Opinion Ross Eastgate – Tim Fischer on course for his biggest victory

FORMER national serviceman and deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been reported as being “gravely ill” in Albury hospital.

Mr Fischer, who as a 1RAR platoon commander fought in the Battle of Coral in Vietnam in May 1968, has made no secret of his decade-long battle with various cancers. His latest, possibly terminal battle is with acute myeloid leukaemia. He has previously battled bladder and prostate cancers and melanoma.

Tim Fischer claimed he was exposed in Vietnam to the defoliant Agent Orange, as were many of his mates.

READ MORE

Vietnam Veterans’ Day Address – Kel Ryan

Given at Goodna Brisbane 18 August 2019.

Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen, All

A special thank you and welcome to that dwindling band of warriors and spear carriers who fought in the Vietnam War.

It is a truism that the Gallipoli Campaign of the WW1 was central to defining Australia as a nation which stood ready to stand with allies on the battlefields across the globe. As this is so, the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan on the 18th August 1966 defined those men and women who fought in South Vietnam during the period of 1962 to 1974.

Please forgive me a moment to tell a personal ‘war story’ as a lead into my understanding of the Battle of Long Tan and of the men who fought there.   

I was called up in July 1965, in what was referred to as the First Intake of National Servicemen.  I arrived in South Vietnam in early May 1966 as, Regimental Number 3786861 Private K. D. Ryan Sir! I was a Rifleman in Nine (9) Section, 12 Platoon D Company 5 RAR. On 24th May 1966 D Company along with the rest of the Battalion was inserted by helicopter into the area known as Nui Dat, it was to become our base and a familiar geographic location all too quickly. 

This insertion was code named Operation Hardihood and was to last two weeks as we, and then 6 RAR, cleared the area of enemy in ever increasing circles. It was monsoonal as few of us had ever experienced, humidity, clay soil, rubber plantations, jungle, constant picquets, four hours sleep a night, constant movement, enemy sightings, enemy contacts, mosquitoes, strange noises at night, rotting clothing and swift running creeks and rivers. Very different from the training areas we had experienced just a short time ago. Those first two to three weeks were a test for us and sign of what the future was be.

Fast forward to 18 August. D Coy 5 RAR returned to Nui Dat base from a two-week operation. This involved securing and a cordon and search of Binh Ba, a Catholic village of 5,000 people to the north of Nui Dat.  This village was to be the scene of a major battle three years later.

As we were cleaning up and getting ready to attend a concert where Little Patti, all of 17 years of age, and Col Joy and the Joy Boys were performing, a battery of gun opened. Nothing strange! Then another battery began firing, then another and finally the American 155mm gun battery opened fire. A different sound and with this we knew that something serious was happening.

You would have to read the chronology of times and events to fully understand the chaotic nature of what transpired between 3.15pm when D Coy 6 RAR, comprising 108 men, entered the Long Tan Rubber and 7.10pm when relief in the form of A Coy 6 RAR and APCs arrived. In that time:

  1. D Coy fought an estimated 2,000 enemy. 
  2. Fought in torrential rain against constant human wave assaults from different directions of 100 to 200 NVA troops at a time.
  3. Many of the men ran out of ammunition.
  4. Platoons became separated from each other and from Company headquarters.
  5. Radio communications was lost at times as some radios were hit by gun fire.
  6. Individual soldiers became separated in the melee as leaders tried to keep their men together as they sought to move back toward company headquarters while under constant attack.
  7. Some wounded had to crawl back to where they thought the main body had moved to in the dark and torrential rain. Some had to play dead at times due to the proximity of the enemy.
  8. The RAAF helicopter pilots, and crew flew in ammunition in conditions unlike any they had ever experienced. Flying low they dropped the ammunition after identifying smoke was sighted.
  9. When the helicopters were in the air the guns had to stop firing for fear of knocking them out of the game.
  10.  Men on the Gun Line back at Nui Dat collapsed from exhaustion and from the toxic fumes which could not be dissipated because of the lack of wind.
  11. In all a total of 24 artillery guns were to fire over 3,000 rounds into the Long Tan rubber to save D Company 6 RAR. 

At 7.10pm the enemy began to disperse. D Coy 6 RAR regrouped slowly and along with those arriving from Nui Dat moved to a clearing just outside the rubber. Evacuation of the dead and wounded began with both Australian and American helicopters operating through the night.

But many men could not be accounted for – they were still in the rubber plantation!

At that point the Battle of Long Tan was thought to have been a disaster – a defeat.

