VETERANS CEREMONIAL DAY – 18th August.
CEREMONIAL DAY GROUP PHOTOS
THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN
It was on the 18th August 1966 at 3.15pm that the lead platoon (11 Platoon) of 'D' Company 6RAR encountered a small group of Viet Cong in the jungle some 5 kilometres from the main base for the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) at Nui Dat. Following that contact the patrol continued to pursue the fleeing enemy until at around 4.08pm that day the main body of 275 Regiment of the Viet Cong was encountered resulting in a large and vicious battle being fought in pouring rain and fading light.
The battle was close fought with platoon weapons and artillery from the nearby Nui Dat Base firing in support of the Australian forces. As the battle raged close air support was called for but could not be used due to the weather and appalling visibility. However two No. 9 Squadron RAAF Iroquois helicopters which had been at Nui Dat ferrying a concert party were diverted to fly in at tree top level in pouring rain to deliver much needed boxes of ammunition for the ground based troops.
'D' Company continued the contact until, with artillery support, they turned the battle in their favour though the Viet Cong continued to fight and manoeuvre in the hope of gaining the ascendancy. Meanwhile 'A' Company of 6RAR had been ordered into the battle to support their fellow diggers. As they moved in using amoured personnel carriers (APC's) they encountered a substantial enemy force whom they pursued yet still the Viet Cong continued the battle with machine guns, rifle and mortar fire whilst attempting to regroup, But with light fading and 'A' Company arriving to reinforce the beleaguered 'D' Company the Viet Cong chose to disperse into the jungle. As night fell the Australians dug-in and began to evacuate their wounded using APC lighting to guide the No. 9 Squadron dustoff helicopters.
Under cover of darkness the Viet Cong then began to remove their dead and wounded though this task was not completed for the following morning the Australians located 245 Viet Cong bodies, the remains of what was estimated to be a 2500 strong force.
The Viet Cong force, it is assumed, were originally planning to launch an attack in force on the 1 ATF base at Nui Dat.
The Australians lost 18 killed; 17 were from 'D' Company (including the platoon commander of the platoon that first encountered the Viet Cong) whilst one was lost from the 1st APC Squadron. In addition 24 Australians were wounded.
This battle was a pivotal engagement during the Australian involvement in Vietnam and as such has been chosen as the Vietnam Veterans Day, the day when all Vietnam Veterans pause to remember their fallen and wounded mates from that war.
At Pandanus Park we pause for a short service at the Pandanus Park War Memorial at 0700hrs,remembering and honouring those who served, especially those who are no longer with us.