Battle of Long Tan veteran Major Morrie Stanley (RTD), MBE has passed away peacefully at his home in Campbells Bay, New Zealand. Morrie is survived by his wife Alva and his two sons.
Morrie Stanley was the Forward (Artillery) Observer Officer (FOO) from 161 Field Battery, 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery attached to D Company, 6RAR during the Battle of Long Tan.
Morrie Stanley’s full biography can be downloaded here (PDF).
For more than three and a half hours, in the pouring rain amid the shattered trees of a rubber plantation called Long Tan, Morrie Stanley radioed in more than 61 artillery fire missions and corrections in support of the 108 besieged soldiers of D Company 6RAR. Unable to see through the rain and murk exactly where the 3,500+ rounds of high explosive were falling, working entirely by radio communication with the forward platoons and the artillery units back at Nui Dat, from a folded map held in his hand, constantly wiping off the mud and running rainwater, this New Zealand officer was calling in every ounce of his experience and training. His M16 rifle lay unattended next to him in the water despite the repeated reminders of his radio operator, fellow New Zealander Willy Walker to keep it in his hand.
Many, including the Long Tan veterans and military historians credit the skill, professionalism and gallantry of Morrie Stanley in keeping much of the enemy at bay whilst the front lines soldiers fought off the foremost attacking waves of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. At critical points during the battle Morrie was directing artillery to within 50 metres of the Australian front line positions.
Sky News TV story about Morrie’s passing (17 Sep 2010)
The Artillery being controlled and directed by Morrie in support of D Company during the battle comprised eighteen 105mm L1A1 howitzers from 161 Field Battery (New Zealand), 103 Field Battery (Australia), 105 Field Battery (Australia) and six 155mm M109 self-propelled howitzers from 2/35th Howitzer Battalion (US Army).
In May 2010, Morrie Stanley along with his former radio operator at Long Tan, fellow New Zealander Willy Walker, were presented with the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) at a surprise service in New Zealand attended by his former Long Tan comrades Harry Smith, Bob Buick and Dave Sabben. In an unprecedented move, both the Australian Government and New Zealand governments fast tracked the offer from Australia of the Australian UCG to Morrie and Willy and within a few hours of receiving the offer, the New Zealand Prime Minister approved it in time for the surprise presentation on Saturday 29th May 2010. See TVNZ media coverage of the event below: