Remembrance important for all war involvements
IT was the battle that saw the highest number of Australian casualties incurred in any one single engagement of the Vietnam War.
This Saturday marks the 52nd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in which 105 men from D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and three New Zealand soldiers encounter a force of more than 2000 Viet Cong soldiers.
During the battle 17 Australians were killed and a further 25 were wounded, one of who later died of wounds.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, which lasted for 26 days from May 12 to June 6, 1968.
During the battles, 26 Australian soldiers lost their lives, 100 were wounded and at least 300 North Vietnamese were estimated killed.
While Barnawartha’s Robert Fontana wasn’t involved in the Vietnam conflict he served his country 25 years prior spending three and half years in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II.
Known by locals as ‘Bookie’, Mr Fontana volunteered in 1943 at just 18 years old.
Enlisted in Melbourne, Mr Fontana went to Shepparton for one month’s training before embarking to Canada for further service.
He progressed from aircraftsman when he joined to flight sergeant to warrant officer during his three and a half years of service and learned Morse code as part of wireless operator training.
As an Anzac himself Mr Fontana, 93, said remembrance occasions for all conflicts involving Australian forces were important for many people and a good opportunity for the younger generation to learn about Australia’s war history.
ANZAC VETERAN: Barnawartha’s ‘Bookie’ Fontana, a wireless operator in the Royal Australian Airforce in World War II shows off his service record and a photo.