fruit and bread and cheese and he would come home and open Mum’s fridge up, pull out the vegetable crisper, upend it, fill it up with grapes
and crush all of these grapes manually and make this really rough red. And he really liked his food. Used to watch him have huge amounts of spaghetti. So he had a huge love of life and Mum was the level headed one, but he was also the enforcer. Like if anything went wrong Mum would just look at one of the kids and Dad would be after them.
I mean he was more strict with the girls essentially out of the Sicilian tradition?
Very much so, I mean the tradition out of Sicily was that the girls had to be virgins when they got married. Hence a large proportion of girls in Sicily in those days would get married when they were fifteen or sixteen years old. My Mum was fifteen and a half and my Dad was twenty-eight. But that was accepted because the girl would be virginal and the guy would have gone out and sowed his wild oats.
I mean these are horrible things to say now in this day and age, but that’s how they were there. And in fact shotgun weddings were very common in Sicily up until the mid 1970s, late 1970s because if a girl got in trouble that was it. No arguments, don’t care if you’re having the kid, not having the kid, you’re not pure any more. So I guess Dad brought that over with him.
And he was a lot stricter with the girls. I look back on it now and I got away with murder, but as I say because I was the youngest. He came into hospital; this is an indication of how he felt about me. I was in hospital when I was two years old having a cyst removed from my neck, and I had been in there a few days and he would come in every day, this is what I have been told. He would come in every day, and on the third or fourth day he had just had enough so he picked
me up and took me home. There were no tubes or anything. And the police came knocking, “Mr Andaloro have you got your son?” “Yes.” And that was his attitude, ‘He is my son I am taking him home, I miss him.’ so he just came and got me out of the hospital.
Gotta love it.
Oh you do. You would go to gaol now. But then you did what you want.
Can you give me a bit of an insight into this tradition out of Sicily of the fellows
being almost encouraged to go out to sow their wild oats, yet the girls are meant to be virginal, just from a mathematical perspective it seems a bit at odds with itself?
It is it is very hypocritical. And it wasn’t a matter of when we got to Australia, “You can go out and sow your oats with Australian girls because they’re not Sicilian they don’t count.” It wasn’t that at all, it was all women. All women were treated equally.
I have been raised in a very traditional way where I respect women, I don’t necessarily put them on pedestals any more, but I have a great respect for women as such. But at the same time you were encouraged to go and do what you wanted to do. I guess you would find the local loose lady, or whatever you had to do, but leave the nice girls alone. My brother Frank, got bless his soul,
he tried to introduce me to sex when I was fourteen years old by taking me to the pub and saying, “There is Lucy, red headed Lucy” whatever her name was, “She is okay you will learn everything you need to learn off her. And then you will be able to go out and get married.” Whatever. It is at odds with itself, and it is unusual because that’s the way I was raised, but by the same token I have a great respect for women. I open doors and all of that sort of stuff. That was my mother
beating into me. My Dad would say, “Have a good time son.” And my Mum would say, “Treat women with respect.”
And do you think just from watching your parents that your dad also had that love and respect for your mother?
Yeah. I mean they fought like cats and dogs, more Mum than Dad, my Dad was a lot more easygoing, which is bizarre
considering how strict he was and how hard working and what not. But he had a genuine love of life I guess. He had been in the Italian navy during the Second World War. He had been to places like Tobruk and he had seen some horrible things, and I think that might have coloured his outlook when he came out here. It was a lot easier out here, they came out in 1952. Dad came out 1949
and then my Mum and the brothers and sisters came out three years after. So I think having seen all of the hardships in Italy and Sicily and having been involved in the war once he got here he tended to be a lot more easy going as far as life went, but still maintaining the traditional values as far as the family went. And as I say, my Mum was the strong one within the family.
She laid down the law and he just beat it into them, not me, I was okay as I keep getting reminded. All of the time.
And what would it take to antagonise your mum?
If you breathed too loudly I guess, I don’t know. That’s my Mum up there when I came back from Western Sahara, a true
lady. Would never ever gone outside of the house without stockings, her hair was so brittle because she put so much hair spray in it, it would crackle if you touched it. Always a lady, always very classy, but get on the wrong side of her and your name was mud. My brother Frank was thirty-four years old, and he had come back to Brisbane at this stage and he was a steel fixer in the construction industry,
and he was only small, but very wiry very strong and extremely volatile as most Sicilians are. And I remember he came home one day, it must have been a Sunday, this was after my Dad died. And he was sitting down at the table, and Mum always made a steak or spaghetti or whatever. And she had made a plate of spaghetti and put it in front of him. he was a little bit drunk because they had had a few drinks after work. And he was sitting there eating away. And my Mum always said, “Is that all right son?” and on this occasion he said,
“Yeah it’s not bad Ma, it is a little bit drier than you normally make.” And Mum, I saw the hackles go up and she said, “Don’t eat it son I will make you some more.” And he kept eating and kept complaining and she came up behind him and shoved his face in the plate. That was my Mum. She didn’t care how old you were, upset her and she took over. And the number of, this is in my younger days, the number of plates and glasses, knives and forks whatever that
hit the wall when my Mum was in one of her moods, it was incredible. Once everybody had left I was still living there and I was going to Marist Brothers, I had my own room. And I upset her one day and she said, “Get to your room, don’t say anything to me.” And I remember I used to opening the door, mouthing off at her, watching her pick up her best crystal glass and throw it at me, and slamming the door. And I would open it up, six glasses she threw before she realised what she was doing, and I stayed in there for hours and hours.
And when you came out would the glass be cleaned up?
Oh yeah she would clean it up. I saw her throw a plate of spaghetti at one of my brothers once and the whole wall was covered in spaghetti and fifteen minutes later she had cleaned it up. She too was, what's the word when you have got complete opposites, dichotomy is that the word? That was my Mum. Because a real lady in some respects, not only in public but also where the family was concerned, family gatherings and what not.
But she could be so volatile, and part of that has come onto me I guess, because I am volatile underneath I guess, we all are.
That’s hard to imagine sitting here.
A lot of people say that about me, they say, “You’re so nice, so quiet.” But they haven’t seen the other side of me, I reserve that.
Now you mentioned earlier that your dad passed away when you were a youngster? Around twelve was it twelve?
Thirteen and a half yeah.
Was that a tough time?
It was because it was Mum and Dad and myself, Angelo had joined the army a few months before. In fact he was still doing his recruit training when my Dad died, he came home on emergency leave. It was a tough time because Mum was working at Stewart Home, the girl boarding school up there.
And in those days she was getting five dollars a day this is 1968. She was getting five dollars a day, and my Dad was in at Prince Charles, the chest hospital, and it was costing her five dollars to go and visit him, in a taxi. And she visited him every day for twelve months. He went in and stayed there for twelve months. And he died of cancer, lung cancer. And it was tough,
and I remember my niece Mary and I would go to the hospital with Mum sometimes and we would ride up and down the elevators having a good time not realising what was going on. And it was only in the last couple of months that I noticed the change, the losing weight. And when he did die I remember we were all over at my sister Neda’s place. And a policeman came to the door, and I had a bad feeling, I had never seen a policeman come to the door before,
any door. And he told Mum what had gone on, and everyone was shrieking and wailing. And natural reaction, I went into denial for a month or two months, kept expecting my Dad to come home and ring up. So it was hard because despite all of the volatility it was a very close knit family.
We would kill each other in a second I guess, but if anyone else tried to kill one of us well we would all gang up on that person. When my Mum died she was at Kelvin Grove, the funeral home at Kelvin Grove. All of the siblings were there, Tina had come back from Canada, she had flown back, she heard Mum was dead. And we were all there,
and we all kissed her goodbye. And we all drifted outside ,and one by one we all drifted back inside because we had all gone in different direction and had all come back thinking we were the only ones coming back in. So we are a very close knit family. And I miss my Dad, I still miss my Dad. I go out to the cemetery and I have a bit of a chat. I miss the things that I didn't get to share with him, my service life and whatnot, he had a service background. I miss
him taking me down to the Brisbane River to do crabbing which we used to do in those days down near the Grey Street Bridge. William Jorley Bridge there. I miss him taking me to the pub when I was twelve years old, he would get me a cherry soda and he would be there with his mates. I miss him taking me to work when he was a city council worker. Giving me a bottle of Coke and saying,
“Stand over there while we do this.” It is a long time ago but I still miss him.
Naturally. And what about I guess the fashions and things of the 1960s, was that as you came into your teens and later teens did you get into, what was going on?
I guess in my later teens,
grade eleven and twelve at school, we were into corduroys and jeans, what not. Flashy shirts. I remember, Erus Barksman [?] was the school captain of St Brigidine, and she was gorgeous. And I finally screwed up the courage to ask her out and I had bought a pair of corduroy jeans and I had to get Mum to alter them. Flowery sort of shirt I guess. And then in the
mid to late 1970s was more the disco, Elton John type stuff. I remember having a pair of, to my eternal shame, those huge clod hopper shoes. Blue suede, they were blue suede shoes but they had a huge heel on them. Big glarey shirts, which went really well with a little woggy boy like me because I had very thick curly hair and a dark swarthy complexion. I didn't really fit into any of that because I was so short,
so stocky and I wasn’t really a John Travolta, it was only later that I lost a lot of weight, I lost twenty-five kilos. But fashion for me was always a problem because of colouring, stature. And to be honest I wasn’t really into fashion, I went to a conservative school, Marist Brothers. Conservative family, didn’t have, as I say there wasn’t a lot of girls in our street so you
didn’t have that natural competition amongst males to preen themselves, dress up for girls. It was more jeans and footy shorts for me.
And what about music?
Music, the 1970s as I say mid to late 1970s was more of the disco stuff, Gloria Gaynor and Motown.
Did you have favourites?
Elvis Presley. He was my man, I still am an Elvis Presley fan which puts me at odds with a lot of other people. Back then and now I like all sorts of music. Go through our music here and there is classical, rock, popular music, all sorts of music. I am primarily an Elvis fan. Jacqui likes all sorts of music.
Whole career or the earlier stuff or the later stuff?
All of it. I have got stuff there from the 1950s to the 1970s, each of those boxes is a decade. I liked his movies, Elvis Presley movies, they were rubbish, they were just vehicles for his music. But I have got original LPs [long playing records] in there that cost me, I guess two dollars fifty, three dollars
that are in mint condition. I have got everything. I have got movie music, Christmas music, his soul music, got everything. To me he was a consummate performer, it wasn’t only one sort of music. Although I couldn’t see Elvis Presley doing hip hop or rap or that sort of music these days. I think he would still be conservative, although he would be sixty-nine
or something if he was still alive. It was a very sad day when he died. And the ’80s was that renaissance stuff, Adam and the Ants, ABBA, and I have to be honest the 1990s I haven’t kept track because a lot of it doesn’t really interest me. I like female singers particularly, but I will listen to anything.
You mentioned that your father, he was in the Italian navy during the Second World War, did you get any stories out of him about his experience during the war? Did you know anything about his war experience as you were growing up?
No not as I was growing up. And it was only been in the last ten years, fifteen years. Mum died in 1992. So it would be 1992 on.
I have had his medal mounted there, that was for operations in Abyssinia, Ethiopia. I thank God he was in the navy and not involved in a lot of the Italian land operations because the Italian army committed a lot of atrocities in Abyssinia, but he would have been in support of that. And in our family thing here, that black plaque up there, that lists all of his medals, because what I have done, I have got
a hold of his service record from the war, and it lists all of the ports that he went into and all of the operations he was involved in, and they’re all of the medals that he got and I wrote to the Italian consul asking if we could get duplicates, because that’s the only one we have got up there and they wrote back and said, “You can buy them when you go to Italy because we don’t re-issue medals.” The Australian Defence Force does, you can get duplicates but apparently the Italians don’t. I did a bit of research
on his service. As I say he went to Tobruk and he was in Taranto and Brindisi and Lesbretsio [?], all of those places. He had a coin collection which we have got here and it had coins from Mauritius and the Seychelles and all of the places his ship must have gone to, he would pick up a coin here and there. It is ironic because he was on that side during the war, and I am on this side now. And Jacqui’s Dad
he was in the Australian Navy but he was in around the Korean stage so thank God they didn’t meet up at any stage. He didn’t talk much about it. I got a few stories from the family where he met up with his brother at one stage, that was very emotional because his brother had just come out of North Africa, he was one of the few to escape being captured or killed.
But I was embarrassed about the Italian war effort, particularly because me Dad was in it. And it wasn’t until much later when I had done a lot of my own reading and research and watched things, the Italians in North Africa didn’t want to be there, they were conscripts and they were poorly armed and very poorly trained and extremely poorly led. And as a soldier I know if you don’t have those functions and you’re Italian, you’re not going to want to be there.
What used to happen apparently was that the officer used to be the first to bolt. The Italian officers would just go and leave the soldiers to their own officers, and they would look around and say, “That’s it, I am going home. I am not dying on a piece of sand I want my family.” And they didn't want to be involved, they didn't want to be there and most of them were conscripts. If you’re well trained, well armed and particularly well led you can do a lot of things,
but without that you’re rabble, which is what they were unfortunately.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 02
Sam I have just got some questions here that came up from when you were talking to Chris [interviewer], so you had an interest in journalism I would say from an early age to go into journalism, what started your interest in journalism?
Always been interested in writing, I did very well in English at school, had a [Marist] Brother that was a bit different I suppose to the normal English master,
he encouraged us to think about themes and to write down what we thought rather than the accepted interpretations. I remember at school we would have to write an assignment on the theme of Romeo and Juliet, or whatever. And a lot of the guys would bolt down to the library and get the Monarch Book of Notes on Romeo and Juliet and they would say, “The theme is blah, blah…..”And I would look at this and I would come up with some outlandish
theory or theme and so long as I could justify it he accepted it. And I did well in English. And we would sit down and we would have film days, he would bring in Romeo and Juliet the film, and we would have music, and we would read poetry, all of that sort of stuff. He encouraged us to think, particularly in literary terms, and that sparked an interest in writing, reading. And then when I went to university,
I started off doing social work and I thought, “What a mob of losers!” Both social workers and their clients, I know better now, I know a lot better now, life does that to you. As a seventeen or eighteen year old I thought, ‘mob of losers’ and journalism was one of the options I had and I took it
for six months and it was very interesting. I learnt the basics of journalism because I joined the army soon after that. And I tried to continue my studies, I have probably got three quarters of a degree, I tried to continue my studies, but it was very difficult maintaining studies once I had joined the army because I was a soldier, I wasn’t an officer, and I was always out bush in armoured corps. Used to go out bush with Norton’s Anthology of Poetry,
this is an armoured crew, and I would be in the back there reading this thing there for studies. The blokes would look in and say, “What are you doing? Are you reading poetry?” “No.” And I would be under the sponson, but I have always had an interest in reading and journalism I guess.
I mean I guess the things for me on a personal level is that journalism is about finding the truth in structure and then later on you got into intelligence
which of course is finding the truth in the structure, it is an interesting parallel to me, and I guess, is there a reason why you didn't finish the journalism? Was there something that happened, or you just thought I have had enough, I hate uni [university]?
I went to the University of Queensland and my Mum, God rest her soul, was working two jobs.
Even though uni was free, except for books and things, it was still expensive and she was working two jobs to put me through. I think, I had done thirteen years of school because I did prep and then twelve years of schooling and I just had a bit of a hankering to get out into the world which all young people do I guess. I did six months of it and I was getting very
stale very quickly and I thought, “This is not right.” So I joined the army. And I tried to do my studies part time and then by correspondence. And then when I got posted south I went to Deakin University, Geelong, but it was just too hard. It needs a lot of discipline, back then it needs more discipline than it does now because now they encourage you to do studies. Back then as a soldier, as a trooper,
I spoke to a warrant officer and he said, “Sam if you want a degree get out of the army, get your degree and get back into the army as an officer, while you’re a digger it ain’t going to work.” And it was just too difficult, I was away a lot, out bush a lot and the little time I had back here I didn't want to study. I just didn’t have that discipline which again is strange because within
the army, within the Defence Forces, self-discipline is incredible. People outside look at soldiers, seamen or airmen and think, “Regimented morons, can’t think for yourself.” couldn’t be further from the truth. Australian service people think as individuals and they have got incredible self discipline. Twenty-seven years in the army and I never took a sickie, never took a sickie.
The one day I did ring up because I was sick they sent an army ambulance around to pick me up and take me to the hospital. So you have got that self discipline where you get up every day, so what you have to do and do what you’re told. But when it came to my studies I just didn't have it. Army courses, a lot of self discipline I guess because they were beating me around the head about it, “Do this and that.” But I guess it just comes down to, I was just lazy.
Well you were what nineteen or twenty? You joined the army at eighteen didn't you say?
Eighteen and a half.
So you’re a young man and there are a lot of young men in Australia that go travelling for a couple of years, and women too, before they go to uni now.
And I think had I gotten out of the army after my initial three year enlistment I would have gone back to uni and finished it. And that was my plan, my first year in the army, got through recruit training, enjoyed that.
Went to my first unit and hated it, hated it with a passion, and in fact my CO [commanding officer] said, “Why didn’t you sign up for six years?” because we had three and six year enlistments. And I said, “Well Sir I signed up for three just to see if I like it before I commit myself.” And he tore stirps off me. Said I wasn’t committed or dedicated, and I really hated the army the first year. Then I got posted to Brisbane, loved it. Met some really nice blokes in my unit.
Back with family and friends I guess. And service life is incredibly fast, I mean life now, days are generally quick but service life is very fast, because you’re being posted all of the time or you’re going overseas, you’re on operations or on courses. Time flies, so by the time I thought about uni again, it was always there I was always trying, but time just flies.
Chris and I would like to talk
to you in detail about your training. Do they, I know it is an American word, ‘rookie’, but do Australians use that term ‘rookie training’ as well?
Yeah, ‘gone to rookies’. I did my rookie training at Kapooka which is very common now.
Now your dad didn’t talk about his
part in the war, in the navy, but what did you know of the Second World War just growing up? Was that a shadow on your life in the 1950s?
Yeah the 1960s it was because there were all of the standard jokes, “How many gears has an Italian tank got?” “One forward, and four reverse.” All of that sort of stuff. “What's the shortest book in the world?” “The Italian book of heroes.” All of that sort of stuff.
“Ah, you dago, you wog,” all of this. I copped that every day. And because I was born here I went into denial very early. I used to say, “Hang on I was born here I am Australian.” And then I would go home and say, “You bloody wogs, look what you have done caused me all sorts of trouble. “And I would get a backhand, “Never forget your heritage son.” “Oh okay.” So it was a cloud. And as I said before to Chris, the Italians in North Africa,
tens of thousands of them surrendering to very few Allied soldiers. So it took me a long time to come to grips with that and it was a shadow, but I know a lot more now. More background to what was going on.
Do you identify with those, I can’t think of his name, Vince I think, the comedian, and films, Wog Boy and things like that. Do you identify
with any of those things culturally, going to lunch and having a salami baguette rather than a vegemite sandwich for instance?
Yeah because when I went to school that’s what I would cop, big thick slices of Vienna bread Mum would slice it. And we had a Polish boy, Johnny Sinderski, who I saw last year. He got cabbage wrapped stuff.
And he would come to school and, “Ah, you wogs.” He would have rice and cabbage and I would have salami and cheese. I got that as a younger fella, but later on when they became westernised I got the normal stuff.
Things have changed so much, now gourmet sandwiches and gourmet lunch is all the rage. Vegemite sandwich is relatively boring in comparison. I know, because I was married before, and my first husband's family were Maltese.
There was a a real ... al the brothers came out, and then the sisters, and brought their wives, and all that kind of stuff, similar it seems to your father's heritage. There was a real push to not teach Maltese ... indeed they spoke Maltese, Arabic, and Italian I think. To forget their culture, so their culture would only come out on a Saturday night,
around the table, with all the brothers. They didn't hand it on to their children.
So when you were growing up was this normal that everyone kept their heritage or were you a bit strange in your family keeping it?
Well I can’t speak for other families because, there was one other Italian family in La Trobe Terrace and they were way down the bottom. Mum and Dad, when they first came down from, they were sponsored from Italy by my godparents.
And they went up north for a while and when they first came to Brisbane they were at New Farm for about a year and that was an Italian enclave. But when we moved to Paddington, I remember my Mum talking to my Dad, and this was later on, she had deliberately chosen that area because she didn’t want to be in an enclave. My family was a bit different I guess because there wasn’t any cultural cringe by any standard. And they kept I guess
the good traditions, we spoke Sicilian, but they always encouraged us to do the best we could. And if that meant assimilating into Australian society more quickly that’s what happened. My elder sister married an Italian up north but he went on to have a very successful construction company; Frank was a very hard worker, very hard worker,
he didn't really achieve any great heights but he had an incredible work ethic, always had work. Tina has got Masters Degrees in sociology and business administration. My brother Angelo did extremely well in the army, and I became a warrant officer as well. So they kept the traditions alive and spoke Sicilian, but at the same time
they pushed us to do as well as we could. And I am the black sheep of the family in that I had more opportunities than the others, university for instance, and I decided to join the army .Tina did her university off her own bat later on in life.
That takes a lot of discipline.
It does, she was over in Canada for five years and she continued her studies there as well.
She has got that thirst for knowledge, I tend to have more of a thirst for, I am more of a hands on type person I guess. Even thought I love reading and I love research and I will get on the net there and research history all of the time, I am more of a hands on type person.
I am assuming that you were a Roman Catholic?
Not a good one, but…
We don’t need to go into that. But was that a big part of your growing up,
church, Holy Communion, all of those rituals?
Not from my Dad’s perspective and I am not sure why that was. He wasn’t a strong Catholic, he never went to church except for special occasions, my sister was confirmed and I was baptised, that sort of thing. Mum went to church, but not every week.
Later on she did, after my Dad died she was in the wilderness for a while and I think the last ten years of her life she was a very strong church goer without being a born again Christian, it was the Catholic Church. And with me I had it beaten into me. Its behind there, I have got my First Communion certificate. I went to Catholic school all of my schooling days
and with the Marist Brothers we used to have compulsory church parades. And with the army church parades were compulsory. They’re not now but, if you had a religious affiliation, “You’re Catholic, there’s the Catholic padre, off you go. Anglican, off you go. Jewish, off you go.” They don’t do it now because of discrimination, harassment, that sort of thing. But in my early days it was compulsory. We had a church in the grounds of my school and we would go there and we would have to sing hymns
and it was all we could do not to burst out laughing because most of us were tone deaf. You would just stand there and open your mouth and go, “Arghh.” And the priest would be looking at you. Having said that, my faith, I am a hypocrite here, I don’t go to church every Sunday and I have done some bad things, but my personal faith is very strong. And it has got me through
a lot of dark periods in my life.
So it is a spiritual faith rather than a building faith, going to church every Sunday, it is more what you believe on the inside if you know what I mean?
It is. The rare occasion I do go to church I enjoy it because I feel part of the community, part of the family. But with me it is more of an inner thing; I don’t go out and try to preach to anybody else
and that’s probably why I am not a good Catholic because part of our faith is to try and go out and spread the word, like an apostle. I don’t do that. I have got my beliefs, my ten commandments come down to two, love God, love your fellow man and that’s it for me. And I don’t necessarily; well I haven’t achieved the second all of the time. I certainly love my God.
But it is very much a personal thing. And I don’t normally talk about it, I mean if you ask me questions I will talk about it but I don’t raise the subject with anybody or get involved in conversations because it is a personal faith.
It might come up later in the day in regards to some of the more ugly things you witnessed in service life because I am sure that helped you through some, having
faith helped you through some hard times.
It worked against me as well I might add but we can talk about that later.
Well what do you mean by that?
The East Timorese are predominantly Roman Catholic and as part of my job up there, I am an interrogator by
trade although we didn’t interrogate, we interviewed. Part of my job up there was to interview captured militia and other people up there. And I had to interview a few that took great pride in telling me about how they raped the nuns and then cut them up and tortured the priests. And that was very difficult for me because my faith is strong. And it was all I could do not to reach out and throttle
them or punch them or beat them up. That’s not the way we are trained. So it worked against me that way. It was very difficult.
I guess it is how you look at it, because the other way to look at it I guess, just talking about it now, is that your faith kept you from not killing them, do you know what I mean?
No I have to tell you it was my training. The training I received in the army.
We’re very small but we’re extremely professional in what we do. It probably was in the background subconsciously.
NB. This section of transcript is embargoed. Embargo ends 01/01/2034
What about, something I would like to clarify here we have talked about the army reserve, now I have heard a lot from interviewing Second World War vets about CMF [Citizens’ Military Force]. Now is the Reserve a new name for the CMF?
And what about militia, is that CMF? Are they all the same thing?
Pretty much, they were all part time. Militia during the Second World War were tasked to defend Australia within Australia, they weren’t supposed to go overseas. And then the 2nd AIF, Australian Imperial Force which were your regular elements, they were the ones that were supposed to go overseas, and they were the ones that went to the Middle East and to Greece and Crete. Because all of our regular
forces were overseas it was the militia that was sent to New Guinea. And they held the Japanese up on the Kokoda Track until the regular soldiers were able to be recalled from the Middle East. Because we lost a lot of regular soldiers in Singapore, they were sent to Singapore and immediately into captivity. CMF, Citizens’ Military Forces, part time again, called choccos [chocolate soldiers]. That’s a World War II term,
they are chocolate soldiers, they will melt in the sun as soon as there is a bit of pressure or heat. And the reserves, the various elements of the reserves now, that’s a continuation of that. But I want to make a point right now, that I did two years as a reserve soldier, as a reserve warrant officer. And I have seen both sides of the fence now. As a regular soldier I had a disdain of reserves,
particularly reserves that hadn’t done any regular service, like had come off the street and become a reserve soldier. And there is a natural disdain that regular soldiers have for reserves. What most regular soldiers don’t know or don’t understand, or wouldn’t be bothered understanding is that it was militia or reserve that held the Japanese up on the Kokoda Track. The 39th Battalion from Victoria and these were eighteen-
year-old kids that had had little training and were shoved into a situation and there were a few hundred of them against many thousands of Japanese. And the Japanese were the South Seas detachment, so they were blooded, they were taller than average, they were extremely good soldiers and I would like to make that clear that reserves have always had their place. And I have seen it as recently as East Timor. I went back
with my second tour, I went back with 6th Battalion which was a Brisbane battalion and they had a company of ready reservists mixed amongst them. And they did as good a job if not better than their regular colleagues. And I guess I say it now because I have seen the other side of the fence, albeit from an ex-regular soldier’s perspective. I have seen the other side of the fence.
