Red mus­tang of his mem­o­ries

Harry Smith’s new ride is a blast from his army past

Sunshine Coast Daily - Caloundra Weekly - - LIFE - Tracey John­stone & Tessa Pa­trick

HARRY Smith de­vel­oped a love for beau­ti­ful cars through­out his later years.

He owns a 2017 bright red Ford Mus­tang coupe, that takes him back to his past.

“It looks good, a head-turner, and it rides and drives nicely, like the 1966 model I had when in the USA with the Army in 1972,” he said.

For Lieu­tenant Colonel Smith, now 85, it was the day in 1966 “my com­pany of 105 sol­diers ... got brassed-up by over 2000 North Viet­namese and reg­u­lar army, and we de­feated them with mas­sive ar­tillery sup­port and the gal­lantry of my own sol­diers.

“Sadly, I lost 17 who were killed and 24 wounded that day. It’s al­ways been the sad part of my life.”

Harry re­mem­bers the bat­tle was fought in mon­soonal con­di­tions, which helped mask the lo­ca­tion of the Aus­tralian sol­diers.

“The en­emy used to run tele­phone wires along the ground so that they could give or­ders as they didn’t have many ra­dios,” he said.

“The ar­tillery shrap­nel cut their tele­phone lines so they had to send or­ders by run­ners. Con­se­quently, they weren’t as or­gan­ised as they could have been. The rain, the ar­tillery smoke and ev­ery­thing else lim­ited their abil­ity to lo­cate us.

“But, when they did lo­cate us, we were in a well-de­fended po­si­tion. I had al­ready lost about 13 or 14 sol­diers by the time the ma­jor as­sault came in and then we lost an­other four. We were able to re­pel them.

“They took so many ca­su­al­ties and with­drew and went home. Ba­si­cally, we can say, they were de­feated.”

That story rolls off the for­mer com­pany com­man­der’s lips with care and solem­nity that de­fines why Harry sought peace for the last 35 years through spend­ing ev­ery con­ceiv­able minute blue­wa­ter sail­ing.

When he re­turned from Viet­nam Harry joined the com­man­dos in Syd­ney and headed over­seas to para­chute jump with Bri­tish, Cana­dian and US air forces.

He re­turned to Aus­tralia to take over the para­chute school at Wil­liamtown air force base as the first army com­mand­ing of­fi­cer.

“We trained about 600 of­fi­cers a year, in­clud­ing girls,” Harry said.

“I was re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing the girls in,” he added with pride in his voice.

His last jump forced him to re­tire from the army. He was test jump­ing the Papil­lon para­chute and it didn’t open prop­erly – re­sult­ing in him da­m­ag­ing his back.

After a few years work­ing in the cor­po­rate world for a life-raft man­u­fac­turer, Harry headed to the ocean.

He has clocked up close to 240,000km. In later years his third wife Feli­cia joined Harry to cruise and race.

Ev­ery year since the war he has at­tended a Long Tan Day com­mem­o­ra­tive func­tion. This year he was at the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial for a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment in his life and of those who fought at Long Tan – the un­veil­ing of the per­ma­nent home of the Long Tan Cross.

The cross was orig­i­nally erected on the bat­tle­field, but re­moved by the North Viet­namese at the end of the war.

In 2017 the cross was given to the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial.

PHOTO: WAR­REN LYNAM

MY RIDE: Bat­tle of Long Tan vet­eran Harry Smith with his Mus­tang.

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