For those of you who may have never seen the moving story we helped 60 Minutes (Australia) organise for the Battle of Long Tan 40th Anniversary back in August 2006, here is the video and background:
The background to this amazing story is a mini event in its own right! It took me many, many months of tough discussions and negotiations, some directly with the Vietnamese Government but also many conversations through the Australian Consul General in Ho Chi Mihn City, Mal Skelly and the Australian Military Attache in Hanoi, Capt John Griffith. Once I secured permission from the Vietnamese government to film in Vietnam, we tracked down the former Viet Cong commanders who fought against the Australians through some amazing local Vietnamese contacts Al and Ahn Davis based in Vung Tau. Ahn’s Uncle was actually in the Viet Cong.
It was an amazing and humbling experience to film in Vietnam as well as spend so much time with the very brave and hospitable Vietnam veterans of the Battle of Long Tan. We had representatives of the Vietnamese Government with us at all times but they were very friendly and very supportive. This great experience allowed us to pass on these contacts to the 60 Minutes team.
Producer Hamish Thomson from 60 Minutes had been in contact with me for some time after we announced the movie project back in 2005. In preparation for our 40th Anniversay activities, Graham Cassidy and I met with Hamish and John Westacott and agreed to organise a trip to Vietnam with two of the former Australian Long Tan commanders. After speaking with the commanders it was agreed that Dave Sabben former platoon commander of 12 Platoon and Bob Buick former platoon sergeant for 11 Platoon would go.
We also organised for a reporter and photographer from The Australian to go on the trip as well.
I won’t give away the ending of the 60 Minutes story, suffice to say it was totally unexpected and it made the front cover of The Australian newspaper the weekend before the 60 Minutes story aired. The 60 Minutes story went to air on Sunday 13 August, just 3 days prior to the premier of our documentary on The History Channel.
Postscript – August 2008
In addition, here is the 60 Minutes postscript from 17 August 2008. This story recaps the original story and also covers the recently announced Federal Government review and subsequent upgrade of the medals for the Long Tan veterans: