Author(s): Kim Hoskin
n Plain View is uncommon history. The undeclared wars in Borneo and Vietnam of half a century ago provided very different experiences. This is the personal story of a young officer, and those with whom he worked and lived, who participated in both conflicts.
It is a unique story in many respects, presenting back- ground, detail, and perspectives that are not commonly recorded elsewhere.
Joining 7th Gurkha Rifles, the writer arrived in Hong Kong just in time to deploy to Borneo as a platoon commander during Confrontation ¿ the undeclared war with Sukarno¿s Indonesia.
Seconded to the Sarawak Constabulary as a Divisional Border Scouts Officer, he was the last expatriate officer to join the force.
An unpretentious rapport with the upriver tribal communities enabled him to refine the role of the Border Scouts in Sarawak¿s Fifth Division who subsequently played a significant part in the defeat of the last incursion.
Subsequently joining the New Zealand Army, the story shifts to Vietnam and that of an ANZAC Battalion Intelligence Officer developing intelligence systems and practices for unit counter-insurgency operations from first principles, some of which have curious parallels in today¿s world. Reflecting his Borneo experience, forging relation- ships with those in the local community `outside the wire¿ was an important part of his Vietnam story. He was, as he writes, often `out and about¿.
One of his several unsanctioned initiatives was to co-opt the support of the Provincial Reconnaissance Unit, a clandestine Vietnamese paramilitary organisation with which he operated in the mangrove swamps of the Rung Sat Secret Zone, part of the Saigon River estuary.
However, this is not a story of bombs and bullets, but of an attempt to understand and to find ways of looking inside; to initiate what would later be called intelligence-led operations. The account of the writer¿s reconciliation and reconnection with both places and the people in them forms a fitting postscript to the story. Despite the subject matter, humour and humanity are never far beneath the surface. Its writing style belies yet compliments the writer¿s trade.