Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fighting Other Peoples’ Wars: The Battle of Long Tan.

This August 44 years ago, the Australian Army engaged the Viet Cong in what was one of the most ferocious battles of the Vietnam War, known as The Battle of Long Tan. Outnumbered by 20-1 the Australians held off and inflicted heavy casualties on the VC until reinforcements arrived. The minimal body count for the VC was 245; the Australians lost 18 men in the three hour battle. According to one source , “The Battle was one of the heaviest conflicts of the Vietnam War as well as one the few battles in the recorded history of the world to be won against such odds”.

On 28 May 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded D Company 6RAR a Presidential Unit Citation, with the following:

By virtue of the authority invested in me as the President of the United States and as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, I have today awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Army) for extraordinary heroism to D Company, Sixth Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, The Australian Army.
D Company distinguished itself by extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations against an opposing armed force in Vietnam on 18 August 1966.
While searching for Viet Cong in a rubber plantation northeast of Ba Ria, Phuoc Tuy, Province, Republic of Vietnam, D Company met and immediately engaged in heavy contact. As the battle developed, it became apparent that the men of D Company were facing a numerically superior force. The platoons of D Company were surrounded and attacked on all sides by an estimated reinforced enemy battalion using automatic weapons, small arms and mortars. Fighting courageously against a well armed and determined foe, the men on D Company maintained their formations in a common perimeter defence and inflicted heavy casualties on the Viet Cong.
The enemy maintained a continuous, intense volume of fire and attacked repeatedly from all directions. Each successive assault was repulsed by the courageous Australians. Heavy rainfall and low ceiling prevented any friendly close air support during the battle. After three hours of savage attacks, having failed to penetrate the Australian lines, the enemy withdrew from the battlefield carrying many dead and wounded, and leaving 245 Viet Cong dead forward of the defence positions of D Company.
The conspicuous courage, intrepidity and indomitable courage of D Company were to the highest tradition of military valour and reflect great credit upon D Company and the Australian Army.

It’s possible that few young Australians today are aware of what Long Tan means in terms of Australia’s war history, so I thought it would be a good idea to refresh some memories and enlighten others by reposting the 2008 60 Minutes report:

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