A Pictorial History of the "Long Tan Cross"
In 1969, 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion placed a concrete Cross in the Long Tan rubber plantation on the 11 Platoon position.  This web page seeks to provide a history - mainly in pictures - of the original and replica Crosses.
Last updated 25 Sept 2017

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Apology:
As this web article is written
for a mainly military audience, certain military abbreviations and acronyms have been used. A web search will quickly expand and explain these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Allan McLean in 2012 and
Barry McAvinue
in 2013


The original brass plaque
(compare with replica below)


The delivery of
the original Cross

(Photo: Denis Gibbons AM)
 


Click here to download the Order of Service used on the day - 1 A4 page Word doc (view at 200%).
(Courtesy: Denis Gibbons AM)

 

 

 

The Pipers play the Lament
On parade next to the Cross:
LCpl AKELL, William Alexander
Sgt BEERE, John Ernest
Cpl BLACK, Gordon John (
Piper)
Cpl BROWN, Richard Denis
LCpl CAMPBELL, Malcolm Graham
Cpl HALLS, Brian
Cpl NEWLAND, David Guy (
Piper)
Cpl O'ROURKE, William James
SSgt RANKIN, Neil Jackson
Cpl REILLY, Brian Richard
Cpl RICHARDSON, George Robert


1969: 2Lt John Neervoort, OC Tracker Pl, 6RAR/NZ(ANZAC) with tracker dog Trajan.


Dec 1969 photo taken by Trevor Hopper


1970: Four Long Tan vets at the battle site for the 4th anniversary. Left to right -  Sgt Murray Broomhall, Sgt John Beere, Cpl Robin Rencher and Sgt Bill O'Donnell.
© Australian War Memorial

 

 

 

 


The version of the Catholic priest's grave is found in DUTY FIRST, June 1995, Vol 1, No 8, Pg 55.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** - A source in Vietnam has suggested that the plaque displayed in the Dong Nai Museum is in fact another replica and the 'real' original plaque is stored in the Museum vaults, and that a 'backup replica' of the Cross also exists.

** - Translation of Dong Nai Museum catalogue entry 1988: “…In the catalogue record for the cross, its significance is described as ‘evidence to the crime and the utter defeat of the American Empire and its allies involved in the war in Vietnam’ (Dong Nai Museum 1988).” in Witcomb, Andrea, 2012 (in press) 'The Long Tan Memorial Cross(es): On Memory, affect and atonement', Historic Environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Webmaster's note:  I favour Burstall's account as there appears no photographic record of a replica cross standing in the plantation before 1989, and the 1989 decisions by the Long Dat Peoples' Committee fit better with the 1989 date (see following paras).

 

 

 

 

 


The D445 Bn memorial plaque next to the cross.  It reads:
Democratic Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Department of Culture
Recognising: Historical Vestige.
War Remnant: D445 Baria-Long Khanh Province
met 6 Battalion Royal Australian Army
in Long Tan Village 18/8/1966
Erected 09/4/1989
Office of Culture and Information/ Long Dat

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Cross in the Rubber in 1991...   

 

 


The Cross in the open in 1995...
(Pic: Brian 'Chick' Hennessy, ex-6RAR)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


May 1996: Battle of Coral vet, Colin 'Crossey' Cross with his wife, Rosanne visit the L T Cross.

 


Cross - June 1997 - L to R:
Alexander "Sandy "McGregor  MC
Engineers SVN  65/66,
  Bruno Perosin Engineers SVN 67/68,
Kerry Phelan Engineers SVN 67/68,
Ken Norris Navy SVN 1968,
Gary Blomeley  Medic SVN 1969.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lisa Filipetto (Consul General, HCMC) and Peter Michelson (Pres AVVRG) at the Cross in 2003.

 

 

 

 


1999 - John Nolan, RAAMC 1ARU 67-68 & AATTV 1972, at the Cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER 2009
Henry Chisholm (Sgt, B Coy, 6RAR)
and
Dave Sabben (2Lt, D Coy, 6RAR), both 6RAR first tour, stand beside the original Long Tan Cross, now at the Dong Nai Museum.


The replica brass plaque
(compare with original above)
and the plaque that is used today:

(Pic C Hili, 26 Jan 2016)

2000

 


Long Tan vet Graham Smith was President of the 6RAR Assn in the mid-90s and was instrumental in raising money for the Long Tan Cross restoration.  (Pic 2010)

 

 


2001
Overgrown & needing some TLC

 

 


Rod Burgess (in 2010)

 

 

2002

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Australia Vietnam Volunteers Resource Group
(formerly the "Australian Vietnam Veterans Reconstruction Group")
is the custodian of the Long Tan
Cross.  Please see their website:
http://avvrg.org.au

 


Handover of the restored cross to AVVRG - L to R: Aust Consul-General Stephen Henningham, Rod Burgess and Peter Michelson.

 

 

 

 

 

2005


October 2005:
The Hon Bruce Billson visited the Cross when he was Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, responsible for the day-to-day operations of AusAid, which funded some AVVRG initiatives.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


Long Tan Police Station -
holders of the metal plaque
...
photo courtesy of Colin Howie and Pauline Downing.


Kevin Rudd (then, Leader of the Opposition) meets current (2007 -2012) Cross caretaker, Graeme 'Breaker' Cusack.  Breaker was with 6RAR during the battle and was responsible for loading the ammo onto the resupply choppers.

 

2006:
CONTROVERSY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2006 July:
Bob Buick (formerly, Sgt, 11 Platoon)
 and
Dave Sabben (formerly, OC 12 Platoon) visit the site.  For each, it was their first return to the battlefield since the war.
 


18 Aug 2006
John Schumann ("I Was Only 19") and Mick Storen (the man the song was about) at the Cross
(Photo scanned from
The Australian, 26 April 2007)


2006 Nov:
P M John Howard and
Mrs Janette Howard visit

 

 

2007:
CONTROVERSY

 


2007 ANZAC Day Dawn Service
AVVRG's Paul Murphy lights joss sticks to honour the fallen.
(This & Bishop photos scanned from
The Australian, 26 April 2007)

 

2008


 


At the Cross - 18 Aug 2008
Derek Smith (1 Fd Sqn), Bill Tweddell (Australian Ambassador, Hanoi) and
Derek's wife, Rhonda.
 