105 Australians and three (3) New Zealanders entered the Long Tan Rubber at 3.15pm that day. 17 were KIA and 24 WIA. One member of 3 Troop I APC Squadron died of wounds some days later.

No one knew the extent of the enemy casualties.

While all of this was going on D Coy 5 RAR had been warned to move at first light on 19 August to fly to that same clearing.

To clear the battlefield D Coy 5 RAR and D Coy 6 RAR and elements of A Coy 6 RAR did a sweep through the Long Tan rubber plantation, on foot and in APCs. The primary task was to locate the missing Australians. This sweep began at 8.45am.

It slowly became evident that a major defeat had been inflicted on the enemy. The official enemy dead was put at 245 KIA. It is known that there were many more who died but the enemy carried them away to be buried elsewhere.

At 10.45am, as one writer commented, elements of D Coy 6 RAR “come across the final 11 Platoon position and discovered the remaining 13 missing, all dead, still in the firing positions with their fingers still on the triggers of their weapons, facing outwards towards the enemy. The rain has washed them clean and they all still seemed to be alive”.

D Coy 5 RAR moved through the rubber and slowly followed up the enemy for some days after that.

Having been a bit player in such an event I am often at a loss to describe it, to put into words the actions of the men of D Coy 6 RAR.

Truly, legends are made by brave and decent men.

To find these words I turn to that other defining event in Australian history – the Kokoda Campaign of WW2.

Between 26 – 31 August 1942 the Battle of Isurava took place along the Kokoda Track. It was a decisive battle as we fought to halt the Japanese advance toward Port Moresby. 99 Australians were killed and 111 wounded.

If you stand at the ISURAVA Memorial and look to the north, up the valley, with the ridge lines to the West and the East, with the EORA Creek, down below and to the East you can visualise where the Japanese came from.

The lessons I speak of are there to your front on four pillars that read:

COURAGE

ENDURANCE

MATESHIP

SACRIFICE

They are qualities that I see in the men of D Coy 6 RAR as they fought a decisive battle against an enemy determined to cause a humiliating defeat on the Australians.

Yes, war is terrible, and it invariably solves nothing. Out of it though we as a nation has gained, yet again, an example and qualities to live by:  

COURAGE – to venture beyond the norm

ENDURANCE – to remain focused on the end game.

MATESHIP – to tolerate and to respect those around us.

SACRIFICE – to accept disadvantage and discomfort.

To these qualities I would add – RESILENCE – these men stayed the course.

The Battle of Long Tan remains a defining event in our national story.

Vietnam Veterans’ Day Legacy Remembered

TOMORROW Australians across the country are encouraged to commemorate the service of all those who served in the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Australians should pause and reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance that was displayed throughout the battle and wider war.
“Almost 60,000 Australians served during the Vietnam War, and tragically 521 of them died with a further 3,000 wounded,” Mr Chester said.
“Tomorrow, 18 August, we commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day and the 53rd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, where we remember the sacrifices of those who died and say thank you to all those who served.”
The Battle of Long Tan took place in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan and is widely known as one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers, who faced wet and muddy conditions due to torrential rain and the loss of their radios.
We also remember the actions of more than 100 Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were vastly outnumbered, facing a force of 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops,” Mr Chester said.
“Tragically, some 18 Australians died and more than 20 were wounded. This was the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier.
“This Battle formed a significant part of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War – a decade long campaign.”
Later today Minister Chester will attend the Vietnam Remembrance Service held at the Sale RSL Sub Branch, laying a wreath to pay tribute to all those who served in the Vietnam War.
The legacy of Australia’s Vietnam veterans is still felt by those in the ex-service community today. Vietnam veterans were vital in the establishment of the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service, now known as Open Arms — Veterans & Families Counselling, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Long Tan Bursary scheme which provides education funding support.
Open Arms has been operational for more than 35 years and is a life-saving service that provides free and confidential counselling, group treatment programs, suicide prevention training and a community and peer network to support mental health and wellbeing in the ex-service community.
Tomorrow, applications for the Long Tan Bursary Scheme 2020 academic year will open. The scheme provides funding to help eligible children, and now grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans, meet the cost of post secondary education.
Thirty-seven bursaries, each worth up to $12,000 over three years of continuous full-time study, are awarded annually to successful applicants across Australia. Applications close on 31 October 2019.
To find out if you are eligible for the Long Tan Bursary scheme, please visit the DVA website HERE.
To find out more about Vietnam Veterans Day, please visit the Anzac Portal website.
If this anniversary causes distressing memories or feelings for you, or someone you know, please call Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au HERE

Long Tan – Seeking Recognition

On August 18, 1966, 108 Australian soldiers were ambushed by the Viet Cong in what would become known as the Vietnam War’s Battle of Long Tan. Against all odds, the Aussies won the fight.

