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Long Tan - The True Story -

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(generated from captions) That was absolutely fabulous. Wow, thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, Jali. to get advice from your father. What a beautiful way and his band Diyaa Looloo. Jali Buba Kuyateh Karamaba Cissoko in the goombay,

Nigel MacLean on violin, and Clint Healy on bass. Africa Clint and Nigel come from, I'm not quite sure what part of West but we'll find that out later. will be appearing Jali Buba and Karamaba Arts Festival in October at the Melbourne International Second Home concert program. as part of the Next week on Sunday Arts,

we're sending to Venice we find out what vision of Australia for the Biennale of Architecture. has details about all our guests, And, of course, our website and you can write to us, too. next Sunday afternoon, Oh, and by the way, its journey into sculpture ABC TV continues as Australian artist Andrew Rogers stone sculptures or geoglyphs creates a series of massive in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka' at 3pm, That's 'Monumental Vision and we'll see you at 4pm. 'Bye 'bye for now. that I'm doing MAN: The land sculptures can cover up to 1.5km - 2km. of these sites around the world. I've got a vision to create many history and looking forward. They will all involve heritage and So far, we have worked in Israel,

in Chile and Bolivia. in Sri Lanka. Shortly we're gonna work

international sculptor Andrew Rogers NARRATOR: For his next project, three massive land sculptures plans to construct in the hills surrounding Kurunegala - a small town in Northern Sri Lanka. International Captioning and Subtitling Closed Captions by RAPID GUNFIRE TRUMPET PLAYS NARRATOR: On 18th August, 1966, Vietnam, near the village of Long Tan, a decisive battle took place. In this dramatic encounter, soldiers fought off 108 Australian and New Zealand sent to destroy them. more than 1,000 Viet Cong TRUMPET PLAYS If the Viet Cong had won this battle, might've ended much earlier the Vietnam War for Australia and New Zealand. failed. But the fierce Viet Cong attack Why? become the rallying point And why had the battle of Long Tan Vietnam Veterans. for Australia's 50,000 of Vietnam In 1965, the Army of the Republic

against the Communists. was losing the war was near to collapse. The Saigon Government The United States intervened. for allied support. It escalated the war and called South Korea, Thailand, and New Zealand sent troops. the Philippines, Australia States Commander in Vietnam, General Westmoreland, the United breaking Communist control assigned the Australians the task of east of Saigon. of Phuoc Tuy Province, Intelligence as a likely staging area Phuoc Tuy was known to United States on Saigon. for a massive Communist attack Viet Cong supply lines in the centre of the province. passed through Nui Dat occupied Nui Dat, In a bold move, the Australians destructing the Viet Cong. more concerned with the Americans. But the Viet Cong at that time were (Man speaks Vietnamese) we had to increase our forces. TRANSLATOR: To defeat the Americans, at first only a minor problem. The Australian mercenaries were the Australians. Our forces outnumbered of 274 and 275 regiments, Our 5th Division consisted from North Vietnam. supported by troops Plus D445 guerilla battalion. from the population D445 also had some support for we were fighting a people's war the people to fight. and we mobilised among the local people. Our forces could easily hide from the corrupt Saigon Government We wanted to liberate the people and provide land. and 6th battalions, With only the 5th four to one. the Australians were outnumbered at least three battalions. The task required in this time of full employment But recruitment was low had not yet taken effect. and conscription the Special Air Service was sent. To increase surveillance,

'The Phantoms of the Jungle'. The Viet Cong called the SAS supported by artillery batteries The 5th and 6th battalions were and the United States, from New Zealand as well as Australian artillery, carriers, a squadron of armoured personnel aircraft and helicopters engineers, light reconnaissance of the Royal Australian Air Force. the Australian Commander, Brigadier Jackson, the United States Air Force could call on located to the north. and an American cavalry regiment Plus a division of American infantry. the Australians, As well as outnumbering were also dedicated soldiers the Viet Cong fighting on familiar ground. the Australians TRANSLATOR: We have to humiliate or lose face with the people. are our main target. But the American forces

By defeating the Australians first, the Americans. we will learn how to defeat to fight the Australian mercenaries. Our liberation forces are not afraid a war-hardened people. The Vietnamese were Genghis Khan's army, They had expelled and later, the Chinese, the Japanese, and the French. Lieutenant Colonel Kiem of the D445 guerilla battalion, was commander of the Australians in Phuoc Tuy. the natural enemy were not happy with the arrival TRANSLATOR: The local people troops at the Nui Dat base. of the Australian and New Zealand with D445's operations We knew that they would interfere from our liberation forces. and separate the people of Long Tan the foreigners a warning to leave, We were therefore ordered to give the Americans. and for them to stop imitating as a Communist insurgency, What started in 1966 had now become open war. The Australian strategy was clear. in battle The Viet Cong had to be defeated from the people cut off. and their support this task was not easy. For the 5th and 6th battalions alone, patrols protected the base, But from day one

even as it was being built. Trees were left to provide concealment and shade.

