Warrant Officer Class 2 Antonino Parrello 36337


Antonino Parrello Centre

Author: Australian War Memorial

Posted on

Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
KIA 1 February 1968

Antonino Parrello was born on 2 May 1937 in Trieste, Italy, one of three children born to Giuseppe and Elsa Parrello.

Growing up during the Second World War, he and his family would have experienced the privations imposed by the Germans when Mussolini’s regime collapsed and the German army occupied Trieste in 1943. 

After the war Trieste remained a disputed territory, with Italy and Yugoslavia laying claim. Trieste was divided into two zones. Zone A, including the city and its port was overseen by an Anglo-American government with Zone B under Yugoslavian control. When Italy took control of Zone A in 1954 the political unrest caused many to emigrate.

The Parrello family were among the first families, departing Trieste for Australia. Arriving in Melbourne the Parrellos settled in Geelong, where Antonino and his brother Romano worked for the Ford Motor Car factory.

Known as “Tony”, Parrello was a likeable character, considered to be the life of the party. He excelled at Latin dancing and also loved swimming, diving and playing soccer.

Parrello enlisted for service with the Australian Army on 28 May 1958. After completing basic and then infantry training, he was posted to the 1st Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, joining 3 Platoon of A Company and soon becoming platoon signaller.

Parrello’s unit deployed to Malaya to assist anti-terrorist operations during the Malayan Emergency.  Arriving in Singapore at the start of October 1959, operations in Perak began in November 1959. While the Malayan Emergency was declared over on 31 July 1960, 1RAR remained on operations until October 1961. The battalion returned to Australia at the end of the month. The same month, Parrello became a naturalised Australian citizen.

Parrello met Polyxene Mary Diamond in late 1963 and they began a relationship. They were married on 19 April 1965 at St Mary of the Angels Basilica in Geelong with Roman Catholic rites. In March 1966 the Parrellos welcomed a son, Christopher. 

By August 1967 Parrello had been promoted to acting warrant officer class 2 and was preparing to deploy to South Vietnam as a member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam. When he flew out of Australia on 1 September, Xene was heavily pregnant. She gave birth to Anthony on 19 September.

Parrello was seconded to Military Assistance Command Vietnam Advisory Team 89 at Ba Ria. He worked alongside US Army and CIA operatives, including Robert Hede, a veteran of the Second World War. He and Parrello quickly became firm friends.

In the early hours of 30 January 1968, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched a coordinated series of attacks throughout South Vietnam which became known as the Tet Offensive.

Ba Ria came under determined enemy attack before dawn on 1 February. The compounds of the AATTV and US advisors were attacked by at least two enemy platoons. 

Parrello was in the thick of the fighting. When his compound came under fire, he constantly exposed himself to enemy fire. With thirst setting in, he called out to his friend: “Bob cover me, I’m going after some beer.” Hede provided covering fire as Parrello ran into the house and returned delivering beers to the defenders, all the while under enemy fire. Twenty minutes later Parrello told Hede that it was his turn to go for beer.

Responding to a call for assistance from the senior US advisor, the 1st Australian Task Force dispatched a ready reaction force which arrived at Parrello’s compound around 1.30 pm.

Parrello and Hede guided the armoured personnel carriers to the CIA compound a block away, and found it under heavy attack. Parrello ran inside and found Johnson. As they left, they assisted a wounded Vietnamese guard to the nearby APC. 

As the force began to leave, the lead APC was disabled when an RPG round struck its engine. The APC containing Parrello and Agent Johnson went to the aid of the crew and the wounded occupants from the first carrier. Parrello and Johnson were firing their weapons from the open top of the APC attempting to supress the enemy when an RPG round struck their vehicle, killing Johnson, wounding Parrello and wounding two more Australians.

Corporal Jack Harris, A Company’s medic, ran to the disabled APC to assist Parrello, who lapsed into unconsciousness and died soon after.

The fight continued until early evening when airstrikes and attacks by helicopter gunships forced the enemy to withdraw.

Harris was later awarded the Military Medal and US Silver Star. Parrello was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches. Hede recommended Parrello for the US Silver Star, which was awarded, but yet to be issued.



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