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THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN A dotPPT PowerPoint Animations presentation Featuring Maps by Dave Sabben, Click to start the presentation… Animation by dotPPT PowerPoint Animations (visit the website: www.dotPPT.com )www.dotPPT.com and Excerpts from the book “The Battle of Long Tan as told by the Commanders to Bob Grandin” (Allen & Unwin, 2004, ISBN 1 74114 199 0) SLIDE OF 250 The Long Tan Cross (pic taken ANZAC Day 2005), at the site of the 11 Platoon action of 18 Aug 1966 Version 01a
In 1966, Australia increased its commitment of troops in South Viet Nam to a two-Battalion “Task Force” plus appropriate support units. Prior to this, Australia had military advisors scattered throughout the South The new Task Force took over responsibility for Phuoc Tuy Province, on the coast to the south east of Saigon. and a Battalion Group operating out of Bien Hoa with the US 173 rd Airborne Brigade (Separate). SLIDE OF 350 Click to proceed…
Hat Dich 40 50 40 65 70 45 50 P H U O C T U Y P R O V I N C E Nui Dat (2) Nui Nghe Nui Dat Hoa Long Phuoc Binh Ba 2 Scale: approx 5 Kilometre grid Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 N 70 65 4535 55 2 75 Long Tan The new Task Force took over responsibility for Phuoc Tuy Province, on the coast to the south east of Saigon. and a Battalion Group operating out of Bien Hoa with the US 173 rd Airborne Brigade (Sep). In 1966, Australia increased its commitment of troops in South Viet Nam to a two-Battalion “Task Force” plus appropriate support units. 1APC Squadron and 5RAR occupied the base site in late-May to early-June 1966 and were joined by the Task Force HQ, Artillery, supporting units and 6RAR in June and July. … and their Operational Base (1ATF) around a small hill (“Nui Dat”) near the centre of the province… The Australians set up their Logistics Base (1ALSG) near the sea port of Vung Tau... Prior to this, Australia had military advisors scattered throughout the South SLIDE OF 450 Click to proceed… By mid-July, the base was fully manned, but development was slow… Click to proceed…
Hat Dich 40 50 40 65 70 45 50 P H U O C T U Y P R O V I N C E Nui Dat (2) Nui Nghe Nui Dat Hoa Long Phuoc Binh Ba 2 Scale: approx 5 Kilometre grid Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 N 70 65 4535 55 2 75 After first setting their perimeter… This was “Line Alpha” – the line inside which the enemy could direct aimed fire into the base. they began to clear out to a notional line 5 kms out from the base. Long Phuoc and Long Tan villages were deserted… By mid-August, the area within 5 kms of the base was well patrolled but still not secure… The area within Line Alpha needed to be kept clear but, at first, villagers often entered the area.but Hoa Long and Binh Ba were populated. Long Tan SLIDE OF 550 June 1966 Click to proceed… By mid-July, the base was fully manned, but development was slow…
… It is well documented that the base itself was not very secure in the first few months… Page 72 - …an attack on the base was not considered a probability and therefore it was poorly defended. There was little barbed wire of note out the front of the FDLs, and no anti-personnel minefields. It was preposterous to suggest the base might be in danger. We believed that the local VC were not about to take on a two-battalion Task Force with its supporting artillery regiment, mortars and armour, and with US Air Force fighters and bombers not far away… Page 16 - “Brigadier Jackson was well aware, 1ATF was now at its weakest. Not only was the base camp in its beginnings, but most of the soldiers and officers were inexperienced.” In fact – there was even the expectation of an enemy reaction to the establishment of an Australian base… Click to proceed… The Battle Of Long Tan Lex McAulay (April 1986) Page 75 - “Intelligence had tentatively located a second regiment of VC to the north of Nui Dat, possibly moving to hook round and approach Nui Dat from the west.” Page 321 - “The defences (were) incomplete...” Page 361 - “...physical defences at Nui Dat in the first eleven weeks were undeveloped...” Page 413 - “(at its establishment) The task force... could not even obtain such stores as wire and mines for its own defence...” The VC also knew the layout of the Task Force base… Page 361 - “The Viet Cong would have an accurate general picture of the layout of the base from observation from Route 2.” (For example, a note 15 on Page 561 shows that the VC had estimated 1ATF artillery at 21 guns - actually, 24 when all were within the base) The Battle Of Long Tan as told by the Commanders to Bob Grandin (Aug 2004) To Long Tan Ian McNeill (1993) (The official history of Australia’s involvement in S E Asia conflicts 1948-1975) By mid-August, the area within 5 Kms of the base was well patrolled but still not secure… Page 62 – It wasn’t long before the VC worked out that they could take on the lone battalion at Nui Dat (in June). Information filtered through to the ARVN and to the United States intelligence networks that the VC were planning a regimental attack on Nui Dat within a few days. Page 72 – Information was available that two VC regiments could assemble anywhere in the province in 24 to 48 hours, but the gravity of the threat was not stressed. Glossary: FDLs = Forward Defensive Lines (the perimeter) VC = Viet Cong - the Australians’ enemy in Viet Nam ARVN = Army of the Republic of Viet Nam - the Vietnamese soldiers fighting for South Viet Nam A VC Regiment had between 2500 and 3000 soldiers. SLIDE OF 650 June and July 1966 Page 249 - “After some days (early June) the reconnoitring (of the Task Force perimeter) stopped and it seemed very likely that the enemy was finalising preparations to attack.” Page 249 - “Intelligence warning of a four-battalion attack on the base hastened plans for the call-forward of 6RAR... on 14 June instead of by 23 June as initially arranged.” Page 309 (refer map Page 310) - “... the radio station (275’s HQ set) started to move west towards the task force.... the radio set associated with 275 Regiment (was) approaching Nui Dat at a rate of a one-kilometre grid square each day.” “... two days before the mortaring (ie, 14 Aug)... enemy radio traffic indicated 275 Regiment (‘s radio) to have reached 5000 metres east of the base.”
