18 August 2016

Fifty years ago the Battle of Long Tan was fought.

This battle is one of the most significant engagements in the Vietnam War for Australian forces. It involved 105 Australians and three New Zealanders against a force of more than 2,000 Viet Cong soldiers.

After the Australian operations base at Nui Dat was fired upon by Viet Cong forces with mortars on the 17th August, the Australian and New Zealand troops were sent to the Long Tan rubber plantation.

The forces comprised the Delta (D) Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) and the New Zealand 161 Field Battery team.

The odds for the Australians were roughly 20 to one in this brutal battle, which saw the highest number of Australian casualties in any single engagement during the Vietnam War.

The Australians fought for their lives in tough conditions. It was pouring with rain and they faced rough terrain with mud, trees and mist being their only cover.

However, the courage of the Australians won the day against these overwhelming odds. They held off the Viet Cong forces, eventually repelling their numerically superior enemy back and forcing them to retreat.

During the battle, 18 Australians were killed and 21 Australians were wounded. On the Vietnam side, at least 245 were killed and an estimated 350 wounded.

It has been 50 years since the Battle of Long Tan was fought, and on the 18 August 2016 we remembered the great sacrifice Australian men made that day in 1966.

Significantly, the bravery and sacrifice of these diggers has been acknowledged with the announcement last week that 10 soldiers have now been recommended for bravery awards by the Government.

While this recognition has taken far too long, it is fitting that as we approach the fifty year commemoration of the Battle of Long Tan these men are finally given commendation. These awards recognise the gallantry and bravery displayed by these 10 men at the Battle of Long Tan.

We also take the opportunity to remember the 60,000 other men and women who served our nation during the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was marred by great loss and tragedy, not only for those directly involved, but also for their families and today we also recognise and pay tribute to them.

There was a time when our Vietnam veterans were not properly acknowledged or afforded the dignity and respect they deserved as returned service personnel. And, sadly we know that since many have suffered as a result of the trauma of their wartime experience.

While the war itself was politically contentious, there can be no doubt about the courage and sacrifice of those who served and who wore their uniform with pride.

They, like all those who have served and who serve today, deserve our greatest respect and admiration for their service and sacrifice for our nation.

On this anniversary though, we especially honour the service, bravery and sacrifice of those that served at the Battle of Long Tan.

Lest we forget.