I know there are a lot of regular army soldiers, particularly from my era who look down their nose at reservists and they really have no right to. They don’t understand what's involved in reserve service. There is more commitment for a reserve serviceman than there is for a regular army soldier. A regular soldier, that’s his job. Twenty-four hours a day that’s what he is. Whether he lives in or out, married or not that’s what he does. A journalist is a journalist
a doctor is a doctor, a soldier is a soldier. A reservist is a doctor who happens to be an army doctor as well, part-time. So they have to find time to do their reserve commitments, they have to find time to go overseas. And if you are an active reservist now in a unit that goes overseas, the government can call you up. There is no volunteer basis to it any more, if you’re in a battalion that is going overseas, you’re going with them.
Your employer will hold the job and the government will pay that employer until you come back. There is a lot more involved with reserves. And the Second World War was a classic example. It was militia that held the Japanese up until the regulars came in.
It seems like your family were pretty service minded, I mean military minded, you had a couple of people left right and centre of you joining up. So what do you think it was that got you interested in the army as opposed to the navy or the air force for instance?
I will just take a step back. Last night we were having that party here, that thirtieth birthday party
and I looked around the table and it is amazing, what's that factor of six that people talk about?
Six degrees of separation?
Yeah, it’s amazing how much that applies to the military internationally. Alex is seventy-eight, he is from next door. His father was an airman in the Imperial
Russian Flying Corps, whatever they had. His grandad was a padre to the Tsar, his grandad met Rasputin, how bizarre is that? There was him, there is Blue, he was in the army, his dad was in the navy, his brother is in the army. Leanne’s grandad was in the army, Dad was in the navy. Jacqui was in the navy, her dad was in the navy, her brother was in the air force, her niece is in the navy.
There is me, my sister was in the air force, my brother was in the army, my Dad was in the navy. It is incredible. You look at any group of people somewhere not too far removed, one or two degrees there is a service connection. With me, always played soldiers and army as I was growing up. At school you would pick up your stick and the normal stuff. I don’t know, it wasn’t my brother; he had joined the army and gone to Vietnam.
But I didn’t join the army because he did. I joined because I was looking for something I guess, adventure. I wanted to join the army. My sister wanted me to join the navy. She said, “You’re dark, you look really good in the white uniforms.” She wanted me to become a naval officer, she said, “You’ll look really good on the bridge with your peaked cap and your white uniform.” And I was like, “What?” All I thought about was running around the bush and getting dirty.
Which I did for the first few years, it was great. I had always had a hankering towards the army. Maybe it was an instinctive reaching out to a group, to a family, that’s what it was. Not so much now but that’s what it was back then, pretty much a big family.
I know what you’re saying, both Chris’s and my father were in the navy.
So find a cat and swing it and it will hit someone somewhere with service and I suppose it is a sign of twentieth century conflict. Well not just the twentieth century, twenty-first century. But how was that for your mum, she was such a home person or so it seems and here she was with three of her kids in the service was she all right about everyone taking off? Or did she just grow to accept it do you think?
Well she pretty well had to accept it. By the time I joined the army in 1974 Tina had got out of the air force but she was working down in Canberra, public servant, working for defence. Angelo was Canberra, Melbourne, she pretty much had to accept it I guess because they were the career choices we had made. I remember when he was in Vietnam, she was worried every day. And he wasn’t an infantry soldier,
he wasn’t a combat soldier, he was on the logistics side, the support side. But I used to write letters for her because she couldn’t write in English. And I used to write letters for her every couple of days. But she used to be really worried about that. Once he had come home and she had gone down to visit him, this was after my Dad died, and realised what he was doing, mainly office type work, she accepted that. She was always worried about me, and I used to
play on it, sympathy and extra food and all of the rest of it, because she never really had the chance to see me in my work environment. Initially I was armoured corps so I couldn’t take her to work and say, “Ma this is what I do.” Although she did see, I think it was 1977 was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, I think. We had a regimental parade through Brisbane and my entire armoured vehicle regiment was there.
And my sisters and nieces and nephews were on the side, and my vehicle just happened to be there, I was a driver. So she saw that side of it, but she never saw the intelligence side of it. I really don’t know how she felt. She felt uncomfortable when I went to Africa because she didn't know much about it. She only had Dad’s stories about North Africa I guess so she really worried about me there. And when we came home from that, because I
was the warrant officer in charge of security, safety and various other things I made sure I was the last off the plane, all of the soldiers were off, all of the gear was off and so all of these soldiers were filing out through customs and out to their families and there was probably a ten minute gap between the second last solider coming out and me coming out and she was in tears, she didn't know what had happened to me. So she always worried about us I guess, as is natural you do it with your child.
We were talking about the journalism thing and looking for the truth and the writing of it, and then with the intelligence. This is probably a silly question but talking about cowboys and Indians and playing soldiers, was there an interest in espionage, the intelligence, the mythology that goes with working in intelligence? You were telling Chris
before that you liked the idea of joining intelligence because you have got to think for yourself, the independence but was there that kind of dark hooded mythology of being in intelligence as well?
Not for me. In fact my very first posting in intelligence was to Townsville, to Headquarters 3 Task Force, I was a young soldier and my sergeant, the
brigade intelligence sergeant had been riding me for weeks and weeks and weeks. And one Friday afternoon there was just to two of us there and he was riding me about something and I turned around and I swore at him, I said, “Go and whatever Sarge.” He said, “What?” and I had just come from a regimental background, armoured corps, and I said, “Go and…” And for six months he put me in the map store,
the map store was the size of a broom closet, and he said, “Get in there, count the maps, reorder the maps. Clean it up.” Six months he kept me in there. That was my introduction to intelligence corps. I think that attitude, James Bondy spooky attitude was very prevalent back then and still is. Although at my level, because there are various types of intelligence, there is combat intelligence, there is counter intelligence, there is signal
intelligence, and at my level even as a warrant officer I was primarily combat intelligence which is getting information, analysing it and getting it to the commander. Commander says, “I need to know this and you have got so long to find out.” So mine was very much human intelligence orientated. Human intelligence is interviewing people, interrogating people, dealing with humans. Getting your information
that way. So I never had an interest in that spook stuff, although there was some of it. Very, very little of it in my career that I was involved in. So it goes on but at a very small level.
When I hear the news say, “Intelligence sources say blah, blah.” They are talking about logistics?
No they can be talking about, intelligence sources can be a satellite, it can be an aircraft platform, it can be a submarine .it can be a spy, it can be someone that you have interrogated, it can be open source material.
So you never know?
The public never knows?
No and neither should they. The Americans are very good at satellite
observation but this is a technical form of intelligence and this has been their downfall for many years, particularly the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], depended wholly and solely on technical means, whether it was satellite or signals interception. And that’s only one side of intelligence, it will tell you what's there but it won’t tell you what it is designed to do, or what that person’s intention is, the person that owns that or the commander that owns that it won’t tell you what his thoughts are.
And the only way you get that is through documentation or talking to someone who knows what he is talking about .So it has got to complement; technical intelligence has got to be complemented by other forms of intelligence. And all of intelligence, intelligence is raw information that has been collected, collated, analysed and disseminated. So it has all got to be checked
I guess. You would never act on single source information no matter how reliable it was. You would always try and check it. And when they say intelligence sources, sometimes that’s just a cover up, they want to do something so they just rave on. And they’re being caught out now; you can see where they are being caught out now.
Sam can you tell us about where you went to sign up?
Yeah I went to the city in Brisbane here, the recruiting centre. And I spoke to Corporal O’Kearney who later on in life became one of my warrant officers. I
signed up there, well I made enquiries and then I had to have a medical, physical. And I went in and it was a young F girl, air force girl that put the headsets on for my hearing tests, and after the test the doctor said, “We can’t accept you.” And I said, “What?” he said, “You’re deaf in your right ear.” I think it was. What she had done was put them on at an angle so I didn’t hear the tones, and I was pretty shy in those days even though I had been to uni and what not.
It just wasn’t in me to argue to toss and what not with these people but I said, “I am not deaf, I would like to have the test again please.” And isn’t it ironic, bizarre, whatever you call it, had I not said to him, “I would like the test again.” I would have went off on a different path in my life. Everything would have changed. I wouldn’t have met Jacqui and I wouldn’t have gone overseas. Everything would have changed just because the girl put the headphone on incorrectly. Did the medical, did the psych [psychological test]
and I think it was about a month later saying, “Report to the recruiting centre.” It was on a Wednesday. Wednesday morning and they put us on a bus and sent us down to Kapooka New South Wales.
Okay, we will stop and switch tapes now.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 03
Okay Sam I would like to get you into the army now and get you to tell us about your first few days at Kapooka and I guess what that was like and how you dealt with it?
It is like in the movies, it’s like in the movies. I can remember my first few days vividly. We got on the bus to Melbourne in the
morning in Brisbane. And our escort officer was a warrant officer that was resigning or discharging, this was his last job, and he was very easy going all of the way down. We basically knew the rank structure and a warrant officer is up there as a soldier. And we thought, “Oh this isn’t so tough!” and I remember on the way down the guys were sticking their heads out and yahooing at women and brown eyeing cars, and I remember sitting there
pretty quietly thinking, “This army life is pretty good, look we have got a warrant officer he doesn’t care, it can’t be that hard.” And we got down to Kapooka in the evening, about seven or eight o’clock. And the bus stopped and the air brakes hissed and the door opened and the screaming started. And there was yellow lines just outside the entrance to the bus and it was, “Get out and put your toes on the line and do this and that!” And they were still getting over
the ride down. And my sergeant was there and the section corporals and we got dragged away, we got fed and put to bed for the night and the next morning it was even worse, it was six o’clock and people were screaming and yelling. And as we were walking from the initial accommodation block to another building it was like hazing at a university or something. All of the recruits that had been there for a while were all yahooing, or laughing at you,
because you have all got long curly hair or a moustaches or beards, whatever, and these guys are all chhh, worse than this. And I think the first thing they did was all into the barbers, and it was like one of those American, like Biloxi Blues or one of those movies, I remember three but there were probably more barbers chairs, and they just sat you down and the old barbers clippers came out and zzzt, zzzt, two minutes and it was all over. You would go in like this and I can remember walking out,
because I had sort of an Afro I guess because I had long curly hair, and I remember going out and the guys were looking at me in shock, in shock, and some of them had shoulder length hair and tears in their eyes. So that initial shearing of all of your hair, that is your first introduction to group mentality I guess because you all look the same after that. And then they started,
did all of the administration side of it and then they started issuing gear, and I will always remember, I don’t know if they still do it now but they did then, you could virtually turn up at Kapooka with the clothes you stood in and nothing else. They gave you a brown paper bag and in there was shaving gear and soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, because guys came from all over Australia, they came from the country, the city, wealthy families, or poverty. So the system looked after you from the word go.
The bag would have been given to us as soon as we got there, because we needed shaving gear for the next day. And then they charge you for that out of your first pay. So whatever was in the bag was docked from your pay. Then it was a matter of being issued with our gear and into it and it will be my everlasting memory from Kapooka and it is the worst habit I have got is scoffing my food [eating quickly].
Unless I am talking to people and having a conversation I just stuff my food so quickly. We had a thousand recruits at Kapooka when I was there and you would come off the range for lunch and you would have fifteen minutes, and there would be a thousand blokes lined up. You would just rush through and if you happened to be midway or towards the end you would have five minutes before you were due outside and get ready for the next activity. So you would sit down and scoff your food,
hot cold it didn’t matter, get it into you and get outside and get ready.
So what sort of accommodation did they set you up in?
We were lucky, there was a section of Kapooka called Silver City , and that was the old Quonset huts, like the American Marine barracks where you have got beds lined up on either side, we weren’t in that. We were in brick buildings and it was four to a room,
and they would put you in platoon lots obviously, so each floor would be a platoon lot and four to a room. And God help you if you didn't get on with your room mates. In fact I guess because I had partial uni education I had been to a pretty good school, I must have gone around with my nose in the air or something because after about the third or fourth week we were finally allowed to go to the
boozer [bar] and have a drink. And the guys in my section, not platoon but section came back and I was sitting on, tables personnel, little grey metal table. And they walked in and “Andaloro” “Yeah?” “Even though you’re a wog we think you’re okay. Just get your nose out of your arse and you’ll be one of us mate.” And I wasn’t used to people like that because I had led a pretty sheltered life
I guess and that was my introduction to mateship. “You’re one of us, mate.” It was good.
And you mentioned briefly this morning having been to uni and the contrast in army life,
As a soldier.
As a soldier yes. And the learning about free thinking and perhaps not expressing it. Can
you expand on that a little bit, what sort of things happened and what you learnt on the go?
Well I had a very sharp tongue, very witty and pretty sarcastic I guess. And within a week they had shut me up. And when I say shut me up I wasn’t so mouthy and so quick to criticise the staff, you only did it once, and I was lucky I joined the army just on the cusp of the old army,
new army, and a young soldier now would say that I am old army, he is new army. I joined just on the cusp of when it was very common for your platoon staff to take you around the back of a shed and beat the hell out of you if you weren’t toeing the line or was too smart, or you weren’t doing what you were supposed to do. And in those days it was a good way to do things, because you would either wake up to yourself quickly
or you would get out, one of the two. You would become a good soldier or you wouldn’t be a good soldier. I was on the cusp, because there were a couple of investigations, Current Affair [television show] type deals where soldier, recruits would whinge to their parents, having to scrub the toilets with toothbrushes and that sort of thing. So they were pretty sensitive about what they did. The way they got around it with people like me was, “Go clean the urinals.
Here is a proper brush go and clean the urinals.” And I had never cleaned urinals in my life, not even at home, my Mum used to do all of that. Or, you know, “Clean ten rifles.” There is always ways around things. So within the first week they had taken a bit of the sharpness out of my tongue. And I started to enjoy it after that. Maybe because of my schooling, my upbringing I fell naturally into having all of your smiley face little socks lined up
neatly and your t-shirts here and your boots here, neat and tidy which is how I was raised. And I drew heat because my platoon staff brought the rest of my section and said, “Andaloro’s locker, that’s how yours has got to be.” And I got heaps after that. “You suck up - You teachers pet.” All of that sort of stuff.
What was the extent of your initial training at Kapooka, I mean apart from kitting up what did they teach you about army life itself?
It was a twelve week course back then, it is six weeks now. They send reserves down to Kapooka to do their initial training. It was twelve weeks, and in the twelve weeks we covered just about everything.
First aid, navigation, drill weapons, customs of the army, military law, just about everything you would encounter in the first year or so of the army was covered down there. And it was good because it took someone like me, who had come in from university and wouldn’t have a clue how to navigate. They taught me how to use an army compass, taught me how to use a map.
Taught me about first aid, and that is something that I have carried with me ever since. If you were somewhere and had a great gushing wound I wouldn’t panic, I would know what to do. If a snake had bitten you or you had a broken arm or leg, even though I am not civilian qualified I would have no problems in doing something. And then just drill, drill being getting people to think the same way and do the same thing and react instinctively to a
given command. That’s the purpose of drill now days. And weapons, they were the main things I guess. Drill and weapons.
What kind of weapons were you instructed in?
We were lucky because, well not lucky, SLR, self loading rifle, L1A1 which was the predecessor to the current weapon that we use. I think that was it, that was our personal weapon the SLR,
we weren’t taught how to use a pistol and the submachine gun was the F1 which was the nine millimetre but I didn't use that until I went to armoured corps. So basically just the rifle and that was yours, they issued that to you and you had it from day one until you marched out and you looked after it. God help you if you lost it or somebody stole it.
What would happen if that did happen?
serious offence. At Kapooka, and they still do it, there was an emphasis on security, personal security certainly, but security of the government’s gear. And they used to do inspections regularly and if you had left your wallet out that was a pretty serious offence because it showed that you were insecure with your gear. And if you left your locker unlocked and there was a rifle in there that was a big deal. You would be in a lot of trouble and the trouble could be anything from being
back squadded, sent back a platoon or two so if you were in week five you might be sent back to week four or three, or you might get extra duties or you might be charged and pay a fine. And it is a good system because it inculpated is that the right word? Embedded in me at a very early stage a respect for my weapon. You hear stories about Americans selling
weapons or Italians losing weapons or Moroccans stealing weapons, and you get the feeling that it is not a big deal. But I know within the Australian Army that if a weapon is lost it is a massive deal. And it happens occasionally, but when it does there is a huge investigation.
And how did you cope with I guess the physical component of army life?
I am a hundred kilos now; I was seventy-five kilos then. It was difficult to a degree but once you get into it, they build you up. The hardest thing for me was to climb the ropes. Everything else I managed to get through, that’s where I learnt very quickly in army life you never do your best in the first physical test. Never push yourself to the extreme because when they repeat that test in two weeks
time you had better do better or there will be trouble. That’s what happened to me, I did my best on the first test and two weeks later I only bettered it by one or two push ups and only did better in the run by a few seconds and, “Not good enough Andaloro you have been here for two weeks, you’re bludging, you’re coasting aren’t you?” so you always do enough to keep them happy in the first lot and then gradually improve.
Never volunteer. Never tell people what sort of licences you have got, you just be the grey man.
We hear that a lot.
Be the grey man.
So was it after Kapooka that you then got assigned to armoured corps?
No, what they used to do in those days was probably in
your eighth or ninth week they would say, “What corps would you like to go to?” “What branch of the army would you like to go to?” and all your platoon staff, they were predominantly infantry in those days, but now they are from all corps down there, but your platoon staff would be pushing you to go to their corps, you know, “Medical corps is the best corps.” Or “Transport is great because you do this.” Or “Tanks are good because you get to play in big armoured vehicles.” So in week eight or nine,
you have got a bit of an idea because part of your lessons are corps history, what various parts of the army do. So you get three choices and as I found out, it didn’t really matter, they were going to send you where they were going to send you. But if you wanted to go to armoured corps like I did and there were vacancies in armoured corps well they would send you to armoured corps, not a problem. Out of a platoon of thirty odd in those days, half would go to infantry straight away.
And then they would split them up in the other corps. They don’t do that know, they call and list now, so when you go to recruiting, you actually go in looking for a job which has been advertised, and you see it in the paper, you know, ‘Ten armoured crewman required for blah blah’ or ‘Ten rifleman’ or ‘Ten transport drivers’ and you go in and they will say, “No mate we have filled those ten positions, if you want to do that job you have got to wait until they come up.” And I don’t like that system,
that’s a civilian system because recruiting is done by civilians now, it has been outsourced. Last year it was Manpower that was doing it in Brisbane; I don’t know who is doing it now.
The irony of that title given World War II. So what was it that attracted you to armoured corps?
To be honest I thought, armoured corps probably won’t go bush a lot. Even though I like going bush I didn't like their sort of bush. Probably won’t have to go bush a lot, won’t have to carry much because you have got a vehicle, carry your home in the vehicle. And just the vehicles themselves I guess, playing with big boys’ toys. So I put that down as number one, I put infantry as two and transport as three. And my brother was in transport
at the time, and he was in the Directorate of Transport at that stage and he said to me many years later, ”You know Sam if you had put transport down as number one I would have made sure that you got into transport.” Which wouldn’t have been a bad thing, and I like the idea of armoured for those reasons. But I found out that armoured goes bush probably as much as infantry if not more, particularly the regiment I was with in Brisbane. It was an armoured personnel carrier regiment and its job was to pick the
infantry battalions from point A and drop them off at Point B. So whenever the infantry went bush we went bush with them. The only good thing that came out of it was you got to carry everything in the vehicle and rarely did you have to get outside and walk around. And it was good. We would be out bush and the poor grunts would go past hot, sweaty, dusty, thirsty, and we used to carry three on top, three inside the vehicle, jerry cans of water. And we
always gave them water. And we would take cartons of coke out with us, and you would be out the back of Charleville in forty degree heat and three quarters of it would fizz out, and they would come past and we would give them half a carton of coke and you could do that because it was armoured corps, it was good.
Now you went down to Puckapunyal to start with?
Went to Puckapunyal to do my initial employment training, corps training.
Now why was that the end of the earth?
Puckapunyal is aboriginal for ‘valley of the many winds’, and I am trying to use colloquial language,
Oh, please do.
It is the arse end of the world. It is the pimple on the arsehole of the world. Cold in winter, dusty and hot in summer,
which didn't worry me if that was just my corps training because I could have been sent elsewhere but my first posting was to the recon troop, the reconnaissance troop to the 1st Armoured Regiment which are the tanks. That’s the only place the tanks were. Now the tanks have moved up to Darwin but back then that’s the only place the tanks were and they had been at Puckapunyal forever and they were going to be at Puckapunyal forever. So if you got a posting to armoured regiment, at least for the first four or
five years that’s where you were going to go. And I was lucky because I was cavalry, I was in light armoured vehicles so I had a chance I guess to get out eventually, but I knew lots of guys that had gone to tanks and they spent sixteen or seventeen years at Puckapunyal. And I dreaded that. When I say I burst into tears, I didn’t burst into tears publicly, but I went away and had a little sob. Not Puckapunyal, please.
Being in the light armoured side of the armoured corps what did that entitle you to, or what was the scope of duties and things you were getting lined up for?
Well within barracks you would do the same duties as anybody else, you would do mess duty; do guard duty, picquets, area beautification. All of the normal stuff that combat arms type people,
like infantry or artillery or engineers, if you are not actually out doing your job, and your gear is maintained, the vehicles are maintained, guns are maintained, they have got to do something so if you’re on course doing a promotion course or a trade course, and you’re not on leave or sick well they have got to do something with you, and you’re not out bush training, all of the normal duties as such. Within armoured there would be the regular servicing of the vehicles,
so you would be braking tracks on the vehicles, replacing track pads servicing the engines. We did up to a level of servicing and then the mechanics would take over. My day would be report for work, we would line up, they would have a parade they would call the roll. March down to the compound and depending on what the troop sergeant had for us I guess, you could be working in the mess or working on your vehicle or whatever.
Right. That was your corps employment, how long were you down there? You got posted to Brisbane after that didn't you?
Well I went to Puckapunyal and because armoured corps was fairly small they used to have to wait until they had a number to do the course, so if there was forty on a course and five had marched out of Kapooka you would have to wait until they got the other thirty-five. So when
I got down there they said, “Trooper Andaloro” because I marched into armoured centre from Kapooka swinging my arms breast pocket high with a slouch hat on. And the first thing they said was, “Get your arms down you idiot, we are not infantry.” So we used to swing waist belt high. And, “Get that piece of crap off your head.” And they threw it on the ground and they did a Mexican hat dance on my
slouch hat because armoured corps wear a black beret. “Don’t ever let us see you wearing that rubbish again.” So I had to wait for a number to come to do my course and they said, “You can go away and do an assault trooper’s course while you’re waiting or, we need someone in the Directorate of Armour in Canberra for three months to do clerical stuff, what do you want?” and my sister was in Canberra, so I thought, “I will live with my sister for three months she will look after me.”
And it was really interesting because they were doing the short listing for the new tank. When I joined we still had the old British Centurion tank, good tank but pretty old. So I went to the directorate and I saw all of the reports of the trials for the new tank and I was there when they actually chose the tank, which we still use now. So that was interesting. And then I did my corps training, which involved driving and servicing an armoured vehicle and gunnery and radio,
the radios on the vehicles, and then they posted me to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Sydney, which is now in, it has moved to Darwin with the 1st Brigade. And I spent some time there. Went bush a lot, my first experience of going bush with the army, we went down to Tyagarah south of Sydney. I went down by road and they embarked the vehicles on
landing craft heavy, LCHs for the trip back to Sydney. And they were a flat bottomed vessel the old LCHs. And the navy were quite good, they got all of our rations and they made tea [dinner] for us which was some sort of curry, and it was two cans per man of beer. And we went off shore and out of sight of land, and because it was a flat bottom as soon as it got a bit rough it was all over
the place. And my memory is all of the army blokes over the side heaving their guts up and the navy going “Ah ha ha.” Eating our curry when we were all sick. I was only in Sydney for a year and my Mum had a stroke and they gave me a compassionate posting to Brisbane because everyone else in the family was away. That’s where the system really
works when it needs to. Normally the system just trudges along like treacle sometimes getting things down in the system, but when they need to do something they get things done so quickly. They got the report in the morning that my Mum had had the stroke; I was marched out of the unit that afternoon and in Brisbane the next morning. Posted to my new unit the next morning which is incredibly fast because all of the paperwork has got to go to Melbourne, be approved,
got to come back, reports and all sorts of things have got to happen and it takes weeks usually, but they did it in an afternoon. It was good.
And this is on the back of your report about your mum having a stroke?
Yeah they sent me to Brisbane.
Because the community services people up here got in contact with my brother who was in the army, who was away. And he explained the situation and they said, “Well we
will post him to 4th Cavalry Regiment and he can look after his Mum while he is up here.” Which is good when you think about it. The system works. The system is great, any system is great, it is the people and the individuals within the system, it really is. And the defence is a classic example of that.
Had you come up against this by now at this stage?
No, just the normal stuff I saw on a day to day basis.
People being obnoxious or giving you a hard time for the sake of it. I have never seen the good side of the system, doing something for me. Rather than it giving me a hard time actually getting out and doing something, not only for me but for anybody. And it is still like that, the procedures are there, there protocols are there it is just how people want to interpret that and whether people want to go out on a limb and do something for somebody else.
In my day it was common but now days because of cost cutting and accountability, you can’t do it to the same extent I guess.
So the same thing wouldn’t be able to happen?
In that case it would. I guess another example, if I was moving house in those days it would be nothing for my unit to say take a truck, put everything in the truck, going from point A to point B in the same city, they would help you, send a couple of people out and say, “Let’s do it.”
Now they wouldn’t do it. It would be the exception rather than the rule now. Whereas then it was the rule rather then the exception. They looked after their diggers. Now they have to account for mileage, fuel, God forbid something happened to the truck, they just wouldn’t do it.
Because things have been scaled back so much or just having to be over bureaucratic?
It is more accountability, it is more of, “Here are your resources they are finite.” To a commanding officer for example, “You have got finite resources,, what you do with them is up to you so long as you achieve these aims.” So he is loathe to use those resources on you when he should be using them on his unit. Back then I guess the resources were still finite but it was more fluid, it was easier to get more.
If you needed more fuel or a new tyre for the ruck, or more rations it was much easier to get them, whereas now it is very strict. Down to the cent now, back then it was down to the dollar. And when you think about it a round, an SS 20 rifle round is a dollar twenty, just for one bullet. So you know ration, combat ration packs back in my day were a dollar thirty-seven and they are about thirty or forty bucks now, the same ration pack.
So it is very much a question of accountability.
Actually we have spoken to a lot of fellows in various wars about their ration packs and that kind of stuff, I am very curious to know what was in your in the mid 1970s?
Another reason I liked armoured corps because we would take what we called Jack rations, some units didn't like it, they would say, “No Jack rations.” So you would take the Jack rations and hide it. And Jack rations were onions, condiments, packet food,
packet biscuits all of that sort of stuff, you could never take as an infantryman because you would have to carry it. And with us in my troop we used to have a Jack box and everybody put into it and when you had cooked up the meals with basically the ration pack stuff, you could cut an onion up and add it to the stew or you could have a chocolate biscuit because you were able to carry it. But the combat ration packs,
the twenty-four hour combat ration packs was yay big and it has got everything in there you need to sustain you for twenty-four hours, and they were designed to block you up back then, I don’t know what they do now. You would almost be constipated for the first four or five days from whatever they put in them. Had biscuits, ham and eggs, coffee, tea sugar, matches, little can openers.
FREDs, the can openers are called FREDs now. Excuse me. Fucking Ridiculous Eating Devices. And I tell you they are the best bit of kit, they are a little metal device like that, there is a can opener there, a spoon there, there is a bottle opener, you can use it as a knife, you can use it as a screw driver and his is in just about every combat ration pack.
And they call them FREDs. Sorry.
You don’t need to apologise, we are very broad here.
They were the combat ones and then you get five man slides or ten man slides and the combat ration packs were that big they were individual and the five men or ten men were obviously for that number and they would have a much greater variety of thing. There would be plum pudding, there would be red kidney beans, they were full
size cans as opposed to individual cans. But being armoured corps we could augment that stuff.
I would like to get a bit of a picture of your life in armoured corps for want of a better word, in peace time, and what exercises and activities you would get up to on a regular basis?
When I was with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment that was what they call a reconnaissance regiment and its role was to get out in front of the infantry in a lot of instances and see what was out there, put a screen out and see if there was any enemy tanks or enemy infantry or logistic elements so they were five vehicle troops. And my job was to drive one of the reconnaissance vehicles and just go out
forward of the infantry and see what was there. My very first exercise my troop sergeant got injured, he was a crew commander he got injured, and God knows why they picked me, they said, “Trooper Andaloro get up in the turret and drive the vehicle around. “And five vehicles would move in various formations. I didn’t have a clue, I could drive the things but I had no idea of
tactical formations, distances, ground appreciation from the turret. I could do it from the driver’s hatch I could look at the ground in front of me and say, “Well I have to go here there and there.” But from up there you are looking at it from a much broader perspective. So they put me up there and all I got all day was, “You’re too far out. You’re too far in. Too close, too far back. You’re an idiot get out of the vehicle!” so that was my introduction to
crew commanding. Driving was great, crew commanding was hard work, you had to navigate, had to operate the radios, do all sorts of things. Driving was great, mind in neutral. One of my first exercises, we didn't wear helmets in those days which was very dangerous and I will let you feel my dint later on. We had headsets and a microphone boom. And one of my crew commanders used to give me a hard time,
most of them were excellent, really good, you’re like brothers most of the time. But one of them gave me a hard time and I used to put my boom up and swear and curse and abuse the hell out of him. I put it up just in case I forgot to put it up and he could hear what I was saying. Used to drive in a reconnaissance regiment. The difference between that and the regiment in Brisbane, the guys up here they were an armoured personnel carrier regiment, so they would
pick troops up and move them from point A to point B and the difference between us and trucks I guess, we could move closer to the battle area with light armour and we had heavy machine guns and radios and stuff. So one was gathering information which probably led me onto intelligence and the other was carrying troops.
And you had a preference?
No because in those days,
the mid to late 1970s we had the, still have the M113A1 American armoured personnel carrier and that’s that light track vehicle that you sometimes see with the little turret and the machine guns. 2 Cav regiment now and I think it is being phased into other units now have the LAV 25, the light armoured vehicle twenty-five millimetre gun, it’s a wheeled vehicle,
Cadillac made wheeled vehicle. And it is a good vehicle; it can do a hundred and thirty or a hundred and forty k [kilometres] on the road. Whereas the carrier, our carriesr now which are thirty or forty years old would be hard up doing thirty k. but in my day that’s all we had and it fulfilled both roles, the only difference being there were variants on the basic chassis. So in a reconnaissance regiment you would have a much bigger turret with a seventy-six millimetre gun on it.
and there were two of those per troop and they were to provide the fire power for the troop. Because it was so far forward in a reconnaissance role it needed some sort of fire power if it did get bumped. We had two medium reconnaissance vehicles and three light reconnaissance vehicles. And the Delta vehicle had a section of assault troops with us as well. Whereas with APCs with the carrying role there were eleven vehicles in the troop
because they were designed to pick up a large number of troops and move them.
Just a small question I wanted to ask, given that you signed up for three years, you had the option for three years or six that was the way the forces were working. Were there fellows who signed up for that and then get into army life and then find
perhaps it wasn’t where they wanted to be? And how was that dealt with in the army at that stage?
Tough. Generally tough, if you got in and you didn't like it and the only reason was you didn’t like it, you didn't like the discipline or the way of life, it was just tough because it is a contract that you sign. There were ways to get out,
you could get out on psychological or psychiatric grounds, you could get out on compassionate grounds, there were ways to get out and generally speaking it still is. It is a four year contract now and it is an open ended contract, so you sign up for four years, as a digger, not as an officer. As a digger you sign up for four years and then after that you give them six months notice, you say, “I don’t want to do this any more.” And six months later
you are out. So once you have done that initial period there is that option to get out. And in fact at the three and a half year mark you can put that request in so you get out at four years. But back then particularly back then it was pretty hard to get out, it wasn’t a decision you should have made lightly I guess, which is why I went three years instead of six. And there was discrimination back then, if you signed up for six you
became a member of the Australian Regular Army, ARA, if you signed up for three you became a member of the Australian Regular Army, brackets S, S for supplement. So even though you were doing exactly the same as somebody else, because you weren’t a six year man you were only a supplemental soldier, they didn’t consider that you were a career soldier I guess was the mentality.
And how did that translate on the ground though?
Didn’t at all. Not at all. My certificate of service in there it has got 1974 to 1986 I think it is ARA (S) and then I think after a certain period they said, “This is rubbish.” So after that they didn't distinguish, when you’re regular army, you’re regular army whether you’re there for one or twenty years. So they changed that.
Okay we’ll pause there so we can switch tapes.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 04
Sam we were just talking about an exchange student, I suppose exchange army, can you tell me what it was called? Sorry.
It was an exchange, they sent one of their armoured squadrons over here to Australia and we sent one of our squadrons over to Texas. And they learnt how to inter-operate with Australians and we learnt more about their structure and how to operate with them.
It has been happening for decades and decades.
Okay, how come you were the lucky one? Did it just happen to be your unit?
Yeah I was in B squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, and they went through out the regiment and made a composite squadron and called it A squadron and off we went.
So you went over to Texas?
And you were saying just off camera that you were twenty-one?
Yeah I turned twenty-one just before I left so I had three twenty-first birthday parties. I had one just before I left, bit premature, but just before I left, one in America and my family had another when I came home. Being twenty-one then, a lot different to twenty-one now, I was extremely naïve, a good Roman Catholic boy. I was introduced to all sorts of things
over there. El Paso is on the border, it is like Albury-Wodonga, you have got El Paso and then Juarez on the Mexican side of the border. And it is only a number of bridges that go across the Rio Grande which at that time was just a huge concrete canal. So whenever we had any time off we used to go into Mexico. I didn’t get up to anything untoward, although they did drag me along to a house of ill repute and I think what put me
off, was inside it was dark, this person, to this day I don’t know whether it was a transvestite, transsexual whatever, came out and he/she had huge Marge Simpson blonde hair, it was up like this, it was huge. And the boys were lining up and I was in the line, and there was this old toothless lady at a table with a lamp and I was watching the words “Fifty cents.” And they would say, “What for?”
and then I saw what for, she was making everybody put their manhood on the table while she thoroughly inspected it for any signs of disease or anything like. That was it for me, no toothless old lady is getting fifty cents out of me, if it was free I might have gone in, but I am not paying fifty cents to be fondled by a toothless old lady. And then you go into the room, and I am glad I didn't go in because God knows what was in there.
What about tequila, did you get into that?
We went to some of the cantinas and that again was like in the movies, it was uneven cobblestone with a bit of sawdust here and some form of blood or urine or something on the ground. Mainly beer, we were mainly drinking beer in those days. I got into tequila in a big way back here in later days but no, back then it was mainly beer.
No that was there but we used to drink, I don’t know what the local beer was called but it was very watery compared to Australian beer. On the Mexican side we drank local beer which was yuk, and on the American side in the local canteens we drank Coors which was pretty yucky too. And the Americans were fascinated by these Australians that could drink twelve or fourteen cans of Coors and not feel anything; we were used to Four X and stuff here.
They were fascinated by our drinking abilities.
Something that I have found that a lot of Australians don’t realise is that given that Americans speak English, their culture is so different from ours. I lived in America for six years, I lived in Los Angeles and people say to me, “Oh but aren’t we all the same?” and I say, “No, you don’t know how different they are.” Did you have that experience?
Yep. This is 1976,
all of the blacks lived in one barrack block, and the white lived in another and Hispanics in another. Even though they were desegregated on the ground in their jobs, socially they certainly lived apart. The blacks, and I say blacks because that’s what they were called, the blacks all had knives, the whites had pistols, had guns, and the
Hispanics had a mixture. There was certainly a segregation there. Language wise it was all the same to me, it was all gobbledegook, but racially they were very much divided yeah.
Did you get to become mates or friends with any of the black Americans or Hispanics?
No, and that’s not through any fault of ours it was just the way it worked out. Like if you’re being friendly with a soldier here
you might say, “Hey dig” or “Digger what do you reckon about this?” We were ordered not to use the term ‘digger’, it might have been misinterpreted as nigger around the blacks. And the blacks were the Negroes, they weren’t called blacks they were called Negro, they were very sensitive and they were very close knit as a group, much more so than the whites.
You had whites from all over America I guess. The blacks kept to themselves and the whites kept to themselves. We didn't see a lot but there was an underlying tension that was very evident.
There still is.
I imagine it would be. Later on, on our way to Africa we transited through Miami and it was the first time I had seen the Hispanic influence
where everybody in the post office including the staff in Miami they all spoke Spanish, none of them spoke English. All of the posters were in Spanish. It was like being in Mexico or South America wherever. And you don’t get there here, everybody speaks English, sort of, but over there it really is defined cultural blocks.
I am curious about, what did you call it? Inter co-operation?
Inter-operability of working with the Americans, you said that it has been an ongoing thing? Now just in my job in my limited experience interviewing people, something that keeps coming up time and time again is how innovative Australians are on the ground without technical backup, and how Americans have all of the technical back-up and no innovation. Did you find that working with the Americans?
Back then, 1976?
And I worked with them in Timor 2000 and things had changed a lot. The Americans back then, and still are a huge organisation, their Defence Force is huge. So in an armoured unit which is what we were, within America, while they’re doing their training in America they are taught how to drive the vehicle, that’s their whole job. Get in and learn how to drive it. They weren’t taught to service it to the same degree that we are
to get into the engine or to change the tracks. Didn't touch the main guns, the machine guns, wouldn’t know how to use the radios. This is all stuff that we were taught. And I think with them back then because they were so big they could specialise, this bloke could do that job and nothing else. And then when they got posted somewhere else, for example, Germany, they might get taught how to do a little bit of servicing, or
they might get a bit of on job training for how to use the weapons the main guns and what not. But certainly their basic training their corps training was extremely specialised. Their infantry would learn how to use the M16 rifle, the main infantry weapon that was it. Whereas, our infantry back then would be the M16, the light machine gun, the heavy machine, the forty millimetre launcher, short range anti-tank weapons, that would be basic knowledge
for an infantry soldier at any level. So we very much cross trained. They specialised, very much so.
Perhaps later in the day when we talk about Timor you can talk about how things have changed, because I know certainly the bulk of the interviews that I have done about Americans have said that they have all of the stuff but not the know
It really comes down to national psyche. And Australians from before Gallipoli, from the Boer War on, maybe because of the harshness of our country, lack of resources, the way we were brought up, convict background, I don’t know. But there has always been a necessity to be able to think for yourself.
And their soldiers are no different from our soldiers in that the initiative is there but it is not encouraged to the same degree ours is, within individual soldiers.
I have also found that to be true, I am digressing a little bit, I have also found that to be true with the veterans that I have interviewed that were brought up in the country, they sort of have this bush mechanic attitude going on that they could fix almost anything and be quite adaptable. And certainly blokes from the Second
World War I have interviewed they talk about men in their platoon and what have you, from the country could always be the ones you could rely on to get you out of a situation, I wonder if that still applies today in the army?
No I think what you have just said is very true particularly of the militia in the Second World War, and the First World War because a lot of those men did come from the bush. Well take the First World War, they came from
the bush they were good horsemen, good riflemen, excellent bush craft, field craft because of what they were doing, so you could pick someone up like that, put a uniform on them, give them rudimentary training and push them off into a situation and they would perform very well, they would be self sufficient, self reliant, all of that sort of stuff. Same as the Second World War, you were able to pick up a lot of militia people and send them to New Guinea. And even though a lot of them were only
eighteen or nineteen a lot of them had come from the country so they were much harder tougher people. It is ironic because your soldier now days is very well educated, extremely well educated and they have to be because of the equipment that we use now, the technology that is involved, having said that a soldier from 2004 has the same characteristics as a soldier from 1944
and I can only think it is back to that Australian psyche, our way of life, the way we are raised, our sense of humour, our attitude to jobs. You see a job, that’s what's got to be done, let’s get in and do it. The only difference being they were a lot tougher then and soldiers now are much better educated but they still do the job.
I often wonder that myself at the Australian will to succeed, I mean we’re sixth in the world with the Olympics
with sport, we are doing well in medicine and arts, particularly in America with film crew and cast, it is just amazing, but we have only got twenty million people so you start to think what is it that drives us? We either do it all for nothing or someone else can do it.
That’s right, we are a weird a mob because Australians, my observation of Australians is that we would be one of the most apathetic
peoples of the world, politics, economics, we don’t care, someone else can do it. But having said that when something has got to be done as a nation or as a Defence Force it is all hands in, and it is amazing. I was in Italy last year and I was so sad, I took Jacqui, she had never been to Italy, and nobody cares. Nobody cares about anything. The toilet system is falling apart
the infrastructure is falling apart, the political situation is horrendous. And it has always been chaotic over there, but they have always had this love of life and if somebody needed something done they would band together. Not now, it is look after your family and the rest of the country can go to pot. Whereas I think we’re different to that, when it comes to the crunch we do stand up as a Defence Force member, or a politician or a civilian
whatever, we do take pride in being Australian and we do band together.
It is a fascinating psyche, that’s for sure I agree with you.
Can I just say, I think what makes us so proficient in the Defence Forces is our leadership and our training. Not necessarily the gear that we have got, we have always made do with the gear that we have got. And this again is contradictory because I have very
strong views on junior leadership, and I hope we don’t get into that I don’t want to bad mouth people, but I have very strong views on that. But again it’s all I can think of, it is a combination of psyche, leadership and training, that’s all I can think of, because wherever you put Australian Defence Force personnel, they always do an excellent job regardless. Their morale can be down in the dumps; they can be under resourced or over tasked
with a particular tasking sequence, but they always do an excellent job wherever we send them.
Do you think it has something to do possibly with looking after the little man?
Certainly in East Timor that was very evident. We got there and I guess we will go into this later, we got there and the Indonesians and militia had destroyed eighty per cent of every building there, correction they had destroyed eighty per cent of all of the
buildings. The place was on fire, there were bodies all sorts of things. And the moment we got off the ship it was, “Let’s get in and help these people.” And it has been like that forever, the First World War, the Boer War, Second World War, it is always like that. But we do identify with the underdog because we are the underdog.
But it is a paradox isn’t it? Chris and I were just talking about this yesterday. It is a paradox
we’re incredibly humble in the sense of don’t make a big deal about it. I mean we were interviewing one digger from the Second World War and I asked him about El Alamein and he said, “Yeah it was a hectic day.” “Can you give us a little more information?”
Very English in his understatement.
Do you know what I mean? It is an Australian things of don’t make a big deal about it. And then the other side of that is the tall poppy syndrome, well I suppose it is the same thing.
Anybody that sticks their head up, chop it off.
Yeah but there is this interesting psyche about getting the job done and doing the best you can do. It’s fascinating. Haven’t quite exactly worked it out myself. So now,
when you were doing the armoured corps, you’re the cavalry for the infantry, is that right?
One of the roles of armoured corps was to transport infantry in light armoured vehicles.
But it is no longer horses so why do they still call it cavalry?
Well it is tradition but I guess particularly for a
reconnaissance regiment it is the same role. So what the cavalry do now with mechanised vehicles the cavalry of a hundred years ago would have done with horses. Exactly the same role done with different technology.
What about sport and music and the arts? I mean you talked
about reading Norton in the tank which made me laugh no end.
Not the tank.
Not the tank?
Fifty-two tonnes as opposed to eleven-tonnes.
You will have to forgive my ignorance there Sam.
No, look I get that all of the time.
Do you mean, what other interests could you have in the army in the early days to keep you sane I suppose, individual?
Back then in the 1970s drinking was the thing, it was part of our culture. That has changed completely now. Back then if you went out with the boys everybody drank beer or spirits and you all got rolling drunk and you did all sorts of things together. Now days young soldiers are more wont to drink a can of coke. We had a function at one of my
units in Darwin and we provided two eskies [coolers] full of beer and an esky full of coke, and I think half a dozen beers went and all of the coke went. That’s the change. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is certainly a good thing from the drink driving perspective. Although they tend to use prohibited drugs much more than my time. There has been that culture change.
Music, no difference between what young people outside would have been listening to in those days. The barrack room, it was really designed as a transit room. Personal space was very small in those days because you weren’t expected to have a TV or stereo or record player, computers weren’t around. It was basically just a bed,
locker and your clothes locker and what not, whereas the young soldiers now they have individual rooms, they are all modulated, there is four individual rooms and a little common room. Every soldier has got his own stereo, a colour TV, a computer, a Gameboy or X Box. Young soldiers will listen to hip hop, rap, American crap just as soon as anybody outside would.
That’s been a big change too I think, in that young soldiers, the Defence Force has always been a microcosm of what's going on outside. A little bit more conservative, but it has always been civilian people, putting on a uniform, thinking the same way but still wanting to be part of society at large. So as Australian society has become more liberated and our thought processes have changed. That all flows into the Defence Force.
And a young soldier now relates much more to people outside then I ever did as a soldier. When I was a soldier there was them and us, whereas now it is very much and us and us philosophy, which has got its good and bad points.
Now coming from Marist Brothers, I could be completely wrong, did they play union?
So when you got in the army….
no one plays union in the army do they?
Oh when I joined the army union was it, there was no rugby league and there was no Australian Rules, it was union and cricket.
Which did you play?
Union for the first two years, and then touch football.
Union in the army back then, and I daresay now, is a blood sport. When you get on the field there is no rank. So if you have got a sergeant that has been giving you a hard time or a major that you hate you get in there and thump them and draw blood. You do it the same way that you would do it in civilian street, you don’t draw attention to yourself and technically there was nothing could be done about it. There was the vindictive people that would always try and get back at you, but the mentality back then which was a good one was, what goes on on the sports field stay on the sports field.
And it was like a release valve because you have got soldiers that have been pushed back into a little corner and they can’t fight back or do anything because of the system. Put them on the sports field and vent your feelings without killing anyone and hopefully no hard feelings afterwards. It didn’t always work out that way. And I played for two years until I had my head broken open a few times, I was
in the forward pack and I would be on the bottom of rucks and things and people would be doing all sorts of horrible things. And I found out that it was just a blood sport. Especially being in the front row, five foot six, five foot seven and you would have a six foot infantry soldier looking at you and a glazed look as he is just about to crush your skull, so I thought this isn’t for me, too many injuries.
I don’t blame you. Did you ever belt into someone?
I did things, same as everybody else did. Not necessarily an open brawl on the field but in a scrum particularly when it packs down there are things that you can do, you can gouge their eyes, or grab their nuts or pull their hair or grab the front of their jersey and pull it down so that their manhood and genitals are being squished and squashed and separated. Good stuff I love it.
Right I might keep off that subject for a minute.
Did you make any mates in Texas that you’re still in contact with?
No even though we went over as a squadron to work with them, we didn’t really socialise with them, with the Americans. And that again is part of that tension; it was a bizarre place for us. The service canteens on base, they were okay, pretty much what we have got here.
But we would go to pubs in town, bearing in mind this is Texas, there would be signs “Hang up your gun or pistol here.” And you think this is a joke, like the movies or whatever. But there would be a peg board and there would be semi-automatic pistols, Colt six shooters, all sorts of thing hanging on the wall there. The barman would be pouring drinks and when you left you would get your gun back. I think that was too
much of a culture shock for us. We tended to stick together, and when we had time off we would either go into Mexico and raise hell down there and I think half way through the exchange, we had the opportunity we had four or five days I think, so we had the opportunity to go to Los Angeles through Flagstaff and Phoenix or head the other way and go to Louisiana.
I went to Los Angeles, Las Vegas to stay in the casino.
Did you win anything?
No. Got free drinks, so long as you were gambling they gave you free drinks. Back then no, bit different with East Timor although I have lost contact with a couple of American friends I have made. Still in contact with an Italian navy, Special Forces bloke.
He actually came out to visit us two years ago so that was pretty good. Contact has been pretty sporadic with him because he has been involved in the Gulf and Afghanistan and things like that. Email, email and photos and things like that.
What about, when I say your day it is odd because you’re not that much older than me, but when you joined the army were there many women?
No. Certainly a female presence but not that many of them and very restricted in their employment, it what they could do. When I went to 4 Cav, because cavalry or armoured corps is what they call a combat arm, and they were training females in that unit. Still restricted but they had a girl in the orderly room,
Clerical work, and they had a transport driver. She’d drive trucks and land rovers. And that didn't work because when we went bush, I don’t know if they caused the problems or the blokes caused the problems, but when we went bush they had to have separate toilets, separate showers, had to sleep separately. Guys were trying to come onto them and it was causing fragmentation within the unit.
So they stopped that but now, where did I see, lots of girls, in the thousands now, and the only jobs they can’t be employed in within the army, are armour, artillery, infantry, combat engineers. And when I say they can’t be employed in those corps, they can’t be employed in the primary roles; like you won’t have a female tank driver or you won’t have a female front line
infantry soldier, or a female plant operator/engineer. You might have females in an infantry battalion but they are still in restricted roles within the battalion. Apart from that they are everywhere. We have got female Blackhawk [helicopter] pilots; they are all through intelligence corps.
What do you think about this? Do you think it should be an individual choice rather than a restricted thing?
I do. Very much so. And that’s not a politically correct answer, and a lot of the older blokes would dispute this. But having served with lots and lots of girls and lots and lots of blokes if a girl wants to become a member of the Special Air Service Regiment and she can perform all of the tasks and do all of the training and pass all of the courses, she should be allowed to have a go. If there is a problem with the blokes working with her then that’s their problem.
I only say that because I worked with Leanne, she is excellent, she is as good if not better than most of the blokes I have ever worked with. I think years ago it really was a problem because females were put on a pedestal, females were the child bearers, they were the weaker sex, they were there to be nurtured and they
weren’t there to do a combat role. And there was a problem because if an artillery round or a mortar round or a tank round goes off near you, normally you’re stripped bare, all of your clothes are stripped off, you might be dismembered or whatever. And there was a problem with blokes seeing a female in that situation because we were taught to respect and protect women and I think by and large
that is still there, although not to the same degree. But all the girls I have seen, and I know for a fact that you can send them anywhere, and within their employment they will do as good a job wherever they are. So if a girl can do an infantryman’s job and she is prepared to do a dump sitting next to a bloke and she is prepared to get in and have a common shower not a segregated shower, and if
she is prepared to do everything that is expected of an infantry soldier, good luck to her. The navy has in the couple of years just accepted females on their submarines, but that is still restricted in that only two of the six submarines are set up for females, and they sleep in modules of six berths on the submarines. So in the submarines either six girls go to the boat or none go.
They can’t afford to have three berths spare or two berths spare. It is either six in, all in or none in. that still comes back to that, you have got to have separate showers and toilet facilities and that sort of thing. You are different, you have things happen too and we got things that happen to us. But girls fart, swear, smoke, cuss better.
Not the same as, better than blokes. Still a long way to go, and it is not at the political level or the upper leadership level, it is at the digger level and it is the blokes being able to accept. They will accept girls working in the unit no problem at all, but it is still a long way to go before you will see a Starship Troopers type scenario where the girls are in sharing with the blokes, and that’s what it has got to come down to.
If girls want to have the opportunity to serve in all of these specialist units and specialist corps that’s what they have to give up; all vestiges of being a female. You can still be feminine but you can’t be female if that makes sense.
I just have to ask you while we’re on the subject. I have been in occasions only two or three times where I have had to employ men and women, and what I have found and I wonder if this is the same in the army, is that women
most often will have the most courses, will have done more let’s say training courses for their job, but lack the confidence and self esteem that the men will.
Yes. Right up until I guess five or ten years ago. Very much so, and a lot of the times that the women would get those extra courses or specialist courses was more a political thing, we have to have X number of women on this course, send her off get her qualified but when she comes back we’re not going to
use here in that job. It is different now. Female diggers, and I am only talking about the digger level I am not talking about officers at all. But females used to do their training at George’s Heights in Sydney, there was the Royal Australian Women’s Army Corps school, so all women who joined the army went to this place and that’s all it was, it was females. And they got
taught all sorts of things. Apart from the general military things they had to learn, they got taught how to dress themselves, personal hygiene, make-up, all of the things you would normally learn at home, young girls are like young guys I guess they might come from the country or a poor family. In the mid 1980s they closed George’s Heights down and they moved the female recruit training to Kapooka, it was segregated at that stage but they were all at Kapooka, boys and girls.