American bases had been bombarded by elusive Viet Cong mortar bombs.

The Americans called them 'The shoot and scoots'. The Australian, Brigadier Jackson, was determined that Viet Cong teams would not mortar Nui Dat. And he surprised friend and foe alike by establishing Line Alpha. Line Alpha was the area within Viet Cong mortar range. All Vietnamese living inside Line Alpha were resettled. The Vietnamese could tend their farms by day. But anyone found inside Line Alpha at night without permission was liable to be shot on sight. Thus, a huge area of Phuoc Tuy was declared off-limits to the Viet Cong. That was an impudent step. The Australians began a civic action program to win over the people. The civic action policy prohibited brothels and shanty towns near the base. And protected village economies by restraining Australian spending. The Viet Cong told the people not to trust these men they called 'Uc Dai Lois', the men from the south, and the civic action campaign was resisted. The Viet Cong welcomed the start of the monsoon season as the slush and cold made life very difficult for the Australians. One digger commented, "This is the only place where you can be up to your ears in mud "and still have dust in your eyes." Another soldier wrote:

Before the Viet Cong could be defeated, they had first to be found. This search was the job of Australian Intelligence. The Australians had four main sources of intelligence.

American, South Vietnamese Army and Police, and Australian patrols. Australian Intelligence trusted only the fourth source. Its own infantry and SAS patrols. In this era, before computers, Australian Intelligence graded the reliability of the daily flood of reports on the Viet Cong from A1 down to F6. A1 meant the report was proven. An F6, though, was not false but unproven. And F6 may really have been A1. The system was virtually unworkable. The Viet Cong needed their intelligence about the Australians. TRANSLATOR: Intelligence about the Australian troops was easy to get. We established perfect intelligence networks among the local people who gave us most of our information about the Australians. We also planted agents in the Saigon Army and the administration to report on the activities of Australian troops. And we obtained confessions from the captured Vietnamese. We also obtained good intelligence from the mass media such as the BBC, Voice of America, and Armed Forces Broadcast. We even monitored the Australian military communications and learned about Australian tactics.

Our villagers counted the guns of the taskforce artillery batteries. The big American 155s and the Australian 105 Howitzers always fired one at a time. But the New Zealand guns always fired in a salvo. We called the New Zealand battery, 'The New Zealand Orchestral Group'. The Australians had some knowledge of Viet Cong strategy, such as decoy and ambush. And their battle tactics. But knew dangerously little about the Viet Cong 5th Division and the local D445 guerilla unit. When the Australians came here, we knew that they had been very successful at anti-guerilla warfare in Malaya. So although we came from the people and were very good at guerilla warfare, we rehearsed. The Australians were better at anti-guerilla warfare than the Americans. The Australians were very patient and disciplined. And didn't care about hardship. They would suffer more hardship than the Americans. Or even the South Vietnamese troops. For example, they kept off the tracks and cut new paths. The strategy of the Australians began seriously to confront the Viet Cong. They decided to attack before the Australians could build their base and acclimatise to weather and terrain. So, in June, 274 regiment probed the 5th battalion's defences, testing reactions and weak spots. The Viet Cong waved lights on poles trying to pinpoint the machine-guns.

But the knowing Australians replied only with rifle fire.

The Viet Cong 5th Division intelligence then presented its assessment of the Australians. TRANSLATOR: While the 'Uc Dai Lois' arrogant

and bellicose, they are hardy and react fiercely to attack. The Australian patrols and their range of tactics

are now a serious problem for our 5th Division. We cannot maintain the people's war while the Australians remain. The Australians must be eliminated. Australian Intelligence tried to complete a mosaic of Viet Cong intentions and locations. But too many of the reports conflicted. The mosaic had too many pieces. The dangerous assumption shared by Jackson's staff, the Americans and Canberra, was that 274 and 275 Viet Cong units were merely resting up and that D445 guerilla battalion was the only threat. The Australians then achieved a breakthrough. Captain Trevor Richards, Hush-Hush Radio Research Unit, began to locate Viet Cong radio transmitters. Our intercept operators were clever enough to recognise an operator's fist. In other words, the way he transmitted morse code. That was one of the ways of identifying a radio station even though he may have changed his call sign. Now, although all that's in code and we could never work out what it was they were saying, we can tell from that type of transmission

as to whether it's real or not, whether they were on standby or not, whether they were on training or not, or whether they had started to plan something. If they were starting to plan something, you'd start to expect the fact that the amount of traffic will go up. The amount of messages will go up. Hence, the transmissions get longer and longer. Richards then had a personal triumph. He identified the radio call sign of the Viet Cong 275 regiment. From then on, the Australians always knew the locations of 274 and 275 regiment radios.

