Here is a small amount of film of 17 year old Little Pattie and Col Joye at Nui Dat on the day of the Battle of Long Tan – 18 August 1966.
Sydney entertainers Col Joye and the Joy Boys and singer Little Pattie, toured the Australian Task Force area at Nui Dat, South Vietnam on an armoured personnel carrier before giving shows for troops. They stopped to watch an air strike on the foothills of a nearby mountain. Smoke rises as bombs pound Viet Cong positions. Continue reading →
Lt. Col Harry Smith SG MC (retd), former Officer Commanding of Delta Company, 6RAR during the Battle of Long Tan has released his own book.
Written in partnership with award-winning journalist Toni McRae, “Long Tan A lifelong battle” is also Harry’s life story and portrays his many personal battles, from failed marriages to commando-style killing; from a horrific parachute accident through to his modern-day struggles with bureaucracy for recognition for his soldiers. Harry’s battles are tempered by his love of sailing, where he has at last found some peace.
On the afternoon of 18 August 1966, just five kilometres from the main Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat, a group of Viet Cong soldiers walked into the right flank of Delta Company, 6 RAR. Under a blanket of mist and heavy monsoon rain, amid the mud and shattered rubber trees, a dispersed Company of 108 men held its ground with courage and grim determination against a three sided attack from a force of 2,500 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops.
When the battle subsided, 17 Australian soldiers lay dead, 24 had been wounded of which one died 9 days later. Battlefield clearance revealed 245 enemy bodies with captured documents later confirming the count at over 500 enemy killed and 800 wounded.
Sadly, another of the brave, gallant, Battle of Long Tan veterans has passed away this week.
20 year old Harry Esler was conscripted into the Australian Army in 1965 as part of the very first intake of Australian National Servicemen for the Vietnam War. After National Service training, Private Harry Esler was posted to 10 Platoon, D Company, 6RAR in September 1965 and he would go on and fight as a 21 year old riflemen in the incredible Battle of Long Tan.
Harry was 70 years young, and sadly he passed away on Wednesday morning, 15th April 2015 at his home in Newcastle. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fellow Vietnam warriors this week.
UPDATE – The funeral service for the late Harry Esler will be held at:
9.30am, Wednesday 22nd April, 2015
The Chapel of Pettigrew Funeral Home,
3 Harris Street, Wallsend, NSW
I’ve pulled together some of the interesting moments during the Battle of Long Tan which included Private Harry Esler:
Esler says, “They stuck us on a plane and flew us to Vietnam. We landed on a beach and I thought, This is it. This is going to be great. A nice little beach at Vung Tau. Then they whipped us up to Nui Dat into the middle of a rubber plantation. When we got there it was all mud. There was no machinery to help us, we had to do it all by hand.” Continue reading →
The Commander at the helm of the historical and bloody Battle of Long Tan has welcomed the addition of an ‘unsung hero’ of the Vietnam War to the list of candidates for a retrospective Victoria Cross.
Lt Colonel (Retired) Harry Smith said it was “only right and proper” that the Defence Honours Awards Tribunal investigate posthumous VCs for soldiers in the Vietnam and Korean conflicts alongside those for the two World Wars.
“I am cheered that my formal application for Warrant Officer Jack Kirby for his sustained gallantry at Long Tan has been accepted. Throughout the battle ‘Big Jack’ disregarded his own safety while braving enemy fire to distribute ammunition,” commented Smith. You can read more about what Jack Kirby did during The Battle of Long Tan in our previous blog post: Jack Kirby – An Unsung Hero of The Battle of Long Tan.
“What an extraordinary coincidence that two young McCormack’s, unrelated and from different states, ended up dying next to each other on a battlefield in Vietnam.”
A knock at the door….the fateful telegram….and then the 20th August 1966 headlines in that evening’s edition of the Examiner Express – ‘Launceston Boy Killed in Viet. Battle’ – thrust the Vietnam War into the face of every Tasmanian. Albert Frederick McCormack was Effie and George McCormack’s youngest and Tasmania’s first son to die in the conflict that hardly seemed real in the distant ‘Apple Isle’…until Long Tan.
Albert’s life began and ended in war. He was born on 20 March 1945 before World War II had ended in either Europe or the Pacific. Twenty-one years later his life was cut short in the hail of bullets that has come to represent the defining Australian battle of the Vietnam War – in a rubber plantation on the outskirts of the hamlet of Long Tan.