Big wire fences between them. Now I believe they are not only in the same building but they are integrated within the same platoons. So on the same floor you will have half a dozen or a dozen girls and a dozen blokes, they are all into it together. Things have changed now, Defence Force, particularly the army has
always been, correction, the last twenty years has always been an equal opportunity employer. We were amongst the first to give women equal pay, and it has taken that long for us to now realise, us being an organization, that male or female if they are qualified and can do the job it doesn’t matter. So girls now tend to have a much greater
freedom to do what they want, jobs within the army. And slowly but surely older folk such as myself are resigning, being eased out or whatever, and the new thinking male soldiers, they train with them at Kapooka and the Defence Force Academy, think they are the same as us. Do the same job.
The same but different.
Same but different. The downside of that is that that respect that I
was talking about, that is by and large being lost I found that some of the girls coming out of Kapooka because they feel they have something to prove to the blokes, or they want to be tougher than the blokes, or whatever reason, they come out a lot harsher and a lot harder than a lot of the blokes. As soon as a girls starts swearing, particularly an army girl, because they swear better than blokes, they
lose that respect. They might say, “Yeah you’re one of us.” But they go away, “She’s a slut.” Because of the way they talk, smoke, act. And all the girl is trying to do is be one of the boys, but you can’t be one of the boys because you’re not a boy. You can drink with them, laugh with them, go out with them, do what you want. But don’t try to be a boy because you’re not a boy, in that environment. I mean girls in civilian street swear and carry on I know, but don’t try and be better than the boys, don’t try and join the game of
I am more macho than you, because you’re not a bloke. Having said that I have seen the other side, wonderful people, females, do a wonderful job better than the males. And not only in the clerical, medical or signals side, in intelligence, transport side All sorts of areas. It all comes down to the individual now days.
It is good, obviously, I still think society has a long way to go so the Defence Force still has a way to go. I mean I can understand a woman trying to be tougher because she could feel like she has something to prove because she has come in with a feeling of I better be better than everybody else or I will be kicked out, I mean I don’t know,
Well, that’s how it works.
And unfortunately in that they lose a sense of self, but it is all about time and understanding and maybe seeing people as
different and respecting that. That is still not in our society so….
And that I would imagine is a major factor, consciously or subconsciously, why they haven’t opened up all branches to females. Because there still is that mentality of difference. It will take a long time, but they are getting there. As I said female Blackhawk pilots,
we had a female Blackhawk pilot in East Timor with us. Fighter pilots, we have got female officers on the bridges of ships and whatever. We are getting there slowly. But by the same token if a female stuffs up, she should be treated no differently to a bloke. None of this crying and batting your eyelids. I had a lot of girls working for me at Enoggera and there was one particular lass, pretty little thing she was and she would come in and
if I had to boot it up her she would start crying. And the first time it happened, the guys used to just stand there to attention, ears pinned back you know. She started crying and I didn’t know what to do and I said, “Go outside for a while, calm down and come back.” And it was all an act; she went outside stopped crying, came back in and tried it again. I said, “Don’t do that, don’t cry.”
Okay we’ll switch tapes there Sam.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 05
Okay Sam, into intelligence. You mentioned to a degree it was fairly basic, early days? What did they train you in?
Well when I did my corps training at Canungra we did a two week typing course in those days with a manual typewriter which was horrendous.
I would be trying to learn how to type two fingered and I might have a signaller female, her job had been keyboard operations and she would be rattling away on this typewriter and one day I got frustrated and I flicked the return carriage and it flew off and she was madly typing. The instructor picked it up and put it back on and said, “That will be okay.” We had some clerical duties but mainly combat intelligence and counter intelligence.
Combat intelligence is basically where a commander has an information requirement, he says, “I need to know this by this time.” And it is up to you to use what we call the intelligence cycle, get the information or task sources and agencies, get the information, collate it, analyse it and make sure it gets to the commander in time. Counter intelligence is identifying your opponents capabilities and
and what he wants to know and then taking measures to stop him getting that information. And with that you’re talking about espionage, terrorism, subversion, that sort of thing. I was trained in both of those areas. My first posting in intelligence corps was primarily combat intelligence with a task force or brigade in Townsville, and at that level
at that stage I used to mark battle maps, collect information, maintain a battle log, that sort of stuff at a junior level. And get all of that together for the sergeant and the captain to do their analysis and they would do the briefings.
You had a variety of postings once you were in the Intel corps around the place?
No that’s all right. I was fairly rare I think in that I slipped through the specialisation net, up to the rank of sergeant we tend to be trained in a lot of areas, counter intelligence, combat intelligence, interrogator whatever. After the rank of sergeant you tend to be streamed towards either combat or counter intelligence. I won’t talk about signals
intelligence because it is a sensitive area but it is also a specialised area that not many of us go to or want to go to and you have to be a linguist to go there anyway. I was lucky in that I wasn’t streamed. For whatever reason they tended to use me to plug ranks and then as I got older and higher in rank, I think I spent equal time in counter and combat intelligence, so I was lucky that way. It’s the way I liked it. I
didn’t want to go one way or the other, I wanted to do everything and I was lucky I got to.
And did you have a preference for combat or counter?
My preference if you can call it a preference or my forte is interrogation. I like interrogation, and it is not the beating or the slapping about that you see in the movies. How we’re trained and we are trained very strictly according to the Geneva Convention, this is when we’re
operating as Australian interrogators, it really using your mind. And it’s a mind game with whoever you’re interrogating so I tended to move towards that.
So what sort of training did the army give you specifically in interrogation leading up to your work in the field?
It is a course, a specialised course that we do at our school
at Canungra. What can I say? I guess without saying too much there is a little bit of psychology involved, we had a psychologist come along and explain about personality types and flaws and strengths. And then you’re taught the various methods and techniques of interrogation. Whether it is going to be a harsh, abrasive interrogation,
or going to be a soft, appealing one, what you’re trained to do initially is identify somebody’s character traits. Whether they are an easygoing character, whether they are hyperactive, frightened, a mummy’s boy, so you try and identify the character he is. And that would dictate the approach or the technique you take against that person. I say person because we do girls as well now which
So there would be a whole different way in or approach against different personality types that you would actually go for?
Yes, different personality types, sexes, male female, officers, other ranks you would use different techniques. See I loved doing officers because officers, apart from my feelings towards them
they are trained to think logically, they can’t help themselves. So what you would use against an officer would be a logical approach. You would attack him logically, you know, “Why can’t you tell me that? Why are you being an idiot? It’s on your ID [identification] tag, your field note book. Is that your shirt? Well it was in your pocket. What's your problem?” and you can attack things logically. And with officers they like looking down their noses at diggers and we never wore rank, but
even if they identify that you’re a digger and in my case it was easy because I tended to be older than the general officer, they would try and outwit you, which was lovely because you want them to talk, you want them to put you down. To say something apart from number, name rank, date of birth, “I can’t answer that Sir.” That’s all they’re supposed to say. But if they want to play little games with me, I used to love it, it was good.
So how in terms of, actually we will just pause for a second. In terms of practicing your craft, who would they put in front of you? How would they give you people to practice on?
I have to go back a few years I guess, we used to conduct two types of training in the
Australian Army. We used to conduct what was called resistance to interrogation training. That would be against our own people. And then we used to do training according to the Geneva Convention. Resistance to interrogation training was designed so that high risk capture people such as Special Forces or submariners and what not, if they happened to be caught out, it was designed so that they would have a benchmark
of what to expect if they were captured, the sort of techniques and methods that would be used against them. What their requirements were under the Geneva Convention, what their rights were under the Geneva Convention, so that they would have an idea. The hardest thing for a soldier to do when he is captured is to sit there and say nothing, or become abusive because he doesn’t know what to do.
And we found that quite often that soldier that hadn’t received our training went one of three ways; they would abuse the hell out of you, and suffer the consequences, we were enemy interrogators, acting as enemy interrogators which meant different uniforms, the whole box and dice. We weren’t Australians at all. They would abuse you, they wouldn’t say a word or they would say too much. The guys that had had the training, they knew what the benchmark was and that’s when it became a game between you and the person
as to what you could extract. So RTI, resistance to interrogation, was designed to train the soldiers out there in the Australian Army. And when we were training as Australian interrogators it was designed to train us as to what our rights were as the capturing power but also what the Geneva Convention stated in certain circumstances.
So we played two roles, we played enemy interrogator and Australian interrogator, or trained as both. Of the two I prefer enemy interrogator because you can do so much more. When you’re training as an Australian interrogator for real, for deployment overseas as I was in East Timor, you are really restricted as to what you can do. Very much so.
Whereas when you are being trained as an enemy interrogator, even though you would never be employed in that role overseas, you can do a lot to our own people because that’s what they would get.
So what sort of things did you do? For want of a better phrase how far would you push it or bend the rules? What tricks?
I won’t go into much detail at all except
to say Special Forces people particularly in the west received much harsher training than people on the east coast did, than the general army did. I will say safety was never impinged, safety was always a priority and you could push to a certain barrier. On the east coast you could never touch anybody, you never beat them up or
slap them around. Torturing people never works, because if you torture long enough they will tell you what they think you want them to say you know? And the Americans did that a lot with the captured pilots in Vietnam, would resist horrific torture for days and days and then trickle information out and that would give them relief for a day or two. But torture and some of the older drugs don’t work.
You hear what you want to hear and with the drugs people just ramble. The newer drugs are better, but with the older drugs people would just ramble and you would have to pluck bits of information out of that. We were trained to use our minds I guess, that was the only way to do it. And you would augment that with, there was a section that used to go through captured equipment. So if you captured someone and he had a backpack or
webbing or an officer’s bag all of that would be gone through while you are talking to the bloke and then you would correlate information from both sides.
In terms of exercises acting and an enemy interrogator, how did it work in terms of the exercise in terms of it being a real game if you like? I
guess what I am trying to ask is was the person being interrogated always aware that you were playing a role or were there situations where they thought it was for real?
Both. I will just qualify it slightly, up until about 1994, resistance to interrogation training was very common. In fact that was my stock and trade for many years. After 1994 there were a few instances where a few people complained and it
became extremely sensitive and political so they stopped enemy interrogation training for quite a few years. And to this day it is only conducted under very strict guidelines and only to very restricted units. Before we would do it to anybody who would ask for it, paying transport and all of the rest of it, but after 1994 or 1995 it got too sensitive
too political. In answer to your question, I don’t want to go too far into it, but there were also techniques we would use to prepare the people. So we would go to a unit in barracks for instance and we would give the Geneva Convention lessons and also resistance to interrogation theory. We would say, “These are the type of methods and techniques that may be employed against you.” And then six or eight months later
when that unit was out bush or on a course or whatever, we would bag the unit or an element of the unit. We would get them when they were tired or hungry, at their lowest physically and psychologically. Get them at that level. And without going into the set-up of a primary interrogation centre, the segregation, assessments that go
on all of the time. And even though in the back of their minds, particularly with the officers they know what's going on, it is amazing how the military hierarchy kicks in. Where authoritarianism kicks in, where people will instinctively obey certain commands without you having to touch them. Once you get somebody to start talking or to inadvertently finger
somebody else, it is like a flood gate. That logic kicks in, they think, “Okay we will do this and this….” and at the end of each exercise there would be a group debrief where the interrogation centre commander would get up and debrief everybody as a group and then there would be individual debriefs, you would take individuals aside and go through each session, each interrogation session and say,
“These are your strengths and weakness. You can improve here and you did really well here. This is where the Geneva Convention could have protected you.” So each person would go away, no matter who they were, would go away with a bit of knowledge. While we’re on that subject, I have had many soldiers particularly Special Forces soldiers say to me, “This is all bullshit. If we get captured they are not going to abide by the Geneva Convention.
They will just kill us or torture us or this and that.” My response to that has been, “It is better to have some knowledge, a benchmark which is all I will give you as to where you stand in the scheme of things so that at least you have got some protection. You can claim the rights of Article 17 of the 3rd Schedule of the Geneva Convention. If they want to shoot you they will shoot you outright, if they want to
torture you they will. I am not saying this will protect you. What I am saying is that it is something for you to hold onto if you are captured. It is fear of the unknown for the captured soldier, not knowing what is going on, what people are entitled to do, what they’re not entitled to do.”
To those people I would just say it is a benchmark, it is a personal thing. And I can say this now, but I couldn’t say this then because army doctrine would say this is all you can do and there is no deviating from this. My personal response is that this is just a benchmark for you, what you do in the situation is up to you. If you decide to go this way that’s good. If they shoot three of your men in front of you and you decide
well enough is enough I have got to do this, that’s a personal decision but at least you have been taught and have a benchmark.
Have you ever had the occasion in your experience where some of the Special Forces fellows have gone back having gone through some stuff and said, “Well it was good to have”?
Actually gone away on operations and been captured?
No. the examples that I have given them when they
said, “It is all crap.” Was the downed Tornado pilots in the First Gulf War. There were two British pilots that were captured and they were beaten up and paraded before the cameras and they made statements and what not, and the guys came back and said, “See they had the shit beaten out of them.” I said, “They had the shit beaten out of them and they said things that they shouldn’t have said, but it is internationally known now that they are alive. And as soon
as people know that there are prisoners the International Committee of the Red Cross is straight in there wanting to see people, interview people see that they are okay. And if that happens, all of the privileges or rights of the Geneva Convention accrue to that person if the capturing power is a signatory to the Geneva Convention.” And most countries are signatories. Those that aren’t, well, it is pot luck, what are you going to do?
“I claim my right under the Geneva Convention.” “Well bad luck mate we didn't sign up for that.” But most countries have to some degree or other. So it is best to have something to grab on is what I would say to them. Because a lot of the older guys would say, “That’s bullshit, we just used to shoot them out of hand and we would expect to be shot out of hand.” Or bayoneted whatever. And I have had younger soldiers say to me, “That’s crap
I am going to shoot everybody I capture.” And I would say, “No you’re not. Apart from everything else that’s a criminal offence. That’s murder.” People say a lot of things but what they actually do depends on a specific situation.
Always I imagine, particularly in that scenario. So was your intelligence training then, I mean
it was ongoing through your service because I imagine there would always be improvements?
Yeah you would usually go away and do a basic course of some sort. And then depending on what area you were in you would go away and do an advance course and there were new courses coming up all of the time. With me
I tended to stick to human intelligence type courses being in interrogation, interviewing that sort of stuff. And then in the counter intelligence side I did CI to help me along that way. Other people would go along and do imagery interpretation courses, air photo reading. Other people would become linguists and go to the signal intelligence side of the house. A huge thing we have been doing since Somalia is field intelligence. And I can talk about that because it is very open.
That involves making contacts within a community, and just getting information out of them. So in East Timor we would have our own contacts within the community and we would get information out of them to see what was going on. Yeah so there were all different courses and many areas of specialisation that
you could do.
As part of your training you were in intelligence within the country, how did it work in terms of staying within the country or getting posted overseas, was it a matter of being in the right place at the right time or did you have your finger on the pulse as part of that corps and put your hand up for things?
I certainly put my hands up for things, but I
was fairly naïve in that I didn’t play any political games at any level. Anything I achieved and at any level was more through my own merits or operational requirements of the units I was with. Within Australia I worked both within my own corps; I would go to all intelligence corps posting, units. Or I was very lucky in that I worked with
the SAS [Special Air Service], I worked with regional force surveillance units in far north Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys in WA. I worked with infantry battalions; I worked with armoured units so I would get splintered off from my own corps to do specialist work with other units. As far as overseas postings worked and still do, the bulk of that are for officers, and probably
many years ago there weren’t any postings overseas for other ranks, but I think there are only two or three, or half a dozen if you look at embassies and what not. They were hard to come by and I wasn’t aware of them until they were already filled. They were out of the way type postings. I tended to do most of my training within Australia. Most of my postings were
within Australia. Having said that I went everywhere Darwin, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Townsville, Cairns.
That’s a good run.
I had a good life, I was on my promotion course for warrant officer, subject one for warrant officer which is a course run at Canungra, and at the time I had been posted to Melbourne and I was a staff sergeant and I still had probably eighteen months to go before I was due for promotion. And it was winter in Melbourne and they had
sent me up to Canungra to so my course and the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] approached me at Canungra and said, “Sam how would you like to go to Cairns for six months?” and I am thinking, Cairns, Melbourne in winter, Cairns. And then he said, “We will promote you now instead of in eighteen months and we will make it a full posting so you get all of the moving entitlements as well.” No question, yeah, I will go to Cairns for six months no problem. I used to
score a lot of those things because I was married in 1980 to another intelligence corps lass. We met on course at Canungra. Then I got divorced and for many years they used to grab me because I was single, and it was easy to move me, and because I didn't have a preference for one specialisation or the other, I was happy to do what they wanted me to do. I used to get all of
the strange short notice postings, which was good. Not now, but it was good.
Give us an example of one of the strangest postings you had?
When I say strange I mean short notice more than anything else. Not strange, interesting would be a better word. The Darwin post was great because my patch was all of the Northern Territory.
And all across the Kimberleys to Broome and I went across to Port Hedland a few times. That was a great job, I was there to liase with the police basically, and to run 4 detachments, but my main job was to liase with the police and keep our fingers on the pulse of what was happening in the territory.
So liase with the police in terms of what the army was up to?
No, just to see what was going on. Any unusual activity, had the local population reported anything? Had the
farm mangers come up with anything unusual. And the reason for that was twofold, obviously in peace time it was important for us to know what was going on in the Territory, but we also set up a lot of networks in case of somebody coming into Australia in the north, whether it be a small raiding party or an intelligence operation going on, sabotage operation, terrorism whatever.
So the networks we set up were used both in exercises, and that how we set them up. But they were live networks so that if something did happen, they could activate them and we would know who we were and we would know who they were and you could go out and actually pick all of their brains. In those places the locals know everything, everything out of the ordinary they will let you know. Within hundreds of kilometres of where they live.
They’re all gossips up there.
Oh gee it is incredible. So that was interesting. A couple of times a year they would fly me down to Alice Springs from Darwin and I would just drive back up and stop at all of the stations on either side. Visit farm mangers and hoteliers, it was great.
Not bad at all.
It had its downfalls though.
What were they?
Isolation. Isolation from my own corps. I tended to operate on my own a lot of the time which I enjoyed but you didn't have other corps member to bounce things off.
It is almost like working as a reinforcement in a way because you’re constantly getting bounced out of your corps and then back in and?
Oh generally. And not only to me,
they do it to a lot of single people. I have got a mate that’s in the army now, he is a warrant officer now and gee for fifteen years they did that to him. “Pauly can you go here? Go there?” when we started sending people overseas, “Pauly can you go back? We need you a third time.” To the Solomons or Bougainville or whatever. They used to try and do it to single people because it was
administratively easier. They don’t do it any more because the commitments are so many and varied that they can’t afford to burn a small number of people out. So they burn everybody out as a group. I can say that, I am a civilian now.
Absolutely, now were your skills ever employed within the army structure outside of exercises and things like that?
In what capacity?
Nothing too super spooky but nothing I want to talk about it. It was very rare I will put it that way. In the twenty years I was involved in Intelligence Corps you can probably count the number of months on one hand that I was involved in other stuff. It wasn’t spying or anything like that, it was all internal stuff within Australia.
Okay the bugger of talking to someone in intelligence. Okay let’s talk about the Western Sahara and getting the posting and the briefing to go over there?
I really didn't have a brief. They said, “We have to send somebody would you like to go?”
and I said, “Yeah.” once I realised what was going on. But I wasn’t really given a brief. And when I rocked up to the unit I was going with, which was a signals unit, the commanding officer who is now a major general, I had bagged him the year before; I had interrogated him the year before. He knew I was an interrogator,
but when I arrived there he said, “Oh you’re the new chief clerk are you Sam? In the orderly room?” “No. you know what I do Sir, I am not a chief clerk.” “Well what are you doing here?” “I don’t know, they sent me over.”
This is actually when you got over?
This is before we left. They didn't know what to do with me and I had no brief, so we made my own job up. Openly, overtly,
they had me down as the security and safety warrant officer for the contingent. So I was responsible for all security aspects and I was responsible for giving briefings to the guys on the country the armies we were involved with, terrain, medical, social, economical, all of that stuff. That was my overt tasking. And on the other side of the house they used me to gather as
much information as possible, before we left, on the Western Sahara because that wasn’t a country that Australia was interested in, it was not in our sphere of influence. So we went to the then Joint Intelligence Organisation which is now the Defence Intelligence Organisation in Canberra and we asked for all of the information they had on the Western Sahara., which was pretty well zilch. And the things we were mainly interested in were mines, types of mines that were used, mine fields,
who was using what and when. From a safety perspective we had people going out all of the time. So I tried to gather that information. All of the country briefs, all of the military briefs, as much information as I could for the CO before we left and for the contingent. Then when we got over there I safety and security, I did security for the force headquarters, I liased with all of the
teams out on the ground. Went across to Algeria for a conference over there. We had fifty nations involved and they were all officers of major to full colonel. And I was a warrant officer and they were sitting down trying to work something out, “What would the indicator be if the Moroccans decided to do this? Or if the Polisario decided to do that?” and they were all twiddling their thumbs and I came up with about a dozen things they should look for,
troop reinforcements, rations, increased radio traffic, radio silence because that’s always an indicator. I am listing all of these elements of information down. And they looked at me and said, “You’re only a warrant officer, how can you know all of that?” “Because I am an Australian officer what do you think, Sir?” and that, I did a lot of liaison.
From your experience how was it working under a United Nations banner, I mean you said there were fifty nations in this thing, logistically that sounds like a nightmare, how did it work on the ground?
It was very frustrating as most United Nation operations are. Because they’re made up of people from so many countries on the military side but on the political and bureaucrat
side it is even worse. You might have a third world country that is in charge of the mission which might be predominantly made up of western countries who are used to doing things a certain way and corruption isn’t such a big deal and efficiency is value. But you might have a third world member who says, “No we’re going to do it this way.” Which is money flowing into his or her pocket and they really don’t care if the job gets done.
A lot of UN missions are just cash cows for the countries that are represented. A lot of money goes through a mission, huge amount of money. On the military level it was extremely frustrating because we took weapons over there, and it wasn’t a mission that required weapons, and we took radios, very sophisticated radios. We were the communication element for the UN force. When we rocked up to Agadir in southern Morocco, the jet landed
and all of the equipment was taken off on big pallets with big cargo nets on. And the Royal Moroccan customs people came along to do a check, they weren’t expecting us. So this uniformed mob turned up with crates and crates of gear. And once they figured out who we were they wanted to check through all of our gear. I don’t know why, but they did. And one of them came up to me and said, “You have got weapons.” And I said, “No we haven’t.” he said,
“Yes you had those boxes they’re rifles.” I said, “I didn’t know that.” I wasn’t dobbing myself in. he said, “They are and have you got any ammunition?” I said, “I don’t know mate.” So they took the nets off and ripped the top off one of the boxes and there sitting on top of the ammunition was ‘Israeli Defence industries, Made in Israel’, the five point five six ammunition. And he said, “You’re Israelis!” and I said, “No we’re
not mate, trust me here is my ID card.” He said, “You have Israeli ammunition.” I said, “Know nothing about it.” so they confiscated our weapons. And I think because the King of Morocco had been forced into accepting the mission but he didn’t really want it, they took our radios as well, and we were the communications people, so the CO said, “Well how are we supposed to do our job?” “We’ll provide you with radios, don’t worry about it.”
So for the first three months when we were operating on the Moroccan gear, they gave us gear, and when we were operating on the guerrilla side, the Polisario side the other side of the boom we used their gear, which consisted of forty year old, fifty year old radios that hadn’t been maintained, didn’t have fuses in them, sometimes the hand pieces wouldn’t work. In fact at one stage we were monitoring a patrol we had out and they got caught in one of the Saharan sand storms.
All voice communication disappeared because of atmospheric. And to the credit of the guys on the patrol they resorted to Morse code. The handpiece had a press switch, press to talk switch, they were pressing that and one of the young captains that happened to know Morse said, “Oh they’re using Morse.” And they gave us cut down Rovers, Rovers with no windscreen or cabin or anything and we were
sending people out into the desert with that, it was horrible. Once we got out own gear back it was all right. Never got our weapons back until we left, but they did move them down from Morocco to Western Sahara I think in the seventh month. I used to go up into Agadir every second week to check the weapons, check that they were all there, serial numbers and stuff. And then when they moved them down I was able to check them whenever I wanted.
Okay Sam we’ll pause there for the end of the tape.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 06
Sam something we were talking about off camera was your personality as an interrogator, something I am curious about is was it hard to switch off from that persona when you come home. I keep thinking about, was it Prizzi’s Honour?
And they were both undercover murderers, and I am thinking two intelligence people being married, “Did you break the kettle?” kind of thing, did you bring it home?
I would slip very quickly into my intelligence mode and lie, say, “No, wasn’t me.” On that side of it you have to be able to switch off as soon as the session is over, let along coming home from the bush or whatever.
And the very few occasions where I saw people come out of a session and still be hyped up and still be angry or wild about something, that was always dangerous because our training emphasised that was soon as you come out. Whatever has gone on in there you forget that, you write the brief or the report and get on with it. You can’t afford to,
firstly it’s a game, if you go in there and pretend you’re angry well that’s it is just a game. But if you come out angry then something has gone wrong. Means that the prisoner has got to you or you have lost control or something is happening that shouldn’t be happening. So we were taught to switch off as soon as you come out. So I never brought any of it home. And Diane my first wife, she was a female interrogator, one of the first and she
was the same. Whatever went on out bush stayed out bush. That’s different on operations and we talked about that before with East Timor. I always maintained control but it affected me to a degree in as far as my helplessness, not being able to do what I wanted to do and just throttle the bastard. Normally within Australia no, normally you just come out of a session,
and guys that did come out still angry or whatever, they were pulled aside and counselled straight away by the watch commander it is unprofessional and dangerous.
Well you would be a mess wouldn’t you?
Yeah well there were enough problems as it was, we used to operate mainly at night, we would do our main work at night because that’s when people were more tired, which meant that we had to try and sleep during the day which you couldn’t do
because it was too hot, too noisy whatever, so physically you were frazzled anyway, let alone coming out with psychological baggage, just couldn’t afford to have it.
I could see that I mean getting mixed up in somebody else’s emotional life could be very difficult to shake off. Can I ask you a little bit about that marriage or would you rather not talk about it?
No, you can ask.
So did you meet her in training?
Yeah I was doing my initial
training for intelligence and Diane was doing her subject two for sergeant, so she was doing an advanced course at Canungra. And she approached me in the mess, and went from there.
Okay well, I won’t get into that, but do you think part of the breakdown there was because you were travelling so much?
I think the breakdown in our marriage was that we were both probably too
immature, too young, both career minded and even at that stage very strong willed even at that stage, both in our early twenties. And I think when it came down to the wire I guess career got in the way, or maybe we shouldn’t have got married in the first place.
Maybe it was that good
Catholic boy thinking about?
Oh no I loved Diane when I married her and I still love her now as a friend. We have maintained contact, gee, twenty years I have been divorced and we have still maintained contact. I haven’t spoken to her for two or three years, but her Mum sends me Christmas cards and I send her cards and Jacqui is aware of all of that and she is okay with it.
That’s nice, that’s unusual I would say.
We didn't have kids.
I think that makes a difference and I was quite happy to hand most of the assets over to her at that stage, so there was no viciousness about it, just two soldiers moving in different paths, which is sad.
Yeah but it sounds like it was done with a minimum amount of…?
Well for my aspect it was, for the first couple of months while we were separated this is before the divorce came through
I moved into a flat and my friends sort of rallied and I would be having parties and what not. And Diane would ring up and hear music in the background and people laughing and what not and, “You bastard, you’re having a good time and here am I in tears thinking about you and you’re not even thinking about…” That went on for months and months. “Well what do you want me to do? They came around.” And then she sort of rallied and got a life of her own and just sort of moved on.
But yeah probably too young, too immature, which is sad because she is a lovely girl.
Yeah well they have those statistics in Australia don’t they? Getting married in your thirties you have a better chance of success than getting married in your twenties, and getting married in your forties you have a better chance again.
Well this one is staying here until her pension kicks in, her commutation kicks in, lump sum payment, then we might discuss things.
At the moment she has got half of everything so I am not going anywhere until her money kicks in.
Buy the caravan and go for a trip?
Now I am curious to know, your brother went to Vietnam you said before, what did you know, you joined up in 1974 so Vietnam was over, you were too young to go to Vietnam, but what did you know of the horrors of that war from your brother did he tell you anything?
No, not a thing and
without sort of going too much into what he saw and did, he was at a main logistics area, he was at Vung Tau which was a rest and recreation area and was also a main logistics area. So he was Royal Australian Service Corps which was the transport people, the clerical people, the logistics people,
and he didn't go out on patrols or anything like that. Which is not to say that it wasn’t dangerous, which is a bit bizarre because it was rest and recreation for the Australians, beaches and what not there, the Americans had R & R [Rest and Recreation] centres there as well, but the Viet Cong had R & R centres there as well. So they all got in, they all knew who was who, and occasionally there would be rocket attacks and gun fire and whatnot. I think he was privy to a lot of stuff,
I don’t know because he has never talked about it. But in his position where he was a lot of stuff came his way that he was privy to.
And he is not here any more?
Yeah he is still here it is the other one that has passed away.
Angelo is here, he is still alive, and Frank is the one that has passed on.
Which was the one that went to Vietnam?
Angelo. Or Tony as he calls himself.
Well that’s his middle name Anthony, and I said, “What, are you ashamed of your Italian background?” “No Tony is easier.” “Angelo that’s what Mum called you that’s what I will call you.”
Now you were talking a little bit with Chris about working with the police in Darwin was it?
Yeah the Northern Territory, also in far North Queensland, in fact throughout Australia.
Is that something that the army does?
Very much so.
Yep. But having said that, within a very defined charter. Like our military police will work with civilian police obviously doing joint investigations. But only where there is a defence element involved. So the drug raids that took place in Darwin recently at
Palmerston [referring to an incident where ADF members were found to have used drugs] where forty-seven people proved positive, that would have been a joint military, civilian investigation. On the police side. And on the intelligence side, intelligence gets involved in those sorts of investigations only where classified information, or weapons or something of a very sensitive nature becomes involved. So if the cook
is using drugs intelligence is not interested that is an administrative affair. Military police look after that with the civil police, but if a signaller who has access to top secret material is using drugs then we are interested. Because he has got information that he might pass on to somebody in exchange for drugs or black mail or whatever so we work them in that way. But in Darwin
I worked with them as part of my information network that I had set up. But always with a military connection, if there is no military connection we can’t touch them and they can’t touch us.
Well what about a murder investigation or detective work? That too? Intelligence?
Because they’re on civilian street?
Oh, a murder investigation and we have had a few in the
army where soldiers have murdered somebody, I can’t tell you exactly, but quite a few years ago our military law manuals changed where things like murder, rape, serious assault, even if they were committed by soldiers on defence property, it is a civilian jurisdiction. So if the soldier had murdered somebody, after the military had done what it needed to do administratively
it would be a police matter. The only time that intelligence would ever get involved in something like that would be if there was a connection with espionage or terrorism, something along those lines. If it was purely a crime of passion or somebody got drunk and done something we don’t get involved. That’s a military police, civil police thing. The lines are very clearly drawn. And I guess
I should emphasise that that we would only deal with those things if there was a military connection, and intelligence even more defined, it has got to be of a security nature.
Does that still go on today? If a soldier had a couple of weeks off and he killed somebody in a pub or
something, that would be both parties working together?
Civil and military?
But if he killed somebody on a base at Puckapunyal then that would only be military? Or they would hand it over after?
Pretty much. And he would probably end up in a civilian cell while they were doing the investigation. We have got our own
prison, the Defence Corrective Establishment which is worse than any civilian gaol because there is discipline involved and there is all sorts of things involved down there, but something very serious like that, Defence would probably hand him over while the investigation went on. He would still be a member of the Defence Force until he was convicted and as soon as he was convicted he would be discharged from the army for instance
and start serving his sentence. But until he was convicted he would still be a soldier.
Have you ever had to interrogate a digger not on exercises but for something that has occurred? Can you tell us about that? No? Can you not tell us because you’re not allowed to tell us or you don’t want to tell us?
Probably the former, I am still under the Official Secrets Act, even though I am out of the army I am still under that act.
It is not very interesting it is just sensitive that’s all, so I would rather not talk about it.
Sure that’s fine. The other thing I was going to ask you, this is something that appeals to me, it is an archive question but it is also something that appeals to me personally because everyone talks about the Geneva Convention like it is going out of fashion, did you have to sit down
when you did your course and read from go to whoa or something every single act passed through the Geneva Convention?
What is the Geneva Convention?
I think there are four articles that go to make up the Geneva Convention and the article that affects us is the third article and that’s the one that deals with combatants and people supporting combatants
in a conflict. Other articles in there cover the merchant navy for instance, another article will cover civilians caught up in a conflict and another article covers civil war. The one that we had to be very familiar with was the third article and particularly part three article seventeen
which deals with what a prisoner has to divulge upon capture which is number, name, rank, date of birth, that’s all you have to give at the point of capture. After that once you have to go to a prison camp or whatever there may be other administrative questions that you should answer and part of being processed, but at point of capture no. There are only four things you need to be divulging. And we had to be very familiar with that part of it,
because it sounds simple but there are other parts of other articles in part three that can be taken out of context and they deal with other information that you should be passing on further down the track. But if you highlight half a sentence and show it to a guy in there it will say you must give information on your next of kin and place of birth so that that information can be passed back through
the Red Cross, through a prisoners bureau so that they can contact your country and let people know that you’re alive. But then just above that is “This information is only to be divulged when you are in a prison camp or detention centre.” Whereas at point of capture where you are after, I was a tactical interrogator, there are various levels of interrogation and my level was purely and simply battlefield interrogation.
Get the information, short term information and get it back as quickly as possible, that other stuff I am not interested in that stuff, but you could use that against somebody if they weren’t saying anything at all. “Mate it is here Geneva Convention I have highlighted it for you. I need to know where you were born, I need to know the name of your mum, your dad’s name, you have got no ID [identity] card on you, no ID tags on you, it says here that we need to be provided with these items.” which it does.
“I need to take your photo, I need your fingerprints, I need this information.” And it is all information that you can use then. “Oh you’re from Victoria mate? You follow Aussie Rules?” Blah, blah. And you just go down the track, “Oh you must have worked for Victoria Barracks, what were you doing there mate?” you can do it that way or you can yell at somebody or you can say, “Mate I am not real smart and if you don’t tell me this basic information which is basic administration they’re going
to kick my arse. I would like it if you can help me.” And some of them look at you and think, you are an idiot. And they say, “I was born in Victoria okay if that helps you at all.” Because they think they’re doing you a favour. Have I gone off the track?
You are so friendly with this cherubic face; I can’t imagine you being…..
It is only cherubic now, that’s what it was like ten years ago.
Yeah you were really skinny.
I have put on twenty kilos in the last two and a half years. Got out of the army and bomp.
It happens to the best of us. I am curious to know, here you are so friendly, we have been talking and having a lovely day and what have you, so this, let’s call it the dark side at the moment the sort of Darth Vader side of you, where does this come from?
Stock standard answer is training. Within me it is the desire to win the information and win it any way you can. And there are two sides to me; in that role I am quite capable of being extremely sincere,
I am quite capable of using religion, I am quite capable of using family ties. Whatever I can do within certain boundaries more than capable of using it and have used it and had to use it. Even in East Timor couldn’t touch people, Australian interviewer particularly, couldn’t touch them. So it was very much a case of
having to use what was up here and devising strategies to get information. Because the militia that we captured and certain other people that we got they were expecting to be beaten up, they were expecting to be tortured and knifed and all sorts of things because that’s what they did, and when they came up against us and all we were doing was talking to them. Maybe yelling or other things but nothing too bad,
they thought it was a big joke and so we had to devise other strategies. And the other strategies, I will tell you one later that I used. You have to. And the dark side of me, that’s in me I guess.
Everybody has a dark side.
They do, everybody has a core personality that nobody gets to except them. Personality is like an onion,
layers, you present different personalities to different people, strangers, loved ones, friends, partners, but right in the centre there is you. And that’s what we used to try and go for., that’s where all your fears are, and all of your strengths as well, and if you know what somebodies strengths you can work on them and defeat them. That’s not all I did in int corps, interrogation. I liked it but I did other stuff.
Can you tell me about that in a second, I have just got to ask something on that last point. Did you work with or consult with a psychologist in devising strategies in Timor since you couldn’t touch any of the people or was it just the training that you had in Australia?
The training we had in Australia. And I had been doing that sort of thing for twenty years, training for twenty years,
and there were a lot of other people doing the same thing and so we were able to bounce ideas off each other. It is very much a team effort, it is not an individual thing at all, you would be very interested to know how the centres are set up and how everything interlocks, and how everything is monitored and it is certainly a team effort. You might be the one in there actually doing the talking but there are a lot of things being orchestrated in the background all coming together.
It is a rolling thing, it is not just you do one session and that’s all the person gets. Depending on who they are and what they are, they might be there for two or three days in which case it is a rolling team effort and somebody else might go in, in an hour or two hours time. So everybody has to be familiar with what's going on and what strategy they are going to use from whoa to go, and that might involved different methods and techniques.
You might start off in a certain way and that person might react in some manner so you alter your strategy and attack them another way. Mutt and Jeff is always a good, good guy, bad guy is always a good way to do it. although it is very common, a lot of people are aware of that now.
You said you did other things though besides interrogation, can you tell us about that?
In East Timor for instance I did a lot of force protection work
which is setting up networks amongst the villagers and amongst some of the town people, some of the leaders, getting information that way. So you might have an infantry company that’s in a location, I worked down on the border mainly, so I had detachments at Batugade on the coast, at Balibo and at Maliana and each of those detachments would have their own network so I would co-ordinate all
of the information and the tasking for those detachments. We need to know this, we need to know what is going on in this area about border crossings or refugees that are coming back across. Has there been any Kopassus [Indonesian Army Special Forces Unit] activity? I would be tasked by my boss and I would task the dets [detachments] and they would actually go out and do the business. And I had my own little patch around Balibo where I would do the same thing.
Just on Balibo it was a bit hard because I was near where the journalists were killed. There was a Portuguese fort where we were, and then there was a ramp led right down to their accommodation where they were living and also the greenhouse where they were killed, so you get to see all of those things as well, a bit of history I guess. Bizarre, macabre not bizarre.
We will talk about Timor. You did two tours of the Western Sahara and you also did two tours of
Timor, and you talked about these radios that didn't work and using Morse code, you obviously used Morse code too, no? just the captain?
The signallers because they are still taught Morse code.
Oh yeah and Special Forces signaller particularly are taught it. But just as a basic skill
that you may never have to use they were taught it and used it successfully.
And you also mentioned today I think, it was on tape one that the mission is still going on?
Over there in the Sahara?
It is, but Australia pulled out in 1994, we pulled our communications element out in 1994,
but I read somewhere that the government is considering sending them back in.
Now what are the French people that do a lot of work in medicine in places like that, Frontier…..?
Médécins Sans Frontieres [Doctors Without Borders] or something.
Did you come across Médécins Sans Frontieres?
They’re what's called a Non-Government Organization, NGO, and yeah they’re, those sort of organisations are always around a United Nations mission. In Western Sahara no. There were no NGOs there, or none that I saw and worked with. We had a Swiss medical unit operating with us and
it was fantastic. I fell in love with a Swiss nurse, so all of our medical needs were met by the Swiss which was good. In East Timor yeah, there were many NGOs, Oxfam, the French Medical people, Ausaid, all sorts of people.
What's INTERFET you talked about INTERFET?
INTERFET which was a crazy name when they first coined it because people were thinking internet all of the time.
INTERFET is International Force East Timor.
Oh okay. I don’t know what I was thinking, I was thinking it was perhaps some kind of lifeline, you know?
It was to the East Timorese people.
That’s right; we will talk about that in a second. Now hang on a second you just dropped a bomb there, you fell in love with a Swiss nurse?
And was it kind of a war romance?
Pretty much and her name was Jacqui too, we sort of saw each other fairly frequently. I used to spend a lot of time at the Swiss compound, they had the best coffee, we had the best beer but they had the best coffee and best food too. I spent a lot of time with her. We went away, the UN call it compulsory time off, CTO, used to get a couple of days off every few months
we went to Morocco and then she took me home to Switzerland to meet her mum and her dad. Just didn’t work out. Because I came home when my tours had finished I came home and Jacqui remained there and she was in Adakla, which is further down the coast in the Western Sahara, seven hundred dollars US a week for about the first four weeks we were spending each of us, on the telephone, she was on a satellite telephone.
It got a bit expensive after a while and then distance, things like that. Although at one stage I was seriously considering retiring from the army and going over there to Switzerland.
One of those moments again where you think ‘what if’? If I didn't say anything about the hearing test, if I decided to get out of the army, the same kind of thing.
And with Jacqui it was very much a timing thing, I had a girlfriend back in Australia
when Jacqui first started to let me know how she felt, because women always tell me how they feel, I walk around with my head in the clouds all of the time. Even though my trade was intelligence I didn't have a clue in real life, so when she let me know how she felt I said, “Well look I have got Bernadette back in Australia, we can be friends but that’s all.” And then later in the mission when I started to feel strongly about her, she had taken up with a Swiss pilot that was working over there. So we sort of got rid of both of them
and got together and then I came home and things didn’t work out. Timing I think. Which is why my marriage to Jacqui is perfect because it was the right time.
It kind of works like that doesn’t it?
Okay so then that’s a nice memory then I take it that you take from that time. When you do two tours does that mean that you do it back to back?
With Western Sahara yep I did two tours back to back and that’s what that little two is on the medal up there. That’s a UN medal, it indicates two tours. With East Timor I did two tours but they weren’t back to back. I did one with INTERFET, came home for four months and then went back with the UN mission.
So I heard about Vietnam tours, it would be twelve months,
is that the same, would it be twelve months?
No. with UN missions they vary depending on the countries involved but a tour is technically six months, so you do six months and then if you do another six months or the majority of six months, four or five months more they will class that as a tour. With us, our tours in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, normally six months.
That’s on the military side, if you’re working within a military contingent, and Australian contingent or an American contingent. If you’re a United Nations military observer, and officer working with United Nations monitoring somewhere normally twelve months is a tour. Contingent wise it is three to six months, and if you’re on your own seconded to the United Nations it is normally twelve months.
Okay so what happened with you, you were over there and the army said, “Okay Sam we just want to keep you over here?”
No I think what happened, it was originally supposed to be a six month mission, whoa to go end of story. Set up the referendum, people vote, we monitor, we provide the communications everybody goes home. And then when it got around the three or four month mark and they realised things were not going according to plan both the UN
and the Australian Government they started to delay our departure. Firstly it was by month and then it was by week, so come six months they said, “Well you’re not coming home because we are not sure whether they are going to have the referendum next month or longer. So we’ll leave you there an extra month.” And at the end of the eighth month they said, “Well they are getting close they have set up polling booths, this and that.” And then at the end of the ninth month
they said, “Come home we’re sending another contingent over.”
It must be frustrating I mean in a sense, job satisfaction wise to be called back or pulled back out of something that hasn’t been completed? Or something that you have been overseeing and then all of a sudden that’s it you’re coming home, how did that feel?
It is not frustrating for us because we know that by and
large things don’t happen quickly in international conflicts and relations and what not. So we are quite happy to go over, do our bit and come home. I think what was frustrating was, and it always is, particular soldiers, being told, “This is your end date.” And then, “No it’s another month.” And then, “Another month.” And then they were going week by week and day by day, that’s extremely frustrating
particularly for married people or people who have got commitments back here. As far as not seeing something through, we realised, well I realised well, we got to this point the next contingent will continue and will perhaps move forward a little bit more and it is a matter of looking at the long term view particularly with East Timor. We are just now withdrawing our last combat troops.
The mob that are there now,
That’s been five years? Yes five years.
We will still have people over there in Dili, but down on the border where we have had infantry troops since the beginning, 6th Battalion as it turns out, are on their way home soon. They haven’t seen, well they have I guess because it is an independent
nation now and it is moving forward. It has built up its own defence force, with ha lot of assistance. We have still got people over there training that fledging defence force. As far as us having that main role on the border, well that’s finished.
Unlike what’s happening in Iraq.
Maybe we should talk about that as restricted footage.
Yes we will talk about that later. Now you talked about going into Agadir?
That was every two weeks to check on the equipment?
Weapons. This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for killing this is for fun.
You also had leave there did you say?
With the United Nations, when you’re working exclusively with the United Nations mission they have
compulsory time off. And it is compulsory. So we would work twenty-one days straight and then we would get six days off. As opposed to East Timor where we would work seven days a week until you came home.
Still twenty-one days and six days off isn’t that good.
It’s not bad, from a soldiers point of view it is good.
Better than nothing. Sure. What was in Agadir I mean I
don’t know anything about it?
Agadir was in the south of Morocco and it is a huge resort town. A lot of German tourists get there, a lot of British get there. Very few Americans, very few other Europeans. It is a Moroccan version of the Gold Coast I guess, which was hard to take.
So you haggle for a suntan?
Well I hadn’t seen anything green
for three weeks and it is amazing how you forget, because in the Western Sahara there is nothing. And we got to Agadir on out first CTO and we booked into a hotel and there is this swimming pool and it has got this lush green grass around it. And I am looking at it, and I am actually touching it, and this is only after three weeks, thinking “Oh my God!” And then I went to London about half way through, about the five months mark
I went to London for a few days and I was in the hotel and I inadvertently drank a glass of water straight out of the tap. And I almost vomited it back out because for five months I had been drinking out of a bottle, bottled water, and you forget what it is like to just drink out of a tap. So we got six days off every twenty-one which is pretty good.
Did you get to ride on any camels?
No there were camels on the beach there.
Camels all through the desert. That was incredible, I guess because of my job I did a lot of liaison, a lot of escort work; I would escort officers around various places. And I was in the middle of the Western Sahara quite a few times and you would look around and there is nothing and suddenly camels would appear, herds of camels would come out of the ground, almost like a mirage I guess. And even more bizarre people would appear out of nowhere.
There is nothing for hundred of kilometres, at all and people would just appear. Old ladies, old blokes, and you would have been driving for three or four hours and there would have been no oasis, we came across quite a few of them, and you just wonder how these people survive, where their camp is, what they do for water. But they do.
It sounds so exotic, did you like it?
I did. I did, it was exotic and it was
unusual. Camping out in the Sahara and looking up and seeing stars like you have never seen in Australia, and it was bizarre, that’s one of my favourite words. We were issued with first generation GPS, global positioning systems, the satellite positioning system navigation. And I think there were only sixteen satellites up out of twenty-four, the final array is twenty-four.
And you needed four satellites to get a fix, and you would be on the way to a team site somewhere and you would get a fix no problem, and you would look at it and it had a map and it would tell you where you were, but the maps were such a huge scale the detail was, there was so little detail because it was all desert you could virtually put your finger down in the middle of the map and say, “That where we are.” Which would mean nothing because it was all desert. And we were out on a patrol
Sam I am going to have to change tapes.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 07
Now Sam you were there as part of a communications contingent, really as part of the UN, but you did mention to one person who were you were speaking to at the office that you were peace making as much as you were peace keeping there, it might have been an off hand comment but….?
No we were purely and simply monitoring. What I said to Pippi [Archive researcher] was
East Timor was peace making as opposed to peace keeping. With peace making, that brings in those different rules of engagement that I was talking about. If you’re a peace maker, that means that you have got a weapon and you can make the peace you can enforce the peace. Whereas peacekeepers may be armed, may not be armed but they are there under very tightly controlled rules of engagement. I will qualify that, all rules of engagement are
tightly controlled but when you have got rules that protect the local population as well as yourself, that’s what you need when you’re peace making.
So in the Sahara as a monitoring force with communications, I have got a lot of questions, harking back to what were talking about earlier, I mean it wouldn’t have
been as bad as Rwanda and Somalia kind of thing but where there kinds of things that you came across as a contingent that because you were monitoring you were encouraged to just stay away from or you couldn’t interact with?
Yeah, because we were under United Nations control we were very restricted
as to what we could do anywhere. And I remember one time in Laayoune which is where the force headquarters was, we were within a walled compound and I remember this fellow came running in, one of the locals came running in one day and he was yelling and screaming and he was terrified and he was followed by three or four Moroccan secret police in civilian clothes. And he ran into
the headquarters building and he was begging for help, begging to be detained by the UN, he did not want to go outside that building, and these blokes just grabbed him and started to drag him off and the United Nations policeman, a uniformed policeman working for the United Nations he sort of held them up for a few minutes while he talked to the head of the mission, both the civilian and military heads of the mission. And it turned out that the UN
couldn’t do anything under those particular circumstances. And that affected me because I knew what was going to happen to him. He was going to be taken away, tortured and either imprisoned or killed because he was one of the Polisario [Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro – liberation movement]. That feeling of helplessness was double for me because firstly I was armed, I couldn’t do anything even if I wanted to. And secondly knowing what was going to happen to him and just standing
by that’s a horrible feeling. So when you work with the UN that’s usually the sort of thing that happens. They are very constricted, restricted as to what they can do. Particularly in a place like the Western Sahara, they’re there at the king’s, not his request but while he is patient enough to have them.
If he doesn’t want them then he will throw them out, so they are very sensitive. With the UN there is a lot of criticism about the UN, but what a lot of people don’t take into account is that it represents the vast majority of nations on earth and so it had got to please the vast majority of nations on earth and you can’t do that. You can never do that. So even though they seem to fail in a lot of their missions, and they don’t achieve anything and things go back to how they were, that’s just the way it is.
You can’t please everybody and everybody wants to be pleased, with the exception of INTERFET which wasn’t a UN mission, and Iraq and Afghanistan and the early parts of Somalia before it became United Nations. When it is under a coalition control and leadership a lot more gets done. But as soon as the UN comes in and all of those other countries come in, because they have all got their own agenda’s, it is a matter of
do the best they can. And they do, despite all of the corruption and rubbish that goes along with them.
Now did you have to deal with the Moroccan secret police as part of your work?
I did deal with them but not as part of my work.
What do you mean?
Well toward the end of our tour the regimental sergeant major
said, “Sam let’s grab a car and let’s go through the outskirts of the place we’re at and grab some video and whatnot.” And by this stage King Hassan [II] had started to stack the odds, in case there was a referendum he started moving people down from Morocco so they could vote and rig everything. And there was a huge so-called refugee camp near where we were and they were out of bounds. And we inadvertently took the wrong turn,
you can imagine, it is like a maze a lot of their towns. We took the wrong turn and ended up in the middle of this refugee camp. And almost as soon as we stopped this Unimog, this army truck pulled up and all of these armed soldiers got out and surrounded the vehicle, a couple of gendarmes, uniformed gendarmes got out and were eyeing us off and then the secret police came out. And it was like Casablanca, it was awful, ties were askew,
stubble, cigarette hanging out, stunk to high heaven having been out with a camel or something. And he sort of leaned across and he started talking to us in French first because French was the common language, and then broken English and what he wanted was the video camera because the other guy had been videoing this stuff while I had been driving. And Zac said, “Piss off
mate, you’re not getting it, it is my camera.” And there was a bit of a standoff, and this guy put his arm through to grab the camera and Zac said, “Fuck off!” and he wound the window up on this secret policeman’s arm. And I am going, “Zac give him the camera, I don’t care. Zac give him the camera!” They all went to instant, safety catches went off and weapons started to come off and this guy is spewing [angry] and everybody is getting very tense here. “Zac give him the camera!”
“No piss off!” So after about five minutes, this guy has dragged his arm out. He says, “Come into the building, you two come here.” “No mate, we’re staying in the car. If you want to talk with us you come with us back to the compound, we have got interpreters back there, United Nations’ interpreters, some of your guys there. You come and talk to us there. We are not getting out of the car.” Fifteen minutes we sat there in the blazing Saharan sun. Everybody was getting twitchy. He went inside and made some phone
calls and he sent us on our way, we were escorted out a vehicle took us out. I thought that was the end of it. And then the next day the local government made formal complaint to the force commander who was a major general who booted my colonel up the bum, who booted us up the bum. Old Zac, he wasn’t letting go of the camera for anything, and that’s the typical Australian, “Rack off mate it’s mine.” “Zac don’t do that.”
I know you did a lot of different duties while you were there but I would like to get a picture of a day in the life of, and second to that I would like to get an idea of how you were accepted by the local guerrillas there, did they welcome your presence and what you were trying to do?