But Richards could never tell if the radios were alone or with large Viet Cong forces. Bob Keep, a junior intelligence officer, began to use Richards' radio fixes to sort out reports of Viet Cong activities. He concluded that 275 Viet Cong regiment was anything but resting. Somewhere late in July, I became aware that there was a new formation in the area, in addition to D445, the local VC unit. I became aware of it through looking at some intelligence that was passed to me by Porky Richards. Unfortunately, in the absence of a Declaration of War, the dissemination of that sort of intelligence was very much restricted. And, in fact, apart from Porky and myself, only three others had access to it. John Rowe, Dick Hannigan and the Brigadier Jackson. Being the junior member of that group, I was unable to press my point of view that this formation was North Vietnamese. Keep's claim was politically very unpopular. But, of course, nobody would've been anxious to have a regiment in Phuoc Tuy because there was so much of a vested interest in that we had control of Phuoc Tuy. Brigadier Jackson, if you remember, said that the whole of Phuoc Tuy was under control. Everyone loved us. As you drove along, people waved little Australian flags and so on. But by now, the Viet Cong 5th Division had finalised its plan to attack the Australians. TRANSLATOR: While the Australians were well trained at anti-guerilla warfare, Vietnam with its people's war was quite different. We decided to lure the tiger away from the mountain. We would mortar the Nui Dat base as if we were going to attack it. This would draw out a reaction force into terrain ideal for ambush. We would have to set the ambush within the range of the Nui Dat artillery because the Australian patrols never move outside artillery range. But if we attack the Australians closely, the task force batteries couldn't be used. We called this tactic 'Fighting by holding onto the enemy's belt'. The chosen battle area is a rubber plantation at Long Tan. The Australians will not expect a large force so close to their base and helicopters cannot land in the rubber trees or the nearby rice paddy. With a tall tree canopy, we will not be seen from the air. The foreigners will be drawn well into the rubber plantation. D445 will attack from the south-east and the west, and 275 regiment from the north and north-east to surround and annihilate the enemy quickly, then escape before the artillery arrives. Anti-tank mines were laid on the road from the south. 274 regiment will ambush any American armoured reinforcements coming down Route 2. Throughout July, the Viet Cong stepped up the fighting to learn Australian tactics. In one big skirmish, the Viet Cong held onto B Company's belt so fiercely that Australians called artillery down almost onto their own positions. And two American Chinook gunships were heavily machine-gunned from the ground near the Australian base.

But when the Viet Cong chose Long Tan to plan their ambush they were detected. Only a couple of weeks before the battle of Long Tan, the direction finding fixes I was getting on what we believed to be 275 VC regiment, indicated they were starting to move cross country. From the eastern border area towards our base. Brigadier Jackson put his base on alert and prepared to defend his perimeter. He sent Bob Keep to ask for American help. The Americans laughed at the idea. They had spent much time and money trying to find the Viet Cong and did not wish to scare them back into hiding. The Americans wanted the Viet Cong to attack the Australian base.

A decoy so that American and Australian forces could then destroy the Viet Cong units. Keep departed feeling very embarrassed. No attack came and the Viet Cong 275 radio moved away again. The Australians breathed a sigh of relief and concluded that the Viet Cong had no immediate designs on their base. But to Bob Keep, the visit of the 275 radio meant only one thing. The Viet Cong were in fact planning to attack the base in force. On July 29th, Keep attempted to warn his colleagues. He wrote:

Captain Mike Wells, Australian Military Advisor, reported that his Vietnamese agents had news of a big Viet Cong buildup. Wells was an astute officer and the Viet Cong had put a price on his head. His radio call sign was 'Violet Honey', a name the Vietnamese could not easily pronounce. But at the Australian base, Wells' agents were not fully trusted. Whilst it was appreciated, the information I passed on, I feel personally that it was more put aside as, "Yes, we'll use that as background, "but let's get on with what we've got," sort of stuff. And I wonder sometimes if they realised the depth of the information, even through the American system, which they would have had access to as well, proving of this sort of information. but in the piecing together and the in the area at that time. It was seriously enemy movement

the odd probe, Apart from just the odd contact, we started getting reports two or three here and there, a lot more trained. where the soldiers seemed to be the panic of a local VC There is a difference between as to one with controlled bursts, letting rip with a machine-gun, and controlled withdrawal. trained soldiers out there, This started to alert me that there training of the local VC company. or that I'd misjudged the level of I wasn't sure what. there was something out there But I did know it was, or what it was going to do. and I had no idea what it was, where feeling there was something there. But I just had this quite certain the enemy in regular army uniform. SAS patrols brought in sketches of overlooked the fact Australian Intelligence the Farm Dogs, that these were not local guerillas, but enforced troops, the Tigers. the odd man out. Bob Keep found himself on the task force base camp When the attack didn't come the way Keep thought it would... ..he was, he gave me the impression out on his own on this. that he was really And he was out on his own. We still, three or four of us, with what he was saying was correct. were still fairly well satisfied to starve the Australians of action In early August, the Viet Cong began in the base. to create a false sense of security began to joke about D445, The young diggers calling it 'The Phantom Battalion'. Keep became more and more anxious. and went to Saigon He bypassed authority at the Australian Embassy. to appeal to an old friend at my villa in Saigon. Bob Keep came down to see me I welcomed him enormously, And, an old friend, he said he had a problem. and at dinner that evening he felt that there was a regiment And he said the problem was that in Phuoc Tuy Province. Well, I said, of course, we would have known about it." "This is quite incredible, otherwise But he said he had this hunch. has got a hunch, then you follow. Now, when an intelligence officer Well, I then, the very next day, the green door, went into my sources behind in very circumspect terms, and I put it to them on a regiment in Phuoc Tuy?" I said, you know, "What have you got

