56 - Fighting the Battle of Long Tan | The Principles of War Podcast
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This is Part III of our podcast interview with LT COL Harry Smith, the OC of Delta Coy / 6 RAR at the Battle of Long Tan.   If you missed the first episode, check it out here. Listen to the episode to get a great understanding of what the Battle of Long Tan was like from the perspective of the Company Commander. 

This podcast episode discusses what the actual mission was at Long Tan, the briefing that Harry got as he moved out from Nui Dat.  He talks about the Intelligence picture that Harry received as he was heading out into the Long Tan rubber plantation to relieve Bravo company.  The expected enemy was a Platoon + sized enemy force.

Harry talks about the delay in the North Vietnamese attack on the base at Nui Dat.  The initial plan was delayed because of a downed US aircraft and they set an ambush to trap relieving forces, but the ambush was never sprung.   What was the likelihood of an attack at Nui Dat?

As 11 Platoon becomes decisively engaged, Harry talks about the escalation of the battle from 11 Pls encounter of a squad of infantry, into a fully fledge Company defensive battle.  G

CAPT Morrie Stanley worked side by side with Harry to coordinate the artillery with the Platoon Commanders.  Starting with just 161 Bty NZ Artillery, Harry escalating the call for fire for the Regiment, including the 155mm SPGs.  The 155 mms were 6 M109 Self Propelled Guns from A Battery, 2/35th Artillery Regiment US Army.  Harry’s request for the support of the entire Regiment, including the American 155’s was an unusual request, and the Army hadn’t fired a Regimental Mission since Korea.

Harry requested Air Support and discusses why it wasn’t effective during the battle.  This is a good example of the ubiquitous nature of Artillery support.

The infantry fired 10,500 rounds of small arms ammunition.

Total Forces employed at Long Tan

Australia & New Zealand

  • 105 soldiers from D Coy, 6RAR
  • Three man New Zealand Artillery FO party, from 161 Battery, RNZA 

108 men

North Vietnamese and Viet Cong

  • 1,400-1,500 soldiers from 275 Viet Cong Main Force Regiment 
  • 400-500 soldiers from D445 Viet Cong Mobile Provincial Battalion
  • 200-500 soldiers from other 5th Viet Cong Division Elements

A total of approximately 2,000 – 2,500 troops faced off against D Coy, 6RAR. However, it is estimated approximately 1,500 to 2,000 only took direct part in attacking D Coy, 6RAR in the battle.

Total casualties from the Battle of Long Tan

Australia

  • 18 killed
    • 17 from Delta Company (D Coy), 6RAR
      • 11 National Servicemen, Australian Army
      • 6 Regular soldiers, Australian Army
    • One from 3 Troop, 1 APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) Squadron-died of wounds.
  • 24 members of D Coy WIA

 

North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC)

245+ killed – Officially, 245 bodies were counted on the battlefield by Australian soldiers. Later battlefield clearances found more bodies and body parts over the following days and weeks, the number of 245 isthe officially recorded casualty figure. Harry discussed with veterans of the battle on a visit to Vietnam and they reported that there were a total of 876 KIA or died of wounds on their side.

200+ WIA The Quartermaster’s (QM’s) notebook of the 275th Main Force VC Regiment was captured in early February 1968 by 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC) during Operation Coburg.  It describes  111 wounded personnel from 275 Regiment alone, but there are no details of WIA for D445.  275 Regiment was rendered practically ineffective in Phuoc Tuy Province after the battle of Long Tan until the Australians and New Zealanders left the province and Vietnam in 1971.

3 WIA NVA/Viet Cong soldiers were captured on the battlefield.

We’ve also interviewed Dave Sabben about the Battle of Long Tan who describes the battle from the perspective of a Platoon Commander.  Together they provide some great lessons for Officers and SNCOs looking at Company and Platoon tactics and also the psychological aspects of dealing with the stresses of a battle.

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