View Full Version : Battle of Long Tan

5th Feb 2015, 16:01
This apparently came out in 2006 and somehow I missed even knowing about its release. An excellent doco if you have 90 min, the radio recordings playing while they are reminiscing is pretty confronting at times. Should be compulsory viewing for every Aussie school kid imo.


5th Feb 2015, 17:39

Thanks for posting. I am familiar with the battle in question where the Aussies were outnumbered at least 10-1 by their North Vietnamese counterparts.

Needless to say, the Aussies did well for themselves, all things considered.

5th Feb 2015, 20:49
What really helped was a NZ battery that was prepared to drop rounds very close to troops on the battlefield. I think its fair to say that without artillery that day the result would have been very different.

Incidentally, on the net there is a very good power-point presentation of the battle put together by one former 2nd Lt. Dave Sabben who should know what he is talking about as he was there. Following is the linky to his site with a further link to the presentation.

Battle of Long Tan Blog (http://battleoflongtan.reddunefilms.com/2011/03/animated-long-tan-presentation-by-dave-sabben/)

I think there is also a feature film about the battle as well. Its either in pre-production or very close to being filmed now. It has been talked about for years.

5th Feb 2015, 23:09
You are sort of correct in your recollections, Plovett. There was a Kiwi arty officer on the ground with D Company and few would argue that he played a vital role in keeping the Kiwi, Australian and US arty engaged in the battle. It was he who made the gutsy (maybe not quite the right word) call to put the arty in so close (see the next paragraph). You're certainly right in saying that without the arty, it would have been a totally different outcome.

As I think is mentioned in the documentary, at one stage, the platoon that had taken most casualties, (near half the platoon KIA), which had to all intents and purposes been overrun, called in arty onto their own positions. When the arty officer at first refused, the Sergeant, Bob Buick, (the officer platoon commander had been killed), told him that if it was directed anywhere else, it would be a waste of ammunition.

In no way attempting to diminish what the Army guys achieved that day, [warning: aviation content!!!!], the RAAF choppers that brought in ammunition in to the beleaguered company in truly dreadful weather conditions played (yet another) vital role in the engagement. The crews were disobeying (stupid) RoEs (does that sound familiar?) that senior RAAF officers back in Australia had put them under when the squadron was first committed to Vietnam.

I knew the captains of both those choppers (both are now deceased; but both the co-pilots are still around). It was hairy flying, with visibility in very heavy rain measured in yards. The Army learnt a very important lesson from that mission - they had put the ammunition onto the choppers still boxed, and the poor buggers on site, literally in the middle of a battle, had no small amount of difficulty breaking into the heavy duty boxes, which had metal straps around them.

Although Long Tan was the biggest engagement for the Australians in Vietnam from the point of view of casualties suffered, I think the later battles at Firebase Coral/Balmoral were on a larger scale and were every bit as much 'close calls' in how near they could have been major defeats but for the bravery and professionalism of some relatively junior soldiers, many of whom were conscripts.

6th Feb 2015, 00:39
According to Sgt Bob Buick, he convinced Capt Maurie Stanley (the fo) to drop the guns onto 11 platoons position. According to Maurie Stanley, although Bob Buick later reported that the guns had then been lowered, he (Stanley) actually never passed the order to the firebase. Apparently the arty commander heard the exchange over the net and dropped the guns 50m without an order.

The American 155's were never 'danger close', but they did extensive damage to the enemies rear.

6th Feb 2015, 05:30
In no way attempting to diminish what the Army guys achieved that day, [warning: aviation content!!!!], the RAAF choppers that brought in ammunition in to the beleaguered company in truly dreadful weather conditions played (yet another) vital role in the engagement. The crews were disobeying (stupid) RoEs (does that sound familiar?) that senior RAAF officers back in Australia had put them under when the squadron was first committed to Vietnam.

Those four pilots all deserved recognition. I think Riley and Dohle got DFCs, not sure if Grandin or Lane even got MiD..

'The Brigadier [Jackson] turned to Gp Cpt [Peter] Raw and sort of said "Can your guys do this?" and he said "Well we're not allowed to go into a hostile area (at that stage of our operation)."

Just everything I heard said to me 'that's just suicide'. There's just no way you could go out there, full of ammunition, and not get blown out of the sky.

And Frank [Flt Lt Francis Riley] just stepped forward and said "Look I'll go, it doesn't matter", and someone said "Well shouldn't we ask the CO?" and Frank was very "Let's not ask anybody because then they can't say no."'

and then,

'I had only been in Vietnam for six weeks and I thought it was a suicide mission. How could we fly over 2000 enemy loaded to the roof with ammo? Frank said, "Don't bloody come then", but I did and I made myself very small in my seat.'

D Company was saved from annihilation by fire discipline, the thunderstorm, the Regimental artillery, the 9 Squadron heroics, the timely arrival of the APC's and A and part B Companies, and the cool head of Maj Harry Smith. Take any of those factors away and it would probably have been a disaster.

