ability to present the factional enemy events before, during and after
the battle I believe is very close to the known facts of the time."
"Congratulations Dave ... you have joined the loose ends to close the
circle. The ambush myth is now in pieces like so many of the enemy that
|- Bob Buick MM -
Viet Vet - Sergeant of 11 Platoon D Company 6RAR at Long
your book in its manuscript form and I now congratulate you on its
successful publication. Your descriptions of how the Viet Cong thought
and acted, and the reasons behind their strategy and tactics are very
plausible, and put another side to why the Battle of Long Tan occurred.
The narrative clearly describes the lead up to what was clearly an
encounter battle, rather than an ambush as a few historians have
postulated. The way in which you have woven the 'fictional' Viet Cong
characters into what is essentially a factual account is masterful,
making the book a very good read. I was unable to put it down once I had
started. Well done."
|- Peter Dinham
- Viet Vet - Officer Commanding 2 Pl, A Coy, 6RAR,
(2 Platoon A Coy
was in the APC Reaction Force as it sped to the Long Tan battlefield)
|"The only thing I found wrong with this
book is that it was written 35 years too late... for that long we've
been fed the line that Long Tan was an ambush planned by the VC."
"I have always believed they intended to attack the Task Force, but to
see the whole plan and understand that it had about (in my opinion) a
90% chance of success, really brings it home ..."
"It scared the **** out of me to know how close we came to a
catastrophe" "Thanks Dave for a bloody good read."
"(Always wanted to say this to an officer) 'Well done, that man'."
|- Ern Marshall -
Moderator of web:
|“I doubted the hypothesis when I first
heard about it but after reading the book I have to admit that it is all
very reasonable and logical. It fits the facts and is a good read..."
|- Bob Johnson,
- Viet Vet - Intelligence Corps (posted to Nui Dat in
|"For the first time - an account of how
close the Australians nearly came to disaster in Viet Nam."
|- John Orr,
Veterans' Advocate and Consultant, Canberra
|"Dave has put up some reasonable theories
that stand up very well. A good read. Recommended.“
|- Gary McKay MC
- Viet Vet - Australia's most prolific author on the Viet Nam war.
|"Your research and intimate knowledge of
the conflict is evident ... I recommend this book to everyone. For me, a
truly remarkable read."
|- John Causer,
1 Aug 2005
|"Well, what a fine effort in putting this
all together in a cogent, well researched and forceful manner. I
enjoyed the book immensely and the narrative that really sets the
"I have no doubt after reading this,
and others on Long Tan, that your scenarios are well based and
|- Greg Marheine
- Viet Vet - 3RAR, 1971
|"The book is brilliantly conceived, well
crafted, meticulously researched, richly detailed, and carries the
reader onwards like a thriller."
"... the battle [description] rings with authenticity ... I could
follow all the military jargon ... Your descriptions were great - I
could really picture it."
"I felt a bit sad for Quang at the end - you made him very real to me."
"Well done. A masterly effort."
- Jean Debelle Lamensdorf, Aust Red
Cross (2 Fd Amb, 36th Evac) Vung Tau, 66-67
|"Within 24 hrs of buying the book I reached
the final page. Dave has achieved the level of Henry Lawson, Orson
Wells, Bryce Courtney in one publication. If I didn't know better I'd
swear that Dave had inside help on writing this book from an NVA
commander, even though the cover states that it's based on a factual
story with fictional VC and NVA characters."
"To capture the minds and strategy of an enemy mostly unseen and their
unwritten command structure, then to absorb this into such an historical
event, is brilliant. Having had the 'pleasure' of patrolling through
the Long Tan area, the Long Green and the surrounding mountains, I can
say no detail has been missed: bunker systems large enough to support
100 or more, underground hospitals with all medical equipment, rice
stores and stocks of ARVN false ids."
"During my Infantry Corps training the film ZULU was used as a training
aid. This book should be compulsory reading for all combat units in the
defence force, under the heading of 'Knowing Your Enemy'.
George Newton - Viet Vet - 7RAR 1970 and 2RAR 1971
"I brought your book at Tullamarine airport last week and had a hard
time putting it down. It was refreshingly different and had a good
balance about it. One could have easily believed that the Vietnamese
command existed as such and no doubt did. A thought provoking account
to say the least. Well written. An excellent detail."