47 46 45 44 43 48 49 66 67 68 69 65 47 464544 43 48 49 66 67 68 69 65 Long Tan Long Phuoc Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 In the early hours of 17 August, the VC bombarded the Australian base at Nui Dat….. 2 Weir Destroyed Bridge Scale: approx 1000 metre grid Mortars RCLs Field Gun TASK FORCE BASE N Song Cau Suoi Da Bang Nui Dat 2 Nui Dat XXXXXXXX __________ XXXX _____ __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXX _____ XXXX _____ XXXX _____ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXX _____ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ Task Force HQ, SAS, ARU, Artillery and Engineer lines were hit. There were 24 casualties….. TARGET AREA 1 Fd Sqn Engineers SAS & ARU Task Force HQ 103 Fd Bty Artillery Fire was returned from the Task Force artillery batteries and the enemy fire quickly stopped. Indeed, the enemy reaction came in mid-August….. Click to proceed… Glossary: RCL = lightweight Recoilless Rifle that fires a heavier projectile than would be possible with a recoiling weapon HQ = Head Quarters – the command element of any unit SAS = Special Air Services – a specialist infantry unit ARU = Australian Reinforcement Unit – holding soldiers who will reinforce other units needing more troops SLIDE OF 750 17 Aug 1966 Pre-dawn Click to proceed…
CLICK INSIDE THIS BOX TO UNDERSTAND HOW MILITARY UNITS ARE SHOWN: IN THIS PRESENTATION A 6RAR 47 46 45 44 43 48 49 66 67 68 69 65 47 464544 43 48 49 66 67 68 69 65 Long Tan Long Phuoc 2 Weir Destroyed Bridge RCLs TASK FORCE BASE N Song Cau Suoi Da Bang Nui Dat 2 Nui Dat XXXXXXXX __________ XXXX _____ __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXX _____ XXXX _____ XXXX _____ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXX _____ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ XXXXXXXX __________ Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid Meanwhile, a B/6RAR patrol Mortars Field Gun Task Force HQ, SAS, ARU, Artillery and Engineer lines were hit. There were 24 casualties….. …and on the 18 th, the RCL & Gun positions. All exit tracks headed north east and east…..D/6RAR D 6RAR left on the morning of 17 th Aug and located the mortar baseplate positions... was sent out at noon 18 th Aug to take over from B/6RAR and continue the search….. B 6RAR SLIDE OF 850 17 and 18 August 1966 Glossary: “exit tracks” = the tracks left by the enemy as they left the firing position. Click to proceed… At the time of the bombardment, A Company, 6RAR, was on a 3-day patrol north of Nui Dat 2. During the early hours of the 17 th, they heard noises – likely some of the VC withdrawing. On the 16 th they had had three contacts… …now thought to be VC moving in to bombard the base. A/6RARs task had been to sweep down Line Alpha towards Long Tan, before returning to base. On 17 th August, A/6RAR was re-tasked to move west and search for the VC teams and their tracks. As they moved to their new task, they had another contact – on the northern slopes of Nui Dat 2. Click to proceed… Fire was returned from the Task Force artillery batteries and the enemy fire quickly stopped. Click to proceed…
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid B- 6RAR B and D Companies met at 1:00pm and discussed the situation. The follow-up task was transferred to D/6RAR. As B/6RAR headed back to base, D/6RAR shook out and started to follow the cart tracks heading east… 12 D 11 D 10 D D 6RAR After 200 metres the cart tracks split, both still leading eastwards… D/6RAR changed formation: 10 Platoon to follow the north track, 11 Platoon forward to follow the south track. SLIDE OF 950 18 Aug 1966 1300-1540 hrs (1pm-3:40pm) As they talked, they could hear the sounds of the Task Force’s first concert tuning up and getting under way… View of the concert area – on the lower east slope of Nui Dat hill. The rubber plantation in the left distance (1000 metres away) was the “home” of 6RAR in 1966-67. The rubber plantation in the right distance (5000 metres away) is where the Battle of Long Tan was fought. Click to proceed…
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid B- 6RAR 12 D 10 D D 6RAR 11 D When 11 Platoon (with two sections forward) reached the road, it started an obstacle crossing drill. The two leading sections crossed the road and secured the other side, then platoon HQ started to cross. 48 C O N T A C T SLIDE OF 1050 18 Aug 1966 1300-1540 hrs (1pm-3:40pm) Click to proceed…
CONTACT: 18 Aug 1540hrs. - D Coy - Contact with 6 to 8 enemy dressed in greens at grid reference YS478673, Where 11 Platoon crossed, the track sloped slightly down hill to the north, our left, and the hill crested some 75 to 100 metres to the right. It was a gentle slope, limiting our visual distance to the south. When about ten metres from the fence I suddenly saw five or six VC, casually walking, with their heads down, along the track from the right. They had come over the rise just after the others in Platoon HQ had crossed the track and moved into the rubber. The VC had missed seeing them by a few seconds. Without hesitation, I raised my rifle and fired two quick shots at a VC. He dropped as I had hit him with both rounds. The other VC took cover. The 11 Platoon Commander requested permission to give hot pursuit. I agreed - there were 5 or 6 VC, at least one of whom was at least wounded - a Platoon was well able to handle that task. With 11 Platoon pushing ahead, I ordered 10 Platoon to maintain its direction and rate of advance. Company HQ and 12 Platoon would advance behind 10 Platoon. I reported the contact to 6RAR HQ: possibly wounding one. Remainder fled east. One AK-47 (assault rifle) retrieved. No own casualties. Sergeant Bob Buick - 11 Platoon, D/6RAR Major Harry Smith - OC Delta Company, 6RAR Click to proceed… C O N T A C T SLIDE OF 1150 18 Aug 1966 1540 hrs (3:40pm) Glossary: OC = Officer Commanding – for a Company, usually a Major; for a Platoon, a Lieutenant (Lt) or a Second Lieutenant (2Lt). Not to be confused with “CO” = Commanding Officer, applying to Battalions and larger units. CLICK INSIDE THIS BOX TO UNDERSTAND HOW GRID REFERENCES ARE USED IN THIS PRESENTATION
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid B- 6RAR 12 D 10 D D 6RAR 11 D The enemy fled east, followed by 11 Platoon, as the Company closed up and followed at a slower pace. Clearing the hut, 11 Platoon lost sight of the enemy patrol, but kept following the blood trail eastwards… Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 1250 18 Aug 1966 1540-1600 hrs (3:40 to 4pm) 6
Until the first contact, the Company had been in an older part of the rubber plantation, but as 11 Platoon chased the small enemy force they – and the Company – moved into a younger plantation, similar to this… Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 1350 18 Aug 1966
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid 12 D 10 D D 6RAR At this stage, the Company was following the contact, so the tracks they had been following were forgotten. B- 6RAR 11 Platoon continued the pursuit. Suddenly they were stopped by massive fire from their left-front (north east). 11 D SLIDE OF 1450 18 Aug 1966 1600-1610 hrs (4 – 4:10 pm) CLICK INSIDE THIS BOX TO SEE WHAT DELTA COMPANY DIDN’T KNOW – WHERE THE VC WERE: 6 Click to proceed…
CONTACT: 18 Aug 1610 hrs. -11 Platoon under heavy fire from grid 487674 (southern slopes of Nui Dat 2). Without warning, two enemy machine guns fired from the left front (north) – from the scrub and creek line at the southern base of the Nui Dat 2 feature. The left man of 4 Section was about 75 metres from the enemy. Sharp immediately placed his platoon in an ‘L’ shape to bring maximum fire to bear, then called for artillery. While the fire-fight to the north was developing, a group of about 80 VC attacked from the east… 11 Platoon was suddenly in a very difficult predicament. Harry (Smith) and I had already agreed on the grid reference of our location. He approved the request from Gordon Sharp for artillery fire support, which we considered might have been useful even if I directed the fire at some distance from 11 Platoon’s known position. Initially, I engaged with my own 161 Battery, but the situation deteriorated rapidly. Within minutes the first artillery shells were dropping on the slopes of the hill and being adjusted closer… 2Lt Gordon Sharp, OC 11 Platoon, D/6RAR (an excerpt from the book “The Battle Of Long Tan as told by the Commanders” to Bob Grandin”.) Captain Morrie Stanley 161 Bty, RNZArtillery Attached as forward artillery observer (FO) to D/6RAR Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 1550 18 Aug 1966 1610 hrs (4:10 pm)
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid 12 D 10 D D 6RAR On this news, the CO ordered the B/6RAR patrol to halt and await orders to go to reinforce D/6RAR. At 1615 hrs, Smith advised his CO, Colonel Townsend, that 11 Platoon was fighting an estimated VC company.The initial 11 Platoon estimate was an enemy platoon… As the VC poured fire into 11 Platoon… 11 D Meanwhile, at the Task Force base… B- 6RAR 30 100 I while D/6RAR was in contact at Long Tan and B/6RAR waited to return… Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... Two choppers sat on the 1ATF helipad waiting to take the concert A/6RAR returned to base after a 3-day operation to the north east; A 6RAR B- 6RAR D 3Tp 1APC 9Sqn RAAF The APCs were at the concert, on other duties or in the workshop; CO = Commanding Officer – the officer commanding a Battalion (a Lieutenant Colonel [LtCol]) or a larger unit. Click to proceed… … the VC mortared the rest of D/6, which moved 100 metres north. party back to Vung Tau; SLIDE OF 1650 18 Aug 1966 1610-1620 hrs (4:10-4:20pm) …but this was quickly revised to an enemy company. Glossary: RAAF = Royal Australian Air Force – 9 Squadron flew the “huey” helicopters in Viet Nam. APC = Armoured Personnel Carrier – a lightly armoured tracked vehicle capable of transporting about twelve soldiers.
