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Battle of Long Tan

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 10 months ago

                                                                           

"And when he gets to heaven,

To Saint Peter he will tell,

One more soldier reporting Sir,

I've served my time in hell."


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Overview

 

 

The Battle of Long Tan is arguably the most important and well-remembered battles fought by Australian forces during the Vietnam War. It was fought on August 18 & 19, 1966, during the middle of the overall conflict, which lasted from 1959 to 1975. The battle was fought in a dense rubber plantation near the town of Long Tan in South Vietnam. The battle involved D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment who, when on patrol, encountered the Viet Cong 275 Regiment and elements of the Vietnamese D445 Local Forces Battalion. 108 Australian soldiers were ambushed in the rubber plantation nearby to Nui DAT by 2650 Vietcong guerilla fighters, outnumbering the Australians 26 to 1. The entire battle was fought in a blinding monsoonal rain, caused by fierce thunderstorms, over an area no bigger than two football fields.When the Australians were reinforced almost 24 hours later, 18 were killed, while over 300 Vietcong (estimate) were dead. The fighting was the fiercest that Australian forces would experience during the war in Vietnam.

 

Quick Facts

 

 


Events

 

Lead-Up

 

D Company was sent out on patrol in response to the Australian Task Force Base at Nui DAT being mortared at 2:43 AM on the morning of 17th August, 1966. 82 enemy mortar rounds impacted the base, injuring 24 Australians.

 

D Patrol, codenamed Operation Vendetta, consisted of 105 Australian soldiers and 3 New Zealand artillery spotters, who were sent out to find and destroy the heavy artillery the Vietcong were using.

 

Australian intelligence presumed that there was a small Vietcong Force of up to 500 soldiers operating in the province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, within which both Nui DAT and Long Tan were located.

 

However, the Vietnamese guerilla commanders had been secretly reinforcing Ba Ria-Vung Tau, with the intention of destroying the powerful and well-defended Australian base at Nui DAT, effectively forcing the Australians to withdraw from Vietnam.   

 

Popular Australian singing duo Little Pattie and Col Joye were entertaining the troops at Nui DAT prior to the engagement, and could hear the fighting occurring, later describing it as one of the most fearful experiences of their lives.                                                                                                 

 

 

First Engagement

 

At 1540 on August 18, 1966, a small group of Vietcong soldiers stumbled upon the concealed right flank of D Company.

 

11 Platoon repelled the VC, and continued forward into the rubber plantation.  

As 11 Platoon continued to advance, they came under heavy machine gun fire from the main force of Vietcong, sustaining casualties. Following normal contact procedures, the platoon went into a defensive position.

 

The VC formed an assault and attacked 11 Platoon around 20 minutes after initial contact with support from their heavy machine guns. Australian Commander Harry Smith called in all available artillery support from the nearby artillery units stationed at Nui DAT, and 10 Platoon moved up to the left of 11 Platoon to relieve pressure, and allow them to withdraw to the company defensive position out of the heavy machine gun fire.

 

The commander of 11 Platoon, ex-conscript Lieutenant Gordon Sharp, was killed and Sergeant Bob Buick assumed command of the platoon. During this engagement both platoons' radios went out. 

 

Second Engagement

 

  

Commander Harry Smith called for close air support but when it arrived it was unable to identify targets due to the weather and rubber plantation. The US aircraft dropped their bombs to the east causing disruption to the VC rear areas.

 

The Australian soldiers were carrying a light ammunition load, approximately five magazines, and quickly ran low on ammunition. A helicopter pilot disobeyed orders by dropping supplies to D Company. His motivation, a statement over the radio from Harry Smith: "If you don't do this for us you all might as well start saying your prayers — it's all over."

 

The VC continually formed assault waves and moved forward but were broken up by artillery and machine gun fire.

The soldiers of D Company held their line and repulsed any VC that got through the artillery barrage.

D Company were supported by 24 Australian, New Zealand and American operated 105 mm and 155 mm guns.

 

The Vietnamese rebels tried to encircle the Australian flanks but the wide dispersal and solid defensive position of D Company meant the VC thought they were up against a much larger enemy.

 

 

 

Final Engagement

 

As the sun began to set,  reinforcements in the form of two rifle companies in ten APCs finally arrived and assaulted the exposed Vietnamese flank, taking them by surprise.

 

The fresh reinforcements formed a perimeter around D Company allowing them to treat the wounded and rest.