6th Feb 2015, 11:52
Hempy wrote:

The American 155's were never 'danger close', but they did extensive damage to the enemies rear.

No, they weren't danger close but did a number on the North Vietnamese, and Viet Cong, supply and logistics as well as providing counter-battery fire. it's what red legs* do! :ok:

*I was once a Red Leg. M109A1 155mm sp howitzers as well as M110 8" sp how's. Until I saw the light. And became an infantryman. :ok:

6th Feb 2015, 12:48
No, they weren't danger close but did a number on the North Vietnamese, and Viet Cong, supply and logistics as well as providing counter-battery fire.
Absolutely they did. I've read estimates that the 155s caused most of the enemy casualties (some (http://www.sabben.com/longtantrek/VN%20Long%20Tan%20Cross.html) estimates say up to 800 kia, 1200 wia)
In addition to that the American 155 Regiment, six big 155 guns, they were being fired not in support of us because the artillery claimed they were 'unsafe' to have too close to us.

But the artillery headquarters back at base fired them 'in depth' shall we say of say 200m out beyond where 11 Platoon was.

So the Americans, much to their disgust I might add, weren't allowed to fire in close support, but they certainly caused havoc in the rear areas
The silly thing is that;
The guns themselves (155's) were very accurate, much more accurate than the 105. But I think that they were seen as being the counter mortar and for in-depth firing when in fact they were quite capable of being bought quite close

6th Feb 2015, 12:54
155's are extremely accurate artillery pieces. But that also highly depends on the skill level of the battery's FDC (Fire Direction Center as well as the Forward Observers.) I was in a very skilled firing battery at one point in my short-lived Red Leg career in which we were able to often obtain steel on target (direct hit) from 18km's out. Ever see what a 155mm round can do to an APC or tank after a direct hit? :eek: Let alone what those rounds do to infantry in the open. :eek::eek:

Splash one... splash out. :ok:

6th Feb 2015, 13:21
Long Tan rubber plantation is only ~5000m from the firebase at Nui Dat so the range wasn't an issue, but 90lb of HE would ruin anyones day.

It is telling that '200m in front of 11 Platoon' was considered the enemies 'rear area'! :eek: The Vietnamese liked to close in tight to get under the arty..

6th Feb 2015, 13:36
I would just like to reinforce PLovett's reference to the PowerPoint presentation: it makes essential reading.

6th Feb 2015, 16:53
Iraq is not a million miles away from Vietnam. I wonder if NBC's Brian Williams (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31143744) came very close to being hit by shrapnel from the Kiwi 155s...?!

It's all a bit sad really. I quite liked watching him on Nightly News on the rare occasion I stayed up late enough here in France. Sort of reminds me of the many occasions I was greeted warmly back in Rome a few years ago. My children would sometimes ride the trace horses as my favourite slave standing in the chariot beside me would whisper into my ear: "That all glory is fleeting".

Luckily, I cannot recall that I was ever in Vietnam. Or Iraq. Even in more recent times before the Alzheimer's set in. ;)

6th Feb 2015, 17:24

And Brian Williams has what to do with this thread?

It IS Friday airship. You have all weekend to recover, no doubt. :ok:

6th Feb 2015, 17:33
Hey! I actually just admitted to liking an American (admittedly not a Fox Corp. TV presenter) for a change. General, you have to learn to be grateful for small concessions on the part of the enemy...

PS. It's all history, innit?! ;)

6th Feb 2015, 17:39
Tokenism, so sad to see ... :cool: The year is 2015.

7th Feb 2015, 07:07
sprintman, if I may rephrase what you said to make it a little more clear to those not familiar with the battle. The survivors of 11 platoon, the platoon which bore the brunt of the main NVA/VC attacks, were forced to abandon the position they occupied for much of the battle and to leave their dead (and one wounded) behind. (This was immediately after the incident referred to above where they asked for arty to be directed on to their own position.) When they returned to that position the next morning, without exception, they found that their dead comrades were facing outwards, rifles in hand, and nearly all killed by wounds to their heads.

Not wishing to sound trite, but of you have to die as a soldier, those young men died as SOLDIERS in every best sense of the word. What no one has mentioned is how incredibly shabbily the Long Tan veterans were treated by the Australian Government and the Army hierarchy for quite some years afterwards, particularly (but not only) in the refusal to issue awards and accept awards from the South Vietnamese. There were also some very serious mistakes made by senior officers back at Nui Dat on the day which delayed the relief forces arrival by some considerable time and which could have resulted in tragedy but for the incredible professionalism and bravery of the men of D Company.

7th Feb 2015, 07:32

The conduct of Jackson (TF Commander) was excusable, he had to wait and see how the situation developed before committing all of his troops, thereby leaving Nui Dat unprotected against another attack.

The conduct of the 6th Battalion CO however was inexcusable because he let his personal animosity with Harry Smith (OC D Coy) cloud his judgement.

The APC Troop commander didn't help things much either, and if the two 9 Squadron Hueys and pilots werent in Nui Dat dropping off Col Joye and Little Patty there is no way they would have got that resupply from Vung Tau.