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid 12 D 10 D D 6RAR B- 6RAR As the enemy continued to engage 11 Platoon……10 Platoon was sent forward to support the withdrawal of 11. 12 Platoon took over CHQ defence.After about 300 metres, 10 Platoon hit another formation of enemy. Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 1750 18 Aug 1966 1620-1630 hrs (4:20-4:30 pm) Glossary: CHQ = Company Head Quarters 30 11 D 100 I
“I told the platoon to drop their packs. We started off, two-up in extended line, towards the sound of the firing…” “The skies opened up and rain was bucketing down” “We went on probably another 150 metres… …the sound of the firing up front was enormous”. 2Lt Geoff Kendall OC 10 Platoon, D/6RAR Major Harry Smith OC D/6RAR “We saw a line of troops moving across our right front in what looked like assault formation. I was a little concerned that they could be part of 11 Platoon, so kept the guys going until it was obvious they were enemy“. “The closest of them would only have been twenty-odd metres away but they still hadn’t seen us. I ordered my guys to fire… …we knocked over the whole right-hand element.“ “We continued but moved only a few metres before we were hit with a hail of fire from our left front.” “At 1615 hours I’d reported 11 Platoon’s enemy as an estimated platoon. At 1626 I upped that to a company” “When 10 Platoon hit VC, I knew we were up against a force larger than our own.” “I again asked for the B Coy patrol of about 48 men to come to us, but that was again not approved.” “Up to now we’d been supported by a single artillery battery (6 guns). I now called for the full regiment (24 guns). After a time, permission was granted and we were able to fire at different targets concurrently.” “We would also need reinforcement. The quickest way to get them to us was by chopper. My request was turned down – no choppers, no secured LZ. I was told reinforcements would be sent by APC.” “Until then, we were on our own. Time was against us – it would be dark in two and a half hours! And then the 10 Platoon radio went off the air…..” Click to proceed… As the enemy continued to flank 11 Platoon……10 Platoon was sent forward to support the withdrawal of 11. 12 Platoon took over CHQ defence.After about 300 metres, 10 Platoon hit another formation of enemy. SLIDE OF 1850 18 Aug 1966 1620-1630 hrs (4:20-4:30 pm)
47 10 D 49 67 48 D 6RAR 12 D 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid 11 platoon now estimated VC on the hill as a battalion B- 6RAR A D/6 signaller, Pte Bill ‘Ýank’ Akell, rushed alone from CHQ to 10 Platoon to deliver the spare radio set. 10 Platoon reported machine gun fire from the hill in support of the enemy they were in contact with.At about 1645 hrs, a monsoon rain storm advanced across the battlefield. The rain was torrential. 30 100 I x 600 11 D At 1640 hrs, Smith passed on the VC battalion information – just before the 10 Platoon radio went off the air. Visibility under the rubber canopy was halved. Within minutes, a knee-high mud mist covered the ground. Pte Bill ‘Yank’ Akell D Company Signaller Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 1950 18 Aug 1966 1630-1645 hrs (4:30-4:45 pm) and reported company sized assaults from their east. 100 I This photo demonstrates the “mud mist” effect. This is the Long Tan cross as it was some years ago, before being developed as shown in the title slide of this presentation. Please note the red staining at the lower end of the cross vertical. It is mud splashed up from the bare ground during the monsoon rainstorms. Once the ground below is saturated, the raindrops hit the mud with such force that the splash forms a red “mist” up to twenty inches (to 50cm) high and thick enough lower down to hide a person laying on the ground. The soldier’s uniforms were also stained red, adding to the camouflage effect.
47 10 D 49 67 48 D 6RAR 12 D 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid B- 6RAR Meanwhile, at the Task Force base, both the APCs and Alpha Company of 6RAR were put on standby… 2Lt Gordon Sharp OC 11 Platoon, D/6RAR KIA Long Tan 18 Aug 1966 30 11 D x 600 100 I Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... The two choppers were still at the 1ATF helipad but the crews A/6RAR was placed on standby to board the APCs for Long Tan; A 6RAR B- 6RAR D 3Tp 1APC 9Sqn RAAF 3 Troop 1APC was placed on standby and told to go to A/6RAR; had moved to Task Force HQ to find out what’s happening. Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 2050 18 Aug 1966 1645-1700 hrs (4:45-5 pm) At about 1650 hrs, 11 Platoon’s Sgt Bob Buick reported that 2Lt Gordon Sharp had been killed. Buick assumed command of 11 Platoon. It had been just an hour since he’d fired the first shots of the battle.
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid 11 Platoon was still receiving fire from north and heavy assaults from the east. They also saw VC to their south. B- 6RAR While 10 Platoon’s radio was off the air – before the spare arrived - 11 Platoon’s radio had its aerial shot off. For a time, CHQ lost contact with both Platoons. Worse – neither Platoon could direct their artillery requests. formation, comms were restored with 10 Platoon, which advised that they had casualties and were withdrawing. Smith prepared CHQ and 12 Platoon to move south east, towards both 10 and 11 Platoons. As they shook into With new artillery requests and the need to prepare a Company Aid Post (CAP) for the 10 Platoon wounded, CHQ settled back down into defence, retaining a Section of 12 Platoon to man their perimeter. The rest of 12 Platoon was tasked to go to 11 Platoon and support their withdrawal back to CHQ. At this stage, D 6RAR 12 D SLIDE OF 2150 18 Aug 1966 1700-1710 hrs (5:00-5:10 pm) Click to proceed… 10 D 30 x 600 11 D Reinforcements 100 I The VC were now within 50 metres of 11 Platoon and artillery falling some 100 metres from their perimeter. 30
“I heard on the radio net Brig Jackson gave approval in principle only for the APC force to move, but Alpha and the APCs waited … for the executive order.” “My anger grew with each passing delay. I recall being told the APCs were again delayed in leaving. I retorted … ‘If they don’t hurry up and get out here then they might as well not come at all’.”. 2Lt Dave Sabben OC 12 Platoon, D/6RAR Sergeant Bob Buick Now commanding 11 Platoon “My orders were to put two sections in front of CHQ and one behind, and to start an advance towards 11 Platoon. 10 Platoon would meet up with us en route.” “The plan changed when Harry had to stop to form a firm base. He kept my third section and ordered me to proceed with two sections to go get 11 Platoon.” “There were just twenty of us…”. “We withdrew to CHQ by a couple of backward fire and movement leaps. This got us out of the area being blanketed by enemy fire and must have been out of their sight because we were able to get back to Harry’s location without further casualties. On arrival the OC ordered me to put my platoon down in defence facing toward the 11 Platoon fire-fight area.” “The platoon signaller, Vic Grice, replaced the short antenna that had been shot off the radio with the long antenna. With communications re-established, we adjusted the artillery closer.” ”The aerials, the noise of the firing and the storm were not the only problems with the radio – the enemy began to interfere with and jam the radio frequency.” By now, the company was divided into four groups, each with its own tasks and priorities… 2Lt Geoff Kendall OC 10 Platoon, D/6RAR Major Harry Smith OC D/6RAR IN THE RUBBER Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 2250 18 Aug 1966 1700-1710 hrs (5:00-5:10 pm)
