Red mustang of his memories
Harry Smith’s new ride is a blast from his army past
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.
MY RIDE: Battle of Long Tan veteran Harry Smith with his Mustang.