From time to time I get emails or requests for more information or a detailed list of names of those who fought in the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966.
There were 105 soldiers from D Company, 6RAR and 3 soldiers from 161 Battery RNZA who fought on the battlefield at Long Tan. The list below totals more than 108 as some members of D Coy were on language courses and attending to other duties at the time of the battle. However, all members of D Coy, 6RAR from August 1966 are entitled to wear the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) and the U.S. and South Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citations for Gallantry. Continue reading →
If you’ve ever wanted a more detailed understanding of The Battle of Long Tan, you should check out this fantastic, animated and interactive PowerPoint presentation created by Long Tan veteran Dave Sabben.
About Dave: as a 20 year old, Dave registered for national service but his number didn’t come up. Unperturbed, Dave packed his bags, presented himself at Victoria Barracks and volunteered, applying for officer selection training. After successfully completing the six month Officer Training course at Scheyville in NSW, Dave reported for duty to 6RAR at Enoggera Barracks in Queensland as a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant to command a platoon of 28 soldiers – one day after his 21st birthday.
Dave Sabben led his mix of national service and regular soldiers of 12 Platoon, D Company 6RAR during the Battle of Long Tan and for his actions was awarded a ‘Mentioned In Dispatches’ (MID). *After a Government inquiry in 2008, Dave’s medal was upgraded to the ‘Medal for Gallantry’, the equivalent of the old imperial Military Cross. You can learn more about Dave on his own website – www.sabben.com.
There are a number of ways you can view and access this great presentation. The best experience is to download the presentation or watch it in your browser (options 1 & 2):
Arguably the backbone and discipline of any infantry company is the Company Sergeant Major (CSM). These soldiers of Warrant Officer rank are part father figure, part teacher and part principle / headmaster. Almost all of the CSM’s I’ve come across have had very strong and unique personalities made up of steadiness, humour, discipline but ultimately a sense of fairness. In the case of D Company (Coy), 6RAR, the CSM was the 31 year old WO2 (Warrant Officer) Jack Kirby.
While the short and nuggetty Major Harry Smith, Officer Commanding (OC) D Coy and the young soldiers strode out on training runs, Jack Kirby was feeling his age and weight. Kirby was a Malaya veteran and naturally a big build. Unable to keep up on the runs, he nevertheless plugged along, always finishing and earning the respect of the soldiers. At the Battle of Long Tan he was to deepen and broaden their regard with his steadiness, bravery and humour.
Throughout the battle ‘Big Jack’ Kirby disregarded his own safety while braving enemy fire to distribute ammunition. Kirby continuously exposed himself to enemy fire to carry wounded Australian’s over his shoulder back to the Company Aid Post. At a critical point in the battle Kirby rushed out of the D Coy perimeter to silence a wheeled enemy heavy machine gun which was setting up less than 50 metres away from the Australians. He knew in just a few moments this heavy machinegun would be able to strafe and decimate the Australians. Kirby killed the enemy machinegun crew, rushed back and continued to carry on handing out ammunition, moving around the entire company position and giving out words of encouragement to the D Coy soldiers.
One of the little known and fascinating aspects of the Battle of Long Tan is the intelligence that was being collected, analysed and distributed to the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) Commander Brigadier David Jackson and some of his headquarters staff.
During the Vietnam War a secret radio intelligence and tracking unit from the Australian Army – 547 Signal Troop – was stationed at Nui Dat in support of 1 Australian Task Force (1ATF).
As you will see in the diagram below, believe it or not this secret Australian Army radio tracking unit was, for 16 days right up until 4 days before the Battle of Long Tan, tracking the radio transmitter of the Vietnamese 275 Viet Cong Regiment as it moved from its base area through to when it stopped just short of the Long Tan rubber plantation. This is the regiment comprising 2,500 soldiers who would fight against D Company, 6RAR during the Battle of Long Tan only a few days later on 18 August 1966. Intelligence indicating a possible enemy regiment of 2,500 men being in the vicinity of the Long Tan rubber plantation was not shared with Australian combat commanders like Major Harry Smith who led D Coy, 6RAR during the battle. However, it is important to remember that throughout all wars and conflicts intelligence assessments are just that, assessments. It is always easy in hindsight to say certain pieces of intelligence were proven after the fact but in this case most rational people would argue that this type of information should have been shared with combat commanders as it my alter their planned force disposition, tactics, routes and even the levels of ammunition they take out on patrol.