Specific engagements or events often come to symbolise and connect us to the “character” of a particluar war. Breaker Morant in the Boer War, the Gallipoli landings in the Dardanelles through to the Somme on the Western Front in WWI. The Kokoda track and Battle of Coral Sea in WWII, the Battle of Kapyong in Korea, these are the amongst some of the most well known battles that as Aussies we associate the devotion to duty of our servicemen.
In Vietnam the Battle of Long Tan fought in 1966 is undoubtedly a signature event and it is on the anniversary of that battle, fought in a rubber plantation in South Vietnam during monsoonal rain, when the 108 men of D Company 6RAR stood fast against an enemy vastly superior in numbers (estimated to be as high as 2,500), that Australia commemorates Vietnam Veterans day each year on the 18th August.
Aussies resolutely sticking by their mates is witnessed at the Battle of Long Tan not only by the men of D Company but also through the combined arms support of Artillery fire which covered them, Armour support from 1 APC squadron bringing the ready reaction force and war planes delivering close air support during the afternoon. 9 Squadron RAAF, flying well outside the operational restrictions in force at the time flew their helicopters into the battle delivering an ammunition resupply to an almost depleted D Company on the ground.
In recognition of their achievements, US President Lyndon B Johnson awarded the Presidential Unit Citation to the men of D Company 6RAR, an honour received only once before by an Australian unit when 3RAR were awarded the citation for their accomplishments at the Battle of Kapyong in Korea.
18 young Aussie diggers lost their lives killed-in-action at the Battle of Long Tan and a continual flow of casualties was a constant reminder of the high cost of war at that time in our history. Greater Australian battlefield casualties resulting from any single engagement in Vietnam occurred only one other time. Fought over a period of three weeks in 1968, 1 Australian Task Force was inserted to block infiltration routes into Saigon during the expected TET offensive. Whilst successful in achieving their aim, sadly 25 diggers were killed at the Battle of Coral/Balmoral.
On Thursday 18th August please pause to remember Vietnam, and all Veterans who continue to serve our Nation.
“Lest We Forget”