Feb 2009
VietVet Greg Norris No1 Ops Support (Ground-Air Photographer), RAAF 70-71 with wife Sue at the Cross.

 

2009
VISIT BY SERVING
D/6 SOLDIERS PRIOR TO
DEPLOYMENT TO
AFGHANISTAN

 

 

 

 


March 2010
VietVets John Haward C Sqn 1Armd Regt 68-69, Stan Middleton 2AOD 67-68 and Rod Burgess C & B Sqns 1 Armd Regt 68069 at the Cross.
(Stan Middleton photo.)
 

2011
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012
ONCE AGAIN,
THE SOUND OF
PIPES AT THE CROSS

 

 

 

 

 


April 2012 - Neil Rankin, formerly Sgt, 10 Pl at Long Tan in 1966 and also at the 6RAR original Cross ceremony in 1969, visits the cross.

 

 

 

2012
This elevated path will avoid the muddy access road of previous years - particularly in the wet season.  The apron to the forecourt has also been raised and concreted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


July 2012

Original Cross unpacked...
...and exposed

(Photos from AWM's Facebook page)


Governor-General, Quentin Bryce AC CVO with
Harry Smith SG, MC at AWM 17 Aug 2012


August 2012
AWM Official Historian Ashley Ekins with former Sgt 6RAR Pioneer Platoon (and responsible for the construction of the original cross) Allan McLean at the unveiling of the cross, AWM, 17 Aug 12012.
(AWM photo.)

August 18 2012

18 August 2012 - Australian Ambassador Hugh Borrowman addresses the 700 attendees at the Long Tan Day service.

 


A PROBUS RETREAT - 2012...
...photo courtesy of Colin Howie
and Pauline Downing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Smith, Roberts and Richards
farewell the Cross - 12 June 2013...
(AWM photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


June 2014 - the holes are dug
for the new rubber trees.  A
few years before there's shade
at the Long Tan Cross.
(I don't have a credit for this pic.
If it's yours, please advise...).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2014 - The Legacy of the Long Tan Cross lives with "Long Tan" Company, RMC Duntroon...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the trees gone, the Long Tan Cross site looked like something important was missing.  Still, some 500 visitors assembled at the Cross for the Dawn Service.
Photo: Les Crutchfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


Incidentally, bullet shells and shrapnel fragments are still being found on the battlefield.  Jason Fenech (ex-6RAR, Timor, who lives nearby Long Tan) uses these relics to construct memorabilia and "trench art".  If you are interested in enquiring or acquiring, visit
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Diggers-Rest/

 

 


26 Jan 2016 - pic Charles Hili

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


"BUNFIGHT AT LONG TAN"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 2 Sept 2016,
things at the cross site
were "back to normal":

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


April 2017 - the cross is still there
and on the tourist visiting list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cross appears on much Vietnam War memorabilia too:      Lapel badges


Gold L T Cross lapel badge
for the 50th anniversary of
Australian troops in VN 62-72



A replica Long Tan Cross
is on display in the
Maryborough Military Museum...


...and another is at the
National Vietnam Veterans' Museum,
Phillip Island.


(Photo: Robert Buick)
Above & below: 80 Mile Beach Caravan Park
(about 400 km South of Broome)

(Photo: Bob Morrow)


At Lakeland...
...after the devastating fires.


At Kirra, Queensland
(Photo from Bill Roche)


A wood replica of the L T Cross
in the "Gordon Sharp Room" (Officer
Cadet's Mess) at RMC Duntroon.
(Photo from Capt. Rob Pinkerton,
OC, Long Tan Company, RMC, 2014)


Bribie Island: Vietnam Veterans' Park,Toorbul Street, Bongaree (opposite the RSL Club)


Standown Caravan Park
(near Gympie, Qld)


Gatton RSL, Gatton
(Lockyer Valley, S E Qld)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bookings are now open for the
October 2018 Long Tan Trek Tour
and the extension to battlefields north.
(Click here for more...)

--------------------- The "LONG TAN CROSS" ---------------------

A Photo History of the "Long Tan Cross"
(a current and ongoing project)

<This site is intended to be a record for interest only.  All care but limited research means the contents of the page may not be 100% accurate.  If you see an error, please advise email address below.  I apologise in advance if I have made any mistakes.>

Your contribution is requested:
*     any photo which shows the Cross clearly;
*     the date (year and month) the photo was taken;
*     The names, units, etc of anyone in the photos you want mentioned;
*     Your permission to publish the photo and details on the Web.

* Please send photo and details via email to < sabben@ozemail.com.au >

=====================

A Photo History of the "Long Tan Cross"

OVERVIEW
The Battle of Long Tan took place in the rubber plantation to the north of Long Tan village, Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam on 18 August 1966.  An ANZAC force of 108 men comprising 105 of Delta Company 6RAR plus a three-man artillery party attached from 161 Battery (NZ artillery) met and fought an enemy force of some 2000-2500, comprising 275 Regiment, 5th Div (NVA), D445 Provincial Battalion (VC) and other NVA and VC units.  The battle lasted for about 3.5 hours from 3:40pm to 7:00pm.

The enemy were on their way to attack the 1ATF base at Nui Dat.  Unable to overrun D/6, or to bypass them, the enemy plans to attack the base were thwarted.  Having suffered horrendous casualties, they started to withdraw as the elements of B/6 arrived about 7.00pm.  The APC & A/6 reinforcement force arrived at 7.10pm, having chased the last enemy out to the east.