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid …then turned and started east towards 11 Platoon, avoiding the enemy following up the 10 Platoon withdrawal. B- 6RAR As 10 Platoon returned to CHQ with its casualties, the two sections of 12 Platoon headed south to the hut… The platoon had been there for an hour, had about 50% casualties and was running out of ammunition… 11 Platoon, still heavily engaged, watched the VC circling to their south to ‘close the door’ on them. At CHQ, the 10 Platoon casualties were passed by the CSM, Jack Kirby, to Cpl Phil Dobson in the CAP. The rest of 10 Platoon was placed to defend the CAP and Company HQ from the enemy moving in from the east. D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D 12- D WO2 Jack Kirby CSM, D/6RAR Cpl Phil Dobson Medic, D/6RAR Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 2350 18 Aug 1966 1710-1720 hrs (5:10-5:20 pm) Glossary: CSM = Company Sergeant Major – A Warrant Officer Class 2 [WO2] - the senior non-commissioned officer in an Infantry Company. CAP = Company Aid Post – the place where wounded are treated first before evacuation to hospital. Cpl = abbreviation for Corporal. 30 x 600 11 D Reinforcements 100 I 30
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid …where they ran in to the probes trying to flank 11 Platoon. B- 6RAR At 1710 hrs, Smith requested an ammo resupply, asking that it be dropped from choppers overhead. He also As the enemy began to probe the CHQ defences… asked for an air-strike on the enemy’s depth positions, and that the Bravo Company patrol be sent to assist. 30 10 SLIDE OF 2450 18 Aug 1966 1720-1730 hrs (5:20-5:30 pm) 10 30 D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D … 12 Platoon advanced towards 11 Platoon… Click to proceed… By 1730 hrs, all three platoons were in contact. 10 30 x 600 11 D Reinforcements 100 I 12 D
Brigadier Jackson was concerned at denuding the base of too many troops and APCs. He was worried about the whereabouts of the other VC Regiment, the 274 th. 5RAR was only now returning from its Binh Ba operation, its perimeter defended by assorted small units 6RAR had three Companies out, with Charlie Company defending the whole 6RAR perimeter. Flt/Lt Bob Grandin Pilot, 9 Sqn., RAAF Lt Adrian Roberts OC 3Troop, 1APC Sqn “The artillery just kept firing so the pilots went to the TFHQ Ops tent to see what was happening. When Smith asked for an ammo resupply by helicopter, Gp Capt Raw knew that such a flight was against Canberra’s policy at the time. Riley stepped forward and said he would go. I suggested it was a suicide mission. Frank just responded ‘You don’t have to come’.” “We rushed over to the pad”. When Major Noel Ford, the OC of the Bravo Company patrol, asked if they could move towards Delta Company, Townsend told him to remain in his location and await further orders. Meanwhile, with Delta requesting an ammo resupply, Major O’Brien and RSM Chinn started to coordinate the delivery of the spare ammo to the 6RAR “Eagle Farm” chopper pad. “I took ten Carriers – 3 Troop and 2 Section, 2 Troop – to A/6RAR’s lines. Once there, I went to 6RAR HQ for a briefing. Major Passey, the 6RAR Ops Officer, ordered me to ‘Pick up Alpha Company and get to Delta Company and break up the attack’. He said 6RAR’s CO would join us later by helicopter. I rushed back to the Carriers. But the order to move did not come”. Lt.Col. C. Townsend CO 6RAR Brigadier O. D. Jackson CO 1ATF AT THE BASE …and things were no less busy at the Task Force base… SLIDE OF 2550 18 Aug 1966 1720-1730 hrs (5:20-5:30 pm) Glossary: OC = Officer Commanding (the Company Commander) RSM = Regimental Sergeant Major – the senior non- commissioned officer in an Infantry Battalion, amongst whose responsibilities is ammo resupply. TFHQ = Task Force Head Quarters – Ops = Operations. Click to proceed…
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid B- 6RAR The 12 Platoon contacts quickly escalated as the enemy probes sought to flank their new target. As two other helicopters flew the concert party to Vung Tau, US jets were called to Long Tan for the air-strike.Meanwhile, at the Task Force base……the ammo resupply process started and the reinforcements waited… SLIDE OF 2650 18 Aug 1966 1730-1740 hrs (5:30-5:40 pm) The same thing happened at 10 Platoon – the enemy was trying to gauge the limits of the Australian positions. Unknown to the Australians, large groups of the enemy were flanking them out of sight of the defenders. Click to proceed… 30 10 D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D x 600 30 100 I 10 30 ? ??? 12 D 11 D 10 ? ??? ? Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... The two crews raced to their helicopters and flew from the Task B- 6RAR D 9Sqn RAAF 3 Troop 1APC, with 2 Section of 2 Troop, were now at A/6RAR; Force helipad to the 6RAR helipad to collect the ammo. However, permission to load and go had not yet been given; 3Tp 1APC A 6RAR
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid At 10 Platoon, the enemy – having found a solid target - withdrew to consolidate and prepare their attack. B- 6RAR Overhead, the jets arrived… At 11 Platoon, it was obvious they couldn’t hold out much longer. Sgt Buick prepared the survivors to withdraw.At 12 Platoon, the VC continued to send out flanking probes, trying to define the extent of this new force. SLIDE OF 2750 18 Aug 1966 1740-1750 hrs (5:40-5:50 pm) enemy opposing 11 Platoon. Instead, they dropped bombs and napalm a thousand metres further east. Still unknown to Delta Company, the columns of VC soldiers moved westwards to outflank the Australians. Click to proceed… 30 10 Reinforcements D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D x 600 30 100 I 10 30 ? ??? 11 D 10 12 D 10 ? ??? ? 10 …Due to the thick cloud cover, they couldn’t identify the target, which was to be the Super Sabre F100 D
47 10 49 67 48 49 68 46 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid B- 6RAR With artillery and small arms fire suppressing the enemy, the 11 Platoon men pulled back in a 150 metre dash… And still the enemy’s wide circling of the Company continued. SLIDE OF 2850 18 Aug 1966 1750-1800 hrs (5:50-6 pm) D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D 12 D They carried with them all the known wounded but were forced to leave behind 15 known or believed to be dead.The enemy reaction was to bypass the original position but to follow up the withdrawal from the flanks.12 Platoon still engaged VC patrols to north and south which sought to cut off the 11 Platoon withdrawal. 30 At CHQ and 10 Platoon, the VC launched a series of platoon-sized attacks from the east to test the defences. 30 ? ??? 11- D [13 men] Meanwhile, at the Task Force base… Click to proceed… 30 x 600 Reinforcements 30 100 I 10 12 D ? ??? 10 ? ??? 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] 11 D 47 Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... The two helicopters, loaded with ammo, left the 6RAR pad and the other flew to Long Tan village to get a visual fix. flew into the storm clouds. One circled over the rivers as 3 Troop and A/6RAR still awaited the order to go to Long Tan….. B- 6RAR D 3Tp 1APC A 6RAR 9Sqn RAAF 9Sqn RAAF 9Sqn RAAF
47 10 ? ??? 30 x 600 10 ? ??? 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid The chopper crew called “Orange”. “Wrong; we’ll throw again”. D/6 threw another Red – the crew called “Red”. B- 6RAR At about 1800 hrs (6pm) the first helicopter approached Delta Company’s location. Red smoke was thrown.The second chopper was called in and the ammo was thrown out at treetop height “right into the CSM’s lap”. SLIDE OF 2950 18 Aug 1966 1800-1810 hrs (6 - 6:10 pm) D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D 11- D [13 men] The VC assaulting the CHQ & 10 Platoon position then pulled back to reorganise. Their fire-fight died down. 11- D [13 men] 10 30 ? ??? 12 D9Sqn RAAF 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] 9Sqn RAAF 30 Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... B- 6RAR D 9Sqn RAAF 9Sqn RAAF As the helicopters returned to base, The CO 6RAR had said he’d follow by chopper, so the 10 APCs the APCs and A/6RAR to leave. Alpha Company boarded. sped to the nearest gap in the perimeter wire… B/6RAR again sought permission to go to D/6RAR: now approved. 3Tp 1APC A 6RAR Click to proceed… the order was finally given for The two helicopters, loaded with ammo, left the 6RAR pad and the other flew to Long Tan village to get a visual fix. flew into the storm clouds. One circled over the rivers as 3 Troop and A/6RAR still awaited the order to go to Long Tan…..
