Long Tan – A quest for Honour and Integrity

By David Ellery – Defence Reporter

*This article appeared in The Canberra Times on 15 January 2011 but as there is no online version it has been reproduced here.

Long Tan Gordon Sharp
The Fallen: 19 August 1966. The body of 11 Platoon Commander Second Lieutenant Gordon Sharp on the battlefield of Long Tan. In the background is the body of another unidentified Australian soldier from 11 Platoon, 6RAR.

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.

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Long Tan Medals Battle Off To Court

Long Tan Harry Smith & Morrie Stanley
Long Tan Commander Lt. Col Harry Smith RTD (second from left) presenting Morrie Stanley with Australian Unit Citation in May 2010 alongside fellow Long Tan veterans Bob Buick, Dave Sabben and Willy Walker.

**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.”

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