During the course of the battle, other Australian units became involved, including part of B/6 and 3 Troop 1APC Sqn carrying A/6 and a small 6Bn HQ party.  At Nui Dat, the Artillery Fire Control Centre and 103 and 105 Batteries RAA joined with the New Zealand 161 Bty who were already in Direct Support of D/6 from the start. Two helicopters from 9 Sqn RAAF (which had brought the 'Col Joye & Little Pattie' concert party to the base) flew the ammunition resupply mission.  US 155mm artillery and USAF Phantom jets also contributed.

The Australian casualties were 17 KIA (Killed In Action) and 23 WIA (Wounded In Action) from D/6, 1 crewman WIA - Died of Wounds 9 days later - from 3 Troop, 1APC and 1 WIA from B/6 (caused by 'friendly fire' from A/6 on the APCs).  A/6 sustained some injuries within the APCs.

Enemy casualties have never been fully documented but losses have been estimated at up to 800 dead/missing and over 1200 wounded.  While these figures appear unrealistic, it should be noted that more than ten thousand small arms rounds were fired across open sights, some 3200 rounds of 105mm artillery were fired in close support (25 to 250 yards from D/6), plus some 300 155mm rounds were fired.  A napalm & HE airstrike was made on reserve forces in depth.  (The 3200 105mm rounds is a conservative estimate - some accounts make it more than twice that many.)

While the battle raged and the outcome was far from certain, C Company of 6RAR 'stood to' in defence of the 6RAR base position at Nui Dat.  Soon after first light on the next day, C/6 joined D/6 in the return to the battlefield where both Companies started to clean up as other units pushed further East following the retreating enemy force.  The carnage of the battlefield was replicated along the major withdrawal routes where the haste of the withdrawal and the presence of hastily-constructed field hospitals and graves emphasised the scale of the casualties inflicted.

On the 20th and the 21st, C/6 joined elements of D/5, A/6, B/6, APCs and other units as they followed up the retreating enemy forces ("Operation Smithfield") while the survivors of D/6 continued to clear the battlefield and bury the last of the enemy bodies.  At least 245 enemy bodies were buried on the battlefield and dozens more (not included in the official number) were buried nearby, with further dozens of un-investigated graves marking the withdrawal lines.  While these burials were documented and advised to SVN authorities, there was no attempt to retrieve and re-inter the dead while the ANZACs remained in the Province.

After the battle, the area was noted by those who visited or patrolled through it as a place of reverence, hallowed ground, a sombre area, highlighted by the fact that equipment and bones were constantly being exposed by subsequent rain...

On their second tour of operations in SVN, 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion erected a cross on the former battleground.  This cross has become known as "The Long Tan Cross" and has become a symbol not only of the iconic battle but of the whole ANZAC commitment to the defence of South Vietnam.

The Long Tan rubber plantation remained a special place to the ANZAC forces and to the former enemy forces, as will be seen below...

THE ORIGINAL CROSS - 1969

The original idea of the placement of a Cross as a memorial came from a meeting in late 1968 at HQ, 6RAR, Lavarack Barracks, Townsville.  It was triggered by the 18 Aug 1968 presentation of the US PUC to D/6.  Present at the meeting were the CO, Lt Col David Butler, the 2IC, Maj Leonard Johnson and the Adj, Capt M Harris.

Once in Vietnam for 6RAR's second tour, a special operation was mounted for 18 August 1969.  The 6RAR Pioneer Platoon Cpl Barry McAvinue constructed the cross, supervised by Sgt Allan McLean.  RAEME Nui Dat provided the brass plaque and wording by RSM, WO1 Jim Cruickshank was inscribed:

In memory of those members of D Coy and 3 Tp 1APC Sqn
who gave their lives near this spot during the battle of Long Tan
on 18th August 1966. Erected by 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Bn 18 August 69.

6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion mounted 'Operation Long Tan' on 18 Aug 1969.  A nine foot unpainted concrete cross was helicoptered in and planted in the position that 11 Platoon had defended for most of the battle.  The original plaque faced south (as does the replica at the site today).





The 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Pioneer Platoon

position the Cross: Left to Right:
Sgt A McLean (edge of pic),
 Privates O Evans,
R Hutson,
K Cooper,
K Pearce (head only),
Cpl B McAvinue (with back to camera),
Privates B Guthrie,
R Laskowski
and K Burge.
 

 

 

 


 

With the area defended, a service was conducted remembering the dead of the battle and the whole war to date.  Ten soldiers who had been at the battle in 1966 or in D/6 at the time lined up on either side of the cross.  Two pipers played the Lament.

 


After the placement ceremony and after all the Rifle Companies had returned to Nui Dat, the stay-behind party, John Neervoort's Tracker Pl, 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC), did a final clearance and left.

For the remainder of the ANZAC's war in Phuoc Tuy Province, the Cross stood in the rubber plantation as it was left.  Patrols swept the area occasionally but the battlefield remained otherwise untouched.
 


The final patrol by 6RAR in May 1970 was led by Capt James Horan.  It went to the Cross and, after checking for mines and booby traps, they washed it down, polished up the brass plaque and held a farewell service.  The Cross was in good condition but the chain had been pilfered.

The last ANZAC combat forces left Vietnam in 1971, and the remainder of the forces in 1972 and early 1973 as per the Paris Peace Accords.**

This was the end of the Second Indo-China War.  The Cross was intact and standing when the ANZACs left.

** VietVets maintain that "their" war in Vietnam ended with the implementation of
the Paris Peace Accords in 1972/3 and reject the notion that "the war" ended
with the fall of Saigon in 1975.  In January 1973, Australia's Governor General,
Sir Paul Hasluck, told the Parliament and the people of Australia
"...Hostilities in Viet Nam have ceased...".
The Media has made into an 'urban legend' the idea that "we lost the war"
because Saigon ultimately fell.  They ignore the fact that there had been no
American, ANZAC or foreign allied forces in Vietnam for more than two years
before the North invaded the South in 1975, starting the Third IndoChina War.
Indeed, Australia had established diplomatic relations with Hanoi on our exit in 1973.