The helicopters arrived back at the base just as the APC and A/6RAR reinforcement column were leaving... “After we delivered the ammo we returned to the Task Force helipad and thence to the Operations Tent – Frank [Riley]’s idea of staying involved and maybe seeing some more action. We reported that we had not seen anything of note during the mission. It had been our first taste of action, yet the talk was mostly about the weather. As the squadron commander, Wing Commander Ray Scott, was on his way with the rest of the squadron, we were sent back to the helipad to await further orders. Our thoughts turned to the possibility of an attack from the north east and how vulnerable we would be with the whole squadron sitting side by side on the helipad. The sound of the artillery firing repeatedly and continuously kept us intact with the raging battle happening less than five kilometres away.” “Within the 1ATF perimeter there were only a few places APCs could enter and exit. Arriving at the engineer’s wire, I was horrified to discover that the gap had been changed. The new gap was so well concealed that I had to send a runner to the engineers to get some one to open it. That took about ten minutes – ten minutes that we really couldn’t afford. Thinking ahead, my experience on earlier operations was that the only place I could get the Troop across the Suoi Da Bang [river] was upstream from a concrete dam south of the Long Tan road. I would make for that after getting past the wire. It was a big diversion but entry to and exit from the river any further north in the wet season was simply not possible.” The constants at the base were the rain and the intense rate of fire sustained by the 24 guns of 1 Field Regt. Click to proceed… SLIDE OF 3050 18 Aug 1966 1800-1810 hrs (6 - 6:10 pm) Flt/Lt Bob Grandin Pilot, 9 Sqn., RAAF Lt Adrian Roberts OC 3Troop, 1APC Sqn Glossary: Helipad – the area set aside for helicopter landings. 1 Field Regt – First Field Regiment (artillery) – the parent unit for all the artillery at Nui Dat, comprising 6 guns each from 103 and 105 Australian Batteries, 161 NZ Battery and Battery A, 2 Battalion, 35th Artillery, US Army (of M109 Medium [155mm] self-propelled guns).
47 100 I I ? ??? 30 x 600 10 ? ??? 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid B- 6RAR SLIDE OF 3150 18 Aug 1966 1800-1810 hrs (6 - 6:10 pm) 9Sqn RAAF D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D As the 11 Platoon survivors started their withdrawal, they lost radio comms. They were pulling back “blind”.12 Platoon threw a yellow smoke grenade. The group saw the smoke and came in to the 12 Platoon position.As the VC continued their encircling moves……a group formed up facing the known CHQ/10 Platoon location. 11- D [13 men] Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... B- 6RAR D 9Sqn RAAF As the helicopters returned to base, The CO 6RAR had said he’d follow by chopper, so the 10 APCs the APCs and A/6RAR to leave. Alpha Company boarded. sped to the nearest gap in the perimeter wire… B/6RAR again sought permission to go to D/6RAR: now approved. 3Tp 1APC A 6RAR Click to proceed… the order was finally given for 10 12 D 10 ? ??? 10 30 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] At 12 Platoon, more assaults from north and south were eliminated – the firefight died away.10 Platoon could look down the rubber tree avenues and see the VC forming up in the distance to their east. 60 Several groups of six to 10 VC followed them in, while more enemy were seen to move past to the south.
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 47 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid The group formed up and started an advance towards CHQ. B- 6RAR CHQ and 10 Platoon were then attacked from south-east and east by groups of about platoon strength. SLIDE OF 3250 18 Aug 1966 1810-1820 hrs (6:10-6:20 pm) 100 I ? ??? 10 D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] 100 I 30 12 D 11- D [13 men] The VC continued their encircling move, They were ambushed and stopped by 12 Platoon. x 600 ? ??? as Bravo Company approached and the APCs cleared the base wire. 12 D 11- D [13 men] 602030 6:40 6:50 Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... As the helicopters return to base… The CO 6RAR had said he’d follow by chopper, so the 10 APCs APCs and A/6RAR to leave. Alpha Company climbs aboard. speed to the nearest gap in the perimeter wire… B/6RAR again seeks permission to go to D/6RAR – now approved. the order is finally given for the B- 6RAR D The APCs waited for the gap in the wire to be opened, when… Sending two carriers back for CO 6RAR, the other eight carriers to protect the crossing and started to cross, one at a time. sped through the gap…They continued to the weir, deployed 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR Click to proceed… Lt Adrian Roberts OC 3Troop, 1APC Sqn with A/6RAR on board. “I was informed through 1APC Squadron that the CO of 6RAR now wished to move with the APCs to Delta Company and wanted my force to return to collect him. I was aware that Delta Company was in dire straits at Long Tan. What to do? I opted to send back two carriers … while I pushed on to the river crossing … with the other eight carriers. I believed that [the two carriers returned for the CO’s party] would catch up with me at the crossing where I knew we would be delayed.” A water crossing is a dangerous move for APCs. The vehicle floats with only a foot or so (30cm) of space between the water and the top hatch. (This picture shows the APC beginning to climb out of the water, so the front is raised.) The crossing to get to Long Tan took place when the river was swift and swollen, it was raining, within an hour of full darkness, and with the real threat of an enemy ambush. Click to proceed…
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 10 48 D 6RAR 9 12/D 10 D 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] 100 I N 68 100 I 67 10 ? ??? x 600 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid The survivors of the ambush moved south.12 Platoon and the 11 Platoon group made their way back to CHQ where they took up perimeter positions. The VC attacks on 10 Platoon failed - the VC pulled back to reorganise. They were reinforced with fresh troops. 12 D 11- D [13 men] 20 ? ??? The enemy encirclement proceeded, out of sight of the Australians and unknown by them… 3050 Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... B- 6RAR D SLIDE OF 3350 18 Aug 1966 1820-1830 hrs (6:20-6:30 pm) 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR HQ - 6RAR x Bravo Company was mortared as it made its way to Delta Coy. There were no casualties and they were soon on their way again. At 6RAR HQ, the CO’s party boarded the returned APCs and they Meanwhile, the APCs crossed the swift-flowing river one at a time. 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR prepared to leave the base. For the first time in over two hours, there was a lull in the fighting. 47 Composite Section 11 Platoon 9 Section, 12 Platoon CAP CHQ Section 7 & 8 Sections, 12 Platoon 1, 2 & 3 Sections, 10 Platoon CHQ & FOO Approx. 100 metres Once the company assumed its final defensive position the placements of the sub-units didn’t change. At that time the average strength of a Section was 5 or 6 able men. The brunt of the fighting for the next 30 minutes was in the arc from north clockwise to south west. Glossary: CAP = Company Aid Post – first aid for the wounded. CHQ = Company Headquarters FOO = Forward Observation Officer - the officer and his signallers who controlled the artillery firing – in this case, Captain ‘Morrie’ Stanley of 161 Bty, RNZA. Click to proceed…
“The company had had no time to dig in … Fortunately, the position at which we had chosen to stop was on a slight reverse slope and therefore the enemy machine- gun fire mostly went just over our heads, with only the fire of the upright VC assaulting waves getting right into our area.” “The VC continued to launch assault waves on the 10 and 12 Platoon area. Machine- gun fire poured in from out near the slopes of Nui Dat 2. Preceded by bugle and whistle calls... the enemy assault waves continued relentlessly.” Captain ‘Morrie’ Stanley FO 161 Bty, Attached to D/6RAR the battle proper ceased the tremendous din gave the effect of a continuous violent thunderstorm.” “Generally, the situation was very frightening with the rain, sound and shock of shell and small arms fire. I think the incessant violence and confusion caused us to draw mainly on instincts that we had developed from training and previous experience.” Morrie Stanley had been walking the artillery in from all sides, carefully avoiding the original 11 Platoon position. By the time of the final assaults, artillery was falling about 100 metres out from the perimeter – and was still being called in closer. The company – then with about 60 men effective - was finally in the position from which it would not withdraw. Major Harry Smith OC D/6RAR “The artillery was closed in to 100 metres. We could see the shells land. We could feel the concussion through the sodden earth and we could smell the explosive. Best for us, we could see the damage it was doing as it protected us from the VC masses.” Throughout much of the battle, especially after the defensive position had been established, Morrie Stanley had ordered almost continuous artillery fire in a series of regimental fire missions with adjustments. “One effect of all this gunfire was the noise. From the time fire commenced at about 1600hrs until about 1900hrs when Near-continuous artillery fire formed a screen of destruction between the Australians and the VC. SLIDE OF 3450 18 Aug 1966 1830 hrs (6:50 pm) MEANWHILE, BACK WITH DELTA COMPANY… Click to proceed…
47 49 67 48 49 68 46 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid As the VC circling move continued….The VC quickly followed up the 12 Platoon withdrawal. Soon they probed the south edge of D/6RAR in strength. SLIDE OF 3550 18 Aug 1966 1830-1840 hrs (6:30-6:40 pm) … Bravo Company advanced and both groups of APCs were on the move. 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] 100 I ? ??? ? D 6RAR 10 D 12 D 11- D [13 men] 30 x 600 50 100 I x 600 x Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... B- 6RAR D 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR HQ - 6RAR x Bravo Company moved into the rubber after the mortaring… With the CO 6RAR party aboard, the two APCs sped to the At the river, Roberts left one APC to guard the crossing point gap in the wire and exited the base… and lead his 7 remaining APCs towards Delta Company… 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR Click to proceed… The enemy to the east, then estimated at a battalion……started company-strength assaults from the east.