 

Thanks to the urgent reinforcements, the Australians now formed a strong force that would likely have been able to repel any night attack from the retreating Vietcong, as the 'brass' deemed this a direct possibility. In fact, no such attack was attempted.

 

Lt Col. Bob Breen wrote later: "the battle discipline and bravery of the Australians, the cover provided by the torrential rain and the effects of hundreds of artillery and mortar rounds falling among the Viet Cong attackers resulted in a stunning victory for the Australians and a further enhancement for the fighting tradition of Australian infantry.

 

 

 

 

 


Aftermath

 

 The aftermath of the Battle of Long Tan was widespread and still affects strategy and planning today. Not only did it prove that the Australian forces could hold their own against a much larger army, it caused the Viet Cong started to rethink their strategy towards the AIF and they began to show respect for the Australian’s fighting skills after the battle. 

 

However, the main effect of Long Tan was that the Viet Cong revolutionaries no longer held sway in the province. No serious threat ever re-emerged to the Task Force from Ba Ria-Vung Tau. The local Viet Cong Force, D445, became a spent force and was never again posed a threat to forces greater than platoon size. 

 

The North Vietnamese found a new and healthy respect for the Australians. It was a concrete validation that the Australian tactics were effective, life-saving and not as familiar to the North Vietnamese as some had thought.

 

Long Tan is the enduring battle of Vietnam and the one that captures the imagination of both civilians and soldiers alike. That in itself marks Long Tan as a significant event in the life of the North Vietnamese, despite their propaganda and despite their exaggerated figures. And that makes Long Tan important to Australia.

 

 

The loss of 18 men in three hours is an indication of the strength of purpose of the North Vietnamese and the grim determination of the Australians.

 

More importantly, for the Vietcong, following the loss of 200-300 soldiers, it would be extremely difficult to recruit them again from the local population, especially one that lived under the shadow of the Australian Task Force.

 

The Battle of Long Tan had many adverse effects on the Australian forces, yet had importantly destroyed the mechanism and administrative capability of Vietcong D445 and its ability to carry the fight to Australia for the next six years.

 

 


 

 

Group Members

- Cale Burge

-  Kelvin Jones

-  Gareth Molver (Edited)

-  James Brackin (Edited)

 


Sources

 

Image sources

Image 1: http://www.news.com.au/common/imagedata/0,,5218586,00.jpg

Map 1: http://www.anzacday.org.au/education/activities/longtan/longtan01.html

Helicopter Pic: http://www.corante.com/mooreslore/archives/images/vietnam%20war.jpg

Howitzer Pic: http://www.rsa.org.nz/review/art2006august/article_4.htm

http://www.dva.gov.au/commem/longtan06/gallery_longtan.htm

http://www.25thida.com/TLN/tln527-01.jpg

 

 Information references:

www.parramattarsl.com.au/rsl9/BLTI.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org0/wiki/Battle_Of_Long_Tan

 

 

 

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Comments (13)

Anonymous said

at 9:22 am on May 30, 2007

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Anonymous said

at 9:21 am on Jun 5, 2007

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Anonymous said

at 2:06 pm on Jun 5, 2007

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Anonymous said

at 8:55 am on Jun 13, 2007

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The information is clearly labelled under headings but I really must question whether all this information is relevant. The pictures and slideshow make it visually pleasing and links to other useful sites are demonstrated.

Anonymous said

at 8:56 am on Jun 13, 2007

The Wiki is very attention grabbing through the use of font, slideshow and diagrams. Most of the information is easy to understand but I think that some of it is not needed. The structure is very good as information is under relevant sub-headings. The information is of a high standard but I question if all the information is absolutley needed and relevant. No links to other useful/relevant sites are put in place. The Wiki is visually and orally pleasing. The Wiki does get to the point, but as I said before I am not sure if all of the information is relevent - would someone want to read all of that information?

Anonymous said

at 9:02 am on Jun 13, 2007

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Anonymous said

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CJ (not Tao)
P.S GO SWANS!!!!!

Anonymous said

at 9:10 am on Jun 13, 2007

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Try harder.
Please.
:)
:(

Anonymous said

at 9:15 am on Jun 13, 2007

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Anonymous said

at 8:50 am on Jun 14, 2007

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Anonymous said

at 2:49 pm on Jun 15, 2007

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Anonymous said

at 8:59 am on Jun 19, 2007

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Anonymous said

at 10:04 am on Jun 19, 2007

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