 

AFTER OUR WAR (1973) AND THE 3rd INDOCHINA WAR - 1975

After Saigon fell in 1975, the new government retrieved what VC/NVA remains they could find and reburied them in various "Hero Cemeteries" in the Province.  The authorities had the original Cross knocked down but the debris and the site remained in the rubber plantation.

Some time later, in one version, a (Catholic) farmer retrieved the Cross and erected it on the grave of his son (an alternative story has it that the son erected it on the grave of his father).  Another version (see the DUTY FIRST extract at left) is that a local Catholic community had been searching for a suitable memorial for their deceased parish priest and utilised the Cross.  The deceased's name was painted on the crossbar and is still visible under the re-paintings of the original Cross:

The brass plaque had been taken off the Cross and used as a BBQ plate.

The 1980s

According to the DUTY FIRST account, in 1984 "a veteran of the Battle of Long Tan" (presumably a Vietnamese veteran since no Australians have come forward as visiting in 1984) located the Cross and plaque.  They were re-located to Bien Hoa's Dong Nai Museum where they were (and still are) displayed as 'war trophies'.**  Replicas were made and a replica of each was erected at the battle site in 1986.  Surprisingly, the Museum catalogue entry gives no hint at the true meaning of the Cross to Australians.**

When the Australian authorities found out about the find, they requested the Cross and plaque be repatriated to Australia.  This request was refused.

A contrary account is found in Terry Burstall's book A Soldier Returns, from which approval has been given to quote: It would appear Burstall asked after the Cross on a visit to Vietnam in 1986 (pg 88) but "no one seemed to know what had become of it".  He relates the story of the farmer having put the cross on his (Christian) father's grave.  On his next visit in 1987, the Cross had been found (pg 134) but the plaque was still missing.  He viewed the Cross (pg 136-7) which was at that time broken off at its base and was stored in a shed.  He later (pg 148) records seeing the plaque and having had it offered to him to take back to Australia but "I said no".


Burstall: the original cross & plaque in storage 1986...   ...the replica erected in the plantation in 1989

On a subsequent visit in 1989 he "saw the [original] cross again at the War Museum in Bien Hoa City" [Dong Nai] (pg 137) and was also "privileged to see the replica cross erected in the plantation at Long Tan" [in 1989].

Since the versions are inconsistent, both are given (but see webmaster's note).

Meanwhile, in Australia in 1987, the Viet Vets had arranged and held the "Welcome Home Parade" in Sydney.  The success in gaining recognition resulted in then PM, Bob Hawke, announcing in 1988 that 18 August would henceforth be known as "Vietnam Veterans' Day", in recognition of the entire involvement in Vietnam and its cost.  (Incidentally, NZ also has 18 August as their Vietnam Veterans' Day.)

The awakening awareness of and interest in Vietnam arising from all these actions makes it likely that the Long Dat Peoples' Committee would have been influenced to take the initiative of replacing the Cross in 1989.  They would have hoped to draw tourists to their area and bolster their economy.  At the site, they erected a replica Cross with a replica brass plaque and placed replica posts around the Cross.  The plaque appears to have been attached to a separate plinth - not to the Cross.  The area was still a rubber plantation, but the trees were old and had been damaged by the battle and subsequent H&I shelling.

Also in 1989, and part of the same initiative, a memorial plaque to D445 was added to the site.  That's the D445 plaque to the right of the cross and plinth.  (note the Cross plaque now appears to be on the plinth.)

However, it is understood that local RVN (Southerners) vandalised the VC plaque as a sign of their disrespect for the Northern government (see later pic).  It has been said that the D445 plaque was vandalised several times but was replaced each time.

 

THE EARLY-to-MID 1990s


A photo taken in April 1991 shows the cross within its post perimeter with the plinth and D445 marker in the background.  Left to right: Peter Ward HQ AFV [now dec’d], John Bowles 110 Sig Sqn ND Detachment, Colin Bermingham 7 RAR (first tour), Geoff Tobin 1 Fd Sqn, John (can someone help with a surname?) RAEME and Albie Cunningham 102 Fd Wksp [now dec’d].  (Photo John Bowles)

Some time soon after 1991, the rubber plantation was cut down and the area was used as a corn field.

 
...and in the open in 1995...                                   ...and in the crops Oct 1995...
                                                                                               (Pic from John Fairley.)

The replica Cross, plinth and posts remained.  In the pic below, note the D445 plaque to the right has been vandalised.  Nui Dat 2 is in background.

In the time the area was a cornfield, the slight rise on which D/6 made their final stand during the battle was ploughed or eroded away and the northern parts of the former plantation suffered erosion into the creek between the plantation and the hill.  This is the only significant change to the topography of the battle area since 1966.  The road system remains unchanged.

In the early 1990s, interest was gathering with more and more Australian Veterans seeking out the battlefield and viewing the (replica) Cross.  It came to the attention of the authorities and discussions were held to have the site become an approved memorial.  The Australian Ambassador in Hanoi, Ms Susan Boyd, the Consul-General in HCMC, Mr Peter Baxter, Vet Albie Cunningham and others were involved at this stage but nothing definitive eventuated and the site remained unrecognised - at least at the official level.

In February 1995, The Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, Con Sciacca, made a one-off grant of $7000 to Albie Cunningham’s group, 'Australians in Vietnam' with the proviso that the grant did not signify ownership.  Sciacca also said that the Government did not believe it was yet the time to approach the Government of Vietnam about recognition.  He went on to say, "With regard to the Long Tan Cross, the Government takes the view that the Cross is essentially a unit memorial and its preservation is principally a matter for the 6th Battalion RAR Association and other relevant Vietnam veterans' groups".  The group ‘Australians in Vietnam’ had no relationship with the 6RAR Association.

Despite the $7000 grant, the Cross remained unchanged.  Visitors to the Cross continued to have concerns at the state of the Cross area and, understanding that the Cross had started out as a 6RAR Unit Memorial, were directing comments, advice and even complaints to the 6RAR Association.