SLIDE OF 3650 18 Aug 1966 1840-1850 hrs (6:40-6:50 pm) 47 ? ??? | 100 49 67 48 49 68 46 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid As they were beaten off, company-plus assaults came in from south east, then south, then east again. The enemy to the south of the company consolidated as the first of the major assaults from the east came in. B- 6RAR 100 I I 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] D 6RAR 10 D 12 D 11- D [13 men] The enemy circling Delta Company reached the road in the rubber plantation. they were focussed on the battle raging to the north of them rather than watching their left (southern) flank… It is was still raining heavily, and | 100 Click to proceed… The inner VC encirclement group appears to have been in a cut-off position near the crossroads… At the sound of the APC contact to their south, they appear to have decided to return to the east. 100 I I x 600 x x 50 Weir MEANWHILE, AT THE TASK FORCE BASE... B- 6RAR D The seven APCs charged into the rubber plantation and followed the axis of the road northwards – right into the circling VC. crossed and, with the third APC, raced to join the others. As the APCs were in contact, the two others reached the river, Meanwhile, Bravo Company reached the road where 11 Platoon had had its first contact. 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR HQ - 6RAR x Lt Peter Dinham OC 2 Platoon, A Coy, aboard the APCs and dismounted on contact. “When the firing started, my sergeant, Frank Alcorta, rolled off the APC, followed by Ron Brett, and engaged the VC. I quickly got the rear ramp of the APC lowered and we all debussed – platoon HQ and Lou Stephens’ section – about 12 of us in total. We formed an extended line and, with the APCs’.50cals firing support, we engaged about 100 enemy to our front. The firing was intense but lasted only a minute or so before I ordered the group to remount the APC. We estimated later that we’d inflicted some 40 casualties with no casualties to us.” After the battle, a POW said that this was a company from D445 Battalion sent to “close the door” on the Australians. The other companies of D445 were in the area but did not come under fire from the APCs. 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR | 100 | | |
SLIDE OF 3750 18 Aug 1966 1840-1850 hrs (6:40-6:50 pm)) The company experienced its heaviest attacks from 6:35 to 6:50. Enemy assaults came in “human waves” - “Despite the repeated assaults and the scarcity of ammo, the company stood – or rather, laid on - its ground. There was no thought of withdrawal from this place. It did not occur to me that we would not survive. I guess I was too busy to worry, exploring every past experience to seek guidance in what we might do to repel the enemy. I would have given quids for a few Vickers machine guns… Maybe the mind and body accepted what was happening and regardless of the uncertainty and danger, you just did the job and that was all that mattered.” “After the defensive position had been established, [I] ordered almost continuous artillery fire in a series of fresh regimental fire missions with adjustments. I was able to take advantage of the rain and intense gunfire that caused the area to be shrouded in smoke, steam and fog. This helped me because my judgement of distance was assisted by the observation (or lack of it) of flash against this screen. The enemy and some of our own boys were also silhouetted to us. Because of the rain, I had to keep remarking our position on my map, and to keep the map oriented so that I did not make mistakes with the grid lines.” Artillery was called in from 100 metres out, to 50 metres out and finally to only 25 metres from the perimeter… Captain Morrie Stanley 161 Bty, RNZArtillery Attached as FO to D/6RAR Click to proceed… Major Harry Smith Officer Commanding Delta Company, 6RAR
SLIDE OF 3850 18 Aug 1966 1850-1900 hrs (6:50 - 7 pm) 47 49 67 48 49 68 46 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid As they approached the crossroads, they hit another company-sized VC unit who were moving west to east. Breaking through the contact on the north-south track, Roberts’ seven APCs again sped north. B- 6RAR 10 D 12 D 11- D [13 men] | 100 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR Click to proceed… 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR HQ - 6RAR x 47 100 I 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] D 6RAR 10 D 12 D 11- D [13 men] 100 I x 600 100 I I x 600 The CO 6RAR ordered Roberts to pursue. The APCs turned east and chased the VC into the gathering darkness. In the few minutes of this contact, the remaining three APCs caught up with the first seven. The VC fled east. By now, artillery was landing within 25 yards of the Delta Company perimeter. The assaults ceased at 7:00pm. In the last few minutes of fading light, the VC launched their last desperate assaults on the company position. The defenders could see the headlights of the approaching APCs flickering through the trees to their south. As the last shots of the battle echoed into the now-dark rubber plantation, the B Company group arrived. 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR HQ - 6RAR x | 100 x 600
SLIDE OF 3950 18 Aug 1966 1900-1910 hrs (7 - 7:10 pm) 47 49 67 48 49 68 46 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid After a ten-minute wait in silence, it was apparent that the VC had withdrawn from the immediate battlefield. On arrival, the B Company troops were placed on the south-west to west arc of the company perimeter. Click to proceed… 47 B- 6RAR 10 D 12 D 11- D [13 men] D 6RAR 10 D 12 D 11- D [13 men] x 600 x At about 7:10pm, the APCs arrived. They and A/6RAR were deployed by OC D/6RAR in a screen to the east. The artillery was stopped for the APC approach but ordered to remain laid on last-fired targets – just in case. It was totally dark. The rain had stopped. It was silent… The Battle of Long Tan had ended. 3Tp - 1APC A - 6RAR HQ - 6RAR x 3Tp - 1APC A- 6RAR HQ - 6RAR x B- 6RAR D- 6RAR The CO of 6RAR, Lt Col Townsend, then dismounted the APC and assumed command of the force. 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] x 600
SLIDE OF 4050 18 Aug 1966 1910-2400 hrs (7:10pm to midnight) “During this time, movement and moaning could be heard to the east. Hopeful that it might have been some of our own wounded. A Coy’s WO2 Jack Roughley and Cpl Ross Smith made three separate attempts between them to crawl forward, but the sounds ceased when the source was approached. These were acts of heroism that were never fully recognised.” Lt Adrian Roberts OC 3 Troop, 1APC Sqn. Lt Peter Dinham OC 2 Platoon, A Coy, 6RAR “We loaded the dead onto 2Lt Ian Savage’s APC, the rest of D Coy onto the others and left the battle area at 2245hrs. We moved out with convoy lights on and the leading vehicle using headlights. At the edge of the rubber, I had the troop stop, turn outwards and form a hollow square. With hatches open and internal lights on, we defined the dustoff LZ.” “Bravo Company led the way from the battle area on foot to the new APC LZ, followed by Alpha. It was a case of blind navigation on a compass bearing – you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. We stopped numerous times after falling over or running into a tree. We made the rubber’s edge about an hour or so later. I never liked night navigation ever again.” “I was not happy when Colonel Townsend [CO 6RAR] ordered a withdrawal of everyone back to the edge of the rubber to dustoff the casualties. I argued heatedly with the CO that I wanted to stay and sweep through the area in APCs at first light to where 11 Platoon had been. We could have made an LZ by having the APCs push over a few rubber trees.” With no threat of an enemy counterattack, Townsend ordered the whole force to move to the edge of the Cpl Robin Jones 5 Platoon, B Coy, 6RAR Major Harry Smith OC D Coy, 6RAR 7:10 pm to Midnight Click to proceed… Glossary: WO2 = Warrant Officer Class 2 – the senior NCO in a Company – the Company Sergeant Major (CSM). “Dustoff”= the code name for a helicopter casualty or medical evacuation flight. LZ = Landing Zone for helicopters rubber plantation to evacuate the dead and wounded: D Coy on the APCs; A and B Coys to follow on foot.
