In 1988, the Australian government decided to August 18 as “Memorial Day War in Vietnam” (Vietnam War’s Day of Remembrance. “That day also called on Long Tan (Long Tan Day) to remember the battle was occurred at Long Tan Phuoc Tuy province on August 18, 1966 when an Australian forces was ambushed. Battle of Long Tan is a meaningful fight in term of tactics than numbers of dead compared to other battles Australian troops participated during the 1965-1972 period.
Australian army involvement in Vietnam:
The first unit was an Infantry Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (Royal Australian Regiment) to Bien Hoa, activated and coordinated with Brigade 173 American. Australian troops firstly stationed at Bien Hoa, in addition to securing the Bien Hoa Airbase, sometimes an Australian Battalion also coordinated operations with the U.S. Army and ARVN troops in the territory of number 3 tactical fighting area.
In order to operate independently in May 1966, Australian troops accepted responsibility in an area of Phuoc Tuy province territory. The Task Force Base Australia (Australian Task Force Base) is set at a low hill, surrounded by rubber plantations, away Ba Ria town about 5 km. Look on a map the location was stationed with many mountains so Australian named “NUI DAT” to distinguish with other hills as “Nui Dinh” , “Thi Vai” and so on.
The 6th Battalion Royal also came to Vietnam in this period. Battalion 6 with four great teams carry the name A, B, C, D and a team of heavy guns, total number of troops was 600 soldier. Most soldiers in the unit are young recruited, except a few officers and commissioned officers had been gone through combat experience in Korea and Malaysia.
In addition to 6 battalions Infantry also had an Armor unit consists of 30 M113 armored personnel carriers, 18 artillery cannons 105mm , six 155mm howitzers placed on the tank (self propelled), the Annunciation, Logistics, Engineer Maj. Gen. Jackson commanded all the bases. In addition, Australia has a Logistics unit at Vung Tau airport using Caribou aircraft unit in charge of transport between Saigon and Vung Tau, and a helicopter units including 8 HU1B were only capable of undertaking resupply, and evacuation task only.
What happened at the battle of Long Tan?
Night 16/8/1966 and dawn 17/8/1966:
The shelling ended at 3 am and the majority fell into the position of the Artillery troops and armored vehicles, wounding 24 soldiers and some have died then.
Early on 17 / 8
6th battalion ordered two teams marched off to search VC
B team departs at 6 am 30, went east to find the location of VC. The operation must be conducted to search carefully, slowly, walk in the woods, the trail avoided for fear of ambush. At 8 am, team B reported about finding a mortar placement and continued searching, then stationed when the night came.
C team C with 1 platoon (trung đội) armored escorted, went to the Southwest. End of the day, C company reported that found no trace or suspicious.
D team was in base to hold the responsibility of defense. Night of 17/8 was completely quiet!
Morning of 18/8/1966
Because of the B company (đại đội) was not expected to carry dry food and ammunition so long. Commander of Battalion order Company D ‘Brigade marched up the road at 10 o’clock in the morning to switch to company B backed to base.
Company D team includes 108 people, bringing dry food and ammunition for three days scheduled operations. Around 1 pm the day, D team arrived at position of company B.
After stopping for lunch Army, D team to continue the operation at 15 pm 3 hours, crossing the forest of rubber by triangle tactic: Platoon (tiểu đội) 10 left, 11 right-wing platoon, Platoon 12 exceptional marched along with the command in chief at behind.
Soon, about 4:10 pm Platoon 11 crashed right into the battlefield was ambushed by LFC (liberated front force), mortars of LFC fiercely fired from the same range on the platoon 11.
This surprised attack caused many casualties to Platoon 11 including high inter gunner. Australian troops had to lean on the rubber trees to entrenched and returned fire while snipers of LF were on the tree.
The situation became worse of disorders, especially when the platoon leader has said was mortally wound. 11 Platoon regained spirit, shrinking back a little bit to the background to avoid artillery.
Dark clouds came quickly and rain began to fall, visibility was limited to 10 platoon determined marching to rescue platoon 11. However, they could not reach platoon 11 because of strong fire of LF soldiers including mortar gun.
From the commanding position, platoon 12 forwarded to reach the rear of the platoon 11, but when close to platoon 11, they were fired strongly from the right wing.
Knowing the presence of 12 platoon behind, Platoon Sergeant Bob Buick ordered by mouth to the survivors could be heard and understood: “Each must find the way out dangerous to retreat behind”. Retreating was very difficult because of very dark sky, falling rubber trees, pouring rain makes the soil to become muddy, all the soldiers had to remove the backpacks to roll but could not run because LF soldier was firing sticking behind.This period has caused some casualties Platoon 11. Each individual must rely on their best to find a way to live, so when guns fell silent, then got up and ran they backed down to craw when the gunfire. In the chaos, 11 Platoon didn’t know exactly who alive and who lose. The seriously injured were not moving, had to stay in place, mercy risk his life for the destiny.
Summary of casualties on the Australian troops 18 soldiers (most of the platoon of 11) and 24 wounded. Platoon 11 regarded as erased out of company D because of the majority of dead and wounded in battle. An armored personnel carrier was shot down and killed the driver.
Units of the Australian operations completely unexpected fall into ambush, but thanks to wide marching in huge rubber plantation, so even the first Australian troops took advantage of the environment by hiding behind a rubber tree. If empty, all company D can be overwhelmed in a flash of firing.
The artillery has helped to regain the control and lifted up Australian soldiers at the darkest moment .
The Memorial Cross
In 1969, 6th Battalion Royal Australian returned to Vietnam for a term 2. D Company commander himself to set up a cement cross mounted with a plaque to commemorate their comrades who died in the battle of Long Tan on 18/08/1966. The cross has been erected at the site of the Central battle of platoon 11 was ambushed on 18/8/1969 11. The ceremony was simple but solemn, touching and meaningful.
After 1975, Then local authorities have put the cross on display at the War Museum in Dong Nai (Bien Hoa)
The Veterans Affairs relating to Australian Vietnam War formed a fund raising committee, and asked the Australian government through diplomatic intervention system with the government of Vietnam to allow construction to cross.
The local authority agreed to reconstruct the cross as with below points:
- Construction is simple and must use local contractor in charge.
- Australia should contribute some money to local society
- Veterans Federation Australia raised 60,000 Australian entirely devoted to the project.
- New cross, with its simple completed in 2002.
- On 18/8/2006, Prime Minister Howard came to visit before his term finished was his wife and the delegations.
- Long Tan is now a destination for veterans and their families to travel Vietnam Australia is at 18 / 8 every year.
- Must be licensed
- If through the tourist center, they will take care of all procedures
Long Tan battle is the most remembrance to Australian veteran and people because it was the first combat troops was facing with local army which considered as simple, weak, unorganized. However, the battle has changed thoughts or war experts. They were not weak but very strong in term of tactical and well organized. On the other side, it also showed the braveness of soldier of both sides. They were ready sacrificed to rescue their soldier in arms in very hard condition. From the experience of Long Tan battle. Australian developed very suitable strategy for Vietnam war, minimized using local information and intelligence for their operation. Later most of their ground operations were very surprised to local force and very small casualty that American were much higher in casualty. total less than 500 Australian died during Vietnam war period.
There’s great video about Long Tan Battle, Thank you so much Mr Ngọc for sharing this video.The battle of Long Tan
Thank you for your reading.