Page 3559 - Week 08 - Thursday, 18 August 2011

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the Vietnam Veterans Association of the ACT and District. It was held at the Australian National Vietnam Forces Memorial on Anzac Parade. I would like to thank Peter Ryan, the President of the Vietnam Veterans Association, who hosted. We also had the Principal Army Chaplain, Chaplain Geoffrey Webb, and we were treated to a wonderful speech from Bill Rolfe. There were also Australia’s Federation Guard, the band of the Royal Military College Duntroon, and Vietnam veteran “Major Voice” Robert Morrison, who, as always, was there and always is a wonderful addition to these types of events.

Today I also want to say some words to commemorate the Battle of Long Tan. Today is the 45th anniversary. I want to pay my respects on the 45th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. The Vietnam War was a conflict that occupies a special position for many Australians, and the Battle of Long Tan was one of the most important actions within that period.

On this day in 1966, soldiers of D Company of the 6th Battalion and attached New Zealanders had moved out to try to find the opposing forces who had bombarded the Australians with over 100 mortar rounds, wounding 24 and killing one. In a rubber plantation at 3.40 pm, they encountered an enemy force of regimental strength, far greater in numbers than their own force. The exact numbers are not settled, but Australian Vietnam veteran Bob Breen has written that “just over 100 diggers withstood the best efforts of over 1,500 Viet Cong soldiers to kill them”.

Wave after wave of enemy soldiers assaulted the Australians in their defensive positions. Time after time those attacks were driven back by soldiers with no defensive protections apart from the natural terrain. This was all done in extremely difficult conditions as monsoonal rains and rising mists enveloped the battlefield.

In the Presidential Citation awarded by Lyndon B Johnson, the President noted:

The enemy maintained a continuous, intense volume of fire and attacked repeatedly from all directions. Each successive assault was repulsed by the courageous Australians. Heavy rainfall and low ceiling prevented any friendly close air support during the battle. After three hours of savage attacks, having failed to penetrate the Australian lines, the enemy withdrew from the battlefield carrying many dead and wounded, and leaving 245 Viet Cong dead forward of the defence positions of D Company.

The conspicuous courage, intrepidity and indomitable courage of D Company were to the highest tradition of military valor and reflect great credit upon D Company and the Australian Army.

It has been noted that the battle has achieved similar symbolic significance for the Australian military as the Gallipoli campaign has for the First World War, or the Kokoda Track campaign for the Second World War. It exemplified the fighting spirit of the Australians, and strengthened yet again the Anzac bond shared by those New Zealand and Australian forces, and the support the Australian forces received from the United States.

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