as incredulous as I was. They were, of course, we put the search lights on. Nonetheless, the search lights on, And when I say we put signals intelligence, that means we put the whole array of everything which we had, agent reporting, Phuoc Tuy Province. the whole search light was put on there was nothing. But after three days, And I got on the phone to Bob Keep,

by that time to Phuoc Tuy, who'd gone back I put everything into this, and said, "Listen, Bob, "and there's no evidence whatsoever in Phuoc Tuy Province." "of any major formation Chance then intervened. Bob Keep fell seriously ill. He was evacuated to Australia. Viet Cong had abandoned Phuoc Tuy Without Keep, the belief that the became stronger than ever. Australians on the 17th August TRANSLATOR: We will attack the before our national liberation day. We know that a big Australian defeat the Australian Liberal Government will unseat the Manila Peace Conference. and influence America and her puppet allies Australia's losses will discredit

and end the war early. most good intelligence officers I think that Bob Keep was like who had blown the whistle. throughout history something was there. He had this hunch wasn't flexible enough And it's quite wrong that the system with his hunches to have run with his... me to have it checked out, because even though they had come to

incredible surveillance capability, and even though we had mounted this and come up with a negative view,

Phuoc Tuy themselves, I think the people who were in attention to his warnings. could perhaps have paid more But there's no doubt that it was, intelligence blunders of the war. I think, one of the biggest continued Reports of Viet Cong movements but still failed to convince. a Viet Cong battalion On 11th August, an agent reported at Long Tan rubber plantation south of Long Tan village. and two Viet Cong companies on 13th August, While flying near Long Tan detected a Viet Cong transmitter. a helicopter's glide path indicator near Long Tan plantation. A reconnaissance pilot saw new tracks an American Air Force officer I was flying around that area with the task force at the time, who was attached to and he had the job of the day

landing zones for helicopters. to look around and find And that took about 3.5 hours.

I could see quite a lot of signs While we were looking around, had been used fairly extensively. that the tracks, roads and things, Because of the muddy sort of terrain there, extremely well. any tracks and that showed up the Viet Cong radio Suddenly Richards' again plotted moving towards the Australian base. He alerted Jackson. of the 6th battalion. This time Jackson sent out A Company was approaching? Could this mean that 275 regiment was not told about the 275 radio. To protect Richards' cover, A Company the patrol, around 16th August, I think it was on day two of whole company, that's every platoon, it was again quite funny because the 1, 2 and 3 platoon, including the company headquarters, about 60 to 90 minutes. all had contacts within a matter of So that automatically let us know in the area. that there was some enemy Long Tan found signs of the Viet Cong An SAS patrol well to the east of but these were not seen as a threat. Jackson's staff saw no warning. a dozen different places at once. The 275 regiment had been sighted in before Pearl Harbor, Like the American command to be attacked. no-one was really in the mood from the US advisor at Duc Than, But on 16th August, a warning came 12 kilometres to the north. on his battle map on his wall I was in his office and noted two large sweeping red arrows from the north-east, that were coming down towards the Nui Dat base. down south and then pointing west indicated movement Both of the arrows of VC units or formations. of regimental battalion-sized group we weren't aware of such moves. I found this somewhat startling as A Company and SAS patrols had found no big units in that area. So the American warning lacked heavy proof. TRANSLATOR: D445 was in the May Tao mountains at this time.

We rehearsed the ambush with some of 275 regiment using a big sand model that we made. On the night of 16th, we marched into Long Tan and deployed between the Long Tan committee house and the middle of the rubber trees. In the pre-dawn darkness, 17th August, the 275 team fire on Nui Dat to decoy out the Australian patrol. The bombs wounded SAS soldiers, engineers and artillery men.

