From the battlefields of Korea, Malaya and Vietnam to the struggle for veterans' welfare, Keith Payne has never shied away from a fight. More than 50 years ago, this bravery saw him receive the Commonwealth's highest military honour - the Victoria Cross.
Keith grew up one of thirteen children in the shadow of the Great Depression and the Second World War. After seeing his father come home wounded from war, Keith joined the army. He was sent to fight in Korea at just 18 years old, the bloody beginning to decades of military service across the world.
Keith's life was defined by one night in 1969. In the dark jungle of Vietnam, under heavy enemy fire, Keith returned to a fled battlefield to rescue 40 of his soldiers. For his extreme act of bravery in leading his men to safety, Keith became the last Australian to earn the VC for 40 years.
Keith spent decades in the public spotlight while struggling with his own demons, then found new purpose as an advocate for others. In a lifetime of service, he has helped not only veterans of foreign wars, but also Indigenous diggers and communities left behind by civilian and military bureaucracy.
No One Left Behind tells, for the first time in his words, of Keith Payne's remarkable life. His definitive autobiography reveals the story of a big-hearted, iconic Australian and the heart and heartaches of a man who continues to fight for his mates.
Featuring a Foreword by Mark Donaldson VC
Praise for No One Left Behind
'I first met Keith Payne in Vietnam and was in awe of this understated hero whose lifesaving actions in combat became a treasured Australian legend. This book shows over time how that legend became the man. In my long military career, it may be said that my friendship with Keith and Flo was part of my firmament as an Australian General.' - General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, AC(Mil), CVO, MC (Ret'd)
'No One Left Behind is a compelling read about a genuine, rolled-gold Aussie hero. Always the larrikin, Keith Payne VC's memoir will make you smile and feel good about life, I promise.' - Ray Martin AM
'Keith doesn't beat around the bush with his honest account of the highs and lows he has gone through in the service of his country. No One Left Behind is so much more than a military memoir. Keith's larrikin behaviour and ability to spin a yarn leaves you wanting to know more. His story of soldier, hero and then returned servicemen delves into the unseen wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder, a result of his service in Korea and Vietnam. His advocacy in pursuing better conditions for future generations of servicemen and women sends a strong message to the government of today: What more could be done? ' - Daniel Keighran VC
'To stand in the battlefield wreckage of the Vietnam war, to smell the napalm, taste the blood from your own forehead and to hide from enemy soldiers sweeping over the battlefield - this is Keith Payne's journey. As I read No One Left Behind, I crouch beside him on the windswept frozen bluffs of Korea, and duck with him in the napalmed jungles of Vietnam. We plunge into the hellscape of Ben Het, walking time and again into the black jungle, wounded and terrified, to look for his fallen mates. Keith Payne is the last of a great generation - accompany him on these battles, and come full circle with him to experience the staid return to civilian order and employment. This soldier shows us a timeless lesson, in both word and in deed - leave no one behind.' - Mark Wales
'The power is in the story. Keith Payne's life and story is a gift to our nation and the next generation. Born of hardship, a man shaped by the best and worst of human behaviour, who has loved and been loved by one woman. He fought wars for us, then in peace, the lived traumas he brought back with him. A life given ultimately for others. To read No One Left Behind is to accept the challenge to be a better person.' - Hon Dr Brendan Nelson AO
'In his own words Keith tells, humbly, how he not only saved 40 of his soldiers in Vietnam, but how he went on to help many, many more veterans in the years to come, while also striving to get on top of his own problems. I can't think of a better example to set ... take care of yourself, but never forget to look after your mates.' - Mark Donaldson VC