The 6RAR Association had been formed in August 1986 and by the mid-90s, then President Brigadier Mike Harris MC and Vice President (ex-D/6 and Long Tan Vet) Graham Smith were responsible for correspondence by the Association on the subject of the Long Tan Cross.  The Association produced a formal proposal to restore the Long Tan Cross site.

In 1996 the Official historians from the AWM, Ian O'Neill and Ashley Ekins, visited Vietnam and viewed the original cross stored at the Dong Nai Museum:

The Original Long Tan Cross in 1996 while in storage at the Dong Nai Museum - Ashley Ekins photos.
The cross was brought out of storage and laid in the car park for them to photograph.  It was later put on display....

 

Aug 1996: the Cross
in the cornfield
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the Hon Bruce Scott, laying a poppy at the Long Tan cross site during the ‘Vietnam Revisited: Three Decades On’ Pilgrimage, 17 August 1996. [Dept of Veterans’ Affairs photograph]

 

Also Aug 1996 at the
Dong Nai Museum

Susanne Jewry, NOK to
L Cpl Jack Jewry,
KIA at Long Tan,
lays a note and poppy
beside the original Cross.
[Photo: Sydney Herald 19 Aug 1969]

 

Visits to the site in 1995-9 saw progress of the initiative and at the same time, the cornfield was once again planted with rubber.  Apart from the Cross, other initiatives were being undertaken in the former Phuoc Tuy Province by individuals and groups like the AVVRG - the Hoa Long School was re-roofed, an orphanage was built in Baria, medical and dental initiatives were planned and launched and other projects were being undertaken.

By 1997, Graham Smith was President of the 6RAR Assn and commenced corresponding by email with Lt Col Peter Michelson (Ret) who resided in Vietnam and worked for the International Red Cross.  Peter’s wife, Lisa Filipetto, was later to become the Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City.  Michelson traveled widely in his work and was able to provide Smith with a great deal of information.  He was also (at that time), President (VN) of the Australian Vietnam Veterans Reconstruction Group (AVVRG).  (This role was later filled by Rod Burgess in about March 2001.)  Both Michelson and Filipetto were able to progress the Long Tan Cross initiative with the Baria Vungtau Peoples' Committee and the Union of Friendship in Vung Tau - both of which would become instrumental in getting Vietnamese approval for the 6RAR Assn plans.

Michelson, incidentally, had been OC Delta Company, 6RAR during the 1980s.

THE LATE 1990s

In the late 1990s, the cornfield once again became a rubber plantation.  The B&W photo (that's Trevor Hopper beside the cross) was taken in 1999 and shows newly planted trees.  The brass plaque was now being held at the Long Tan Police Station.  Hopper, a Viet Vet who had seen the cross in 1969, believed the plate and the cross were still the originals at that time.  The originals were in fact in the Dong Nai Museum, but this is testament to the faithfulness of the replicas to the originals.  The Cross and surrounding posts had been newly painted white but the site was still not a formal Memorial site.

 

(Flash forward to "today":)

The original Cross and plaque are still on display at the Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa, where they can be seen by visitors in their Vietnam War era display.

However, a special loan of the Cross was made to the AWM,
which displayed the Cross in Canberra from August 2012 to early June 2013.
See the reports and updates under "2012" below...

 

RETURN TO THE EARLY 2000s

In 2000, the site was looking neglected.  A visit by John ("J P") O'Halloran shows the area rough and unkempt.  John was the former 2Lt commanding 5 Platoon, B Coy 6RAR who, with elements of the B/6 CHQ, had been searching for the enemy baseplate positions on 17 Aug '66 and who stayed out in the field to meet with D/6 for lunch on the 18th.

Once the battle started, OC D/6, Harry Smith, requested the B/6 elements (32 strong) who were then on their way back to base, return to  reinforce D/6.  CO 6RAR, Colin Townsend, then halted B/6 and told them to await an order to return to D/6.  The order was delayed for over an hour and was finally given after 5:30pm.

B/6 then made their way to D/6, arriving a few minutes before 7:00pm, having been mortared along the way.  They arrived immediately after the last shots of the battle had been fired.

By June 2000, the site had fallen into disrepair again.  The area was overgrown, but still intact and formal Vietnam Government recognition of the Long Tan Cross was still a dream. Graham Smith stepped aside from his committee position in the 6 RAR Association with the intent of forming The Long Tan Cross Memorial Fund (LTCMF) to focus solely on the issue of the Cross. The aim was to gain official (Vietnam Government) recognition for the site, raise funds and renovate the Cross and area.  By this time the Cross had become more than just a 6RAR or even a Regimental Memorial - it had become the unofficial ANZAC icon of the war.


The LTCMF was formed with a representative from Navy, Air force and several from Army including Paul Murphy, founder of the AVVRG, John Heslewood (LTVA) and LtCol Kel Ryan (Ret) as Chair.  Smith was the Secretary and communicated frequently with Peter Michelson who had commenced negotiations in Vietnam.

Michelson was hopeful that negotiations with Government and local officials would lead to a positive result in February 2001 after a site meeting, however it is thought political tensions at the time meant going back to square one.

Later in the year Michelson’s wife, Lisa Filipetto, near the end of her commission as C-G, decided to invite the Chairman of the Baria Vungtau Peoples Committee to a special private service at Long Tan.  The Chairman was moved enough to ask that the AVVRG re-submit the earlier application.  It was re-submitted and in September 2001 the Committee Chairman granted permission for renovations to the site.  The stipulation was that local (Vietnamese Contractors) must do the work.

The AVVRG continued at their end then with submitting the plans the LTCMF had prepared and calling for quotes.  The final quote was for AUD $5,885.  AVVRG paid a 50% deposit and the LTCMF paid AVVRG $5,885.

In total, the LTCMF raised $27,005.79.  Of this amount, all except for a few administrative costs were passed on to the AVVRG.  The cost of renovations to the Cross at $5,885 being small in comparison to a donation to the Long Tan Kindergarten (an AVVRG Project) of $24,615.00.  The LTCMF was to be closed with a balance of $1,959.48 remaining.  This sum was also donated to the ongoing work of the AVVRG.