"Had they taken on the Task Force, history would have been sadly
"Congratulations and best wishes ..."
|- Jim Spring -
Viet Vet - 11 Platoon, D Company, 6RAR, late 66/67
|"I have just finished reading Through
Enemy Eyes and I thought it was absolutely terrific. I read the
thing in two days much to my annoyance as I didn't get any other work
done. Well done - I will recommend it to all I meet."
|- Vin Neale -
Viet Vet -
|"I enjoyed your book immensely.
Although I had some insight into the VC/NVA side of the action, your
interpretation was close to what I had envisaged. Your treatment
of the characters was interesting and intriguing without falling into
the trap of delving too deeply into their reason for being... "
('Psychedelic') Coultman-Smith - Viet Vet - 8RAR, 1969/70
|"I have just finished reading your
tremendous book and must congratulate you on what you've accomplished.
As a Vietnam Veteran I can see now what should have been so obvious all
those years ago. Well done. This is an exciting read and a piece of work
that you must be immensely proud of."
|- Phil Rutherford
- Viet Vet - 547 Signals Troop (as mentioned in the
|"Very absorbing and disturbing reading..."
|- Ken Youngson -
Viet Vet - 8th Field Ambulance, 1967/68
|"A most readable and intriguing book. As
one who was in that place in '70, I saw in my mind all those places
referred to while reading. Thank you."
('Ferret') Unmack - Viet Vet - ASqn 1Armd Regt LAD, RAEME,
|"Have finished this book and thoroughly
enjoyed it in all of its detail, whilst the elements of fiction added
very well to the narrative. A good read indeed, and one that must
be on the shelves of any military historian. Many thanks."
|- Lt Col (retd)
Keith Frampton -
|"A great read - Your work ably supplements
and enhances the other publications I have read on Long Tan"
|- Ken Vote -
Viet Vet - Huey Pilot, 9 Sqn, 1968
|"...I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Long
Tan battle took place 2 months before I was born. ...I connected with
what the book was meant to achieve. Thank you for your efforts back then
and also now."
|- Guy Munckton,
|"Have just finished reading Through
Enemy Eyes. Only took 3 days. Couldn't put it down, much to my wife’s
frustration. I thought the book was brilliant. Who is to say that was
not how it was. I was at Singleton in August 66 when the battle took
place. I can remember everyone’s reaction as if it were yesterday."
|- Gordon Jones -
|"...congratulations on your
book "Through Enemy Eyes". It was thoroughly enjoyable and informative.
I passed it on to my friend Ernie Snelling who found it just as
facinating and enjoyable ."
|- Bryan Pannell -
GSO3(Int), HQ 1ATF (Mar 69 to Mar 70)
for that different perspective. I was serving with 1Tp, 1 Fd Sqn RAE
at the time of the Mortaring ... at Nui Dat and your book certainly gave
me something to ponder on what could have happened."
|- Trevor Shelley -
1Tp, 1Fd Sqn,
1ATF (at Nui Dat in Aug
"What you have produced is a very good historic document. It is
riveting along each step of the way. ...for those of us who spent a year
of our lives involved in Vietnam, it never really recedes...You are to
|- Rodney George -
Artillery FO SIG SVN Feb '68-'69
|"I have just finished "Through Enemy Eyes"
and found it difficult ... to put down. I found it compelling reading.
[The] point of view [was] refreshing and provoking. The narrative ...
flowed and pulled me forward."
|- Roger Dundas -
"I have just bought and read your book. From the minute I started
till I finished I was transfixed and was reliving my year there. I will
certainly recommend it to all my friends...."
1 Fd Regt, R A Artillery '66-'67
BOOK REVIEW - “Through Enemy Eyes” -
by Dave Sabben MG
Dave Sabben was OC 12 Pl D Coy 6RAR at
the Battle of Long Tan. He is a graduate of the first class from OTU
Scheyville with our own 5RAR 1st tour comrades, Melford
(Finnie) Roe, John Deane-Butcher, Harry Neesham, Ted Pott and Terry
O’Hanlon. Dave has written a book titled “Through
Enemy Eyes”. It recounts the story of the arrival and build up of
1ATF from May 1966 to the conclusion of the Battle of Long Tan. The book
is largely written from the perspective of our former foes.