Now, the man who led them to victory is fighting to have his troops recognised with the highest honour.

The Battle of Long Tan, in which Aussie troops were outnumbered 20 to one, has gained greater recognition in recent years, but it wasn’t always that way.

The story of that four-hour firefight in a muddy rubber plantation during a torrential downpour will be retold in a new Australian movie, Danger CloseThe Battle of Long Tan.  Directed by Kriv Stenders (best known for Red Dog), it will premiere on the battle’s 53rd anniversary,  August 18.

READ MORE

Anzac Day 2019: Vietnam War through a young Digger’s eyes

THEY are the images of war never before made public: candid snaps of young men behind enemy lines, ­captured by one of their own… raw, intimate and devastating.

These photographs, taken by Vietnam War veteran Allan Beer, himself just 20 years old when he was conscripted into national service, offer a rare behind-the-scenes look at conflict told through a young man’s eyes.

They tell of mateship and youthful optimism, of sons and brothers doing their best. These are not the elite soldiers of today.

Just barely into their adult years, a ragtag group of six men pose outside a Vietnam War camp.

They’re snapped aboard a chopper flying low, taking a break atop a roadside convoy and shirtless watching a naval ship pass by.

There are cheeky shoeshine boys sneaking a cigarette and live performances for a sea of soldiers in green.

The pictures, detailing a group of Australian troop’s moments before their first operation, today made public for the first time will be celebrated at a special exhibition at Howard Smith Wharves as part of an Anzac Day service.

The commemoration coincides with Mr Beer’s 50th anniversary of service and the collection includes photographs of the artist himself, snapped by a friend, looking every bit of his youth, crouched beside a rifle and some ammunition.

Another photo captures him as he wades through mud and water, clutching a gun, while on patrol.

The 70-year-old said that from a young age he was passionate about photography, and carried a camera in his pack that would later capture roughly 300 photos during his time in Vietnam.

“It puts me back there, (the photos) because you can write a book about something, but one photograph can explain a lot to you – more than the written word can,” he said.

“It really captures the moment, and a lot of photos accidentally capture a mood and it’s a bit of a magical thing when you take photos that do that.”

Mr Beer said that he could ­remember every moment behind each picture he captured – and that he ­particularly remembers two ­mischievous Vietnamese shoeshiners.

“These little kids, they were opportunists of course, making a living and they were cheeky little kids, I think that photograph really captured them well,” he said.

He said the photos had been sitting in a box all these years, but would be exhibited for the first time, as he believes younger people are showing a greater interest of what life was like in the Vietnam War.

“I really wish I had of taken more, but of course, there was ­always something going on; there was never a dull moment really,” he said.

“It was all a bit of an adventure; we are all pretty young and it was a bit of an unreal situation.”

Mr Beer told The Courier-Mail that he was lucky to have the opportunity to capture candid shots in a surreal environment.

“A lot of the shots depended on where I was at the time, hanging out on the side of a helicopter – a lot of people never get to experience that, so when they see the photo it is a ‘wow’ moment,” he said.

Sophie Chirgwin, The Courier-Mail April 25, 2019

READ MORE

Vietnam Veterans’ Day and the Battle of Long Tan

TODAY on Vietnam Veterans’ Day and the 52nd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, all Australians are encouraged to pause and reflect on the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served during the Vietnam War.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester will pay his respects to all those who served in the Vietnam War, laying a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day Service at the National Australian Vietnam Forces Memorial, ANZAC Parade, Canberra.
“The Vietnam War was Australia’s longest military engagement of the 20th Century with almost 60,000 Australians serving during a decade of conflict between 1962 and 1972,” Mr Chester said.
“Each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, Australia commemorates all those who served in the Vietnam War, including the more than 500 Australians who lost their lives.”
“Today we acknowledge and honour all who served in Vietnam during 10 years of war and we honour the veterans who have lost their lives in the years since they returned, those who still carry the physical and emotional scars of their service and the families that have stood by them.”
The Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day Service in Canberra is organised each year by the Vietnam Veterans and Veterans Federation ACT Inc.
“The Battle of Long Tan, on the 18 August 1966, was one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers in the Vietnam War. A total of 17 Australians were killed in action and 25 were wounded, one of whom died a few days later,” Mr Chester said.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia and the role it played in the establishment of a dedicated counselling service providing specialised mental health and support services to all veterans and their families — the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service, now known as the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS).”
Australians are encouraged to attend the Last Post Ceremony held at the Australian War Memorial at 4:55pm AEST today to commemorate Vietnam Veterans’ Day and the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
It will remember the service and sacrifice of Petty Officer O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips who served during the Vietnam War in the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam and was killed in action in a helicopter crash on 21 August 1968, aged 32.

