August 18th Vietnam Veterans Day – Battle of Long Tan
Did you know in Australia, August 18th is Vietnam Veterans Day. Originally it was a day to commemorate the Battle of Long Tan that occured in 1966, it has since been adopted by all veterans. That day is this coming Tuesday and I bet if you asked the average man woman or child they wouldn’t know.
So read what is below including a time line at the end and become familiar with it or at the very least the date – August 18th and pay your respects to all Vietnam Veterans around the world – they deserve it; Lest We Forget.
“The battle of Long Tan was the largest single unit battle fought in Vietnam by Australian troops. It began on the afternoon of August 18th and went right through the night until the morning of the 19th.
The reason why is was looked on as decisive and significant was because the Australians had only been there a few months – it was the first major conflict involving Australian troops in Vietnam.
The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army were aware that the Australians were there to secure the province and decided that they would take them on. That was the fate that befell a company of men – Delta company, from the 6th Batallion, Royal Australian Regiment – who were on patrol that particular day. The enemy lay in wait for them – a huge ambush in a rubber plantation called Long Tan.
The Australians had to hold off thousands of enemy troops for the duration of that battle. Eighteen Australian troops were killed – up to a thousand of the enemy. The skills of artillery men and arrival of armoured carriers with more men saved the day. The 6th Batallion was called the “Baby Batallion” as it was made up largely of national servicemen – and they certainly underwent a baptism by fire.”
On the third anniversary of Long Tan, 18 August 1969, a cross was raised on the site of the battle by the men of 6RAR. Veterans from the battle gathered at the cross to commemorate the fallen, and the day was commemorated by them as Long Tan Day from then on.
Over time, all Vietnam Veterans adopted the day as one to commemorate those who served and died in Vietnam. In 1987, following the Welcome Home parade for Vietnam Veterans in Sydney, Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced that Long Tan Day would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day. Since then, it has been commemorated every year as the day on which the service of all those men and women who served in Vietnam is remembered.
In acknowledging Vietnam Veterans’ Day Communities throughout Australia remember the sacrifices made by our young men and women in a conflict that spanned a ten year period, thus making it one of the longest wars in which Australian’s participated.
Australian Military Involvement In The Vietnam War – Timeline
1945–1962 French forces returned to Indo-China after the end of World War II to reassert colonial rule. The First Indo-China War began in late 1945. In 1950, Ho Chi Minh declared a Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). Australia, following the lead of the US and Great Britain, recognised the French-sponsored government of South Vietnam. As the French withdrew in the early 1950s, American support of South Vietnam increased. During the early 1960s, pressure from the USA for Australian support of South Vietnam increased.
1962 24 May: The Australian Government announces the dispatch of thirty military advisors to South Vietnam. 31 July: Colonel Francis ‘Ted’ Serong, commander of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), arrives at Saigon. 3 August: The main body of the AATTV arrives at Saigon.
1963 9 May: The first Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operational mission begins with a Dakota from the Transport Flight of No. 2 Squadron flying in food and medical supplies for refugees. 1 June: The first Australian military death in the war occurs when Sergeant William Hacking of the AATTV is accidentally killed.
1964 8 June: The Australian Government announces expansion of the AATTV, with advisors able to serve in combatant units. 6 July: The first Australian combat death occurs when Warrant Officer Kevin Conway of the AATTV is killed in action at Nam Dong. 8 August: The first RAAF unit is deployed—RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam arrives at Tan Son Nhut with Caribou aircraft. 10 November: The National Service (Conscription) Act is passed to reintroduce national service.
1965 10 March: The first ballot for National Service is drawn. 29 April: The Australian Government announces commitment of an infantry battalion. 3 June: Leading troops of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), land in South Vietnam for deployment to Bien Hoa. This also marks the first use of Qantas charter flights to move troops into (and out of) South Vietnam—they become known as ‘skippy flights’. 8 June: The transport ship (converted aircraft carrier) HMAS Sydney, with destroyer escort HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Duchess, arrives at Vung Tau on the first naval logistical support operation. 30 June: The first National Service intake begins recruit training. 17 August: The Australian Government approves an increase of the force in Bien Hoa to a battalion group, with 1RAR to be supported by artillery, additional armoured personnel carriers, engineers, army aviation and further logistical support. 13 November: The first Victoria Cross of the war is awarded to Warrant Officer Kevin ‘Dasher’ Wheatley of the AATTV, killed in action.
1966 8 March: The Australian Government announces the deployment of a task force of nearly 4500 troops, including two infantry battalions, Special Air Service (SAS) troops and support units, to be deployed in Phuoc Tuy. May–June: 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) is established at Nui Dat and 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG) is established at Vung Tau, Phuoc Tuy. 24 May: The First National Service death on active service and the first death recorded in 1ATF occurs when Private Errol Noack of 5RAR dies of wounds. 30 June: Prime Minister Harold Holt, visiting Washington DC, pledges that Australia would go ‘all the way’ in support of American policy in Vietnam 18 August: The Battle of Long Tan is fought as ‘D’ Company, 6RAR, runs into a much larger enemy force and eighteen Australians (including one of the relief force) are killed. The anniversary has become Vietnam Veterans’ Day. 22 December: The Australian Government announces further increases in the military contribution to defence of South Vietnam.