In another Michelson initiative, the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) Commission had started making annual payments of US$100 to the AVVRG in the early to mid 90’s.  This was subsequently increased to US$300.00.  It is believed that the amount is now (in 2014) US$800.00

In 2002 a further refurbishing was done mostly by locals and ex-pats under Rod Burgess again, this time adding the chain fence and gates and a repaint. 

A former officer and Viet Vet who had served in 6 RAR as Signal Pl. Commander, Graham Cusack, is an ex-pat living in Vung Tau.  He undertakes regular trips to the Cross in company with other ex-pats to tidy the area, maintain, paint and refurbish as required.  He is also a licensed tour guide in Vietnam (unlike many others in Vung Tau who are not registered and make unregistered visits to the Cross, thus breaching protocols.  Visitors are warned to arrange their visits to the Cross with registered tour guides).

In the 2002 refurbishment, a sand jar was added for the placement of joss sticks to honour the Vietnamese dead.  Ever since the site was refurbished, it has been intended to serve as a reminder of the price both sides paid in the battle and the war.

The renovated Cross was finally handed over on 15th April 2002.  The AVVRG was appointed by the Vietnamese as the custodians - "the Keepers of the Cross". The Australian Consul-General took responsibility for the two ceremonies approved each year (ANZAC Day and Long Tan Day).

The next two refurbishments were done by work parties under the management of AVVRG's Paul Murphy.  By 2006, the red tiles around the Cross and the white tiles on the slab had been laid and the gravel surrounds had been added.  A ramp was placed at the road to make access easier.  Again, the work-parties involved ex-pat Viet Vets.

From 2004 thru 2007, responsibility for the two approved ceremonies transferred to Paul Murphy.

The cross had now become a popular tourist destination for Viet Vets and ANZACs generally.  Services were (and are) held there each ANZAC Day (25 April) and Long Tan Day (18 August).

MORE FROM THE VVAA:

The following text (green) is quoted from the VVAA website (2012)
 
www.vvaa.org.au/longtan.htm

The Long Tan Cross Memorial Fund was founded in June 2000 to try to gain official status for and bring a greater degree of permanence to the Long Tan Cross . The committee comprised veterans of 6 RAR, the Long Tan Veterans Association, RSL, AVVRG (both in Australia and Vietnam) and the Navy and Air Force.

Fundraising was commenced shortly afterwards with ex-Service and veterans organisations targeted in a bid to raise $60,000. In addition to the Cross renovations, it was considered appropriate to provide funding for some local road works to assist the local Vietnamese as well as improve access for visiting veterans.

It was March 2002 when the Long Dat Peoples Committee called a meeting attended by members from adjoining wards, Police Departments, Foreign Affairs and the AVVRG. The Chairman declared that all were in agreement that work should proceed and presented a civil contractor who would do the work. A contract was duly produced and signed by Rod Burgess of AVVRG and a deposit paid.

On the 15th April 2002, representatives of the AVVRG and the Australian Consulate were invited to a ceremony at the site where the formalities of official handover were conducted.

On behalf of all Australians, Mr Rod Burgess accepted the beautifully restored Memorial site and assured the Chairman of the Long Dat Peoples Committee that visitors to the site would observe the correct protocols.

 


By 2005, the Cross had been established as
far more than "just" a 6RAR unit memorial.
Before continuing with the history of the Cross,
acknowledgement should be made of those who were
lead players in getting the Long Tan Cross to this stage -
particularly those whose names have been mentioned above.

From all Viet Vets - Thank you.

 

HISTORY 2006 to 2012

The cross and the immediate surrounding area are now subject to regular cleaning, refurbishment and development by the custodians and local workers.

Visitors to the Long Tan Cross will find that the Cross in the rubber plantation is without the metal plaque.  This plaque is kept in the Long Tan Police Station (near the centre of Long Tan village).  It may be 'hired' for a nominal fee and taken and hung on the Cross and must be returned after the visit.  Visitors on organised tours may request that their tour operator makes sure the plaque is available - visitors arriving to visit the Cross without a local tour guide will have to visit the Police Station beforehand.

 

 

In 2006, an ugly controversy erupted when two competing tour companies claimed to have booked the same times for their respective tour services.  There are now processes in place to avoid this happening again.

In July 2006, for the 40th Anniversary, Ch 9's '60 Minutes' program took Dave Sabben and Bob Buick back to Long Tan to meet two former NVA officers. 

The highlight of that visit was that for the first time, the NVA officers conceded the Australians had won the battle.

In November, 2006, 40 years after the Battle, Prime Minister and Mrs Howard visited the site, becoming the first serving Prime Minister to do so.

In 2007, controversy again erupted when then-Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd demanded the ANZAC Day Dawn Service be moved to an earlier hour to suit peak TV viewing time in East Coast Australia. (Vietnam is 3 hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time.)

The Dawn Service was going to be broadcast by Ch 7.  The demand was overruled by Australian authorities in Vietnam and the Dawn Service went ahead at the planned time, with about 200 attending.

The Australian government was represented by Bronwyn Bishop, standing in for Joe Hockey who had earlier planned to attend.
Bronwyn Bishop lays a wreath.

 

 IN 2007, the sand urn for the joss sticks was also upgraded to a more substantial metal urn - see D/6 pic below.

 

2008 marked the first time military uniforms were permitted to be worn at the ceremony, though medals were still not permitted to be worn:

The occasion was Long Tan Day 2008.  Present were the Australian Ambassador from Hanoi, Bill Tweddell (holding papers above) and both the Australian Consul General from HCMC, Mal Skully, and the NZ Consul General from, Peter Healey (under the umbrella).  The officer in uniform is Col. Stuart Dodds, Senior Military Attaché, Hanoi.  Also attending was Kevin Erwin (holding flowers) as then-President of the AVVRG - custodians of the Long Tan Cross.  (Pic: Derek Smith - see left)


The Cross in the Rubber in 2009  (Greg Norris photo)


In 2009, members of the then-serving D/6 visited the site (red t-shirts) prior to their deployment to Afghanistan.

