THE BATTLE OF
AS TOLD BY THE
TO BOB GRANDIN
- The Battle of Long Tan
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In 1986, an excellent book was written about the Battle of Long Tan by Lex McAulay.
It contained a simple yet comprehensive account of the lead-up, conduct and after-effects of the battle and included accounts by many of the participants of all ranks. Subsequently, some other books were published, of diminishing value and introducing errors of interpretation and emphasis.
One of the errors introduced was the concept that the battle of Long Tan may have been a planned VC ambush of the Australian forces.
The evidence given for this theory was only hearsay and oral accounts originating mostly in Viet Nam, where the authors went to obtain the VC (or rather, the North Vietnamese Army [NVA]) version of the battle.
The evidence does not stand up to scrutiny, but the ‘damage’ had been done – the unsupported theory had been proposed and published.
The action involved an Australian Infantry company (D/6RAR) supported by Australian, New Zealand and American artillery, all being directed by an NZ artillery Forward Observer on the ground with the infantry.
An armoured reinforcement column with the best part of another infantry company (A/6RAR) aboard experienced two separate contacts with the enemy as it made its way to the battlefield. And two RAAF 'Huey' helicopters flew a vital ammo resupply mission into the battlefield at the height of the action.
The commanders of each of these elements were:
These seven direct commanders each contributed their first-hand accounts of the prelude, conduct and results of the battle. It would be impossible to get an account of the battle from anyone closer to the action, or from anyone who knew more of what was actually happening on the battlefield. In fact, even the oblique diagram/maps were designed and drawn by Dave Sabben from his maps of the time.
Their separate accounts were edited into a continuous narrative by Bob Grandin. A summary of biographies and a conflict background were added, and a number of issues resulting from the battle were also included (the 'ambush theory', the pathetic scale of Imperial awards etc).
The result is not only a highly readable account of Australia’s iconic Viet Nam battle. It is also a study in how seven individuals prepared them-selves and their troops for war, how they experienced it, and how it affected them. As the book says – seven ordinary soldiers thrown together in an extraordinary event.
This book was the basis of a new documentary titled "The Battle of Long
Tan" produced by Animax Films and Red Dunes Films and screened by Foxtel on
their History Channel in August 2006 and several times since.