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Rising Sun*
03-30-2008, 07:44 AM
SATURDAY, February 4, 1967, was a difficult day at the office for Major Peter Badcoe.

An officer with the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam, he had spent the previous afternoon in a "fairly inconclusive scrap" with Vietcong forces at Hung Tra on the border of North and South Vietnam.

Saturday dawned with fresh fighting. Badcoe's letters to his wife, Denise, and their three daughters recall that as his team of South Vietnamese soldiers entered the village of Sia, they"met the VC coming down the road".

"I was up with the point and we saw them a fraction before they saw us ... We opened up and dropped several in the road and then it was straight out of the Wild West," Badcoe writes.

Soon it was obvious that Badcoe's troop of 150 men were outnumbered. "Then we were ordered to pull back as they were going to put in an air strike," hewrites.

"I pleaded with the useless slobs not to, as it was an extremely friendly village ... but we were overruled by the people at the Division and forced to pull back and they saturated the village in napalm."

Badcoe doesn't name "the useless slobs'', although military experts say he is most likely describing a US air division.

Badcoe and his South Vietnamese colleagues were enraged by the attack. "It didn't get the VC, they had all dug bunkers, but it got a hell of a lot of the villagers," the Australian writes.

"When I said, 'Well, now you are done, let's get in there and clean it out', they still refused to go in ... All the advisers were ropeable. We called the Rgt Cmd (regimental commander) and theAPC (armoured personnel carrier) commander cowards to their faces."

Two months later, Badcoe, 33, was killed by enemy fire in the Huong Tra District. The man who was scathing about the allied napalm attack on a central Vietnamese village, and who had dared to call his commanders cowards, remained loyal and committed to the end.

For his courage, Badcoe was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest medal for bravery, when on February 23, 1967 he sprinted 600m across an area under enemy fire to ensure the safety of a wounded US medical adviser. He then led an attack on the machinegun emplacement, killing the gunners and recovering the body of another US adviser.

Badcoe also received the US Silver Star with Oak Leaf and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Gold Star and Silver Star.

These and other medals, and a selection of 37 letters, audio recordings he sent to his family, photographs and other material will be auctioned in Sydney onMay 6.

Apart from the medals, which have been on loan to the Australian War Memorial since 1982, most of the artefacts have spent the past four decades in a timber box in his wife's home.

Auction house Bonhams and Goodman estimate the collection could fetch between $400,000 and $600,000, although chairman Tim Goodman said "we just don't know until we start marketing the auction and the public become aware of it".

"But there is no doubt this is a very significant collection."

Paul Ham, author of the new history best-seller Vietnam, yesterday described the letters as "very valuable documents by a man of extraordinary experience and courage".

Ham said Badcoe's outrage over February 4, 1967, "reflects a pattern that occurred throughout the war ... The Australians found themselves again and again goingagainst the grain of the American war".

Badcoe's attempts to work with villages and protect them from Vietcong "was the right approach, it was the more humane approach", he said.

"And that's not just me saying this, but every military commander I've spoken to in Australia agrees."

The Sia bombing had a profound impact on Badcoe.

"I spent all day Sunday and half of Monday getting out the bodies and cleaning up and trying to get the people a place to live and some food," he writes in his February 7 letter.

"What do you say to them when their houses have been burnt and their families burnt to death? I was so furious and disgusted I don't think I said a word all day. I just couldn't speak."

Badcoe's eldest daughter, Carey, was 10 when her father was killed. She has spent the past few weeks transcribing the letters and says they have given her enormous insight into Badcoe's strong ethics and his unwavering commitment to the South Vietnamese troops.

"As a child, I had no sense of that. But the way he talks about his troops - he often refers to them as 'kids' - and the work he did with them ... he has a wonderful style of leadership, of standing up to lead the men on," Ms Badcoe said.

Of the actions her father witnessed in Sia, she said: "He just doesn't sound like the sort of person who would have shut up about these sorts of things. I can't imagine him toeing the line."

Ms Badcoe, who is chief executive of the Australian Business and Community Network, declined to say why her family was selling the prized collection. "It's a personal issue, but my mother and sisters and myself are completely united in the decision."

Australia has many private wealthy collectors who would love to own the Badcoe collection. Public institutions such as the Australian War Memorial are unlikely to bid because of the high price. Their only hope is a generous benefactor who buys it on the museum's behalf, or bequeaths it at a later date.

AWM senior curator Nick Fletcher told The Weekend Australian: "The memorial would love to display every VC awarded to an Australian. That isn't possible, however, and we're extremely grateful to the Badcoe family for allowing us to display the medals for such a long time."

Of the Badcoe letters, Mr Fletcher said: "It's unusual for an older soldier to write in that kind of detail. The first time men go into battle they tend to feel a need to express their thoughts. But as they become more hardened and realise the realities of war, their response is more that they want to block it out.

"Major Badcoe is very honest, not only in how he describes action, but in his responses to it. He was brave, loyal and clearly committed to the job, even though you sense through the letters he wanted desperately to be with his family."

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23448129-31477,00.html

Rising Sun*
05-20-2008, 09:59 AM
Badcoe's VC sold.


Victoria Cross medal sold for $488k

May 20, 2008 07:25pm

A VICTORIA Cross medal from the Vietnam War has sold for $488,000 at auction in Sydney as part of a collection of 12 medals and memorabilia.

