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Long Tan Cross dedicated

17 August 1969: A and D Companies of 6 RAR landed by helicopter near the former battle site of Long Tan in the then Republic of VietNam and secured the area. The next morning, infantrymen and assault pioneers cleared the area around the location where 11 Platoon of D Company had conducted a last stand during the battle on 18 August 1966.

An RAAF bushranger then delivered the cross to the site. The remainder of the battalion arrived during the morning, and 6 RAR’s chaplain led a ceremony to dedicate the memorial. Ten men from the battalion who had fought in the battle stood at the side of the cross throughout the proceedings.

The ceremony concluded before noon, and 6 RAR returned to the nearby major Australian base at Nui Dat; D Company was the last element of the battalion to leave the site.

The inscription on the cross reads: “In Memory of those members of D Coy 6 RAR and 3 Tp 1 APC Sqn who gave their lives near this spot during the Battle of Long Tan on 18th August 1966. Erected by 6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Bn 18 Aug 69”.

Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated on 18 August each year. The day was originally known as Long Tan Day, chosen to commemorate the men of D Company, 6RAR who fought in the battle of Long Tan in 1966. On that day, 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against over 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan.

The Australians prevailed, but only after fighting in torrential rain for four hours. They were nearly overrun, but were saved by a timely ammunition resupply, accurate artillery fire from the nearby Australian base, and the arrival of reinforcements by armoured personnel carrier.

Eighteen Australians lost their lives and 24 were wounded, the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier. After the battle the bodies of 245 enemy soldiers were found, but there was evidence that many more bodies had been carried away.

Over time, all Vietnam veterans adopted the day as one to commemorate those who served and died in Vietnam. In 1987, following the very successful Welcome Home parade for Vietnam veterans in Sydney, Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced that Long Tan Day would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.

Since then, it has been commemorated every year as the day on which the service of all those men and women who served in Vietnam is remembered.

Read the LTCOL Harry Smith SG MC (D Company commander at the battle) article here;

Lest we forget.

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