1967 6 February: The first Royal Australian Navy (RAN) unit is deployed ‘in country’ when the Clearance Diving Team 3 arrives in Vietnam. 15 March: The first Australian warship deployed for service on the gun line, HMAS Hobart, joins the US Seventh Fleet at Subic Bay, The Philippines. 5 May: The first Australian servicewomen sent to Vietnam—four nurses of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps—arrive on posting to the 8th Field Ambulance. 26 May: The first ‘Anzac battalion’ arrives, with V Company of the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Regiment, attached to 2RAR, forming 2RAR/NZ. 19 June: The first RAAF death occurs when Leading Aircraftman Gaetano La Grasta of Base Support Flight, Vung Tau, is murdered. 18 October: The Australian Government announces a further commitment of forces, including a third infantry battalion and an armoured squadron.
1968 29 January: North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launch the Tet Offensive, with major attacks across South Vietnam. 1 February: Australian troops clear Baria of enemy forces. 12 February: The Australian Government indicates no further increase in forces to Vietnam. 22 February: The first RAN death occurs when Lieutenant-Commander Patrick John Vickers of RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam dies on a combat flight. 13 May: The Battle of Coral/Balmoral begins with a heavy enemy attack against Fire Support Base Coral; after a second attack on 15 May, Australian casualties are fifteen killed and fifty-six wounded. 26–28 May: Australians defend Fire Support Base Balmoral against attacks.
1969 6 June: The fourth and final Victoria Cross of the war is awarded to Warrant Officer Keith Payne, AATTV. 6 June: Australian troops clear Binh Ba of a strong enemy force. 21 July: Lieutenant Peter A. Hines 3 Platoon A Company 6th Battalion RAR killed in action Phuog Tuy Province and immortalised in the song ‘I Was Only 19/A Walk In The Light Green’ by Redgum. 16 December: With US forces gradually being withdrawn, the Australian Government advises that Australian forces will also be withdrawn.
1970 22 April: The Australian Government announces that automatic replacement of battalions at the end of their tour will cease. 12 November: 8RAR returns to Australia at the end of its tour—it is the first battalion not replaced, with reduction of 1ATF underway.
1971 30 March: The Australian Government announces further cuts to Australian forces in South Vietnam, including the withdrawal of Canberra bombers. 18 August: The Australian Government announces the withdrawal of the bulk of Australian forces. 21 September: The last Australians are killed in action—Privates Brian Charles Beilken, James Duff, Keith Michael Kingston-Powles, Ralph James Niblett and Roderick James SPRIGG, all of 4RAR. 27 October: The last Australian serviceman to die within Vietnam, Staff Sergeant John Hall of the 12th Field Regiment, is murdered. Some personnel wounded in Vietnam were to die in Australia after this date. 3 November: The only Australian servicewoman to lose her life during the war, Temporary Captain Barbara Frances Black of the 1st Field Hospital, dies in Fitzroy, Victoria. 7 November: The last Australian infantry battalion in Vietnam, 4RAR, departs Nui Dat for home.
1972 5 March: The last units of 1ALSG depart Vung Tau. Australia’s commitment to South Vietnam is now limited to about 150 troops of the AATTV and Australian Army Assistance Group Vietnam (AAAGV). 15 July: The final death of an Australian named on the nation’s Roll of Honour for the Vietnam War occurs when Private Arthur John Gibson of 7RAR dies at Liverpool Hospital, NSW. 5 December: Conscription ends. 18 December: The withdrawal of the AATTV and AAAGV marks the end of Australia’s military commitment to South Vietnam. Some troops remain to guard the Australian Embassy.
1973 27 January: a ceasefire between North and South Vietnam comes into effect after US President Nixon announces that an agreement has been reached for ‘peace with honour’. March: The last US forces depart Vietnam. 30 June: The last Australian troop based in South Vietnam, the Saigon Embassy Guard Platoon, is withdrawn.
1974 4 January: After violations of the ceasefire by both sides, South Vietnam declares that the war has restarted. Without American support, South Vietnamese forces struggle to contain an enemy offensive.
1975 March: North Vietnamese forces advance on Saigon and Khmer Rouge forces seize control of neighbouring Cambodia. 29 March: RAAF Hercules and Dakota aircraft are dispatched to assist humanitarian efforts in South Vietnam and Cambodia. They deliver Red Cross and United Nations supplies and evacuate embassy officials and their families and also some refugees, including war orphans evacuated from Saigon to Bangkok in Operation Baby Lift. 25 April: Australian military involvement in the war ends with the last RAAF flights out of Saigon. 30 April: North Vietnamese forces capture Saigon, effectively ending the Vietnam War.
Don’t forget, if you see me out on the road say gday or hit me up on UHF Channel 40
Don’t forget to check for new blogs on the 1st & 15th of each month, till next time, take care, yours in country music – Leigh