The medal was awarded to Adelaide-born Major Peter Badcoe for a series of heroic actions during the Vietnam War in 1967.

The Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth's highest decoration for gallantry, was sold to an anonymous buyer, but will remain in Sydney, the auctioneer said.

Three bidders were in the race to buy the medals, with spirited bidding starting at $300,000 in Bonhams & Goodman's auction house in Double Bay tonight.

Bonhams & Goodman chairman Tim Goodman said the medal would remain in Australia.

"The collection has been purchased by a prominent Australian who wished to remain anonymous,'' he said.

"We should be able to make a further statement regarding the outcome in the coming days.''

Major Badcoe's daughter Carey Badcoe thanked the buyer on behalf of her family.

"It is a wonderful recognition of our father,'' she said.

"We are delighted that the Victorian Cross will be remaining in Australia.''

The same buyer also spent $219,600 on a brass breastplate presented to an Aboriginal tribe by explorers Burke and Wills in South Australian in 1861.

The breastplate, given to the Yandruwandha people of Coopers Creek, was discovered in desert sands in April 2001.

The SA Government had hoped the Adelaide soldier's VC would end up in the Australian War Memorial.

In the last public sale of a Victoria Cross, television mogul Kerry Stokes bought the medal for $1.2 million and donated it to the war memorial. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23731417-1702,00.html#

32Bravo
05-22-2008, 05:32 AM
I think this is the crux of the matter. Surely the auction is on account of economic or financial necessity. Perhaps we should do more for our widows and their families?

Perhaps, if the government wanted this particular cross to be placed in a memorial museum, then they ought to have considered offering the family some form of financial award for its dedication?


Ms Badcoe, who is chief executive of the Australian Business and Community Network, declined to say why her family was selling the prized collection. "It's a personal issue, but my mother and sisters and myself are completely united in the decision."
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23448129-31477,00.html

It was decided at the design stage that the Victoria Cross be simple and cast from bronze in order to deter its recipients from selling it, as it would have little material value. It would seem that its simplicity has added to its value in so much as it reflects the humility of the reipient.

Rising Sun*
05-22-2008, 07:37 AM
I think this is the crux of the matter. Surely the auction is on account of economic or financial necessity. Perhaps we should do more for our widows and their families?

I don't know about necessity, in the sense of being on the breadline. Perhaps it was more a case of converting the medal into cash to make someone's life better or more bearable. As with Keith Payne, below, it could be to put a bit of cloth and metal to a better use to provide a better level of care for an ill or aged relative.

We now have much better benefits for the families of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan compared with anything up to Vietnam (although they think they're hard done by http://www.abc.net.au/pm/stories/s775631.htm, but compared with WWII they're on Easy Street but apparently still much worse off than families of civilian workers killed at work - See Death Benefits at http://www1.worksafe.vic.gov.au/vwa/home.nsf/pages/Payments). The current benefits would plunge overnight if the government had to fund large numbers like it did in WWII or even Vietnam. Soldiers are just something the nation, both the government and the people, lauds and exploits when it needs them and pretty much forgets when they've served their purpose. I will refrain from starting a rant on that topic.

The very few surviving families with a marketable medal they're willing to sell are a lot better off than the thousands of others who lost people in wars and have no medal to sell.


Perhaps, if the government wanted this particular cross to be placed in a memorial museum, then they ought to have considered offering the family some form of financial award for its dedication?

I imagine that the reason the government usually keeps out of these sales is the realisation that once it gets in with big bucks it's going to drive up the price and if it doesn't win it'll lose political points for being miserly.


It was decided at the design stage that the Victoria Cross be simple and cast from bronze in order to deter its recipients from selling it, as it would have little material value. It would seem that its simplicity has added to its value in so much as it reflects the humility of the reipient.

I can't see why people pay such big prices for them.

The medal merely represents what was done by its winner. Nobody can possess the thing that really matters, except the winner.

I confess that I have a bit of an aversion to immediate family selling medals as it seems almost disrepectful, but I don't have any problem with selling medals that have been through hands after the family. Still, it's their family asset and if it's good enough for our last living winner to sell his VC http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/bbpayne.htm it's got to be fair enough for the immediate family to do it.

As an aside, notice in the citation in the last link that Payne (who was 'just' a WO II (WO I = RSM in our hierarchy) ) was commanding an SVN company. Says something about the quality of the training teams we and the Yanks put into SVN, and the quality of some of the SVN forces. Normally we'd have a captain, possibly major, commanding an Australian company.

32Bravo
05-22-2008, 12:41 PM
I can't see why people pay such big prices for them.

The medal merely represents what was done by its winner. Nobody can possess the thing that really matters, except the winner.



Wannabes?

(I have a VC in my collection, paid half million dollars for it.

So what?)

It's a little crass if you ask me. The VC is awarded to those that place their lives in great jeopardy, usually in order to ave lives of others. So it isn't just about puttng a price on the life of the recipient, but also on the lives of those that were saved by the recipient.

I don't blame the families. I can almost imagine the discussion between said mother and daughters. A decent pension for the VC widows would probably solve the problem without getting into big money. Perhaps on the condition that the actual VC is placed in a memorial museum - or something along those lines.

A VC becomes a family heirloom of the recipients decendants. If it is in a memorial museum, the family can go along and point it out saying how their forefather won it etc. However, in a private collection - well, it might as well be in Timbuktoo.