SLIDE OF 4150 Overnight 18 Aug to dawn 19th 47 49 67 48 49 68 46 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid At 2245hrs (10:45pm) the APCs with CO 6RAR and Delta Company aboard moved to the edge of the plantation. Bravo and Alpha Companies moved by foot and secured the area around the APCs and the LZ. Click to proceed… 47 There, they formed an open square and called for US and Australian helicopters to evacuate the casualties. At midnight, the Delta Company “Operation Vendetta” ended and a new “Operation Smithfield” was started. The helicopters flew in and took the casualties direct to the hospitals at Vung Tau (15 minutes flying time). 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] A- 6RAR B- 6RAR 3Tp - 1APC HQ - 6RAR x D- 6RAR “Smithfield” was a Task Force operation formed to follow up the enemy forces withdrawing from Long Tan. 9Sqn RAAF 1 sortie USArmy I
SLIDE OF 4250 Dawn 19 Aug to evening 21 Aug 1966 47 49 67 48 49 68 46 48 N 68 67 47 Nui Dat 2 Suoi Da Bang Copyright Dave Sabben 2007 Scale: approx 1000 metre grid At dawn 19th August, D Company, 5RAR, was flown in to the APC LZ and “Operation Smithfield” began. The rest of the force returned to the area of Delta’s final stand, where they split to their own tasks: Click to proceed… 47 D/5RAR swept through the battle area to ensure there were no ambushes laid, and secured the eastern limit. The APCs and Delta Coy platoons moved to the areas of their own contacts and started to clear the battlefield. A and B Coys cleared to the edges of the battlefield and, with D/5RAR, started to follow up the VC withdrawal. 11- D [15 men M.I.A.] A- 6RAR B- 6RAR 3Tp - 1APC HQ - 6RAR x D- 6RAR 9Sqn RAAF (Various) USArmy I I 11 Platoon found two of their missing 15 still alive, though wounded. They were casevac’d immediately. D 5RAR B- 6RAR A- 6RAR APC 1 APC 2 10 Pl 11 Pl 12 Pl Whole Company Artillery In depth The two 11 Platoon soldiers found on the battlefield on the 19 th - Barry Mellor and Jim Richmond - were medivac’d to hospital. Both recovered from their wounds.
Perhaps it is fitting to allow the commander of the battle to have the last word… Click to proceed… My Company was sent out briefed to find an enemy force expected to be about a platoon strong – perhaps 30 men. We did not know at the time, but Task Force HQ had dismissed reports of at least one VC Regiment in the area of Long Tan in the days after mid-August 1966. How was it then, that we were able to withstand a prolonged engagement with perhaps up to 2000 NVA and VC over a three hour plus period? Each of my three well-trained but inexperienced platoons in their individual actions, and then the company in defence, fought tenaciously against the overwhelming VC forces. Our initial wide dispersement and flanking moves, the regimental artillery support and the RAAF ammunition resupply were all to our advantage. The timely arrival of reinforcements on APCs as the enemy withdrew from the battlefield may have prevented a possible counterattack after dark. But if not for the outstanding leadership at section and platoon levels, practiced application of basic Infantry, weapon and fieldcraft skills, gallantry, courage and determination on the battlefield, we would not have survived. Some of my minimal recommendations for honours and awards were downgraded and others were not forwarded to higher HQ for processing. The company was later awarded the US Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) but other USA and GRVN medals offered in 1966 were rejected by Canberra. The lesser Australian Imperial awards approved for Delta Company were, to quote the Official History, To Long Tan (Page 564, endnote 74), “…little short of insulting for the heroism displayed…” for the now-iconic battle of the war. I remain very proud of my officers and men and am saddened by those we lost. CLICK INSIDE THIS BOX TO GO TO THE END OF THE PRESENTATION SLIDE OF 4350 Major Harry Smith OC D/6RAR Roll of Honour – Long Tan 27814652Lt G C Sharp 54570Cpl P E Clements (1APC) 2781847L/Cpl J Jewry 55120Pte R A Aldersea 1730929Pte G A Drabble 1730941Pte K H Gant 3411673Pte E F Grant 1730947Pte V R Grice 43893Pte J M Houston 2781704Pte P A Large 1730993Pte A F McCormack 1730994Pte D J McCormack 1731013Pte W D Mitchell 1731040Pte D J Salveron 38712Pte D J Thomas 1200265Pte F B Topp 216559Pte M R Wales 3787607Pte C J Whiston They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We shall remember them. Lest we forget. CLICK INSIDE THIS BOX TO SEE THREE OTHER SLIDES: The VC/NVA version; Was Long Tan a VC ambush? Long Tan’s legacy.