The problem was, we were getting indications that these shells and mortars were being fired from all around us. I mean, if one believed all the reports coming in, we were being attacked from all sides. When I went into the command post to start firing some counter mortar missions, we had to prise about 20 people out of the command post. They were all trying to clamour in to get some protection. Number two gun took a recoil round in the sandbags that protected... I think it blew someone off the top of the bund at that particular time. There was a little bit of a concern that the enemy was a lot closer than first thought. As the Viet Cong bombs rained in, the artillery's radar tried to pinpoint their firing positions. But, crazily, the radar showed the Viet Cong to be firing

from 1,000 metres from below sea level. The radar was tracking a particular bomb for two or three seconds and then flicking off that bomb onto another stronger signal. And this is what happened. So the radar was... the radars were having a problem giving us any sort of location. In fact, the weren't giving us any locations. As the bombs landed, the Australian base expected a massive Viet Cong attack out of the darkness. But no attack came. Using a prearranged firing plan, Australian artillery opened up towards the sound of the Viet Cong mortar primaries. The Viet Cong shelling suddenly stopped. It was the first defeat of the Viet Cong shoot and scoots.

TRANSLATOR: In 1966 I was a medic in the liberation forces. On 17th August, I treated wounded from the 275 regiment that had been shelling Nui Dat.

The counter bombardment hit them. The bodies of three of the recoil rifle team were buried just north of here. The Australians reacted immediately. A Viet Cong mortar attack from within the free fire zone could not be tolerated. So, while A Company sought the 275 radio east of Long Tan,

B Company was sent out at first light to catch the Viet Cong mortar squad. A hopeless task. Again, for security, B Company was not told about the Viet Cong radio. B Company soon found the Viet Cong mortar positions. Blood trails and recent tracks led east. They followed these tracks, but they split, going north, east and south. B Company camped, ready to resume next day.

The Australian base maintained its routine. A sudden attack was no longer expected. The intelligence summary for the 17th concluded: TRANSLATOR: But also on 17th August, the main body of 275 regiment arrives undetected at its position just north of the rubber trees of Long Tan. With D445 to the south-east, the trap is ready. If the Australians take the bait and come out, victory will be easy. On the next day, 18th August, it seemed safe enough for pop singers Little Pattie and Col Joye to give the base its first concert. B Company resumed tracking the Viet Cong. But two of its three platoons were ordered back to base for a health break at Vung Tau Beach. The one remaining platoon of B Company was too small a force for safety.

So, D Company, under Major Harry Smith, was ordered to take over the job of tracking the Viet Cong. Smith, an ex-parachute instructor,

had made D Company the fittest on the base. Smith was a veteran of the Malayan anti-Communist campaign, as was his big, good-humoured Sergeant Major, Jack Kirby. Half of D Company's young conscripts had never seen action. Nor had Smith's three platoon commanders. Most of Harry Smith's young officers and men had come to feel that the Viet Cong had decided to avoid the Australians and had left the province. But their sergeants were veterans. And their old soldiers' instinct told them that trouble was brewing. With B Company was the New Zealand artillery observer, Captain Morrie Stanley and his radio operator, Bombardier Willie Walker. Stanley's role was crucial, for his radio provided artillery protection for the patrol. Four Australian patrols were then east of Nui Dat. A Company, without returning without finding a large force of Viet Cong,

B and D Companies, and an SAS patrol farther east. B and D Companies met at 2:00pm. And Major Ford of B Company showed Harry Smith the Viet Cong mortar positions. The 32 men of B Company passed west through D Company's 108 soldiers moving east. As D Company approached the edge of Long Tan rubber plantation, they could hear the Little Pattie concert. They felt that this was just another routine patrol. The Viet Cong would surely have been in the next province by then. We came up out of the Soui Da Bang over a little rise, and there was a patrol moving from right to left across our front. I noticed the patrol that was coming across us,

and they had white tape in their bush hats. I just assumed that they were an Australian patrol that had sort of got out of the way. A group of VC walked between the forward section and the platoon headquarters.

I saw the VC first and thought, "That's not right." And I opened up fire and recovered an AK-47. The Viet Cong fled east into the rubber trees, leaving one dead. But no-one at this stage realised he was a 275 regiment Tiger, not a D445 Farm Dog. TRANSLATOR: When we heard gunfire to the west, we were surprised. We thought the Australians had all returned to their base. We quickly prepared to fight. When the Australians were 50 metres away, we opened fire and advanced, using the terrain and the rubber trees as shields. We wanted to get close to the Australian troops to besiege them and to avoid their artillery. But the Australian troops fought back very fiercely. GUNFIRE Lieutenant Sharp called urgently for artillery support.

Captain Stanley, not quite sure of Sharp's position, started to walk the artillery towards 11 platoon from a safe distance. We were getting some pretty heavy fire at this stage.

