CWO2 Keith Payne

Warrant officer Payne distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. While personally leading the 212th Company, 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion, in Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 May 1969, his company was attacked by an overwhelming force of the North Vietnamese Army. The attack isolated the two lead companies. They then came under heavy rocket and mortar fire and an infantry ground assault from three directions. This intensive attack caused the strike force to begin withdrawing. Warrant Officer Payne, exposing himself to enemy fire, rallied the troops by firing his personal weapon and running from position to position, collecting and hurling grenades at the attacking enemy. He was wounded in his hands and arms. Despite his outstanding efforts, the indigenous soldiers retreated and the battalion commander and staff retreated with them. Warrant Officer Payne covered this retreat by firing his weapons and throwing grenades. Under heavy fire he ran across exposed terrain to stop the disorderly withdrawal – and as night fell – organized his company into defensive perimeter. He then proceeded into enemy held territory collecting some forty wounded and lost soldiers. Upon returning to the defensive perimeter, he found that his battalion had left. Undeterred he continued collecting staggers and led them and four American soldiers to a final rendevous where he supervised the evacuation of all wounded personnel. He refused to be evacuated until all other wounded had departed the area. Through his sustained and courageous soldiery performance, he saved the lives of his American comrades in arms and many Vietnamese soldiers, bringing great credit to the Australian and United States Armies.

CWO2 Payne, a life member, resides in Australia.