Long Tan Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam 18th/19th August 1966
In August 1966 D Company 6RAR faced annihilation against a numerically superior 275th VC Main Force Regiment during torrential rain and darkness not far from the Australian base at Nui Dat. Fighting for their lives, discipline, excellent tactical command, close and heavy artillery fire support (NZ 161 Battery and1 AUS Field Regiment) , unstinting support from RAAF helicopters (9 Sqn) to re-supply dwindling stocks of ammunition and the arrival of the cavalry in the form of Armoured Personnel Carriers (1 APC Squadron) and reinforcements (A & B Company 6 RAR) turned what could have been a catastrophe into a hard won victory. The anniversary of this epic small unit battle has become Vietnam Veterans' Day in Australia; the 18th August each year.
While pages of narrative could explain the detail, a superb documentary conveys the essentials of this battle, better than the written word could hope to do, using an authentic re-creation of radio traffic and an accurate hard hitting series of interviews with the men caught in the middle of it. See the link LONG TAN DOCUMENTARY (www.youtube.com) or in the sidebar. It was made in 2006 to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Battle.
A synopsis of the battle is presented in outline here.
A mortar and recoilless rifle attack on the Task Force area on the night of 16/17 August 1966 triggered a series of events that culminated in the Battle of Long Tan and Operation SMITHFIELD.
Early morning of 17 August, B Company was dispatched to locate enemy base-plate positions and to follow up enemy withdrawal routes. Operation VENDETTA commenced as D Company took over from B Company on 18 August and shortly thereafter made contact with an enemy force. The contact quickly escalated into a full battle as the enemy heavily committed more and more of the 275 Main Force Regiment. Soon D Company was under sustained attack on three flanks.
Supported only by Task Force artillery (as opposed to air support) because of torrential rain and a blanket of mist, D Company held its ground for three hours with grim determination and much heroism, and inflicted enormous casualties on a tenacious and determined enemy, with the artillery proving to be decisive. By this stage it was augmented by US Heavy artillery.
RAAF helicopters of 9 Squadron provided an emergency ammunition resupply under fire.
The remainder of the Battalion deployed to aid the beleaguered Delta Company.
A Company and CO 6 RAR deployed in the APC of 3 Troop, 1 APC Squadron and arrived on the battlefield just on dusk and in time to interdict a large enemy force in the process of surrounding D Company, inflicting further enemy casualties and forcing them to withdraw.
A United States Presidential Unit Citation was awarded to D Company by the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson. 18 August is now solemnly commemorated each year as Long Tan Day, in memory of the eighteen soldiers who gave their lives during this significant and iconic battle of the Vietnam War.