The Polisario did, very much so. And as I was saying before there
is the boom as such and on one side you have Moroccan controlled territory and on the other side it was more or less no man’s land controlled by the Polisario. The Moroccans by and large were very courteous, but standoffish and unco-operative as much as they could be. To the extent, and we could never prove it, but we suspect that they moved some mines onto
tracks that they knew we were using, I will talk about that in a sec. The Moroccans didn't want us there, we were only there under sufferance, and if they had to deal with us they were courteous but very unco-operative. Went across the boom to the Polisario side, we had team sites over there as well. They were great, if they were having lunch they would say, “Come and have lunch with us.” One time
I was on the Moroccan side and I had gone to a brigade headquarters to do something and we had been asked to stay for morning tea in the officers’ mess and it was very nice, like being in Paris, patisseries came out and coffee in china cups and fans and air conditioning. Very nice. The next day went onto the Moroccan side and they said, “Have mornos with us.” Whatever the Polisario say, “Come and have a cup of tea, have a tea ceremony?”
“Okay.” So I am looking around and there are no tents, no buildings, and I think okay, they’re going to do it in the back of a vehicle. This door opens up and it is this huge boulder, this massive boulder with a door in it. And what they used to do, they would use explosives to hollow out these rocks to protect themselves from Moroccan aircraft and what not. And I went in and it would have been three quarters the size of this room, the boulder,
and as high, and it had wooden shutter windows in it, a door, carpets, there were murals painted on the walls but they were patriotic Polisario murals. They brought out their crockery and it had the Polisario symbol and all of the rest of it and then they did their tea pouring ceremony, three cups of tea, sweet strong and bitter. Sweet for birth and then the strong cup of tea was for living life and
having a good time and the bitter was for death. The old one knee up in the air, sipping tea with these guys, in a rock, where the day before I had been in air conditioning. Eating in a Moroccan mess the food was okay, eating with the Polisario you would watch them pull out this haunch of camel which was all green and slimy because they didn’t have air conditioning and the camp cook would have his knife out scraping off all of the green and you would think, “Oh, this is going to be nice.”
Those sorts of things were all interesting I guess.
Part of the adventure. Can you give us a bit of a picture I guess of a day in the life of working as part of the communications force in this life and I guess what you were trying to do on a day to day basis?
A day to day basis in Laayoune which was the capital and that’s where the headquarters was based. I would normally work out of either UN force headquarters or our own Australian contingent headquarters. If I was working in the force headquarters I could be doing things like updating their map, they had a wall size map with the major boom [border], before you guys go I will show you what it looked like.
And what I had done as part of my job was I had actually gone out on the ground and talked to all of the team sites and locals and Polisarios I had used the GPS and I had plotted the boom. And one of my jobs was to update the master UN map, because the Moroccans had the boom well within their territory where in fact it slipped across into Mauritania a bit and came much closer to Algeria
than they had on their official map. That was a fair job, getting that line correct because it had political as well as military ramifications. I did four security surveys on our classified documents making sure they were handled properly, being passed properly , receipted properly, making sure that only the people who were supposed to see them saw them. The CO got me to do a security survey of the force headquarters, that was interesting because the UN
these UN people had never had a security survey done on them. “Where are you holding all of the secure documents?” “That drawer over there.” “You can’t do that, it has got to be in this sort of container.” Checking communications equipment. Getting briefing material ready. The CO would say to me, “Sam I want you to signal back to Australia and find out about this type of mine. What protection can we have against mines or mine fields?”
We had very little information when we went over. A big part of my job was signalling Land Command in Sydney or JIO [Joint intelligence Organisation] in Canberra trying to get information on the types of mines that were there, anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, and what we could do to try and protect ourselves. And it got down to the stage where the advice we were getting was, “Sandbag the bottom of your vehicles, sit on your
ballistic vests.” which wouldn’t help you but that’s all that came back. Finding out that there were a lot of Italian and Spanish mines there, which were plastic, which were hard to find. That was all part of my protection role for the force, I did a lot of communicating back with Australia. The rest of the time when I wasn’t with the Swiss, the rest of the time I was out in the field, visiting team sites or going to conferences in Algeria
geeing people up. Twenty-one days used to fly like that. Now I can say that back then it was horrible I guess, twenty-one days of just staring at desert. Although Laayoune was a fairly large town and considering where it was in the middle of the Western Sahara it had colour TVs for sale, there was no colour TV television stations there, radios all sorts of things.
Don’t ask me what they did with them. You would see them, they would disappear into the desert, there were towns dotted all around, unless they had satellite of some sort but I never saw any satellite dishes. On a tent or the back of a truck. The only satellite dishes I saw were ours and the Moroccans.
That’s amazing. You mentioned that some of the Moroccans may have been moving mines across known tracks?
Did some vehicles actually get blown?
Yeah we had quite a number of incidents. Down south of the Sahara there were a number of civilians that were killed due to mines, a vehicle would run over a mine. We started to suspect it because we would be sending a patrol along a track and our patrols were always two vehicle patrols and
Nissan Patrol vehicles they were, and up in the northeast we sent a patrol and the Moroccans knew the route, we had to let them know where we were going all of the time. And these vehicles had been travelling for weeks along this route and the second vehicle observed the first vehicle go over the track and suddenly there was this blue smoke came out from underneath the first vehicle so they radioed and they stopped.
And what had happened was they had run over a mine and either the mine was defective or the detonator, the plunger hadn’t been screwed in properly and hadn’t gone down and ignited the explosive, so they were extremely lucky, they had actually triggered the mine but it was faulty. And then down in the central Undragan area, central Western Sahara off the coast, inland sorry.
One of the UN vehicles ran over a mine and detonated it, I learnt a lot about mines over there because I always thought a mine was in the ground flat, and that’s it, but you can do all sorts of things with mines. And this one had been planted at an angle with the idea that the vehicle would come along this way and set the mine off and all of the blast would go up into the vehicle. Fortunately our vehicle came this way
and when it set it off most of the blast went through the engine block with a little bit of back blast coming into the driver’s compartment. The UN bloke had shrapnel all through his legs and bruising and concussion and all of that sort of thing. He was okay. He was taken out to a hospital but he could have easily been killed,
so we suspected that. One occasion the Moroccans actually barred a UN patrol actually going into an area and we had carte blanche [complete freedom] whatever to go wherever we had to go. And they actually pointed weapons at the patrol and said, “You’re not coming in here.” Led by an American this patrol who said, “Piss of mate I will do what I want to do, I am UN.” Gutsy bloke,
stupid, but gutsy. And they did go in, the patrol did go in but the Moroccans were really angry. So there was a lot of simmering stuff going on and we think they were starting to get spiteful by the end. And we also think they were telling us, “You’re not going into that area and if you do it is at your own risk.” So we reckon that when we were going into those sensitive areas they were moving mines. Never proved it obviously and it is nothing that would ever got to an official stage
but there were too many incidents going on. The Moroccans used to explain it away by saying, when you plant mines in sand it is like planting mines in an area that might become muddy like Cambodia, when you get rains and mud the minefields all move. And it is the same in the sand with dunes shifting and winds and what not actually picks the mines up and moves them around. It was just
very strange that they were right in the vehicle tracks, and they were fairly firmly entrenched. And the vehicle that did go up it hit an anti-tank and vehicle mine and thank God the guys had the good sense not to just jump out on either side because when you plant antitank mines you always plant anti-personnel mines which are much smaller just around them. So when crews and passengers disembark they jump onto the mines around, that are deliberately planted
minefield. When you see that you might expect half a dozen mines of one type to shift together but you don’t expect one big mine and ten smaller mines to suddenly get up and move together.
That’s just a little too convenient.
Just a touch.
Were there any, besides some of the ones that you have mentioned, particular hairy moments
for you in the work that you were doing?
No just the conditions I guess were very harsh. Geographical conditions were harsh. Driving was dangerous over there, very dangerous. For me personally no, even though I was out on the road a lot I tended to be reasonably careful. And the one time I did get lost in the middle of the Sahara Desert, on the western side I did get lost because
the GPS went down, the satellites disappeared. And we’re looking at this thing and suddenly error, error, error, and “Shit, what do we do?” because the maps are no good, you can’t navigate for shit with those maps. And I had a patrol with me and they all looked at me and said, “Well, you have got the GPS what do we do?” so I got the old compass out and found out what direct west was and said, “Let’s go west.” So we drove for two hours until we hit the coast and then we turned
right and headed north going back to Laayoune. “The ocean is out there somewhere man, we will just drive until we find it.” It wasn’t particularly scary because we had enough fuel and we had water and we had radios, but that’s the extent, maybe a mine threat but we were extremely careful, after those vehicles went up we were extremely careful and we actually sandbagged the vehicles and we had our helmets and stuff.
That’s what they said, “Sit on your helmets.” That would have helped a lot. I guess fauna; we had a guy bitten by a camp dog in Aousserd which was way down south. He was playing with the dog, Polisario dog, little puppy thing, and it bit him in the hand and wouldn’t let go and the Australian actually choked the thing to death because it just wouldn’t let go. And he had to be brought back to Laayoune and
they put him on an anti-rabies program which luckily for him was injections in both thighs and both arms. Because when I went to America the anti-rabies regimen back then was this huge thing straight into your gut. They used to have to give you these massive injections straight into your stomach, so he was copping these injections for sixteen days I think he got them. And they sent the body of the
dog back to Switzerland, the Swiss took it back and they did their tests and it came back that it wasn’t rabid. Road accidents were a major hazard I guess.
Did that have something to do with the shifting sands and winds and landscape conditions in terms of accidents, vehicle accidents?
Yes. Because a lot of our patrols would be just across the desert and it would be like what you see on TV where you see this massive flat pancake surface,
and our boys, who were naughty sometimes, because I warned them about this. They were Nissan Patrols, they were capable of doing a hundred and eighty, two hundred ks per hour. And they would get on these things and they would go four abreast and they would bolt. And I was expecting a two vehicle patrol back and they were four hours overdue. And I was starting to get worried, we didn't have radio contact with them and it was getting dark. We though something had happened
to them, we didn’t know where they were. And when they finally limped in, the vehicles limped in, they had been mucking around. They had been hurtling across the desert at about a hundred and forty k’s an hour and both vehicles had hit a bump, gone up in the air and then came crashing down. Smashed all of the suspension, cracked all of the suspension the lead suspension and what not. So they had to come back to twenty or thirty k’s an hour while they limped into Laayoune.
And the road from Laayoune out to Smara which was the northern sector headquarters, it was a bitumen road, but it was like they had just come out with the bitumen truck, dumped bitumen and smoothed it out. Because there was no preparation of the sub surface, you were driving along, and if you did anything over eighty k’s an hour, it would just be up and down up and down, and there would be the occasional depression
and if you hit that at speed it would have killed you. The locals were pretty crazy with driving so that was something you had to contend with. We used to drive with our lights on, day or night for safety. And they would be forever flashing. The Moroccans or the Polisario forever flashing their headlights at you, “Turn your lights off you moron what are you doing?” even at night, “Turn your lights off, what are you doing?” because they had been told each battery only had enough power in it to switch your lights on forty times.
After forty times your battery would be flat, and you would be driving along at night and suddenly out of nowhere this car would be coming at you from the side with no headlights or anything, horns blaring and he would start flashing his lights at you. The Swiss lost somebody unfortunately during my tour, they were coming from Dakhla back to Laayoune and this truck had broken down, Moroccan truck had broken down. And normally what they would do if something like that
happened would be they would put big rocks forty or fifty metres from the vehicle just on the side of the road but close enough to the middle of the road so you would have to slow down. He had broken down on a corner, on a bend and he hadn’t bothered to put the rocks out and the Swiss vehicle came around the corner at speed I would imagine and she was killed unfortunately. She wasn’t killed outright, she was severely hurt and
injured and they took her back to Switzerland and she died in Switzerland. The next contingent the Australian contingent that went over they lost their medical officer, the major, female medical officer. She was killed in a plane crash. It was mainly that sort of thing.
Did you have a sense when you were over that what you were doing, well you were
monitoring the peace, that it was actually effective, that the United Nation presence was actually effective and things were going to work through?
No, particularly after about six months, being in force headquarters I was privy to what was going on between Rabat, the Moroccan capital and Laayoune and on the intelligence side we started to pick up indications
that they were starting to stack the vote and we got information about bus loads of people being promised all sorts of things, and they were coming out of Morocco into Western Sahara, and to be eligible to vote you had to be ethnic Western Saharan I guess, Bedouin or Tuareg [nomadic peoples], blue people, with the blue outfit. And these people were all coming from Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech.
So they were Moroccan nationals who had no right to be down there. Once we saw that happening and we saw the stalling that was going on by the Moroccan Government and the pretty much ineffectual, on the civilian side, the ineffectual attempts that were being made to get the process started, we started to lose heart.
And from a military perspective, from a soldier’s perspective we got really pissed off at the chief finance officer and the chief executive officer who were both civilians, this is where the corruption started to come in. And this is where there is big money in UN missions; we got an allowance, we being the Australians and the others. We got an allowance of a hundred and ten dollars US a day, on top of our pay,
that was the UN allowance for being there. We thought, “Well that’s not too bad, a hundred and ten US a day.” But it turned out that the UN said, “Well you people in Laayoune because we’re feeding you and accommodating you we’re going to charge you sixty-five dollars US a day.” Now we did our own sums and we could have got by on five dollars US a day. Accommodation and food, not a problem in the world, plus we had our own rations with us; the CO had brought over ration packs.
So we figured probably fifty to fifty-five dollars was being skimmed off everybody in Laayoune, and then they hit the guys out in the field for forty-five dollars a day. And they were living in bombed out buildings and they didn't have showers or toilets. They were living on ration packs from various countries, Polish ration packs, British ration packs, Americans. So all of this money was being withheld.
And then to top it off in Smara, northern sector headquarters the UN observers, the military observers had been living in a small hotel there, and after three months the proprietor presented northern sector commander who was a French colonel, gendarme colonel, police colonel. Presented him with a US$90,000 bill. He said, “What are you giving me this for?”
He said, “Well you have been here three months and there is twenty people and you have eaten these meals you owe me ninety thousand dollars.” And the guy looked at it and said, “I am not paying this. This has got to go back to Laayoune to the chief financial officer he will sort it out.” The CFO who was either Algerian or Tunisian, I think he was Tunisian, he got the bill and he went straight back to the hotel proprietor and said, “We are here as guests of King Hassan of Morocco,
he has invited us here and he has said that he will provide hospitality, food accommodation whatever, we are not paying the bill.” Those guys had been paying their sixty-five dollars or forty-five dollars a day back to Laayoune to cover this sort of thing so we started to think where is this money going? And I think we worked out on average US$250,000 a week was disappearing and it could only be
going to two people. So there was the corruption side of it. Trying to get vehicles from the United Nations compound was a nightmare because that was run by a Romanian or something. Getting on a UN helicopter was taking your life in your own hands. You would go out to the airfield and he would be there with the av gas, aviation gas, filling the tank and smoking, smoking away. And you get onto any western military aircraft and
there is a safety briefing, this is what you do if an alarm goes off and do your seatbelts up and if we crash do this and that. Not the UN aircraft. And no smoking on our aircraft, none at all. The loadmaster would be at the door smoking away, this is on an old Russian military helicopter, the HIP 8. Huge things they were, and there would be a fuel bladder inside to extend the range because they used to fly into Algeria as well.
And you would look at the fuel bladder and you could smell all of the fumes, and there would be stains around the bottom of the bladder because they would take them in or out, and he would be standing at the door smoking, and you would say, “G'day mate.” And he would grunt at you. He didn’t speak English so he would grunt at you. And they would push you all in, overload the aircraft helicopter or a fixed wing, it was interesting, it was scary a lot of the time. Zac, who was
the regimental sergeant major, he had Ukrainian in his background, his mum was Ukrainian and he could speak Ukrainian and understand Russian and all of this sort of thing, and a lot of the crews although they were Romanian they were ex-military people so they used to speak Russian and Ukrainian, and they used to get onto the vodka the night before missions and what not. And I would walk past and they would all be rolling, laughing and back slapping. And I am thinking, “These guys have got to fly tomorrow!”
And you would get onto the aircraft and the pilot and co-pilot would look back at you and there was stubble and clothes were half done up and the silliest grin and they would reek of alcohol and you would think, “My God, what is going to happen?” And this thing would go straight up in the air because they were powerful helicopters and then it would shake and wobble and go down in a dive, and you would think, “We’re going to die!” And the pilot would look back and burst out laughing because he knew you were shit scared.
Oh dear. Good times. Sorry in answer to your question no I didn't think it was ever going to succeed while we were there.
I actually got that. Even though you were a small force, forty-five people how do you think this small Australian force was perceived by the other nations in the clan if you like?
Extremely well, really well. Being an older soldier and going over with, on average they would have been nineteen, twenty, most of our guys. I though, they’re soft, younger generation, they haven’t got all of the right gear so they won’t get the job done, they will whinge and whine, because that’s all they did on the way over there was whinge and whine.
We got over there and once we had deployed all of the various people to the team sites particularly those first three months where we had crap gear they did a fantastic job, they really did. And this is getting back to what I said this morning, it doesn’t matter 2004 soldier, 1944 soldier, the same mentality. And because they were very much a can-do type group and they established communications
and they ran the radio nets and what not, initially there was animosity because apart from the Canadians who had a contingent and a Swiss medical unit the bulk of the rest of the people were individual officers. You might have three or four Chinese spread through the area, a dozen Americans, some Russians and a lot of Italians. The team site leaders wound normally be majors
or lieutenant colonel and our senior rank out on the team sites might be a corporal, usually it was a signaller, a private, might be a corporal. So initially the officers and you might have Italians, Russians, Nigerians, Venezuelans, the common language was English so it wasn’t too bad, but you might have all of these different nationalities there who all had a
different relationship with their soldiers in their countries. In most of the countries represented the soldiers didn't say, “Boo!” didn't have anything to do with the officers at all. Would bow and salute, scrape and all of the rest of it. Australians soldiers are not like that. So our blokes would set up the nets, and the colonel, and in one particular case, it was the Italian colonel would come along and he would pick up the radio and he would ring up the Italian major on another team site and they would natter away in Italian.
And this went on for a little while, they all did, but the Italians is the one that sticks out, they all did it. And the detachment commanders at the team sites got in touch with the Australian colonel and said, “What do we do Sir? They are tying up the net, it is a command net. It’s a safety net, it is communication and they’re using it like a telephone.” And the colonel came back and said, “You’re the net control station.” which means he
is the guy in charge of that radio. He said, “Do what you have to do, it is a command net. It is what the force commander needs to operate so sort it out.” So you had privates, signallers and corporals telling majors and colonels from countries where soldiers are in another universe, “Fuck off Sir I have told you a hundred times it is a command net. You can’t ring your wog mate up there and yap away. This is for communication between us and Laayoune and
us and the patrol and us and other team sites. Piss off!” This was right at the end when everybody’s patience had been worn out. Our guys at the beginning were all, “I am sorry Sir, this is the radio network.” The normal stuff, the normal respect and courtesy. And after a couple of weeks it was , “Piss off!” And physically grab the radio handpiece from the guy’s hand, slam it down and say “Go away, if you want to send a message to Laayoune or wherever, let me know Sir and I will do it for you.”
Loved them. Everybody loved us .the guys would come back from the team sites to Laayoune where we had set up a boozer, it was called the Kangaroo Club. All of the team sites were dry, couldn’t drink out there and we set up this small boozer in Laayoune and initially it was just us. And at any one time there might be ten or twelve Australians in there in one night. Half way through the tour
all of the other contingents were in ,and it wouldn’t have been much bigger than the lounge room here and there would be a hundred people, a hundred and fifty people packed in there. I started to worry because every couple of weeks we would send Nissan Patrols up to Agadir where they had struck a deal with some brewery or something, and we were drinking the Moroccan version of Heineken. And they would come back packed to the gunnels with cartons of beer and
in the end we convinced the Swiss to lend us one of their trucks because we could get more booze. It was incredible, all of the contingents came in, the Canadians, the Swiss, all of the so called Muslim countries they came in, we got on really well and it was because of our colonel who had very much a can do attitude. I must admit in the early days I thought, you’re taking on too much because we were getting tasked to do too many things.
But at the end of the day we did it all and did it all well. They all loved us.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 08
Sam coming back to Australia having been away this amount of time, the only time you had overseas leave or travel was when you went to London is that right?
Yeah from Western Sahara because we were there so long, about mid tour they gave us a week off and I went to London, Portugal, Switzerland.
And you mentioned before also, off camera before that you were
over there when the Soviet Union fell? What was the Moroccans’ reaction to that?
At a political level I don’t know. At a military level I don’t know either, they didn't express any feeling one way or another. It was interesting within the Russians themselves though, one day they were al fiercely Soviet Union USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] officers with the patches,
the hammer and sickle the whole lot. The next day they were all CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], the old imperial flag. And I think for about a week or so after the change a lot of the paper work that was coming out of force headquarters still referred to them as USSR monitors or whatever, to the extent that the Russian colonel refer to them as Federations officer or CIS officers in future.
So the biggest change I think was within the UN itself. It was very significant; it was very interesting to see that interaction between the communist Chinese captain and the Russian captain. And before the break up of the Soviet Union the Russian had been baiting the Chinese captain all of the time because of the ideological differences, and after the fall
the Chinese guy was having a go at him, “You’re not Soviet Union any more are you mate? You’re just a scuzz ball moving along the path of democracy.” So those sort of interesting interchanges went on all of the time.
Did you have an interest in the communism, democracy, the political outlook of countries in the sense that you were born in the 1950s did you say?
You would have had an idea of McCarthyism and then the communism in Vietnam and Korea and Malaya?
Yep. I had more of a professional interest than a personal interest. My first, probably ten years in intelligence corps because the Cold War was still relevant, and a lot of our tactics and doctrine was based on a Soviet
template. So when we looked at the make-up of an enemy division we would base that on a Soviet tank division, the number of tanks, type of tanks, logistic support, and that led on to the political side of it. I have got tonnes of books on life within the Soviet Union, I have got a very interesting book in there, it is a shame you are not coming back, on the daily life of a Soviet Soldier,
their recruit training, their daily routine, things that they learnt. But my interest was mainly professional. And then seeing these people on the ground, the people I had been studying, both Chinese and Russian, seeing them on the ground and thinking, “Well hang on they’re not much different to us.” They might think a bit differently but from a soldier’s perspective, soldiers are soldiers. Officer, soldiers whatever you want to call them, the same. Whether it is a Ugandan bloke
that has been eating somebody the week before or an American submarine commander. All the same, the mentality, there is a bond, which is strange because socially, political and economically they are worlds apart but there is a tenuous bond there.
I suppose it is like the diggers in the First World War, the Germans and the Aussies singing hymns and Christmas carols?
And the officers telling them to stop and the German soldiers just doing it anyway.
So you came back to Australia and then what happened? After being in the Western Sahara what happened when you came back to Australia?
I came back and we were sending our first contingents over to Somalia. And I put my hand up and said, “I will go.” And they said, “You have just come back, we have to send somebody else.”
This is nationally, not within my unit. And I said, “Look, Italian is spoken in the area we are going to, Moroccan peacekeepers are there, I understand how they operate, I have got a basic understanding of African mentality, not necessarily religions and things, but how people think over there. I should go, I have got the experience.” And I pushed and pushed and they said, “No.” so I stayed at Enoggera and I was at Enoggera for a year and
developed some doctrine on screening. Then I got posted to Darwin and I was in Darwin for a couple of years doing work up there. Come back to Brisbane on leave, got posted to Townsville. Spent a couple of years in Townsville and it is 1998 by now and decided I had had enough. That was twenty-four years I had been in the army so I put my discharge in.
1998 it would have been about September 1998 until April 1999 nothing at all to do with anyone in the army. Clean break, I had gone inactive reserve which meant I didn’t have to parade at all, but I was still in the reserve. And then in April 1999 I went out to Enoggera for Anzac Day, the dawn service and whatnot, and I had people coming at
me from all sides. “Sam, can you come out and do some work for us at the school at Canungra?” “Sam, we need some work done at Joint Force Headquarters.” The company said, “Why don’t you come and do some work for us we need interrogators and whatnot?” I thought about it and I went out to Enoggera as an inactive reservist, which meant I was on an open ended contract. Bougainville came up and we started sending people to Bougainville and to go to Bougainville I had to become active reserve
so I did all of the paperwork and I became an active reservist and then that fell through, they said, “You’re not going.” And then about two months later they started arcing up for East Timor. And I went up to my officer commanding and I said, “Sir I am on full time service.” which basically meant I was back in the regular army, “I am on full time service, are you taking me with you to East Timor?” He said, “Sam we are still working out the manning
but if we can we will.” And he did for which I will be forever grateful. September 27 we landed in East Timor, well arrived in East Timor.
Okay I have just got one question out of that, when you said, “Okay I have had enough of the army.”
And you put in your discharge, how come you went into the reserve, did you think I am not completely out, I will do the reserve?
Sort of yeah. Because I had spent so long in the army I wasn’t sure how I was going to make that break. The army at that stage had been my whole life. I wasn’t a military moron or a regimental idiot but I just thought service in regards to everything, and I
was concerned about how I was going to make the break. And I was quite happy I guess, to put the papers in and gamble with how I was going to get on with the rest of my life, but I was persuaded is probably the best way to put it, I was persuaded to at least go inactive reserve, inactive reserve it is very easy to come back into the regular army or to go active reserve, it is just a matter of filling out a couple of forms and off you go.
Whereas if I had discharged completely and wanted to come back in again for whatever reason, I would have had to gone through the whole process again of medical, dental, a lot of paperwork, my security clearances would have lapsed, because I was inactive but technically still in the army they held. They, they being the people in
Townsville said, “Sam there is a lot of experience and knowledge there, don’t let the army miss out.” So that’s why I went inactive, with no intention of ever parading again but it was that little safety net.
I understand. All right well then what were your first impressions of East Timor?
Have you seen the movie Apocalypse Now?
up on [HMAS] Jervis Bay which the navy had leased off the Tasmanian boat builders, that huge catamaran that runs between Tasmania and mainland Australia, been painted grey, it was in navy colours and all sorts of things. This thing does thirty-nine, forty knots out in the ocean. And I remember it chugging into Dili Harbour up to the wharves,
and in the background, not on the horizon, within Dili itself there were flames, smoke, lots of noise. On the dock there was barbed wire everywhere. We had machine gun posts at both ends of it and people had their helmets on, ballistics vests, webbing and they looked very serious. There were a few locals peering through
the wire at the vessel as it came in. That’s the sort of impression I got, with not just smoke, but flames. We got there a week after the first Australians went in, 3 Battalion; the airborne battalion had gone in the week before and secured the airfield so that Cosgrove and his group could come in. so we got there just a week after the first guys.