Attendances by Viet Vets and members of the Australian and New Zealand public are growing each year.  The services for 2011 attracted some 500 visitors each.  The Long Tan Cross is increasingly becoming the subject of visits by Australian officials and dignitaries.


Governor-General, Quentin Bryce AC CVO, visits...  ...and the Hon Kevin Rudd, Leader of the Opposition

In January 2012, a pair of pipers played at the cross - the first to do so since the original cross dedication in 1969...

 

HISTORY 2012 AND BEYOND

Further works at the Cross site in 2012 have resulted in a new brick-paved path from the road to the memorial site:

 

 

Odd Spot:
In Vietnamese tradition, there are no chains around tombs or memorials as chains signify restriction or punishment.  One wonders what the Vietnamese make of the two rings of chains around the Long Tan cross - particularly in view of the fact that it is generally considered that the cross remembers all the dead and wounded of the battle.

 

 

The original Long Tan Cross has been loaned by the Vietnamese authorities to the AWM in Canberra, to be on display from 18 Aug 2012 to April 2013.  The Cross arrived in Canberra in July and was unpacked and prepared for display:

The newly-arrived Cross is viewed by Peter Slack-Smith (left, former L/Cpl, 12 Platoon, D/6 at the battle), Peter Dinham (centre, former OC, 2 Platoon, A/6 aboard the APC reinforcement column) and Adrian Roberts (right, former commander of the APC reinforcement column comprising 3 Troop and 2 Section, 2 Troop, 1APC Sqn.)
 

On Friday 17 August, the Australian War Memorial unveiled the original Long Tan Cross, on loan from the Dong Nai Museum until April 2013.

On hand at the unveiling were many Long Tan vets, including D/6 Commander (then) Major Harry Smith and the APC Commander (then) Lt Adrian Roberts.


Five of those who stood by the cross on 18 Aug 1969 were present:
L to R - 'Shorty' Brown, 'Piggy' O'Rourke, 'Yank' Akell, Neil Rankin and Bill Roche.
(AWM photo)

 

The Long Tan Cross continues to be the focus of groups of all descriptions returning to pay their respects to the Australian and other servicemen and women and to the casualties of the Viet Nam war.

 

An example was a PROBUS group in December 2012 when people from four Australian states (NSW, Qld, Vic and SA) and some from New Zealand attended a memorial 'RETREAT' at the Long Tan Cross.


About 600 attended at the Long Tan Cross on ANZAC Day 2013.
(Pic courtesy of Barry Schwind [ex-7RAR])

 

 

A Video of this Dawn Service was made by
 Frank O'Brien.  It can be viewed at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6R3y9ok6wU

 

 

12 June 2013 - time to return the Long Tan Cross to Vietnam.  A 'handing-back' ceremony was conducted at the AWM in front of many invited dignitaries to mark the occasion...

AWM Director, Dr Brendan Nelson, former D/6 commander, Harry Smith SG MC and former 1APC Sergeant,
Ron Richards, stand in front of the Cross before it is taken down and sent back to Vietnam.
(Both these photos courtesy of the Australian War Memorial - copies available from AWM.)

 

APRIL 2014 - the Rubber plantation is removed.
Once again smoke drifts over the Long Tan battlefield.
 
 

The plantation owners have decided to replace the rubber trees because of damage sustained from
recent cyclones (perhaps even as far back as Durian in 2006) - the trees have apparently remained undersized and therefore under-productive.
It must always be kept in mind that the Long Tan rubber plantation is a government-owned and leased working rubber plantation and that rubber trees grow, pass their productive life and are replaced.
It is believed that the plantation will be replaced with planting due in May.
It will be five or six years before the plantation will start to look as it was in 1966.

It is a pity for the 50th anniversary in August 2016 that the Cross won't be in a rubber plantation.
But until the trees are well established, we should expect some restrictions to the crowds
which gather at the Cross on ANZAC Days and the 18 August anniversaries of the battle.
The young rubber trees will be vulnerable to the crowds which have been growing in recent years.

 


Staff Cadets from RMC's Long Tan Company (2014 Sovereign Company)
with their cross replica in front of their lines Mess, Duntroon, Aug 2014.

ANZAC DAY, 25 April, 2015

 

Maintenance, refreshment and refurbishment of the Cross is an ongoing task.  As at June 2015, the Cross site is again getting some attention.  Thanks to Jason Fenech for these photos...


June 2015 - a few taller trees planted near the Cross - Nui Dat 2 in right background - photo Jason Fenech


26 Jan 2016 - the few taller trees are doing well and the surrounding crops too -  photo Charles Hili

 

GEOGRAPHICAL CONTEXT:
It has often been asked "where is the Long Tan cross in relation to the 1ATF base and other Province landmarks?"  To respond to this and similar questions, a wide-angle photograph was commissioned to be taken from the top of Nui Dat 2, looking south over the cross and west to the 1ATF base.  The photo was then overdrawn with indicators to other Provincial landmarks as well as identifying the locations of the five sub-battles that together comprise the whole Battle of Long Tan.
Here's the result. (Click on the image to download a printable version.)
The Long Tan cross is the tiny white speck near the extreme left of the top photo- the 1ATF base was on the small hill to be seen in front of the large hill system on the right of the top photo:


 

18 August 2016
THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE AT LONG TAN

Each year for the last eight years, the Long Tan Trek Tour (see details elsewhere on this website) has had a Tour for (mainly) Australian travelers to the main battlesites and locations associated with the ANZAC presence in Viet Nam during the 2nd IndoChina war - the one commonly but incorrectly called "The Vietnam War" or, by the Vietnamese, "The American War" or "The American Invasion".  The long Tan Trek Tour has usually happened in October but in 2016 it was held in August in order to be at the Long Tan cross site on the 50th anniversary... the 18th.