Once the second machine-gun opened up, then everybody who was there opened up on us. Some of the soldiers on the far extreme, on the extreme side of 6th section were yelling out that they were in the trees. And I directed the machine-gunner in my section to put some, er... spray some ammunition up into the trees and see if we could find what was up there. It was at that point that we came under extreme fire. TRANSLATOR: On the general order, all of our forces had to advance towards the Australians. To hesitate would have caused many deaths from the Australian artillery. Our motto was 'Hug their belts, even when they are retreating'. We besieged the Australians quickly from the north, south and east. To see them advancing on us was not in our training manual. And, er, I suppose at that stage I thought, "Well, we're in a fair bit of shit here." Smith then radioed for an American air strike. A fierce monsoonal storm began. Soon, three US jets appeared above Long Tan, but the pilots could not locate the Viet Cong through the rain. Instead, they bombed the suspected Viet Cong command post nearby. Major Smith had directed that the platoon commander of 10 platoon take his platoon to try and help out 11 platoon. The Viet Cong, thinking that 11 platoon was alone, moved to surround it. It was while we were moving in this formation that a large group of approximately 60 to 80 VC were moving to our left in preparation to attack the left flank of 11 platoon. 10 platoon then went to ground with the VC crossing to our front. Once we were in position, we then opened fire on these VC and we killed them either outright, or the remaining force withdrew. TRANSLATOR: We then saw more Australians advancing on our right and we quickly stopped them with our heavy machine-gun and mortar attacks. Stopped by the power of Viet Cong fire, 10 platoon was withdrawn into a defensive line around Smith's headquarters. Escape was now impossible for Smith had too many wounded. Also, 11 platoon was still cut off and Harry Smith would not leave them.

11 platoon then faced a new distraction. The whole time the battle was on, there was that, the bugler. I guarantee you talk to anybody that was there, they could remember the bugler. All through it he blew his callings or whatever you like to call them, but every now and then he hit a bloody sour note and it was so off-putting. BUGLER HITS SOUR NOTE

Smith then sent Lieutenant Dave Sabben's 12 platoon to help, but enemy fire stopped them too. TRANSLATOR: We then attacked the second group of Australians on our left but there were now more foreign troops than we thought. Sabben turned north but came under fire from the Viet Cong attacking the retreating 10 platoon. Ammunition was now very low. Harry Smith urgently radioed Nui Dat for resupply. At Nui Dat, Jackson faced a dilemma. If he sent troops to Long Tan, his base might be overrun, perhaps by 274 regiment. But the resupply could not wait. At Nui Dat, two helicopters loaded ammunition. Then, Lieutenant Sharp was shot dead. Sergeant Bob Buick took command of 11 platoon. And we're getting to the stage where I'd have to do something, so I put in a fire mission to Morrie Stanley who's the FO and I then send my own grid reference. Morrie Stanley said, "You can't do that." I explained to him that we were completely surrounded. The Charlie was 75, 100 metres away and I'd prefer to go with a big bang than all this. It sounds quite dramatic now, but that is exactly what happened. Buick's suicidal request concerned Major Harry Honnor at Nui Dat. The big worry was the location of 11 platoon. They were the ones who had been overrun. I thought that they might still be in the ground, some may be wounded, and we didn't want the artillery anywhere near them.

Intense gunfire that created smoke. There was smoke, steam, fog or mist. One couldn't tell what is was. But it did help me in a way, because I could see flashes of gunfire against this background.

It was like a screen. About 200 metres distant. It was like a screen which I could either see or not see flashes of gunfire. And, in fact, it helped silhouette our own troops, and VC, who were moving close to me. And that was the only way I had at that time, of determining the grid reference at which to open fire. So, anyway, he spoke to me and I said, "We've got to have it, we're getting overrun." And, so, they sent it in and it landed about 75 metres in front of us.

Came right over the top of us, and that's a big no-no. And I think I requested five or six repeats, which in fact was a total of, in the vicinity of about 30 to 40 rounds of artillery. And it all landed no closer than 50 metres in front of us, and that effectively wiped out our main threat which was the VC in front of us. Jackson now faced the total loss of D Company, a potential military and political disaster. He ordered A Company to Long Tan to try to break the Viet Cong attack. It then started to rain very heavily. We had, er... Communications were extremely bad, we were jammed, after we replaced our antenna on our radio that had been shot away again. And we decided, when it started to get dark, I said, "We've got to do something." I think the platoon strength at that stage of the game was down to about 12. Now, we went out with 28 and there was effectively about 12 of us left. All the rest had been killed and wounded. So there wasn't very much I could do except just get out and run like hell. The survivors ran west with Viet Cong bullets smacking past them. They met Sabben's 12 platoon. Eventually, a company rang up on the radio and said that they were ordering a resupply and that the choppers were about to arrive

and that they were going to throw yellow smoke. The penny dropped for me and I realised that the only way I could get the survivors from 11 back, is not by going to meet them, but by throwing yellow smoke in their direction as far as I could,