THE VC AND NVA VERSION OF THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN A few days after the battle, Radio Hanoi and Radio Peking each broadcast a version of the battle at Long Tan. Excerpts include: “... wiped out 500 (Australian) mercenaries...” “... set fire to three M113 armoured cars...” “... shot down one of the US aircraft that went to the rescue...” “... captured a large quantity of arms and ammunition.” “The day before, 17 August, the LAF... wiped out one hundred Australian mercenaries.” The official history of the (so-called) liberation of the South was published in 1986. In it, the description of the battle bears no similarity to the Australian version. Several high awards are listed as being bestowed on participants of the battle. No mention at all is made of casualties inflicted upon VC or NVA forces. It wasn’t until July 2006 that, in a “60 Minutes” interview on camera, a senior VC/NVA commander admitted to two Long Tan veterans, Bob Buick and Dave Sabben, that the Australians had, in fact, won the battle. SLIDE OF 4450 Click to proceed…
WAS LONG TAN A VC / NVA AMBUSH? It wasn’t until the late 1980s that a theory gained temporary popularity that suggested the battle at Long Tan was the result of a carefully laid VC / NVA ambush and that Delta Company stumbled into the trap, surviving only by pure luck. The evidence speaks against the Battle having been a planned and prepared VC ambush: 1.There were no pre-positioned battlefield communications; 2.The VC had no pre-dug positions on or within small arms range of the Battlefield; 3.The first contact was initiated by the Australians; 4.The initiation of the main action does not indicate an ambush. First one then two machine guns, firing at a range somewhere between 150 and 250 yards; 5.The idea of an ambush is to force those ambushed to have to assault the ambushers. It was the reverse at Long Tan – the enemy had to go looking for those “ambushed”; 6.The VC did not use command detonated devices (ie, Claymore-style devices), nor were any being carried by the VC; 7.There was no VC force to hit the APCs at the river crossing – an obvious place to stop them; 8.The VC had to spend three hours trying to find the Delta Company Platoons and to define their perimeters within their own so-called ambush killing zone; 9.A planned ambush has a planned withdrawal - the actual withdrawal was described as “shabby”; 10.The VC in their assaulting waves were still carrying crew-served weapon ammunition and unprepared grenades in pouches; 11.The VC had grenades and satchel charges, but there were no reports of them being used against Delta Company; 12.Since then, no VC paperwork cut before the event (orders etc.) to indicate that an ambush was planned have come to light. The theory that Long Tan was an ambush is untenable. SLIDE OF 4550 Click to proceed…
LONG TAN’s LEGACY… The battle at Long Tan was not the largest battle the Australian or ANZAC forces experienced in Viet Nam. It did not have the most troops involved, nor did it last the longest time. However, the stakes involved were the most critical to the Australian and New Zealand involvements, and the results in proportion to the ANZAC forces involved were the greatest. After Long Tan, the enemy, both VC (local forces) and NVA (North Vietnamese Army) never again sought to “take on” the Task Force base at Nui Dat. While they still operated in the Province, and engaged the ANZACs, all the subsequent major engagements took place at or outside the province borders, or when they were trapped in or near towns. By the end of the first year of the Task Force, unarmed vehicles moved unescorted on the main access roads. Long Tan was not feted in Australia, and was not accorded “icon” status until the Viet Nam Veterans themselves chose its date – 18 August – as national Viet Nam Veterans’ Day. The date was ratified by the government and all Viet Vets now honour Long Tan Day as “their” day for remembering those who served, were wounded or died in the Viet Nam campaign. For the record – 105 men of Delta Company, 6RAR, moved into the rubber plantation, along with a three-man New Zealand artillery party. 17 of the Delta men died and 21 were evacuated wounded. One APC man was wounded and later died of his wounds. A Company experienced several lightly injured but these were not serious enough for evacuation. The enemy lost 245 plus men by bodycount, with captured documents and POWs later affirming that over 800 had died and some 1400 had been wounded in the battle. In 2006 a Chinese General speaking informally with an Australian ex-Brigadier suggested that the actual number of troops lost (dead and severe amputees) was in excess of 2500. SLIDE OF 4650 Click to proceed…
A dotPPT PowerPoint Animation presentation THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN Click to end the presentation. This presentation is distributed free, but is copyrighted and may not be used by others for profit. dot PPT PowerPoint Animations acknowledges the valuable contribution of excerpts from the book “The Battle of Long Tan as told by the Commanders to Bob Grandin” ( Allen & Unwin, 2004, ISBN 1 74114 199 0 ). This presentation took hundreds of hours to research and develop. If you have enjoyed it or learned from it, and would like to contribute to its development, please consider a deposit of a small amount (say, $5 or $10?) to (Australian) Westpac bank account BSB# 733 000, Account# 853 546 (branch = 360 Collins St, Melbourne), or (Australian) CBA bank account BSB# 063 550, Account# 1024 7640 (branch = Hampton, Victoria), either account in the name of David Sabben. Your anonymous contribution to costs will be much appreciated. Who knows? This may enable other similar presentations to be developed in the future. Thank you. Any comments or feedback on this presentation may be directed to the “contact” email address in www.dotPPT.com Thank you for watching ERRATA The following mistakes are fixed and enhancements are added in this version: (1) 102 Battery changed to 103 Battery in the glossary text, slide 30. (2) Text on slide 46 altered to say that the VC/NVA never again tried to attack the base – there were still contacts within the Province. (3) Fixed tense in slide 18 text. (4) Added version number on slide 2. The following mistakes or enhancements have been advised and may be fixed or added in the next version of this presentation (no target date). (1) The number of dots above the APC symbol – I have used three dots to indicate a Troop of 10 vehicles, two dots to indicate 2 vehicles and one dot to indicate 1 vehicle. However, in slide 32 and the early part of 33, the 2 vehicles are shown with three dots. (2) APC and Infantry movements on 19 Aug – Slide 42 is roughly correct but not accurate in detail. C/6 came out to the plantation as did the rest of 1APC Squadron. I need to get the sequences and movements a bit better than they are here. _____________________________________________________________ If you have feedback, please go to website www.dotPPT.com, select ‘contact’ and send your feedback / corrections. (Good intentions offered, but no guarantees!) Click to proceed… THE END
Enemy units will not have the same “staff” and “flag” symbol. They will have red location disks to show location but, since size of unit, name, parent unit and type of unit are not known, the standard symbols used In this presentation will be: for a section or squad, for a platoon, for a company and for a battalion. Where the size of the enemy force has been estimated by an observer, that number is included within the disk but these are estimates only. However, since the numbers roughly match our units, the appropriate size symbol will be placed above the disk. A 6RAR x = Battalion – over 600 soldiers | = Company – about 100soldiers = Platoon – 30-35 soldiers = Section – 7 to 10 soldiers = single man/group or vehicle MILITARY SYMBOLS FOR UNITS AS USED IN THIS PRESENTATION SLIDE OF 4850 LESSON: Military Unit Symbols. 100 I 30 10 x 600 on the map. Blue for our units; red for enemy. more than one unit in that location. If there’s more than one flag, then there’s the type of unit. We’ll show X for infantry, of the unit – in this case, A (Company). parent unit – in this case, 6RAR. Above the flag, a small symbol will show the size of the unit - for armour and for helicopters. meaning that the unit is not at full strength.) A coloured disk shows the location of the unit Above it is a ‘staff’ - like a flagpole. On the staff there’ll be one or more ‘flag’s. Inside the flag there’ll be a symbol to indicate On the left of the flag is the name or number On the right will be the name of the unit’s (Sometimes there will also be a minus sign - x = Battalion – over 600 soldiers | = Company – about 100soldiers = Platoon – 30-35 soldiers = Section – 7 to 10 soldiers = single man/group or vehicle CLICK THIS BOX TO RETURN
Nui Dat 2 A standard grid reference is a 6-digit number used to identify a location on a map. On maps (and in these map-diagrams) there are numbered vertical and horizontal lines… These are called ‘grid lines’. We’ll use them to identify the location of the hut in the plantation: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF GRID REFERENCES ON MAPS 68 47 48 68 67 48 67 47 The first two digits indicate the vertical line to the left (west) of the location to be identified = 47 The next digit is the number of tenths from it to the next vertical line to the right (east) = 7 The next two digits are the horizontal line below (south of) the location to be identified = 67 The last digit is the number of tenths from it to the next horizontal line above (north of) it = 3 The grid reference for the hut in the plantation is therefore 477673 ( Where a grid reference has two letters before the digits, the letters identify the map.) 12 3 4 5 67 9 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 8 SLIDE OF 4950 LESSON: Grid References CLICK THIS BOX TO RETURN
WHAT DELTA COMPANY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT ENEMY DISPOSITIONS Source: ‘To Long Tan’ the official history of the Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1950-1966, and other histories. The course of the battle and searches on the day after the battle confirmed the locations of some of the battalions and of the 275 Regt HQ position. To Long Tan, Page 371: [The enemy troops] appear to have consisted of: the full strength [three battalions] of 275 Regiment, In theory, up to 3500 VC troops were in the area on 18 Aug 1966. However, it is thought that not more than 1500-2000 became involved in the battle. xx 400 x 600 x x x 10 possibly augmented by one NVA battalion. In the vicinity [at Long Tan] was D445 Battalion. A VC battalion was usually 500-600 and up to 850 strong. Regt HQ was from 300-500 depending on support units operating with them at the time. While in defensive positions, the VC battalions had constant screen patrols out to secure their positions. One of the battalions took the high ground on Nui Dat 2, the others remaining outside Line Alpha. x 600 SLIDE OF 50 LESSON: Enemy Dispositions It was one of these patrols which 11 Platoon contacted at 1540 hrs (3:40pm). 10 Click to proceed… CLICK THIS BOX TO RETURN