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 →
Today, Thursday 18 August 2011 is the 45th Anniversary of the legendary Battle of Long Tan.
The long wait for proper recognition of the gallantry of those who fought and died in this battle is almost over.
45 years ago today 105 Australians and 3 New Zealanders fought and defeated an overwhelming enemy force of 2,500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers in a rubber plantation in South Vietnam called Long Tan. This three and a half hour battle was so fierce it resulted in the deaths of 18 Australians and more than 500 enemy.
43 years ago U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson awarded the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) for gallantry to D Company, 6RAR for extraordinary heroism. A similar award was also given by the South Vietnamese President. However, no unit citation was given by the Australian or New Zealand governments and individual awards were downgraded or not given at all. Some of these individual awards have only recently been upgraded.
Today, at Gallipoli Army Barracks at Enoggera in Brisbane, the long wait for proper recognition comes to an end. At 3pm today, Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce will formally present the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) to the surviving Long Tan veterans of D Coy, 6RAR. In addition, former 12 Platoon Commander Dave Sabben will also be presented his upgraded individual medal, the Medal for Gallantry (MG) for his acts of leadership and gallantry on the battlefield at Long Tan. Current soldiers of 6RAR who have recently returned from a second tour of Afghanistan will formally troop the colours and be on parade during this historic ceremony. Many surviving Long Tan veterans will be on parade today, many with their family present along with a number of Next of Kin of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country 45 years ago.
There is still availability on the 7 day Long Tan Trek Tour departing12 October 2011, and the follow-on 12 day Decisive Battlefields Tour to Vietnam 18 October 2011, both hosted and guided by Long Tan veteran, former commander of 12 Platoon, D Coy 6RAR 2Lt Dave Sabben.
This Tour also makes a donation to the AVVRG (Australian Vietnam Veterans Reconstruction Group) – an Australian non-government organisation(NGO), which is a community of volunteers seeking to make a difference to the lives ofdisadvantaged citizens of Vietnam. AVVRG is registered and licensed to operate and provide humanitarian aid in Vietnam, and is the official custodian of the Long Tan Cross. You can read more about the Kindergarten they built in South Vietnam here.
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.
*This article appeared in The Canberra Times on 15 January 2011 but as there is no online version it has been reproduced here.
The greatest impediment to an honest assessment of the way honours were allocated after the battle of Long Tan is a concept that dates back to Roman times. ”De mortuis nil nisi bonum” effectively translates as ”of the dead, (speak) nothing but good”.
Long Tan is a special challenge in that many of those honoured as well as those denied honours are dead.
There has been an apparent reluctance by some of those charged with making tough calls on these issues to dig too deeply.
**Update: Watch Channel 7’s Sunrise Soapbox discuss this story at the bottom of this post.
The man who led Australian soldiers to victory at the bloody Battle of Long Tan 44 years ago is taking his fight for medals justice to the Federal Court.
Harry Smith, Lieutenant Colonel retired, today confirmed he will be pursuing court action in the New Year to get sign-off for the medals and commendations denied to eight members of Delta Company, two of Alpha Company 6RAR, and one of the Armoured Troop which repelled 2,500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong enemy in an historic conflict on August 18, 1966.
Smith was the commanding officer of the 108 Australian and New Zealand troops that defied the odds in a three hour battle amid a rubber plantation deluged by monsoonal rains, and who later recommended a list of awards for gallantry that was slashed by senior officers.
Fourteen years ago he launched a campaign to gain recognition for all the soldiers on that list when the awards were denied a hearing at a formal Review in 1998, which approved 81 other Vietnam awards.
The pending class action is in support of the final 11 men “left out in the cold.”
*I first published this post for SPAA (Screen Producers Association Australia) on 3/10/2009.
It is a simple but very important question and in short the answer is yes they can!
If this is the case then why don’t more Australian films make money either domestically or internationally? As a consumer marketer & producer my professional view is that most of the Australian films being made are simply not the types of films the majority of Australian (or international) audiences will pay to see and filmmakers are just not in tune with what consumers and audiences want. Further, even when we do make films which should connect and appeal to audiences – Balibo is a great example – the marketing is either mis-targeted and or insufficient or left too late. This also then results in an inhibited release (very few screens) and a non-optimised distribution outcome (filmmakers largely focused on only securing a ‘traditional’ theatrical & video release). Continue reading →