hoping that they would see and come back to the yellow smoke. We knew roughly where 11 platoon would be because to both sides of them we could see enemy movement, and we were being fired at and we were firing upon enemy to the 11 platoon's flanks. So we knew what direction we could expect them to come from. When we threw the yellow smoke, there was an immediate hail of fire into the area where the smoke fell, which we'd thrown 50 yards or so out of our own position. As the 11 platoon group arrived at 12 platoon, they were followed by the enemy. So we then settled them down and had another little battle with those enemy that were following. Having fought off that assault, we then prepared ourselves to go back to company headquarters. The ammunition boxes were dropped right into Smith's headquarters. By this time, D Company had few bullets left. Intense fighting resumed. The APCs with A Company were slowed by the flooded river, Soui Da Bang. Sabben meanwhile, bringing in the survivors of 11 platoon, saw the Viet Cong massing to attack Smith's position. I let the first VC line pass our position, and when the second and third line of VC lined up in the avenues where the machine-guns were aligned, I gave the order to open fire. The two machine-guns opened fire with all the rifles that I had, and we simply decimated those two lines of VC. The front line, not knowing what had happened, immediately turned around and tried to dash back to where they came from, therefore passing through the two avenues that we had under fire. And I think that whole attack was just massacred on the spot. 11 platoon finally reached Smith's headquarters. They were haunted, haunted men.

The looks of horror on their face as they came through. And, er, they had been through a terrible morning. TRANSLATOR: We estimated that we were fighting the Australian 6th battalion. So we wished that our 275 regiment had attacked sooner than it did. Finally, we located the enemy's headquarters and many of our troops attacked it. The company position was only about 100 metres across. There were massive attacks. The firepower was massive. I mean, they obviously lined themselves up, re-psyched themselves, loaded their machine-guns and just came on and fire and fire and fired. At Nui Dat all gun batteries, Australian, New Zealand and American, maintained rapid fire at Morrie Stanley's chosen targets. We were shifting guns, shifting gun ammunition, through the rain and the muck. Lightning had hit the toilet. Literally blown the thunderbox to pieces, which was a 44 gallon drum. Absolutely terrible weather. And, um, these fellows humping this ammunition. Almost running with the stuff on their shoulders. It's about a bag of cement on each shoulder, these fellows were carrying. Last light has set in early because of the rain and the tree cover, and these pencils of tracer are coming at you. Thousands and thousands of them. From there and from there and from there. All coming right above the top of the ground. And I go back to what I said

about this reverse slope position we're on.

They could only fire down to a certain level,

to skim above the ground as they could see it, and they, fortunately, were mostly going just above our head.

At D Company, Major Smith saw the Viet Cong moving in behind him. Human wave attacks resume from his front and from both sides. Unless help came soon, D Company would be wiped out. The enemy persisted in these large force attacks. And I knew ammunition was getting critical for the third time. And there was no more ammunition to the rear of us. It was then that I realised that we had met a superior force.

TRANSLATOR: Although our forces attacked closely the artillery became a problem. I think as the afternoon wore on, I got the feeling that we weren't going to quite make it out of this. So, I think I did say a prayer or two, and I thought of my family, especially. I was, you know, getting really pissed off.

Oh, yeah. Laurie Drinkwater came up to me, or crawled up to me and said, "Hey, Skip, do you reckon we're going to get out of this?" And I looked at him and I sort of thought to myself,

"Well, the artillery's been falling for about two hours. "The armour is about an hour overdue. "It's raining like we've never seen before. "I've never really been seriously shot at, "and there's some turkey out there trying to kill me." I looked him straight in the eye and said, "I don't think so, Laurie, I don't think so." We were moving through young rubber trees. And through what turned out to be a fairly sticky sort of weed, about waist-deep in height.

And for this very reason, we virtually drove in on top of elements of the VC, which later turned out to be parts of D445 battalion, without seeing them. We only saw them when they stood up in front of us. And at that stage we came under fairly heavy fire. The first thing I thought was that I'd come on D Company. It's raining you understand and the visibility's not all that good. As I peered at them, they had webbing and the gear on, and they had bush hats, but the bush hats were round. And almost at that instant, a far right-hand carrier, commanded by Corporal Goss, in fact, came across the radio saying, "They're the enemy." And with that he opened fire.

And then we opened fire across the line.

TRANSLATOR: The heavy rain and the battle noise made it impossible to hear the tanks coming. And the high grass of the rainy season made it hard to see them until they were right there next to us. We felt determined and unafraid, and we turned and fired at them. I raised my pistol and fired twice before being shot through the head. The bullet went in one side of my head and out the other. My half of the platoon in the armoured personnel carrier that I was in, dismounted, and so did the other half from the adjacent personnel carrier. We then moved into extended line on the right flank of the company and we actually commenced to assault towards the enemy, which at this stage were starting to stand up and stream from left to right in front of us. And then I strained my ears to hear. And in the background, over to the right, I could hear rumbling. And a swell in my stomach took over and I thought, "Someone's coming. "We're gonna get out of this." He went forward, and I should say at this stage, there was quite literally a wall of artillery falling between us and where B Company was, which was designed obviously to protect them from the enemy. I went forward through this artillery, which was a pretty interesting experience. I remember actually reaching down

on my head. and putting my steel helmet it was going to do, I can't imagine what I thought but I put it on my head. the rubber trees, The lights of the APCs came through came through the rain. coming through, they were firing. I could see the tracers as they were "You beaut. We're home and hosed." And I thought, with my carriers. I swung a complete 90 degrees And we swept to the east. as we went that way Um, the fire that came back at us was absolutely incredible. the VC disappeared. Once the APCs came in, That night, the Australians were in bitter despair. They thought they had suffered a great defeat by the Viet Cong. One-third of D Company had been killed or wounded. A huge military and personal loss in Australia's small army. But next day, when the Australians reentered Long Tan plantation, they were amazed to find hundreds of Viet Cong dead. Later, the captured diary of a Viet Cong commander listed his losses at 500 men. The Australians had won a great military victory.

