The Battle of Long Tan was the most significant battle during Australia’s war in Vietnam. It took place late in the day on August 18, 1966 between just over 100 Australian Soldiers of D Company of the 6th Batallion RAR and perhaps 2000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Regular Army Soldiers. Seventeen Australians died in the battle and the official enemy death toll was around 245. After this battle, the enemy never again initiated an attack on Australians over the duration of the war.
Just after the battle, the soldiers of 6RAR built, and erected, a concrete cross to commemorate their loss. It stood on the battleground until the Australians left Vietnam in 1972 and it then disappeared. A replica cross was erected once Australian ex servicemen began to return to Vietnam and this is the one that we have all seen when we have visited Long Tan on our trips to Vietnam.
The original cross was found in a museum in the city of Bien Long and has been kindly loaned to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra where it is now on display
This weekend, I am visiting Canberra with my friend Robert Bruce, who also served in the same unit as I did in Vietnam (85 Transport Platoon) although a couple of years earlier than me. We drove up to Canberra yesterday and this morning visited the War Memorial to see the original cross. Tomorrow we will attend the Remembrance Day service.
We also visited the National Vietnam Memorial which is situated on Anzac Parade. We both have clear memories of the weekend celebrations and parade that we attended when the memorial was first dedicated. At the time, it had six concrete tablets outside the perimeter of the memorial which represented the six Australians missing in action. These men have now all been located and their remains brought back to Australia. Each tablet is now suitably inscribed with a message “At Home at Last”.
We had arranged to meet up with our long time friend and previous Platoon Commander of our unit in Vietnam, John Snare, who unfortunately has become indisposed with extreme back pain. We were very glad that we could at least visit him in hospital where he is awaiting surgery sometime during this coming week. We wish him well for a very speedy recovery.