ANZAC Day's Hidden Heroes by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Saturday, April 22, 2017





As ANZAC Day approaches once again, I cannot help but think of the different world we live in today. My memories of this solemn day drift back nearly half a century and are of cold, dark mornings and ‘old’ men in coats, ties and hats. Bag pipes warming up in the background and my breath condensing into a mini-fog before my very eyes.

My father would stand solemnly, his medals in a drawer at home and only the dark brown “Returned from Active Service” badge on his lapel offered any insight into his two wars. In contrast, my mother always wore her medals. Regardless of how it was demonstrated, there was always reflection and a sense of pride.

Those who did not return were always remembered in our home in fading, yet framed, photos. Family, friends and even a fiancé who had made the ultimate sacrifice. As a lad, my parents would visit their widows and mothers and I would trail along, not always understanding the significance of those visits until I later foraged through a photo album and found an image, or a clipping, or an obituary. They were my first ANZAC experiences.

Today the clippings are not so frequent. Our men and women that serve in the front lines are rarely on the front page. And if they are, their faces are blurred or their name tag is blacked out. They are almost our hidden heroes.

The modern world and its blinking, instantaneous internet has taken our warriors and potentially made them, and even their families, targets. Targets for those who would commit evil and even trolls who wish to provoke and raise their profiles, typing in the darkened confines and safety of their closet.



When my father was flying missions in Korea, my mother may have excitedly seen his face in a newsreel in the cinema or read of a mission or an award in the newspaper. Each time, it would proudly state, “Phillip Zupp of Toowoomba, Queensland”. Today we may catch a glimpse of Flying Officer X with his dark, tinted visor fully lowered on his helmet, or an anonymous pilot walking around his aircraft. No names, no clues.

I realise it is a different time and a different world, but I still lament that those in our services on active duty cannot be recognised for their sacrifice in the way that they once were. Unless of course, that sacrifice is of the ultimate variety and their homecoming is marked by draped flags and lowered heads.

Perhaps more than ever, it is important that we value ANZAC Day and recognise our veterans of modern conflicts. For this may be the only time that we get the opportunity to see their faces and thank them for their service. And yes, it may be too little and too late, but we should still make a genuine effort to recognise them and stand them alongside those who stepped ashore in those early hours on April 25th more than a century ago.

To my family, my friends and to those I never knew. Thank you for your service.





'Without Precedent' has Landed.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Phillip Zupp's life as a fighter pilot and commando, recounted in 'Without Precedent'.


An ordinary man. An extraordinary life.

Get your copy of 'Without Precedent' here...


‘Without Precedent’ recounts the life of commando and fighter pilot, Phillip Zupp.


One man who served in two very different wars. From humble rural beginnings, surrounded by drought and The Great Depression, he forged an incredible life with little more than courage and tenacity. During World War Two, he saw combat on the ground in New Guinea before patrolling the devastation of Hiroshima and Tokyo as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces. In Korea, Phillip flew 201 combat sorties amid intense ground fire and the enemy’s ever-threatening MiG fighters.

Peace brought a career that spanned the globe and the skies above it. All the while, the intriguing story of the search for a downed airman, a damaged jet and the controversy surrounding the award of first Australian Purple Heart lay dormant. Until now.​

'Without Precedent' is now available on Amazon, iTunes or at a bookstore near you.

A Father's Death.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, April 13, 2016





More than once I have described writing Dad’s story as a journey. As with any journey, there can be those moments when one sails effortlessly across the stillest of lakes and those days when the ascent of the steepest hill seems too great to conquer. That is the process of writing at its very heart and it is both a joy and a curse.

Through writing this book I have indeed come to know my father as a man as much as a Dad. For me, the book has revealed that his greatest complexity was his simple, straightforward outlook in the chaos that often surrounded him. In interviews with combat veterans I heard him described as “quiet”, “shy”, “nonchalant”, “unflappable” and as “never taking a backward step”.

There were so many proud moments of discovery, but there were difficult ones too. The confronting nature of the brutality of war and the discovery of horrific events that his comrades had held onto for half a century and now they shared them with me. These words were at times difficult to find, but they weren’t the worst of times.

Revisiting my father’s short, sharp battle with cancer has at times taken me to a place I did not want to revisit. Deeply buried details had to be revived to do his story justice and paint possibly his greatest act of bravery against a far superior enemy. Recalling how he suffered in silence and feared more for our future than his own mortality impacts me even more now that I am a father. And his final hours. The darkness. The breathing. The final fight and then the silence and then end of his pain.

At times I have had to walk away, my thoughts swirling and my emotions endeavouring to break the surface. In time, order returns, but after 25 years the pain is still very real and that is something that I had not foreseen. Throughout this manuscript I have recounted Dad’s incredible journey, but only now do I realise that in doing so I have revisited aspects of my own. Writing should be genuine and about passion. I just never thought that such a simple act could hurt so much.

Rest in Peace, Dad.  

Who Was My Father? By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, April 04, 2016



Who was my father?

When I began writing his story some years ago, I did so with a degree of trepidation. I felt as if I was rifling through his sock drawer and wondered what I may find, both good and bad.

To me, he was Dad. A quiet gentleman from the old school that never swore in front of my mother and always opened the door for her. He wore a hat that he ‘tipped’ on meeting ladies and when he ventured out his shoes were always immaculately clean. He loved to build things out of wood, maintain his own car religiously and demolish targets at the rifle range. Rhythmic thumps could be heard coming from his shed as he pounded the punching bag that swung from the exposed beams.

Yet for all of his solitary activities and quiet demeanour, he was the most enthusiastic of fathers. With no childhood of his own, he was the first to kick the ball, ride the bike or jump the skateboard. He would always enthral us with his childhood tales and patiently work through a problem with homework. His sense of humour was a constant thread that bordered on mischievous at times. That was my Dad. But there was another man.

As I interviewed those that he had fought beside and pored over page upon page of official records and log books, I came to know another man. Still quiet and still solitary, but with an unmistakeable fire in his belly. It was a fire that drove him to cast off the shackles of the Great Depression and the oppression of drought and dying cattle. It was a determination to fight and later to fly, despite the odds being continually stacked against him. It was a combination of courage and luck that saw him survive two wars while many good men fell beside him.

At times the revelations were not pretty for those of us raised in an era of privilege and peace. Ruthlessness in our time is a turn of phrase, in his, it was the cold hard line between life and death. This quiet gentleman that I knew had killed and I came to know this fact in detail. He had killed with ferocity, effectiveness and very little subsequent contemplation. Such a world was black and white and he liked that. It only ever became grey if you thought about it too deeply and seemingly, he did not.

And for all the adversity and the horror, he married a wife, bought a house and raised three children as the most dedicated of fathers. One would not say ‘loving’ if acts of affection define the sentiment, but I’m quite sure that love was actually the underlying force. And duty, and respect, and honour. His later life blended into the suburbs without a hint of where he had been or what he had done.

So as I delved deeper into the sock drawer, I was confronted by the man I had always known. There were no lurking skeletons. There were secrets, but they were astounding truths buried by his modesty. However, there had indeed been low points and he was far from perfect. As a young air force pilot he was solid rather than exemplary, always in the middle of the pack. Ultimately, he rose to gain the respect of many through grit rather than flair.

In writing his story I have come to know more than my Dad, I have come to know the man that he was before I ever took breath. Young, vital, angry and aggressive in an age when this defined survival. Tempered by time, the fighter became a father and I am so very fortunate that he did. Now it is my time to tell his story to the world, for I know that he was far too modest to ever utter a word.

Rest in Peace, Dad.


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