It's my estimation that because of the communication problems that the enemy was having, where the Australians were. that he could never identify Had he been able to do that the whole three hours or so, at any stage during had simply said to his troops, if the enemy commander "Form a line, stand up, let's go," walked all over us. they would've just Even without rifles, I think, running low on ammo, at certain stages when we were through us like a dose of salts. and they would have just been to their military disaster. Viet Cong propaganda reacted quickly had wiped out the Australians They told the local villages they their farms inside Line Alpha. and that the people could return to The Viet Cong were awarded decorations for heroism against the Australians. The American and Australian press celebrated the Australian victory at Long Tan, ranking it with some of the great stands of military history. President Johnson awarded D Company the rare Presidential Unit Citation for courage in the presence of an army enemy, and 15 Commonwealth decorations were awarded to Major Smith and his men. But Canberra denied the young diggers' medals. To save face, Saigon awarded them national dolls. to these young 18-year-olds, I was actually despairing as not a great deal of training. never been in combat, And I was completely wrong. their ability. Their strength of character, that they had. Their bravery. Exceptional bravery I've never seen anything like it. I've been in seven wars in all and

I originally came from England, At that stage, English nationality, and I had still got wanted to be an Australian. and right at that moment, I just the rest of my life here. I was going to live But just the bravery of those men

become an Australian. was the deciding factor that made me The battle of Long Tan, demolished forever the myth of Viet Cong invincibility. And never again did the Viet Cong seriously challenge the Australians. By 1972, the Australians could go unarmed in Phuoc Tuy. D445 guerilla battalion became non-operational, reduced to foraging for food in remotes areas. Media coverage of the Vietnam War has rarely recognised the Australian achievements in Vietnam. But in Australia on each Long Tan anniversary, the world, "We won our Vietnam War." the Vietnam Veterans march to tell

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If you were to pick a pastime of the sun-bronzed Aussie, that typified the image it's hard to go past surfing. the modern-day art of board-riding? But who introduced us to It's hard to believe it was a Duke. he wasn't a peer of the realm. Well, when I say 'Duke', and an Olympic swimming champion. Duke Kahanamoku was a Hawaiian to take part in exhibition races. He visited Australia many times he left us this national treasure. It was on one of those trips that Surf Life Saving Club, in Sydney, This board, at Freshwater is the one he used at Christmas 1914 the sport of the Hawaiian kings - to first show the Australians as modern-day surfing. 'he'e nalu', or what we now know is a former world champion surfer. Midget Farrelly from Honolulu The boards had come back because people in their travels on freighters had seen surfing. But I don't think that the total concept was understood, where you actually paddled the board out to sea, turned it around the wave of your choice. and then caught might have been a revelation, This style of surfing but it sure as hell wasn't high-tech. As everyone knows, of fibreglass, with a foam core. a modern surfboard, it's made it's got three fins, On the back of this one, so it's easy to turn in the surf. it's incredibly light. But best of all, Can you hold this, Andy? Now, this is the Duke's board. Unlike this one. it's more than 2.5m long, Now, if you have a look at it, it's made of timber, to have a look, and if we turn it around, Trent, it's got no fins on the back, so it must have been a dog of a thing to try and ride in the surf. And on top of that, it is incredibly heavy, and it weighs something of the order of about 35 to 40 kilos. And I think I might just put it down. So, Midget, tell us what happened on that afternoon on Christmas Eve, 1914. Keeping in mind I wasn't here! (Laughs) As I understand it, Kahanamoku's board came down the beach in the back of a horsedrawn cart. we'll take you out in the surfboat The locals said to him, "Look, from out the back" - "and you can catch a wave the wave lying down. they thought he was going to ride I'll paddle the board out." He said, "No, no, no. Uh, he did that, here on the northern bank. and proceeded to catch waves 'Cause the board itself - has a great story behind it. like, its manufacture So, how did that all come about? who brought Kahanamoku out here I think that the people knew that he could ride a surfboard and they wanted to see one ridden. So he said, "Hey, I can make one." And he did make his own boards, from the local timber yard - with some sugar pine he made the board and then he rode it. LAUGHTER Sun, sand and surfing - it wouldn't be an Australian summer without those three ingredients. And although the surfing part of it was made possible by Duke Kahanamoku of Hawaii, it all began on a lump of local sugar pine which became a surfboard and one of our genuine national treasures.

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