And during that week and for the first two weeks we were there, as the Indonesian military vacated a building they would trash it, they would put faeces on the wall, throw papers everywhere, and in a lot of cases as they went out the back door they burnt the building or set it on fire as the Australians came in the front door. And I remember thinking; “Oh, it is not very safe here.”
We had weapons, live ammunition, rules of engagement, because we had had training back in Australia on what we could and couldn’t do. So it all sort of clicked that they weren’t mucking around here. And once we got into Dili and saw the damage and the fear on peoples’ faces. This would only be three or two and a half weeks after the massacres took place,
all of the killings after the elections. And you’re not ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] are you?
That idiot Peter Charlton. No, he wasn’t working for the ABC then. Peter Charlton from Sixty Minutes. Richard Carleton. He was over there during that election period and as the people were lining up to vote he was asking them, “Who are you going to vote for?” and
“What are you going to vote for?” And the militia and the Indonesian Special Forces were there and listening to everything. And I remember thinking at that time what a bastard because these people would have been dragged away and killed if they were stupid enough to say anything. That’s the kind of environment it was, the militia was still there, the Indonesians were still there. We weren’t overly concerned about the Indonesian military, the ones we could identify, but we were concerned about
Kopassus, the Indonesian Special Forces, they had been doing a lot of guerrilla warfare type stuff. So they were there but they weren’t there in their uniforms and they were the ones that we were worried about. They were the most efficient killers and orchestrating a lot of stuff. I can say this because I am not in the army now. And it is common knowledge anyway, it has been in the press.
I was just trying to think of the time when this was all happening and what I knew on the television and you could see fires and things burning and what have you. It must have been quite a shock for you coming into that?
It was. The things that have remained with me are the noise, the smell and the fear on peoples faces.
I can still smell the smell right in the back of my nose. Not bodies, although there were bodies around, burning, stench all sorts of things.
Now General Peter Cosgrove was in charge of that wasn’t he?
Pete, my mate? Yeah I have got a lot of respect for him. Yes, he was the force commander.
Now who are the people then that declared it a non-war zone or a war zone? Who was in charge of that?
The United Nations. It came under, they call it Chapter Seven, the Security Council of the United Nations they all get together, even though it was INTERFET it was I guess the military support for the United Nations efforts to affect the transition.
So the people that actually say if it is war zone or non-war zone is the Security Council and they put out a declaration called a Chapter Seven which means that the rules of engagement pertain to a warlike situation as opposed to Rwanda which wasn’t necessarily warlike, although
tens of thousands of people were being killed around us, but there weren’t two groups actually shooting at each other.
Does it have to be like that to be considered warlike?
I am not sure what their criteria are to be honest.
Okay I am curious because before you mentioned it was not a war zone?
Yeah it was.
But it was a war zone?
Rwanda wasn’t active service.
Okay but you couldn’t touch anybody; shoot anybody, who made those rules?
The rules of engagement?
They would have been made at government level, at top defence levels, in conjunction with the United Nations.
Can you tell us what were the jobs you did over there initially, obviously I take it you were interrogating
because, interviewing over there, but how did you go about your job and who assisted you in doing it?
When we first go over there, there was a lot of confusion and a lot of fear, not only from the locals, from everybody. My section, well we interviewers
were operating from the airport. Comoro Airport which was about six or seven kilometres from where INTERFET had its headquarters, we were on the outskirts. And when we first got there and started to set up our interviewing area, it was like
chaos, the walls were all covered in faeces, not from the Indonesians and militia but the airport had been packed with thousands and thousands of people trying to get out or gain some sort of safety because the militia were hacking and slicing people to death all of the time. So we got there just as those people had been moved out, literally within hours of them moving out. And we came into the
airport and it was horrific. The papers, the crap on the wall, blood, bloody bandages. So our first job was to clean that up. And not only us but everybody working out of the airport, the transport people, we had a mail section out there, medics, everyone got in there and we cleaned that up. And
we operated out of the airport for two or three weeks I guess, and what we were doing there was interviewing detainees. People would be rounded up either by INTERFET forces out doing patrols and they would grab somebody that was carrying a weapon or had been fingered by the locals, “He is militia.” “He is Indonesian.” All of those people would initially come to us and we would do,
more of a screening process than an interrogation process. We would find out who they were, what they were doing and go from there. If they were persons of security interest they would go over here, and if they were people of no interest to us they would go there, and if we weren’t sure they would go here. We would work our way through.
Is this when you do you, I can’t remember the exact words you used, but
collecting, collating checking information with intelligence ?
Even though we are intelligence we are more a source. When you deal with that other stuff, that’s called the intelligence cycle, that’s the first thing that we do is get the information requirement and we task somebody to find out, we task the air force to send an F111 over to take photos of this area so we can find out.
So as hum-inters [human intelligence gatherers], interviewers, interrogators. We were almost like a source in ourselves, our boss would get requirements from Cosgrove’s headquarters, he would task us, find out X, Y, Z. We would do some collation there; some basic analysis and then we would feed it back to Cosgrove’s headquarters because he had a fairly large intelligence staff there. So we were only one
little cog in the wheel. We were passing information back to him but he was also getting information from the infantry units on the ground, from the Special Forces on the ground, from the UN political people that were there, we fed information into that big hub, and then they did all of that collecting, collating, analysis, dissemination.
Thanks for that.
I feel like I am back at the school giving a lesson.
Well as you would with me.
No back at our school.
Now, here is an interesting thing, the militia were going around killing the East Timorese because they wanted independence is that correct?
The East Timorese wanted independence, yes.
The militia wanted to stay with the Indonesians? Or did they want their own form of government?
The hardcore militia, there were three tiers of militia, tier one to tier three. The tier one militia had thrown their lot in with the Indonesians; they wanted East Timor to remain Indonesian. Tier two were thugs, murderers, rapists who would have done whatever they wanted to do anyway.
Tier three, even though they were involved in murders, rapes and arson they had been forced into it. I had gone over there with very black and white views on the militia, and my views were, if you are militia you are bad, evil and you have been involved in all of these things against the East Timorese and we are going to deal with you whichever way we have to. But after interviewing so many of them,
I did mainly tier two and three, the tier one blokes we just didn't get them. The Eurico Guterres [militia leader] people and those sorts of people, the head of Itara, we just didn't get them because they bolted into West Timor and Indonesia. And the people I dealt with, the tier two were easy to identify because they were just thugs, criminals, but a lot of the tier three people, the low level people once I started talking to them, “Well I had to do it because they had a gun to my head.”
Or, “They had a machete to my wife.” Or, “They were going to rape my daughter.” And my initial reaction was, “Bullshit mate, you don’t just stab somebody to death or you don’t shoot them if you don’t want to.” But then you get corroborating stories from other people, and they say, “Yeah I remember Jose Silverez, he had to do this, this and this.” And this is from Fretilin, the East Timorese guerrilla [organization], and they said, “Yeah we know him and he
had to do this and this.” And my whole attitude changed then, I thought, “Well it is not up to me to judge somebody that has had his family threatened.” and they would have done it. They would have killed him on the spot and they would have raped his wife. They did all of those things. We saw evidence of it through the province. So that was a huge shock for me to know that people do that because they are forced to. I had led,
not a sheltered life but a conservative life, there is right and wrong and people make decisions but it is not like that.
Just makes you think how protected our lives have been, well speaking of myself.
Very much so.
Well I suppose it wasn’t up to you, it wasn’t your job to work out who was friend or foe as far as the militia goes. I mean there is no friend, but what I mean they
would come to you, already the finger had been pointed so you weren’t actually on the ground looking for them, they came to you?
I wasn’t on the ground but there were other elements of the military information support company which is what we were called because we weren’t allowed to be called intelligence. But there were other elements of my company that were involved in that.
Now why weren’t you allowed to call it intelligence?
Military intelligence? The UN has got a phobia about intelligence people on its operations, and the reason is the UN has got to be seen to be impartial, it can’t be seen to be taking sides in any particular conflict. And if you’re an intelligence gatherer you’re there carrying out a national tasking. You’re there
in your national interests, your country’s interests because you’re gathering intelligence for whatever reason. And the UN can’t be seen encouraging individual nations to gain an advantage gathering intelligence on the ground. Not all countries have got proficient intelligence services I guess. So the UN which has got its own intelligence network, it doesn’t like military intelligence
so it discourages the use of them. It turns a blind eye so long as you don’t call yourself interrogators or intelligence corps and you don’t openly go about your business they turn a blind eye. But yeah it is because you are seen to be acting in your own nation’s interests as opposed to an international interest.
Okay I guess it would be like a policeman calling themselves a community safety person?
I have got a business card from when I was in the Western Sahara and I am down as the operations warrant officer.
Okay so who was the major then that you reported to?
He was my officer commanding, what was his name?
Sheehan, so he was under Cosgrove?
No he was the OC of my company,
the support company, and he reported to an intelligence corps lieutenant colonel, who was the staff officer or the intelligence officer for Cosgrove. So Cosgrove and his operations staff would be looking at a situation and they would need to know something, some information. So as part of his daily meeting and briefings the intelligence colonel would be there, he would be tasked, “I need to know this.” The colonel would pass it to the major,
who would spread it out to the various sources and agencies.
And were they all good people to work with, did you feel as though it was a smooth operation there?
I think the main problem in Cosgrove's headquarters on the intelligence side, and I can’t speak for any other area, was the pure volume of information coming in.
And even though a reasonable number of people were in there, they were just under resourced to sift through this information because there was so much coming in. In an average day we might send in twenty reports just from our tiny little section out at the airport. And then on top of that you have got counter intelligence people, infantry reports, Special Forces people out on the ground. And all of this information would come back to the
intelligence cell in his headquarters and there might be for arguments sake ten or fifteen people, I don’t know. and of those people half of them were officers so they were primarily involved in analysing and making sure the information got to Cosgrove. So you might have four or five people, because there were warrant officers and sergeants as well, four or five people sifting through all of this information
keeping maps up to date, computer battle logs up to date which was even worse. And then on top of that, those five people had to operate twenty-four hours a day so you might have two on two off one sick or whatever. And when they were off they were doing gun picquets because we had security at night, we got very little sleep for the first two or three months because we had to maintain our own security.
Did you personally feel anxious about that by the way?
I did yeah. The first couple of months I did certainly. And the first gun picquet I did at night, we didn’t have any night vision equipment at that stage, they came later. I remember we had our wire up, our barbed wire and stuff and our sandbags, and we were looking down the street through some open areas and they had a flood light behind us.
A big light behind us. And I remember thinking, “What the bloody hell are these guys doing?” Because I was silhouetted, and I couldn’t see anything out there because this strong light was glaring behind me. And I am thinking, “They have lit me up. “(UNCLEAR) your boots men!” and you would look back every now and then and this thing would go zzt. The only thing that made me feel a bit better was that there was a machine gun post off to one side, and they were in the dark so if anything had happened they could have arced up, but we would have
been the first to know what was going on. Little things like that were happening until they sorted themselves out.
You would have had to have spoken to the locals quite a lot to know what was going on around there wouldn’t you?
And how did you gain their trust, how did they respond to you?
We used interpreters; we had our own Tetum speakers and Bahasa Indonesian speakers, military speakers so
there were a few of them but not enough to go around to everyone so we used to do a vetting process and get the best locals we could, the ones that we could semi-trust and we would use them, and we had all done some very basic colloquial Tetum speaking courses before we left. Gaining their trust, the first few days, I guess there was no trust at all on anyone’s part. We didn't trust anyone we saw, including the kids and women.
And they certainly didn't trust us because we were on heightened alert, we were very vigilant, we had our ballistic vests on, body armour on, helmet on all of the time, always kitted up. Rifles, grenade launchers, the whole lot. And whenever we went anywhere in a vehicle there were always two vehicles and apart from the driver everybody else had their weapons pointing outwards. And you would have your weapon resting on the sill
and as you were driving along if there was a group or somebody that looked suspicious you would track them with your weapon. And that is very disconcerting. If you’re out there minding your own business, you’re a local and there are a half a dozen rifles tracking you because you’re a bit dirtier than everybody else or you fit the profile of being a youn,g physically fit male. So there was little trust on either side but once the Indonesians started to pull out in the second and third week,
and the locals saw truckloads of Indonesian soldiers going to the ports to embark on their vessels lots of cheering, once the Indonesians left everything changed, there was cheering, lots of back slapping because they realised the Australians are here to stay. It wasn’t only the Australians, there were Americans, seven hundred Italians were there and I couldn’t figure out, why are there Italians here? Navy,
Carabinieri which is their paramilitary, Italian Special Forces, it clicked later on that East Timor is Roman Catholic and I reckon the pope had a word in the president’s ear and said, “Send some of the boys over there.” Yeah after that second or third week people started to ease up.
I know it is not pleasant to talk about this you mentioned it earlier today with wanting to throttle, well kill a few of these men that had done hideous things to Catholic nuns and priests. How did you deal with this? I mean you say it comes down to training,
but how did you deal with this in getting the information out of them, I know there is not a lot you can tell us, but getting the information out of them without losing your cool?
That particular person was a tier two, he was just a criminal a thug, he had some very basic information on the structure of the militia group that he was with. He came from
northeast of Dili, he had done all of that up there. So he didn’t have a lot of information that I wanted anyway, he was more of a criminal, a thug than somebody that could give me useful information. And the vast majority of people we dealt with had very little information. They might know about their particular cell and how that tied in with another cell. But it was really a matter of the whole team effort throughout East Timor getting all of the bits
of information from these various people to get a bigger picture. So with him there wasn’t much that I could get out of him apart from the details of what he had done, he shot himself in the foot because he then went on the criminal side, there were UN police there, there were military police there so they then grabbed him from a criminal perspective
as opposed to a security perspective. And I got around that, I tend to go very quiet when I am angry, when I am dealing with people. And I just went up to him and whispered some things into his ear. I remember this clear as day. In a very controlled manner, interpreter on one ear me on the other ear. I said, “Exactly what I say in the tone I say it.” and he did. And
it shook him up a little bit but a few minutes later he was back to his, he knew I wasn’t going to shoot him or kill him, not that I threatened to. But he knew there was nothing I could do to him physically. So five minutes later he was back to his cocky self. I might tell you another little story later about how I got around it.
Off camera do you mean?
Okay this was in your second tour Sam though wasn’t it when that happened?
No this was first tour.
I know it is not, one is worse than the other, I mean they were both different it seems, but which one is the one that has perhaps stayed with you the longest?
Professionally or personally?
Personally the first one and professionally probably the first one. I did a lot more in the
first one on the interviewing side of the house. The second tour I was primarily detachment, I had three detachments that I was looking after. And they were doing most of the face to face stuff, they weren’t interrogators they were field intelligence people. So it was more liaison with them, rather than getting nasty with anybody. In fact it was both because there were
more than a couple of occasion on the second tour where I was called upon to do some interviews. And one of them involved me going up from Balibo on the border, Dili requested that I come up to Dili to interview two militia who had escaped and evaded for ten days, they had come across the border and they had evaded the Australians for ten days. So I had to
do them and they were both very ill, emaciated in the military hospital there. So I had to go up and do them, and that was interesting, because they had no interest in fighting anyone and I said, “Well when you crossed the border why didn't you just throw your weapons away and surrender to the Australians?” “Because you would have killed us.” Fair cop. They surrendered to a Kenyan company; they went all of the way through East Timor, found a Kenyan company and surrendered to them.
That was the impression that the battalion on the border was trying to get across and it was good. You come across that border with a weapon and we will kill you. Come across with your hands up, or you want to talk, or you want to come across after going through somebody else and talking to us, we will discuss things, but come across the border with a weapon and we will kill you. No questions asked which was fair enough because they would have killed us.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 09
Did you witness or have to deal with the daily reality of atrocities and things like that that the militia were committing against local East Timorese?
I know it is a horrible subject but can I ask you to put us in that picture in any way shape or form? I guess in terms of what the Australian forces had to deal with?
I guess the first contact, contact being a fire fight that the Australian forces had was a major contact,
was at a place called Suai, down in the south east. What had happened was the militia had run an SAS roadblock, they had gone through, there had been a fire fight and they had turned their vehicles around and bolted back down the road. And the SAS quick reaction force had bolted after them.
And in fact it was a very cleverly designed ambush because the SAS vehicles were ambushed and two of them were wounded, one in the throat and the other in the head. Anyway that all happened and I was in Dili and twelve detainees had been brought back by Blackhawks and some of them were wounded, and we had to go through the tactical questioning and then go into the other side of it. And three bodies came back with them.
I don’t know if you have been aware or know of the allegations that were made against the SAS soldier in East Timor for kicking dead bodies and bits and pieces, well this is all tied in with that. The bodies came back and they were laid out on the table and there was blood and bits and pieces still dripping out. That was a bit hard I guess
that sort of thing. I didn’t see it but one of my people had to go out and do some interpreting because he was a linguist, he was a soldier linguist, and he came across a ute [utility truck] that had I think thirteen bodies in the back, they had all been burnt and mangled or whatever. Other people went to a well where a large number of people had been murdered and thrown down the well.
I think what affected me a lot was I went down to Suai a few days later, they sent me down to do some work. And there was a cathedral that was three-quarters finished, and there was a smaller church and some church buildings. And it was a Sunday and they were having a mass and I didn't think much of it, but being Catholic I thought I would go along.
And I think two weeks before, three weeks before they had had a mass on the Sunday and two or three weeks before they had had a mass on a Sunday and the Indonesians and militia had come along and thrown grenades in and shot people and stabbed people and all sorts of things. And there was evidence of that everywhere. There were expended rounds, but within the unfinished cathedral, I went in to have a look because it was an imposing building, there was blood everywhere, piles of rounds around.
And talking to the people you found out what it was all about, and I remember I was talking to a group of people and a truck came down the road and they all looked up and they all stopped and were all shocked and it was a truck full of militia. And I don’t know but I would imagine that some of them had been involved in the murders the weeks before. The priest had been
tortured, had his arms hacked off, head hacked off. At Suai again came across what was left of a body, it had been cut in half and it was decomposing. Yeah that’s enough
That’s pretty detailed I know and you probably wouldn’t get that out of a lot of people but I am just glossing over a lot of that.
I appreciate the gloss because it does actually help. In your experience interviewing, tier one two and three militia, in your estimation which tier would have been involved in something like that?
All of them, tier one and two would have orchestrated it. And then the guys that had no choice would have been involved but as I said before they
had to, they either did it or they were killed. That was a fine distinction that you had to draw, and you just had to accept that that was the way it was.
In your experience over the time that you got there you mentioned before you came to understand how the tier three fellows had been forced to do a lot of this stuff
as you realised that and saw some more of these fellows were you able to tell or see the effects of the pressure that they had been put under I guess?
Yeah, because a lot of them had had to go into West Timor. To Atambua and Batun and places like that which are right up on the border. Had been more or less forced to go across with the rest of the militia,
and a lot of them were starting to find their way home. And depending on what they had done and their degree of culpability the local Fretilin groups would either say, “Okay we’re drawing a line under this, we know you did this, you had to do this, come on back.” Or they would say, “Come on back.” And then beat the shit out of them, beat them within an inch of their
lives and say, “Have you learnt your lesson?” “Yeah.” “Come on home.” Or kill them, or hand them over. And the guys that had really been forced into a lot of this stuff you could see the pressure they were under because they didn't want to stay in West Timor, they wanted to come home, but they were scared to death of Fretilin, they were scared to death of being beaten up, but they would have accepted that gladly, but they were scared to death of us. Because the propaganda on that side,
you step foot over that border, no matter who you are they will kill you. We had our own, normally these people would be called Psychological Operations people, Psyops, but there were no Psyops people in East Timor. But we had people that made pamphlets and recordings and things like that, similar to what Psyops would normally do but slightly different. They were heavily engaged
in a campaign to get the message across to the people on the other side that if you haven’t done anything wrong, or if you did something and you were forced into it, come on back, reconciliation was a huge thing. The East Timorese themselves, the politicians, they wanted reconciliation so they were prepared to have people come back. The pressure was there and the ones that came back really wanted to come back
regardless of what was going to happen to them.
And what about enforcing the line, you cross this line, the border, and you’re not supposed to, we’re going to shoot you. Just setting up that message, I mean what kind of things were done that made the militia or anybody else believe that that was the case?
Shark net, catch a few sharks, leave them in the net other sharks stay away. I should be very careful there because it is a sensitive subject. It is not that we would lay ambushes, we would have aggressive patrolling. That’s probably the best way to put it. And if they had come across and they were armed, we would challenge them,
and if they didn't stop or they fired upon us it was into them and we did kill a few of them in the early stages, I think half a dozen or so were killed and photos were taken and all sorts of things and that’s how the message got across. And we would have photos of the guys that had been killed and as part of my job when I was interviewing somebody, and it wasn’t done as a threat or this could happen to you,
it was done as a genuine, “Do you know who this person was?” and if the answer was “Yes.” “Well what militia group did he belong to?” and try to build the picture that way. That message got through that way, those people would say, “I have just seen Ureko whoever and he is dead, he has got a big hole in the side of his head.” And that message got across into West Timor, and the people that were worried about it
were the tier one and two. Mainly the tier two, and the guys that had been forced into things, as soon as they got to the border they would just drop their weapons and anything military and scramble across the border and hope for the best. So by a few contacts in which some of them were killed, questioning people and showing the photos.
The pamphlets, some of the pamphlets said “If you come across with your hands up, without a weapon, you will be treated fairly” and all of this sort of thing. Others would have the rifle with the big circle and cross, “Don’t come across there will be trouble.” There are ways and means. And then at the political level or the senior military levels they would have been liasing with people across the border as well .Cosgrove used to go down to the border a fair bit and he crossed into
West Timor a few times to talk to his opposite number, the Indonesian general. They had face to face meetings. So it would have got across that way as well. And it was fair enough; they knew it, they were quite happy to kill us. There were lots of contacts, the second tour; sorry this is going off the track.
This is going off the track we will talk about it, if it is relevant we will talk about it. I was just going to tell you an anecdote.
Is it related to your personal experience?
Not my personal experience no.
Well store it, it might come out later. I am really interested on an interviewer level as you were, you hear a lot of casual talk about the
Asian face for want of a better word, just being able to read peoples’ faces and body language I mean you were taught, you did a lot of your training in Australia but now you are in a different culture, a different landscape reading very different people I would imagine, I am curious to know what that was like for you and whether there were particular new things you had to learn in terms of your skills or
whether there were absolute commonalities?
It was very difficult because it is very much a blank face. Once the fear dissipates and the shaking stops and all of the rest of it, a lot of it came down to what they had in their possession which could link them to various activities. A lot of it came down to other reports that we had about individuals. I guess the common element
for me was that I still used a lot of logical reasoning. That’s a method that we use where we just talk about things, and say, “Well mate, ten minutes ago you said this and this and now you’re saying this?” So you try and work through logically, not particularly successful with a lot of the village people or country folk because they wouldn’t know where you were going with your line of thought and it is even harder when you are going through an interpreter.
We had one interpreter, int corps warrant officer, he was a linguist, he was fantastic. But he was also an interrogator, so I would be interpreting through him, I would be doing the session and because he was one of us and he would know where I was going he was able to slightly mould it into their way of thinking. And it was amazing to see, using him and using a local
the bloke would be shaking in his boots when I was using him. And using a local the bloke would be fairly calm about things and it wasn’t that he was threatening or anything it was just that he was asking the questions the way I wanted them asked, whereas the local would…. it is called through a machine, machine box. I forget the technical term, but when you’re interpreting through a local for instance they say exactly what you say and they
interpret exactly what that person says. There are no intonations, there is no anger there is nothing. When you’re dealing with one of your own you can get that, “Mate I am getting the shits with this.” And get that message across, but in Tetum as opposed to English. So a lot of new skills had to be learnt, but again training kicked in and a lot of the stuff that we had learnt here we were able to use over there.
Were there advantages in working with an interpreter in terms of being able to be more detached or objective in terms of working with a subject?
Well you are almost forced to do that because you couldn’t get your feelings through him. And with the local interpreters we
only used them for very restricted lines of questioning. So if I was doing bio-datas, asking name, family details, What job did you have? Where do you come from? What schooling did you have? All of those sorts of questions that’s all bio-data, I would use an interpreter. If I needed to ask sensitive questions if I had somebody that had information and I knew they had information I would wait until we had one of our own and do it that way. It was pretty easy
with the locals because all you’re getting is number, name rank basically. “Are you militia?” “No.” “Yes you are.” “Oh, okay I am Itaric.” And go from there. But you wouldn’t be asking for tactical information, or future plans or who did this or that? Because you wouldn’t get it. You might get it through your own but not through a local.
I am curious to know I guess when you’re not getting much back from somebody and they don’t have that much to identify them were there particular things that you could pick up, how would you actually know or make a call on what you could
pick up with them? Was it just a matter of going with your gut or you would logistically nail it to things?
Well remember before I was talking about it being a team effort? Well there would be other reports from other people I guess. Information from the locals, a photograph putting somebody somewhere talking to somebody. That other section that was going through all of the equipment.
So you would do your session, I would do my session and go back and write up my report and then I would go back to the watch commander and we would discuss it. And he would say, because you never did anybody once. It was a minimum of two or three times, maybe four times depending on who they were. So you would match information with other team members,
and it would be the watch commander or the centre commander who would make the final decision as to let’s keep him, give him to the police, let him or her go, we had a few women. Based on your recommendation obviously, but if your recommendation didn’t gel with two or three others then it was his job to make that decision. At the end of the day it is a gut feeling, it is the repetition getting the same information time after time after time.
And you realise he doesn’t know much, he might know a little bit about this cell but he doesn’t know anything about the six other cells that were here. So you just drain everything from him or her and then the watch commander makes a decision, keep them, let them go or send them onto the police. And a lot of them were sent onto the police, and as of eighteen months ago that mongrel that killed the nuns
I know he was still in detention, he had been held for at that stage two and a half, three years, he was in the prison in Dili. Gut feeling comes into it, it is like a template, you put a template over things and it either matches or it doesn’t match and that’s where your gut feeling comes in I guess, when it is nah, that’s when your gut comes into it.
No going on to a little bit lighter stuff, hearts and minds work that was going on with the locals, I mean were you involved in that?
No there was a dedicated group and they tended to be artillery unusually because there was no role for the artillery over there. And the artillery back here didn't want to be left out of things and they said, “We’ll come over and provide security.”