Dave describes the book as “faction”; a combination of facts over
disposed with some fiction. I found it extremely interesting and he is
quite accurate in his portrayal of the early days at Vung Tau and Nui
Dat during Op Hardihood. Throughout, he gives good press to 5RAR
activities and alludes to the “Binh Ba 10 000” of June 1966 when the
1ATF base was first seen to come under major threat. Naturally, his main
emphasis is the battle on 18 Aug 66 in which he was a key player. He
details the enemy plan to overrun the fledgling 1ATF base and does this
from the perspective of the enemy commanders of 5 VC Div, 274 Regt, 275
Regt, D445 Bn and other units. Naturally, due to the lack of Vietnamese
historical records this is where much of the fictional part is
portrayed. He has however researched the official histories to provide
the basis for the enemy battle plan to decimate 1ATF. This will be of
interest to 5RAR members.
The question has
always been asked “What were the enemy intentions if they had not
encountered D Coy 6RAR on the afternoon of 18 Aug 66”. This book
provides some potential outcomes and will be of interest to all those
who served at Nui Dat.
The book was first
published in 2005 by Allen & Unwin.
|- (Lt) Roger
Wainwright - 5RAR First Tour [66-67]
...and a full review by
Dr Bruce Gaunson, historian and author. Dr Gaunson was formerly
Head of History at Sydney Grammar School.
Seizing history by the belt
Sabben, Through Enemy Eyes. Allen & Unwin, 2005, 380 pages
It’s fairly easy to access
the basic facts about the battle of Long Tan, but it’s a lot harder to
solve the mysteries behind it. If (as some have claimed) the Australians
were ambushed, then why did the enemy gather such a massive force to
destroy a single company? And why would a force lacking heavy weapons
and mines set up an ambush within range of the Australian artillery?
These and other questions
have ricocheted around for decades, and pieces of the puzzle are still
missing. Yet things are becoming clearer now. One instrument of this
greater clarity has been Dave Sabben, who led 12 Platoon at Long Tan.
Among other things, he contributed to a joint narrative by former Long
Tan commanders, published in 2004.
But difficult questions still
hung in the air, and to get at them, he has ventured into the field of
“faction” to explain the enemy’s intentions. It must be said that
Sabben’s faction has a strong grip on history’s belt. It’s not enough to
say that if this story actually happened, none of the known facts would
be any different. That formula applies to clever novels like Forsyth’s
Day of the Jackal, which is 95% fiction. By contrast, Sabben is
right on the heels of history as he narrates the enemy’s preparations
and actual battle experiences.
Indeed, he is offering a
kind of historical thesis, which seeks to explain crucial facts which,
so far, have insufficient explanations. He is contending that, if the
evidence ever comes to light, his thesis will be vindicated. This
approach has often been fruitful, and it sometimes triumphs. A good
example is the “rebellion thesis” of Kelly biographer Ian Jones, which
has been accepted by prominent academics after decades of fence-sitting.
Well, to get off the fence right now, I think that Sabben’s thesis, or
something very close to it, will prevail as the most satisfactory
This substantial book has
been built on extensive research, and the result is a fascinating story
– told from the enemy’s point of view. This sort of thing is not easy to
write, and Sabben has achieved an uncanny empathy with his former
Some characters are
necessarily fictional, but they’re highly realistic. Once you’ve met
Colonel Quang, a brave man who has battled the French and Japanese and
is now tackling Saigon and the Americans, you’ll have moments when you
almost hope he’ll succeed – until you realise what that would have
meant! This is a measure of the book’s fictional quality.
Its factual side is
meticulous and perceptive. For example, Sabben’s grasp of the enemy’s
ideology, culture and methods is firm. In contrasting the plain
guerrillas’ dedication with the cold calculations of their commissar, he
gives us a cameo of how the Party has treated its ordinary fighters.
Equipped with both
imaginative and historical strengths, the book takes us through the
enemy’s careful preparations, and shows us his crucial decisions. These,
when mixed with lucky timing, twists of fate and sound Australian
soldiering, produce an unlikely result: most of D Company survives,
while the enemy’s plans are wrecked in a shattering defeat. Sabben
depicts this fearful destruction most vividly, yet with an unswerving
respect for his erstwhile enemies.
This book is not just an
excellent narrative. It brilliantly expounds the belief that the enemy,
employing eight battalions, was poised to destroy the whole Australian
base at Nui Dat. Had that happened, it would have been our soldiers who
suffered the devastating casualties of 18 August 1966.
- Dr Bruce Gaunson,
historian and author, was formerly Head of History at Sydney Grammar