The Tour WAS in the area on the 17th, 18th and 19th of August but the Vietnamese government first restricted and later cancelled all visits to the site.  The reasons have not been entirely made clear but we have a report by those on the Long Tan Trek Tour about the circumstances as seen and witnessed by those "on the spot".

Please click on the name for a 7-page Report in PDF format about the
"BUNFIGHT AT LONG TAN".

 

The restrictions put in place by the Vietnamese authorities for the mid-August "commemorations" were lifted soon after...
 
Reynolds and Barbara Monaghan visited the cross on 2 Sept 2016 and placed two floral arrangements - one from the Kenthurst Rotary & Mens' Shed (Sydney) and one of their own.  So we can expect that things are now "back to normal"... (Pix: R Monaghan)

----- ===== OOOOO ===== -----

In Mid-April of 2017, following the events of August 2016 (the 50th anniversary of the battle) a report circulated in Australia that the Long Tan cross may be removed from its site:

However, this proved to be a false alarm and at least as at a few days later, visitors were still at the cross and leaving floral remembrances - see photo at side dated April 2017.

 

 

(Pix of later works and visits will be inserted here as available.)

 

 

 

 

 

THE LEGACY OF THE LONG TAN CROSS

The Long Tan Cross is not only the icon of the Battle of Long Tan - the Cross has become an icon for the whole ANZAC commitment to the defence of South Viet Nam.  Copies of the Cross appear on Vietnam War Memorials across the country (and in NZ?):

  
Bayside, Vic...          Cronulla RSL...        Heidelberg Repat Hosp...        Gundagai...

...Broken Hill...                                            ...Mackay...

...South Tweed Sports Club...
with Long Tan vets S Williams (CHQ), R Brown MM (12 Pl) and W Roche (10 Pl) - 18 Aug 2010

 

 

 

There are two Long Tan Crosses at Enoggera Barracks -  one is in the form of a footpath at 2 CER - the other is a Cross standing outside 6RAR BHQ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
A Cross laying above a pool in         A Cross in the VietVets Memorial Walk     A mosaic Cross in the      
Merredin Military Museum, WA.                Seymour, Victoria.                     Boronia RSL               
   
 
A replica cross at Victor Harbor                                                A Replica at                            
South Australia                                                        Esk RSL, Queensland       
(Pic courtesy of Jean Debelle Lamensdorf                                                    (Does anyone have a photo                         
- that's her dog at the Cross!)                                                        that doesn't cut the Cross off?)       
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Long Tan vets at the Bribie Island Cross (l to r): Barry Vassella, John Heslewood, Steve Williams, Geoff Peters,
John Robbins, Laurie Drinkwater, Murray Broomhall (161 Bty RNZA; all others D/6), Geoff Kendall.

And a pic of a replica cross from the past:

This photo was taken by Cpl Jason Weeding.  It is undated but somewhere between 20 Feb 2000 and 19 May 2002.

BALIBO, EAST TIMOR:- "OPERATION TANAGER": PIPERS AND SOLDIERS OF 6RAR PARADE BEFORE A REPLICA CROSS OF THE ONE USED IN THE 1969 VIETNAM SERVICE AS THEY AWAIT THE START OF THE LONG TAN DAY COMMEMORATIVE SERVICE HELD NEAR BALIBO, EAST TIMOR. THE PARADE CONFIGURATION RE-ENACTED THAT OF THE ORIGINAL.

Original file – http://images.defence.gov.au/fotoweb/archives/5003-All%20Defence%20Imagery/DefenceImagery/ImageLibrary/4/VK017207.jpg.info#c=%2Ffotoweb%2Farchives%2F5003-All%2520Defence%2520Imagery%2F%3Fq%3Dlong%26q%3Dtan

Photo and information courtesy of  Brian Hartigan and Bill Roche.


And in Tasmania: Bernie & Districts Vietnam Veterans Memorial - pic taken 18 Aug 2012


 

(Text and Pic from "MUFTI" Vol 57 No 1 March 2017 - RSL Victoria's magazine.)

 
The Nerang RSL Club (on the Gold Coast) has recently erected a Long Tan cross in a great garden setting.

 

 

 

 

(There are more - if you have a pic of another, please send
to < sabben@ozemail.com.au >.  Thank you..
)


(Kiwi's - may I please have photos of any replicas standing in New Zealand?)

 

 

=====================

 

VISITING THE LONG TAN CROSS

Anyone wanting to visit the Long Tan Cross is asked to observe the following agreed protocols (quoted from the above VVAA website):

  1. It must be remembered that Vietnam is a communist country and that foreigners cannot change the rules. Even for locals, movement can be restricted. In a nutshell, if you wish to visit the Long Tan Cross, you must have a permit. ... ... ...
     
  2. Groups should not be larger than 20.
     
  3. Medals are not appropriate in this environment and should not be worn.

It should be added that because it is a working rubber plantation or food-producing crop,
visitors are not permitted to move more than 100 metres from the Cross site.

 

====================

 

THE 'COMMERCIAL':

As is noted elsewhere in this website, Dave Sabben (former commander of 12 Platoon, D/6 at the battle of Long Tan) takes visitors to the Long Tan Cross as part of his Long Tan Trek Tours each October.  Please see elsewhere on this website for details.  Permits, guides etc are all arranged as part of the Tour.  Bespoke Tours for self contained groups of 25 to 35 can also be arranged.

The Trek Tour walks the whole battlefield - the site of the first contact, the sites of the separate 10, 11 and 12 Platoon fighting and the final Company position - whereas visitors to the Cross are not permitted to move beyond 100 metres from the Cross.  Yes, we have special permission to walk the whole original battlefield and to have groups in excess of 20 persons.

Details for the proposed Oct 2018 Trek Tour
can be found on the
Long Tan Trek Tours
web page...

 

 

 

==============================================

 

RELATED SITES:

Visit the Royal Australian Regiment Corporation web-site
with links to State and Territory branches,
 for news and articles of interest to any
serving or former Army person.