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Battle Of Long Tan

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Battle of Long Tan

The battle of Long Tan was a true example of a time when Australians triumphed over adversity. Australians involved had to fight a much larger Viet Cong force and against all odds, win the battle. The Australians triumphed over adversity because as well as fighting against the VC, they had to battle monsoonal weather conditions throughout the battle, and ammunition shortages. A convincing victory followed for the Australians, comprehensively defeating the larger Vietnamese forces, repelling them, badly mauled. Triumph over adversity is when someone is victorious over misfortune. The Australians certainly were victorious over their misfortune of running into a larger Viet Cong force.

The Battle of Long Tan, also known as 'Operation Vendetta' began on the 17th of August, after the mortaring of the Australian Task Force. On the 18th of August, the Australian D Company, of 6RAR, consisting of only 108 men, were patrolling in the Long Tan Plantation, when at 15:40, ran into six to eight enemy. The enemy were pursued, and then the situation deteriorates rapidly. The enemy ended up being both D445 Local Battalion and 275 Main Force Regiment, totalling around 2500. Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Van Kiem, Commander of D445, said, "Because Royal Australian forces established their base in Nui Dat, in order to separate the VC from the people... They evacuated the people of two villages, Long Phuoc and Long Tan... it was decided at higher level that D445 had to be prepared for battle... we wanted Australians to leave Nui Dat so we could recover revolutionary villages..." (Kiem, 1988, in McNeil (1993) p.366) This meant that had D company not met the VC in the plantation, they would have gone to the Australian Task Force, which was poorly defended. The Australians triumphed over adversity was that they saved their base from attack and possible destruction.

Troops of D Company had a difficult thirty-six hours leading into the battle of Long Tan, adding to the adversities the men faced. At 2am, in the morning of the 17th of August, the Australian Task Force was hit with a barrage of artillery, recoilless rifle and mortaring. "Party Committee of the province intended that the mortaring be taken by the Australians as a warning in order to make them struggle to demand their withdrawal back to Australia." (McNeil, (1993) p. 367) The Viet Cong wanted to destroy the Australian base, to get closer to the villages. The other aim of the attack was to draw the Australian peoples' interest, and swing popular opinion in Australia to force the withdrawal of the Australian Task Force. The VC needed the village areas as the base area for the D445. Later, in the morning, after the barrage was over, B Company was sent out to find the heavy weapons. On this patrol, B Company discovered some recently vacated mortar positions and enemy cart tracks. B Company stayed out overnight, and were relieved by D Company at midday. The journey to Long Tan Plantation was arduous, as machetes had to be used to cut through the thick grass. This combined with the stifling afternoon heat was almost unbearable. The Australians battled against adverse conditions, even before the Battle of Long Tan started.

An Australian victory over the Viet Cong was extremely important. Before the Australians arrived in Phuoc Tuy province, the Viet Cong controlled the province. This battle brought control back to the South Vietnamese and Allied forces. The severe loss suffered by the VC, ensured they were unable to operate in Phuoc Tuy in large numbers while the Australians were present. Viet Cong forces stayed well clear of the Australians for months after this defeat. This was the only time the Australians base was in direct threat from the VC, the only time they less than five kilometres from the base. Had the Australians of D Company been wiped out, the base was in danger of destruction. "The base defences were not quite complete, and with no one in their way they would almost certainly crush the Australian Forces... They were heading for the task force for sure, and we didn't expect to run into them." (McSweeney, (2006), online) This was one of the most important battles the Australians were involved with in the Vietnam War. D Company triumphed over the VC and swung the battle on Phuoc Tuy the way of the Australians.

On top of battling against a far more numerical force, the Australians had to fight the severe weather issues that affected almost the whole battle. Soon after the battle began, monsoonal rain began pelting down, which dropped visibility dramatically. The visibility became so poor, that they couldn't see more than fifty metres. This lack of visibility helped to keep men alive on both sides, as people couldn't make out what they were shooting at. "Heavy torrential rain began falling on the battlefield, reducing visibility considerably. The monsoonal showers that came down helped to save a lot of lives among the Australians and Vietnamese." (Paralumun, online) This heavy rain also caused thick, red mud to rise about a metre in the air, staining uniforms red, helping with camouflage. To add to all this, a new moon made everything pitch black, reducing visibility even further. "Caught without any real cover, a timely torrential downpour favoured the diggers by lowering visibility." (Sweeney, (2006) online) Even though the weather was aiding the Aussies, they still had to contend with guns constantly stalling due to wet magazines. There was nowhere dry, and they had difficulty calling where to drop the artillery fire, as their maps were soggy. Battling against these severe weather conditions displays the courage and never give up attitude of the Australians. They triumphed over not only the VC, but also had to fight against the tough weather conditions.

Outnumbered twenty-six to one, the Australian position looked almost impossible. But Australian determination, and never give up attitude kept them alive. The Viet Cong thought the Australians had sent out a six hundred man battalion, not just the one hundred and eight men of D Company. Lieutenant Colonel Kien firmly believed "the Australian force consisted of the whole of 6th Battalion, and two squadrons of armoured personal carriers, reinforced by a second battalion the following day." (McNeil, (1993), p. 368) This was due to how spread out the Australians were, and how fiercely they were fighting. Efficient Australian use of mortar and shelling inflicted heavy casualties on the Viet Cong, and the use of Agent Orange to kill the reserve VC troops. Finally, the timely arrival of B Company and A Company on APCs finished the battle, as the VC couldn't bear to take more casualties. The determination and triumph over the an extreme numerical



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