June - July 1969
By Captain Mike Battle
Esso is remembered because of mines. throughout the length
and breath of AO (Area of Operations) Aldgate the enemy used
M16 Mines taken from
the barrier mine field laid between the Horseshoe Hill and
Lang Phouc Hai on the coast. The Viet Cong used mines
extensively in that, in most cases, they were placed not as
an obstacle to protect his bases, but to slow down, disrupt
and discourage allied operations in the district.
were placed on tracks, in likely ambush positions, in likely
harbour positions, around houses in the villages, in short,
anywhere where our troops were likely to move.
relieving 9RAR in the AO, and while there 5RAR took all
possible precautions to minimize the danger and effect of
mines. Special training was done; all vehicle floors were
sandbagged; flack jackets and steel helmets were worn
whenever possible; mine detectors were used by all patrols;
and all routes or worksites were cleared prior to use.
Despite these elaborate precautions seven soldiers were
killed and forty three were wounded by mines.
Thrust, some six hundred yards south of Hoi My received
twelve 82mm mortar rounds at six minutes past midnight on 8
July. Three soldiers were slightly wounded in this attack
and very little damage was done. In fact, some people in the
base, being so used to the battery firing harassment
missions during the night, did not even wake up!
operational control of 5RAR during this operation, was a
troop of engineers and elements of the plant troop of 1
Field Squadron. Two infantry companies were involved
throughout the operation protecting this Land Clearing Team
and the team constructing the defensive bunkers around Dat
The Dat Do
District was previously dominated by the VC from their
sanctuary in the Long Hai Mountains. Because of inadequate
leadership, training and material, the local Regional and
Popular Force soldiers were largely ineffective. The
population contained a high percentage of VC families,
infrastructure and sympathisers and was consequently
prepared to live in co-existence with the VC. During Esso,
5RAR placed small training teams in military posts
throughout the district and encouraged more offensive
operations by the local forces. Government agencies were
urged to police the rice control programme and to man
checkpoints on the main entry/exit points around Dat Do.
in the area over a period of months produced a real and
significant result in the pacification programme. Captured
documents revealed that the enemy infra-structure could not
function properly because of the Allied ambushing at night.
Rice control also forced the price of rice on the black
market to be raised by one third.
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