Valley Veterans: What Vietnam Veterans Day means to those who served

·        Mick Birtles DSC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soldiers returning from the Vietnam War look on as a protester covered in red paint interrupts the welcome home parade in Sydney in 1966. Photo by Noel Stubbs, Fairfax Media.

Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War continued longer than any other conflict of the twentieth century.  Beginning as a small commitment in 1962 and concluding in 1975.

Approximately 60,000 Australian’s served in Vietnam with the loss of 500 lives and over 3000 wounded. There was little opposition to our participation in the early years, however this changed as perception grew that the war was being lost and conscripts were increasingly being deployed, killed and wounded.

For many of those returning from Vietnam the public anger regarding this country’s involvement in the conflict was personal. Many were shunned and disrespected by elements within the community.

Through the efforts of Vietnam Veterans and their families, the public conscience eventually came to understand that these men and women had been in Vietnam on the direction of their government and were doing their duty. As an act of national recognition, in 1987 Prime Minister Bob Hawke declared the 18th of August each year would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.

Accepted and respected

There are many Vietnam Veterans who call the Mid North Coast home and I have spoken to a few to get their thoughts on Vietnam Veterans Day.

Mr Wayne Mason of Stuarts Point, a former National Serviceman served in Vietnam as an Infantry soldier. He considers this day is a time to remember all of those who served and did their duty, irrespective of their views on the conflict.

Mr Bill Shepherd of Nambucca Heads, says he does not think back fondly on his time there but remembers those who were killed in action.

 Mr Bill Shepherd in Vietnam during the war and today at home in Nambucca Heads.

Mr Brian Duncan OAM of Nambucca Heads, served in Vietnam with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR), on the first large deployment of combat troops to Vietnam. He says this day provides comfort to many veterans as it demonstrates they are now accepted and respected by the Australian public.

Each of the three Veterans had a different experience on their return to Australia. Mr Mason recalls arriving back in Australia very late at night and generally being shielded from public view, possibly to avoid protesters.

Mr Shepherd remembers being shunned by one RSL Sub Branch on one occasion as the ‘old and bold’ did not consider Vietnam a war, then being overwhelmingly welcomed by another RSL Sub Branch.

During a welcome home parade for 1 RAR in 1966, Mr Duncan was witness to the much-documented actions of a young lady covering herself with red paint and smearing it on the battalion’s commanding officer.

 Mr Brian Duncan (second from the front) looks on as a protester covered in red paint interrupts the welcome home parade in Sydney in 1966. Photo by Noel Stubbs, Fairfax Media and Mr Duncan OAM at home in Hyland Park, Nambucca Heads.

In response to a question I posed to these gentleman regarding their advice to veterans returning to Australia from recent conflicts, their response was similar.

They recommend accepting any help available, that is intended to assist with integration back into the community, to understand there is help for you and to trust your judgement.

Mr Duncan added it is important not to lose contact with your mates who had been through the experience with you, as it is often they who can best understand issues you may be having and be able to lend a helping hand.

Nambucca Valley commemorations

For the Nambucca Valley the 2018 Vietnam Veterans Day Commemorations will be held at Stuarts Point. The service will begin at 11am (gathering at 10:45 am), August 18, 2018 at the Memorial on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Marine Parade, followed by lunch at the Stuarts Point Bowling Club.

About the author: Mick Birtles is a recently retired army officer now living in Nambucca Heads. During his 36-year career, Birtles served in Bougainville, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for command and leadership. Here he shares his interest in the issues effecting veterans on the Mid North Coast.

Peter Haran 2 RAR – Vietnam Revisisted Videos

Peter Haran served in 2RAR May 67 – June 68 and 3RAR Feb 71 – Oct 71.

The four videos cover his trips back to Nui-Dat .

Climbing Nui Dat – https://youtu.be/NhBBSfGtKn4?list=RDNhBBSfGtKn4

Tracker Dog in a Minefield – https://youtu.be/Xet4ijKvVgo?list=RDNhBBSfGtKn4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land Mines in the Light Green – https://youtu.be/PUCOHxun7LI?list=RDNhBBSfGtKn4

Red Mud and barbed Wire – https://youtu.be/70YdRgjpIyA?list=RDNhBBSfGtKn4