May 1966, we were sent soldiers which formed the sixth battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR). The soldiers arrived in South Vietnam, in sections, over a period of two months from May to June. This battalion was based at our developing Australian task force base at Nui Dat. This base was in the middle of the Phuoc Tuy Province, right in the heart of the Viet Cong stronghold. Around our base we created a line alpha, which was 4000 metres around us that was cleared out by our troops. The Line Alpha was to clarify who was Viet Cong and who was not, therefore whoever we came across within this line alpha was classified the enemy. By August, our base was three months old and the Viet Cong were concerned about our strong development within their presence. We received radio signals that indicated the Viet Cong forces were within 5 kilometres of our base. During this threat we sent out patrols to scout the area, although no advancements on their whereabouts were made.
It was the night of the 16th August when the base at Nui Dat came under fire from 82mm mortars and 75mm recoilless rifles. The barrage lasted around 22 minutes. We stood our ground, returning bombardment fire, expecting the fire to be followed by an invasion of the Viet Cong, but all was quiet. After this attack we were left with 24 wounded soldiers and damage to tents and vehicles.
The next morning we decided to search the areas from which the attack took place. After scouting the area all that could be found were the sites of which the mortars were fired. The following day, 18th August, Patrols continued and D Company left the base late morning to head for the Long Tan rubber plantation. At this time, back at Nui Dat, a concert was commencing for the soldiers, starring Col Joye and Little Pattie.
While the 6RAR were patrolling in the Long Tan rubber plantation area, at around 1515, the lead platoon (11 Platoon) encountered a small Viet Cong group of six men. They opened fire on the group, causing them to flee, leaving behind one casualty killed by our troops and taking two wounded with them. We then continued to patrol following the path of the fleeing soldiers until, around 1608, where we came across the main body of the Viet Cong 275 Regiment.
The Viet Cong attacked vigorously from our left flank using mortars, rifles and machine guns. It was pouring rain as it usually did during this time in the afternoon, making this battle specifically difficult. We took cover as much as possible and returned fire with platoon weapons and artillery from our base, around five kilometres westward. The 11 Platoon were being severely flanked, suffering many casualties and did not have the option of withdrawing. This then became our main priority; to allow the 11 Platoon to withdraw by ordering 10 Platoon to move around north helping to give support. This spiked a mass of fire towards the 10 Platoon and all its radio communications were lost. We were then, in a way, blind and we had little idea what was going on. A second radio was soon dashed to 10 Platoon by a soldier and communication was restored. The 10 Platoon was then ordered to withdraw as heavy enemy fire was causing a build-up of casualties and adding up to many wounded. The 12 Platoon was then given the orders to aid the 11 Platoon in the process of withdrawing.
With the enemy becoming stronger, a t 1700, Major Harry Smith, called for a resupply of ammunition via radio where two RAAF helicopters were tasked and flew to the battle area, facing the harsh weather conditions and heavy enemy fire proved difficult but they successfully delivered the ammunition needed aswell as blankets for the wounded. Close air support was also called for although this couldn’t be used as the enemy could not be identified accurately in the weather conditions. At 1835 the Viet Cong decided to change their tactics into a ‘human wave assault’, charging towards our troops in large waves. We responded quickly…