So they provided the guards and things. And because these battalions, where these hearts and minds people operated from, from where they operated, because they needed all of their soldiers on the ground doing infantry work they were quite happy to sponsor the hearts and minds people who happened to be artillery. I dealt with them in so far as I liased with them on a daily basis in case there was information they.
And out at the team sites, our various team sites there was a civil something team, CMT [?]. There was usually one of those co-located with one of my detachments so they would usually talk to one another, being hearts and minds they would hand out tools and food and bits and pieces, they would establish rapport with the locals as well as us. There were clashes because the hearts and minds,
some of the hearts and minds people a very few of them forgot that they were there for that hearts and minds reconstruction, help the locals, not to gather information or intelligence, to be James Bond or any of that crap. So they would overstep the mark and they would get a slapping from our people and they would get their backs up and say, “You stay on your side and we’ll stay on our side.” That would happen occasionally. And not any senior level,
this was at private and corporal level. He would see what we were doing and think, “Well that looks more interesting than what I am doing.”: so he would go out and set up his own networks and whatever and our people would go, “Idiot. Go back to your guns, you’re not doing this.”
You were screening people who wanted to come back into East Timor, locals, were there many genuine, locals that had just got caught up in the tide crossing the border that wanted to come back in?
Oh gee yeah. I think one of the estimates was that there was something like a hundred and eighty thousand East Timorese had been forced into West Timor. And the bulk of them ended up in camps along the border.
Atambua which was a fairly large town and then on the other side there was Batun and a few little places in between, a lot of them had been literally forced to cross and there were a lot of people that had been murdered out at sea. And their bodies were dumped overboard and murdered on the way down. Of those tens of thousands that were forced over, I guess there was a significant number that wanted to come back straight away
but there was also a large number in the first six months or so that were tossing up whether to come back. Some of the reasons they were hesitating was the propaganda, go back and they will kill you, regardless of whether you’re militia or not, they will rape the women and kill you. A lot of the East Timorese had been public servants for the Indonesia government because it was an Indonesian province so there was a bureaucracy in place and they
had been told if you go back you will lose any pension rights you have. And some of these people had worked for twenty-five years at that stage, the Indonesians come across in 1975, and they were told, go back and forfeit any pension rights you have got. Others got there and decided we will stay here for whatever reasons, but tens of thousands wanted to come back.
Did you have to screen those ones as well?
Our first mass screening was at Dili and the ship came from Kupang right down the bottom of West Timor and it was really a show thing. It really made me angry because, this was the first one, the ship came in and it was pristine, it was a cargo passenger vessel and it was pristine, newly painted, white funnels and
nice beige sides and all of the rest of it. Media was there, the world media was there, UN civilians were there in force and I had been tasked with setting up the screening lanes. And there were two thousand of these people on this vessel, and with screening what you do is that you set up lanes and you have people doing a basic security check and then people walk down the lane one at a time to a table and they get asked
and if everything is okay they go here and get on a truck and off they go, and if they are bad people they go here and get talked to or whatever. Two thousand people got off this thing almost at once because they had gangplanks everywhere, and they got off in family groups, so you might have mum, dad, grandma and five kids. And they all had baggage, masses of baggage. So I am trying to control all of this in my area and I have got
profile people, young military-aged people and whatever, trying to do that .And there were other intelligence people doing another operation, surveillance and what not. And they are coming off the vessel, going through the screening process and whatnot and then going back walking around the edges of it, going back onto the vessel to grab more baggage and stuff off and it just turned into a huge cluster there were people everywhere. They were just a show thing for the
media because over the next couple of weeks the real refugees started to come back. They would come back at night and the vessels they came back in were unseaworthy. Rusty and the people that came off the first time were all well dressed, well fed and I am sure that some Indonesian operatives came through as well because there were just too many of them. But the second lot, you could see that they had been in the camps, they were all thin, dirty, their clothes were
all dirty, they had very little baggage, kids were crying and snotty noses and all of that sort of stuff, so dealt with them. Also dealt with on my second tour, the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] staff at Atambua had been attacked and a few of them had been killed. And the New Zealanders mounted an operation, we couldn’t do it
and the New Zealanders mounted an operation and brought them out of West Timor into East Timor and I had to deal with those people. But that wasn’t very pleasant so we will just move on from that. They had been involved in killings, some of these people had been killed and they had been stabbed, traumatised is what they were. And dealing with those people was different again. You’re dealing with well fed, well clothed people, you’re dealing with genuine refugees, you’re dealing with
people that worked directly for the UN, and one of them had been stabbed in the stomach and he showed me his wounds and said, “This is how I deflected the sword.” Different refugees I guess.
That’s amazing, now the second tour, just to clarify for my own mind that was working more under UN?
So having been to East Timor once, as more of an independent force, knowing your own rules, operating under your own steam in a way, what was it like going back that second time having to operate under a UN umbrella?
It was pretty easy because the second time I went back to the border, the whole time I was there I worked on the border and I worked in an Australian battalion. And the battalion commander was fantastic, Colonel Moon.
He had been a company commander in Somalia and I think he had received a military medal, he had received a gallantry award in Somalia, but he had been in charge of an infantry company so he knew what he was doing and as a battalion commander, as a colonel he was just the best. Dead set, I would follow him to the ends of the earth. There are a lot of officers I wouldn’t follow to the front door
well I might to see if they could find the front door, but he was so good, so cool so good at his job. And one particular week a whole series of things happened. And I used to go to the briefings every day, the meeting every day and I observed him during this week, and there had been contacts, there had been Australians wounded, we had killed militia, he had had
an incident where a number of his soldiers were wounded by grenades and the Blackhawks had to come in and take them out. There were political things going on because he also went down to the border and talked to his Indonesian counterpart. A lot of things happened in this one week and his demeanour didn't change at all. And I just felt confident, I felt safe.
I felt safe with him, I didn't feel safe with the first battalion commander during the first tour, he was an idiot.
Can you expand on that at all?
With Colonel Moon he was there to do a job and he was going to do it the best he could, but he still had a bit of humanity about him and he wasn’t gung ho, he wasn’t macho, he just needed to get the job done and he was very professional. The other guy,
who was also a good battalion commander I guess, but he would openly say, “I want this sniper team put in here and we will draw them across the border and I want you to kill them.” And that was his mentality; he just wanted kills, that body count thing. And sniper teams as much as anything else gather intelligence, because they have all of the gear, they have the long range telescopes, the long range video cameras, but they can be just as useful at gathering intelligence as they can at killing people.
And he wanted to use his sniper teams, put them in a situation, artificially create a situation to draw the militia across so he could kill them and he would openly say this. And he is the idiot that had a company based at Batugade which is on the coast border town on the coast between West and East Timor and they went along to a church and ripped the cross of a church because they wanted to turn it into a local headquarters
and they were blocking off streets, this is on the East Timor side. No hearts and minds at all, none at all. Catholic people see a cross being ripped off and get visions of Indonesians. So I didn’t like working for him, he was dangerous as far as I was concerned. In fact I was at one of his meetings late one afternoon and he was always raving on about how good his soldiers were, how professional they were.
And there was a four round burst that went off behind me, I had my back to a wall so I wasn’t too worried. And one of the soldiers had had an UD, unauthorised discharge, and his rifle had gone off, it had been on automatic and the rounds walked towards another soldier and they stopped between the legs actually, the last round hit between the legs of the other soldier. And then that night there was a UD down in the other compound. And that to me
sort of rankled because he was big noting himself all of the time and saying how good his boys were but they were having these UDs all over the place. His cooks were the best cooks though, the best food I have ever had in the army, in any mess, they produced magic meals out of nothing. I was amazed, and as a battalion I liked them, it was just that the head shed was a bit weird.
In terms of the best food you have ever had in the army is
is a different meal or is it just same food better prepared?
Different meals, it is what the cooks have got available and how they prepare it and I have to say his catering platoon produced not five star quality because they didn't have the facilities but certainly the best food I have ever had in the army.
Give us some examples of a couple of meals?
Breakfast would be unlimited ham, this was under INTERFET, it all changed under the UN.
Unlimited ham, bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns, cereals, fresh milk, fresh fruit, fresh bread. This is a combat unit down on the border. Lunch would be steaks or stew or pasta, the normal stuff that you would get anywhere but tasty stuff. A lot of army food, there is plenty of it but it is normally fairly bland. And it is slapped together
because they have got to cook for a hundred, two hundred or three hundred blokes. His cooks were the best, really, really good. The other battalion, much more professional head shed but the cooks weren’t as good.
There is pros and cons in everything isn’t there?
Force Protection Unit at Balibo?
Force Protection Element. Because we were working for the UN, they are field intelligence, that’s what they are normally called FI. Because they were working UN, berets, blue helmets and what not, we had to call ourselves Force Protection Element and our role was very overt.
We were there to protect our force, the Australian battalion on the border. Because they were other people in Dili that looked after the Australian contingent up there. And the UN understood very well who we were and what we were doing, as did the locals. They knew we were intelligence corps, they asked some of our people, some of them that spoke English they said, “Are you intelligence?” “What? What makes you think that mate?” they are very astute
and I guess if you live twenty-five years under an authoritarian regime and people are killing you left right and centre you learn to be very situationally aware and you learn to see who is doing what and reporting to who. But Force protection Element was exactly that, it was there to gain information to protect the Australian battalion.
Given the astuteness of the locals did that compromise any of the activities you were doing?
In the majority of cases no because they wanted to help you, particularly in Balibo, they knew we were there to stay, they knew we weren’t going to pack up and leave in the next two months so they felt reasonably safe. Almost, well not like the Iraqis, once Saddam Hussein had been caught because they still don’t trust the Americans. But the locals were more than happy to help.
And it was an unusual situation in Balibo because one of the local celebrities I guess had been a major in the Indonesian army, and during all of the troubles just before we got there he had almost been killed because he had stopped the militia murdering people down at Batugade. And he and I got on really well, behind there is a
what do they call them? A material like a huge scarf, and I have got a photo of my arms around him. A year before we got there he would have been the enemy I guess. In my eyes but he and I got on really well. By and large the locals wanted to help and being FPE, Force Protection, we were open. We used to do regular patrols and they knew who we were and what we wanted to know. The couple of times when we did mount
semi-covert operations we just excluded them and did what we had to do.
Okay we’ll pause there.
Interviewee: Salvatore Andaloro Archive ID 1493 Tape 10
Given what you were telling me earlier Sam about the reputation of the Australian forces internationally and the willingness or lack there of, at times to employ Australia combat troops because they are very good at their job.
Was there any monitoring I guess by the UN or at least, in the second tour of East Timor was that awareness in place of the Australians doing their job?
Very much so, first and second tour, there were UN bureaucrats in Dili during the first tour, but the attitude was very different to what it normally is. We have got people on the border, Australians,
and there was a New Zealand battalion on the border as well. We have got people down there that are actually doing what we want them to do and they are doing it in a no nonsense manner. And achieving the mission, as opposed to a lot of other countries that would have gone down there, they would have stayed within the compound at Balibo and the two other areas and the gaps between the towns would have been porous and people could have flowed across backwards and forwards.
So I think they were more than happy to have that Australian aggressiveness there. I guess I should qualify, it is not that the UN does not want to use Australian combat troops, I think that it is fully aware of what our capabilities are and it is aware that we don’t put up with bullshit. Whereas most countries take the easy way, “Well we don’t want to upset them. We don’t want to upset them.
We will just stay here in the compound.” Either because it is safer or because they are lazy, and they just want to get the money or whatever. Whereas Australian Defence Force, whether they are on a ship, a soldier an airman whatever, they go somewhere and they go there for a reason. Up until the early 1990s, the first Gulf War, it was pretty rare to be sent overseas unless you went to Vietnam or Korea wherever. So once we started sending people overseas
in large numbers they tended to do the job they were sent to do and do it extremely well. So that’s the reputation that they gained. But at the same time the UN, monitoring everything that is going on throughout the world could see, for arguments sake, and I am not picking on the Bangladeshi by any means, but the Bangladesh engineer battalion that they had in Dili, it built a gym and a sports centre for the UN in Dili.
Instead of getting out into the country and rebuilding schools and roads and whatnot, that’s what they wanted to do. The Pakistani engineers that we had down at Maliana it was almost like goading them out with a bayonet to get them out of their compound and they might lay a little bit of road base and then they would scurry back to their compound. Whereas Australians get out there, dominate that ground, do your job. Ands that’s why the UN has always
been egg shelly around us I guess. But that’s a good thing. And that’s a reputation that obviously the Indonesians were aware of, they had been training here for many years and they knew our capabilities, particular their Special Forces because they train with our Special Forces and I think that’s something that they were fully aware of. And the militia, well the head shed amongst the militia would have picked that up as well. Kill a few of them and then everybody knows.
That’s good tactics.
Now East Timor was obviously a different zone to the Western Sahara but I am curious about a sense of humour and whether that played a part in keeping you sane or together through your two tours of East Timor as well?
Western Sahara it was reasonably easy, I wasn’t a heavy drinker but you could drink in Western Sahara whereas in East Timor down on the border we weren’t allowed to drink and then in Dili we were allowed to have two cans per man per night whatever, which was easy to circumvent. So a lot of it did come down to the Australians’ unique sense of humour and you are going to ask me for specific examples and for the life of me I can’t think of it.
Australian infantrymen are the same wherever they are, and because I worked with a battalion I guess that’s what most comes to mind. I am trying to think of specific instances but I have got to be honest, there weren’t many down on the border. There were a few in Dili and they will come to me once you leave, but I do remember that the soldiers, generally speaking the soldiers were all happy smiling, taking the piss out of their mates.
When they could, when they weren’t out in the bush. And the officers of the first battalion I was with, not the 1st Battalion, but the first battalion, they were very tense and I didn’t like working with them at all because it just wasn’t pleasant. The second lot they were smiling a lot and carrying on. Padres in both groups were fantastic. Padres were always joking and carrying and telling a dirty joke and having a beer with the boys whenever they
could get up to Dili, there was a rest and recreation centre up in Dili and they used to rotate the companies through one at a time. You got me for anecdotes, I will think of them later.
If they pop into your mind just jump in.
Sorry, I can tell you lots about the Western Sahara things the boys got up to there, but not so much in East Timor, that’s a little more serious.
Well that’s why I am curious about
it because it was a more serious situation whether I guess coping mechanisms in terms of things that helped you let off steam or got you through?
There wasn’t a lot. It really was a matter of the hard grind down on the border, if the guys weren’t actually out on patrol, if the infantry weren’t out on patrol they would be cleaning weapons or they would be doing other duties.
And for us, my day might start at six o’clock and I would go through to eight, nine, ten o’clock at night because I would have to get a final report out. And it wasn’t really a lot of time to relax as such. Second tour we had generators there so there were video machines, some of the guys had movies there that you could watch. Radios, we were able to pick up a radio station coming out of Ipswich of all places, Star FM I think it was and they boomed through,
they used to play 1970s and 1980s music. The guys had magazines, darts, cards; mobile phones, initially mobile phones were banned. But I think during the second tour they were still banned individually but there was a satellite phone that the guys could get onto once a week and phone home. But yeah, East Timor was pretty intense that way I guess.
It was different in Dili, they had bars set up and they had movies every night. Towards the end of the second tour they had air conditioned accommodation which really irked the guys on the border because everyone was getting the same allowance rate, whether you were in Dili or on the border. But the guys made their own fun. Being a warrant officer it was a lot harder for me to mix with the soldiers
because infantry soldiers sort of look at their sergeants, and they might let the sergeants into their group but the CSM, company sergeant major he is over there, want nothing to do with him, “Every time we see him there is a duty coming up and we have to dig a shit pit or some nasty work. We don’t want anything to do with him.” and I was tarred with that brush. I guess humorous if you can call it humorous when I first got to the battalion
area on that second tour, no correction the first tour, I was down on the border too in my first tour. I hadn’t been issued any night vision devices and all of the infantry had their stuff, the goggles and the devices on the rifles and I had to, on that first tour I had to mount gun posts, the same as everybody else, and there would be two of us in the gun pit just outside the fort. And there could be anything up
to a fifteen minute overlap between guards. So there would be two of you and maybe fifteen minutes before the end of his shift the other guy would go and get his relief. There would be that overlap, you would be there by yourself while you were waiting, and I didn’t have any night vision stuff and it was black as the ace of spades, and I would be standing there with my rifle, couldn’t see a hand in front of your face, and there was a wall coming up to my left and a road over off to my right.
And it was all open ground, no stars. And I am not ashamed to admit it, a rabbit or something would run across the ground in front of you and you wouldn’t have a clue what it was or you would hear a rock bounce and think, “Was that a grenade?” They were throwing a lot of grenades at us at that stage. So if you can call that humorous, seeing a forty year old man jump every time a rock bounces.
Humorous for the other fellows maybe.
And what about mateship, it is almost in legendry status mateship in the Australian Army, you being a warrant officer and also being in more contemporary conflicts was something that was as strong?
In my experience in observing other people, yes. When I was with armoured corps that mateship, that camaraderie was very strong, is very strong still. And the people that I made mates with twenty-five years ago with them if I see them on the street it is still, “Hey you old bastard.” “Hey wog, how you going?” and that mateship is still there, unfortunately the nature of the beast with intelligence corps is that you
tend to be operating in much smaller units, you tend to be extremely specialised in what you’re doing, you tend to operate a lot with other units, other corps, so you are away from your own people and you tend to be standing out as an individual and people really don’t know which way to take you because you’re not infantry, armour or transport. So that mateship within intelligence corps is nowhere near as strong as it is in an infantry battalion or an armoured regiment.
Even a transport unit. And that primarily because most int corps people are individuals, that’s why they’re int corps because they’re probably no good as a rifleman or as a carrier driver. They tend to think for themselves and they tend to be a bit mouthy, they tend to say what they think, and they are quite happy to talk to a brigadier and say, at warrant officer level and say, “Well Sir, this is the information we have got and this is my analysis
of it.” I had no fear of senior officers, none at all; I got on well with senior officers because they recognise that. They can smell fear and there is always a lot of fear amongst junior officers and people of their own corps because everyone is trying to please them. Where my job was give him the information, if you don’t know the information tell him you don’t know and go and find out. And that’s the attitude I had. I wasn’t a social climber, I got to warrant officer
purely on my own merits and I am surprised I got there to be honest. So that mateship isn’t there within int crops unfortunately. But it still exists within the army. And when I say it is not there with int corps, you make mates. I have got very good friends, some still serving, some out. Lesanne she was my corporal, she is great. Pauly my mate in Sydney, warrant officer in Sydney, he is still around, he is so funny. That’s Pauly there, the guy on the left with the rifle,
he is a funny bloke. Calls me ‘paisan’, comes from the same place in Sicily, our families do. Mateship is still there in a huge way which is good.
Being in intel with all of the training that you received, knowing the theory of war
and particularly being of a contemporary age where it is all around you all of the information of pasts conflicts etcetera, was there a mark of difference for you knowing all of this and then getting into the real thing, as in Timor seeing it in front of you? That was a bit of a shock?
The environmental aspects were certainly a shock, the smells and the noise and the sites. And when I say shock
I just hadn’t prepared myself mentally for that. I had seen some of that sort of stuff in Western Sahara, but it was more benign and could be easily explained, ‘the mines moved with the sand’. But to actually see a whole city up in flames, and then overflying and travelling by road through the country, every building, almost every single building had been burnt or demolished. As I said eighty per cent, that
was a bit of a shock. Actually doing the business, what we call doing the business, I have to say that was almost seamless for me, a seamless transition, maybe because there was that initial almost air of unreality. I could almost slip into this is just another exercise, or maybe it is just that your training kicks in and you just get on with it. So professionally, no I just
got into it. personally there was the anxiety of the first couple of months and all of those other things I talked about. The noise and the smell. Professional training I guess just kicks in.
Was there anything of the experience that had a negative impact on you after the event? And I guess having retired
from the service and things like that? I guess more just the uglier aspects of the conflict and things like that?
Of East Timor?
Well a lot of things affected me and I have talked about some of those. I think overall I have a positive spin on East Timor, lots of problems still there and once our troops pull out and the New Zealanders pull out I have a horrible feeling that things are going to get worse initially before
they get better although the East Timorese have got some of their defence personnel, ex-Fretilin and whatnot trained up I just don’t know that they are up to, they are certainly up to any militia they come across. But I don’t think they’re up to Kopassus or any Indonesian military, and that’s politically uncorrect for me to say that but that’s the reality. They’re on the border and they are still there.
Whilst we’re there I had positive feelings, and when I say ‘We’ I mean New Zealanders, Australians, to a degree the Americans, they were there for a while. British had Ghurkhas there in the first tour, they did extremely well. Canadians had combat troops in there, so whilst all of those western countries were in there I had good feelings but once they all pull out it will get worse before it gets better but eventually it will get better.
I have a lot of other feelings about things if we want to talk about those at another time, Iraq, Afghanistan those sorts of places. It is amazing how, I don’t know if this is related to your question, please pull me up; it is amazing how my attitudes have changed. From being in the system, part of the system, a long term member of the system to know. And it is not that I am cynical, it is just,
What's the biggest thing that has changed?
My eyes are open a lot more. And it’s a natural thing I think, if people are really honest they will tell you that while you’re in that cocoon your eyes are really blinkered to the reality and I have opinions now. I always had opinions but they were always pro-military or pro-government or whatever. Now I look at things and
politically I am very cynical, I see things in a different way. I still have the greatest respect for everybody in the Australian Defence Force, past, present and future. But I don’t agree with a lot of things that are going on.
I will just choose one. Australians in Iraq? Or Australia going to Iraq?
Now where do you stand, you don’t think that was a good idea?
No. Not at all. The people that have gone there I support them ten thousand per cent because they are service people just doing what they have been trained to do and doing what their government is telling them to do. However you feel about anything, whether it be Vietnam or Iraq never ever take it out on soldiers or Defence Force people. They have no choice; they are just doing what they have to do.
It happens to be John Howard [Australian Prime Minister] but it could have been [Mark] Latham [Opposition Leader], it could have been [Kim] Beazley [Opposition Leader] it could have been anybody. Such a cynical exercise, sending people into harm’s way for what reason? They couldn’t give a rat’s arse about Saddam Hussein killing ten million of his countrymen let alone what else was going on. Weapons of mass destruction, I must admit initially I thought well he may have them, that’s why they’re going in.
It is always easy in hindsight. I started to have doubts after the first week or two. And I think what really angers me is that Teflon Johnny [John Howard] has got away with it. [Tony] Blair [English Prime Minster] is under such scrutiny and even [George W.] Bush [President United States] now is twiddling his thumbs and saying, “Well maybe we should find out what is going on.” And he is the president of the most powerful country in the world. Teflon Johnny is just sailing through life, and I will tell you why. Because nobody has been hurt. No Australians have been killed.
If you had five or ten or twenty Australians killed it would be a completely different story. And the British have had scores of people killed, the Americans have had hundreds killed and not one of ours had been killed.
Too good at our job.
Lucky. I honestly think it is more luck than anything else, their rules over there would be very tight, very strict as to
where they can go, have to go in a group, you’re not going in that area, would be armed. And their security would be very tight. But having said that more lucky than anything else. If the insurgents, whatever you want to call them are able to bring down a cargo plane at Baghdad airport, they could have put that rocket through the air control tower just as easily and that’s where the Australians are.
The ships, it is hard to get near a warship now because of what's happened with the Americans, but there is always ways to do things. He has just been very lucky. But I guess looking at it from a civilian point of view now and trying to understand why we went there I disagree with it. If ten years ago they had said, “Saddam Hussein is skinning people alive and he is torturing and doing this and he has used chemical weapons on his own people, we need to get rid of him.” I would have put my hand up and say, “Let’s do it, I fully support that.”
But it is the same with East Timor, the bastards waited from 1975 to 1999 before they did anything. Because it wasn’t expedient, we didn't want to upset them. So, it has got nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, nothing to do with the atrocities in there. I don’t know about the oil although I believe they are the second or third largest oil deposits in the world, I just don’t think that we should be there.
But I support our people that are there.
One last question, without the big brother friend of the United States, do you think that Australia itself as a nation with its military force would have anything to fear being in this region in the world in the future?
In our region? Our sphere of influence?
No not really.
I think the Indonesians at one stage, and I think they still may have the fourth largest army or military in the world, it is all focussed inward, they have so many problems with insurgencies, Aceh, Timor, Irian Jaya, as well as the Maluccas the vast majority of their forces are all focussed inwards trying to maintain their sovereignty. On top of that they don’t have lodgement needs, they don’t have the transport aircraft, they don’t have the blue water navy.
And why would they? They are going to land in north Western Australia and the Northern Territory and there is hundred of kilometres before or thousands before they get to anything, and they stand out a little bit so they stand out that way. They’re a threat in so far as they could seriously affect our economy. And when I say ‘they’ I am not talking specifically about Indonesians, I am talking about any group
or any country in our region that wanted to hurt us, Weipa, the Comalco mine there, the mines south of Port Hedland, economically there is a lot of damage that could be done, but militarily I don’t think so. North Korea, we might be threatened by missiles from them, China, India, in fact I think we should be more worried about India than anybody else.
Australia specifically or just world
Oh Australia. When we’re looking at threats to us and who is capable of militarily hurting us, not economically or politically, but militarily I would look more to India than I would to anyone else because they are more than capable of doing a lot of damage here. Using stand off forces, they have got missiles, submarines; they have got lots of stuff they could use.
Certainly in the short term I think we’re pretty strong and you can tell we’re pretty strong because the Malaysians, the Singaporeans to a degree, certainly the Indonesians they get very upset when we acquire a new capability. We’re getting Tomahawk missiles. Why do we need Tomahawk missiles? For the life of me I can’t work it out. Unless you’re doing that inter-operability thing that I was talking about this morning. If you’re going to go and work with the Americans
and we want to put Tomahawks on our ships or submarines or in the planes or whatever, it is good to know how they work, but we don’t need them. We should do the training and then if we deploy to an area where we do need them, if we’re working with Americans or the British they can give them to us and we’ll use theirs. So those countries get very upset when a new capability appears. Which is one of the reasons why we have a policy of transparency, if we get a new bit of kit we invite them over and say,
“All right this is what it can do, we’re not going to tell you any of the codes or any of the big secrets but no harm to you people we just need it.” and they come back and rightfully say, “Why? We’re all friends?” I think we’re pretty strong and it is good.
Wonderful, okay Sam we will finish there, thank you very, very much.
Thank you. I am not going to apologise for boring you because I really enjoyed talking to both of you it has been fantastic.
No likewise, thank you.