Those who served in the Vietnam War 1962-1972, will gather on the 18th of August to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
A DAY TO REMEMBER
The Vietnam War raised contentious issues with the conscription of National Servicemen. This was a selection system calling on 19 year old males who had a birthday on randomly selected dates. This created discussion and dissension in the Australian community.
The first conscripts embarked from Sydney in April 1966. Four months later on 16-17 August, a company from 6 ROYAL Australian Regiment was struck by a Viet-Cong barrage of mortar bombs and rifle fire near the Long Tan rubber plantation, Phuoc Tuy province. New Zealand Artillery responded but the V.C did not follow up with an attack
Next day the enemy firing position was located and a party of khaki clad V.C [indicating a main force rather than ‘black pyjama’ clad locals] was sighted. Shortly afterwards, D company was hit by massive fire from rifles, machine guns and mortars from the left, front and right. A force of some 1500 North Vietnamese attacked aggressively, being well supplied with arms and ammunition.
The small band of Australians stood their ground while suffering severe losses. The desperate struggle continued in the gathering darkness, drenching rain favouring the enemy. It was obvious D company was fighting for its life. Whilst helicopters dropped much needed ammunition, Australian troop carriers raced to cut off the encircling enemy, assisted by New Zealand artillery. Under such pressure the enemy retreated leaving hundreds of their dead and wounded.
D company had survive against heavy odds, but 18 brave young men we killed. One of these was 21 year old Bendigonian, David Thomas, who had missed the “Birthday Ballot”, but voluntarily enlisted on 5th September 1965. He was buried in Kangaroo Cemetery with full military honours.
For their action, D company was awarded a United States Presidential Citation for “extraordinary operations against an opposing force in Vietnam 18 August 1966”.
Just over 500 young soldiers were killed in action, and we remember with pride the 50,000 or so who served and suffered in Vietnam.
LEST WE FORGET