Vietnam Veterans remembered
“Australians - we held the ground” - Brigadier David Westphalen
COMMEMORATING the 55th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan - the most memorable battle of the Vietnam War has become an annual event to remember those fallen, those who returned and some who still carry the scars of this conflict.
On August 18, 1966, in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan, Australian soldiers fought one of their fiercest battles of the Vietnam War.
And although not killed during that battle, last Wednesday August 18, 2021, was also a time to remember Mansfield National Service conscript Tony Purcell who perished in July of 1966, before Long Tan, during the Vietnam War.
“He was 21 years of age,” Brigadier David Wesphalen said.
Giving a brief outline of the Battle of Long Tan at Mansfield’s Memorial Gates to a small number of returned personnel, Brigadier Westphalen said it was the Delta Company 6th Battalion
Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), that faced a force of some 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.
The battle was fought in wet and muddy conditions during a heavy tropical downpour.
By the end of the day, 17 Australians had been killed in action and 25 were wounded, one of whom died a few days later.
This was the largest number of casualties in a single operation since the Australian
Task Force had established its base at nearby Nui Dat the previous April.
The Battle of Long Tan was a significant moment in Australia’s war in Vietnam.
“Today is also Vietnam Veterans Day and it is time to reflect on who those young men were,” Brigadier Westphalen said.
“They were basically National Servicemen who had been trained for only three months before being sent into battle.
“They were young, and although lives were lost, the following morning after Long Tan showed that the Delta had been held by the Australians - we had won that battle - we held the ground.
“The Australians went in carrying only 60 rounds of ammunition each, the guns had 500 rounds, they were using machine guns that were from World War II - a very poor weapon for jungle conditions - yet they held that ground.
“They did that through their bravery, their actions, their endurance and their teamwork.”
On August 18, Australians commemorate all the battles fought by Australians in Vietnam, from large-scale operations to platoon and section-level encounters and give thanks for their courage.
Wreaths were laid at the memorial gates in remembrance of that war by the Vietnam Veterans and the Mansfield RSL Sub-branch.