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operations conducted 1969 - 70
 


 


 

australian inmfantrymans combat badge
operation bondi

 

27 December 1969 - 16 February 1970

Captain Mike Battle

Prior to Op Bondi there had been an increase in enemy activity in the southern part of Duc Thanh AO (Area of Operations). The pattern of activity had been infiltration by groups of enemy at night into Binh Ba and Duc Trung. These missions were usually for propaganda and food procurement, but occasionally some act of terrorism was perpetrated. Consequently the task of Bondi 1 was to cordon and search the hamlets of Duc Trung, Binh Ba and Duc My of Binh Ba village. A departure from normal cordon and search practices was that the cordon troops moved into position by day and closed the cordon at 1830 hours (6.30 p.m.) when all rubber workers were back inside. This technique subsequently proved far superior in respects to the traditional night approach march and cordon positioning. The key factor in this type of operation - surprise - and was successfully achieved. This is borne out by the contact with the squad from D440 who tried to enter the village while the cordon was in position, and by the number of enemy suspects who were detained during the screening process.

On the morning of December 29 Duc Trung was searched by A and B Companies but nothing of any significance was found. the screening area was operated by members of 1st Division Intelligence Unit with twenty four Vietnamese National and Field Force police. Thirteen suspected enemy agents were seized from the population of four hundred and detained for further questioning. at the province headquarters at Baria. By mid afternoon the screening was completed and the people returned to their hamlet while the cordon troops moved to take up pre-planned positions around the Binh Ba hamlet. This again achieved the necessary surprise as the population expected the operation to finish once Duc Trung had been searched.

At first light on the morning 20 December, the Pioneer platoon with APC's and trucks, hooked around to the south and moved the people of Duc My into the screening area between Binh Ba and Duc Trung with the Binh Ba population. Again nothing of any real significance was found during the search but a further fifteen suspects were detained for further questioning. That night the companies prepared for air insertion into AO Rosslyn to the east.

A significant factor in the success of Bondi1, was the eager assistance given by the District Chief and his staff. Again, as previously at Binh Ba, his willingness to get on with the job was most encouraging.

AO Rosslyn was the largest area with probably fewer enemy than any previous operation. 6 RAR had recently cleaned out the K76A complex with all its stores and had completely disrupted Ba Long Province headquarters around the Nui May Tao mountains. 5 RAR's task then was to clean up this area completely and prevent any large scale movement through Rosslyn prior to, or after the 1970 TET offensive which was at that time considered highly likely. The four rifle companies concentrated in the northern half of the AO and had numerous small contacts. The Pioneer and Tracker platoons again swept the areas around fire base Pat. This base was situated on the site of the old Thua Tich village. As the AO, with its various extensions was so large, two smaller bases were established at Tiger and Lynx to give close support. Lynx was established to protect the Matilda Armoured column in its move back from a sweep around Binh Tuy Province. Increased enemy movement did occur after the formal TET period (6-9 February). D Company, ambushing around the Xuan Son area and C Company sweeping the Dat Set area registered heavier and more frequent contacts.

During this time, the Task Force was treating all reports of enemy movement with the utmost concern. Saturation artillery barrages were the order of the day and Regimental targets were fired continually at night. In fact, captured documents revealed that a two battalion (D445 and D440) concentration was planned against one of the Route 2 villages, But because of the extraordinary pre-emptive measures taken by the Task Force, the concentration was never made and the planned offensive did not eventuate. At this time the defences of fire base Pat were bristling. Several times the base was "stood to" in the middle of the night. Sentries needed no encouragement to stay awake, and the CO could be found after dark in "Snow's" pit. This was not part of the TET fever that had the Task Force in turmoil, but the result of the sighting of a real live Tiger inside the perimeter wire. The size of the cat is still being debated but no doubt it will grow very quickly as this story is retold. Tiger hunts employing beaters and .50 cal machine guns failed to locate the beast by day. Corporal Ross of the Intelligence Section says he awoke one night to find the Tiger hungrily licking his lips, with his eyes fastened his right leg. Next morning he had the pug marks in the dirt and the grey hair to prove it!  As one Australian paper put it, "The Tigers turned chicken in the year of the dog." (1970 is the year of the dog in the Vietnamese calendar).

Some fortnight before the operation finished, 105th Field Battery Royal Australian Artillery left to return to Australia. During the ten days it took for the next battery to become operational, 5 RAR was supported at Pat, by B Battery 2/13th US Field Artillery. Despite some language and procedural differences, the bi national force worked well

It was during this operation that the hard slog of TAOR (Tactical Area of responsibility) patrolling by the base elements of 5 RAR at Nui Dat began to pay off. Each unit in the Nui Dat base is responsible for an area in which they mount constant defensive patrols. The OC Administrative Company was the patrol master. These ten man patrols went out for up to three days and ambushed likely enemy routes through the rubber north of Nui Dat. Contact here resulted in four enemy being killed and several wounded.. The arrival of 8 RAR's HQ group at Pat on 16 February saw the end of 5 RAR's operational tour in South Vietnam. As its veterans boarded the planes and ship for home they were very proud of the laurels the battalion had won but also mindful of the price we had paid in protecting the people of South Vietnam.

 

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