The Awards system at the time was an entire joke, not just in regards to the 6RAR at Long Tan. Harry Smith pushed for years to get individuals officially recognised and the awards that were given upgraded with some small reward in recent years.

Everything I've heard says that the D Company CSM WO2 Jack Kirby deserved the Victoria Cross at Long Tan. He was killed in a friendly fire incident a few months later and I think he got a DCM or something later.

7th Feb 2015, 09:35
Hempy, from everything I've read about Jack Kirby, I'd have to agree with you 100%. AS CSM, he was the man who saw that everyone was kept supplied with ammunition - and more importantly (and anyone who has been in a really shitty situation will say you can't overstate this) - he was that 'old soldier' calming influence that reassures a younger man that things maybe aren't as bad as they seem. And from what I've read, he was everywhere that day doing just that.

When I saw the Mel Gibson movie 'We Were Soldiers Once' (a halfway decent if incomplete adaption of the really good book, 'We Were Soldiers Once, and Young' about a not totally dissimilar battle three years earlier in the Au Shau valley), I thought the Sam Shepard character played a role very much along the same lines that Jack Kirby played at Long Tan.

Penny Lane (Cliff Dohle's co-pilot that day) is still around I think. It's a shame someone hasn't put him in front of a camera to tell his story. (Maybe the AWM has done so already?) I remember him saying that the viz was so bad, they had to rely on the grunts on the ground to tell them when they were overhead. As I recall, he said the second chopper was in trail 30 seconds behind the first and when the grunts said that the first chopper was passing overhead the very small company HQ harbour, the second chopper used that cue to commence an approach to the hover to kick off the ammunition.

Buster Hyman
7th Feb 2015, 12:03
You guys do know there's a new Movie in the works don't you?

Danger Close (http://dangerclosemovie.com/) with Sam Worthington playing Harry Smith.

7th Feb 2015, 21:10
Please, please, please tell me that what is shown in that link is NOT the actual film, please!

If it is the gawd help anyone associated with it!

However, I am slightly mollified to note that it is labelled a "sizzle reel" which is usually the concept film clip made by the producers to try and sell the concept to the money men.

7th Feb 2015, 21:47
Oh dear... that footage doesn't augur well for the finished product, does it?

US helmets, M1 and M16 rifles, and not a giggle hat ["hats, green, ridiculous, troops for the use of"] or SLR in sight.

I understand that Heath Ledger was slated to be the star originally. (I cringed at the thought of that - and I'm sure I wasn't the only one.)

Buster Hyman
7th Feb 2015, 22:44
Plovett, I recognised clips from Apocalypse Now & We were Soldiers in that. I don't think principle photography has commenced so 'sizzle reel' it is.

8th Feb 2015, 00:59
Agreed, chaps.
That has to be a 'sizzle reel' for all the reasons mentioned above.

Here's hoping we eventually get something that accurately reflects the actualities of the Battle,
the events leading up to it and the aftermath.

Just one question, though - How are they going to sell it without a sizzling hot babe co-starring?

Any nominations for that role?

8th Feb 2015, 01:33
She'll be the heroic VC medic that Sam has a tortured affair with in between attacks.

8th Feb 2015, 08:06
Easy Stanwell. Little Pattie was performing for the boys back at Nui Dat on the day. I'm sure we can engineer something around that. :}

Buster Hyman
8th Feb 2015, 09:55
Susan Boyle to play Little Pattie you mean?

8th Feb 2015, 10:27
Susan Boyle to play Little Pattie you mean?

Ouch! :ouch:



8th Feb 2015, 10:28
I can just imagine Susan Boyle, up in front of the troops, banging out...
"He's my blonde haired, stompie-wompie, real gone surfer boy!"
Even better, SB giving the blokes a demonstration of 'The Stomp'.

8th Feb 2015, 13:44
I'm fairly sure Capt. Stanley was presented with an Australian decoration for his efforts at Long Tan shortly before he passed away?

8th Feb 2015, 14:20
I'm fairly sure Capt. Stanley was presented with an Australian decoration for his efforts at Long Tan shortly before he passed away?

Morrie Stanley and a couple of other Kiwis were awarded the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry in 2010 after negotiations between the two governments. He received an MBE in 1967 for his service in Vietnam and at Long Tan in particular.

He seemed like a very taciturn fellow, and was 35 at the time of Long Tan. That age must have bought maturity because he was pretty much solely responsible for keeping the Vietnamese at bay for over two hours. Another remarkable man.

A Brief Autobiography - Morrie Stanley (PDF 8 pages) (http://battleoflongtan.reddunefilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Morrie-Stanley-Biography.pdf)

8th Feb 2015, 14:54

Perhaps a classic example of ANZAC's "doing the job" as we do......

RIP all involved, legends.....

8th Feb 2015, 21:49
From what I've read, a lot of the aforementioned 'c**t' came from, and was instilled in, the grunts by Harry Smith, who had worked them and himself hard, so that they knew they would be fighting hard, and could do so. No doubt the SNCOs also did a great job.

True leadership.