1 March - 9 March 1969
Captain Mick Battle
commenced its shakedown operation for its second tour on 1
March after having been in the country for fourteen days.
The rifle companies deployed into Area of Operations (AO)
The AO chosen
was west of the Nui Dat
base and included the northern and eastern parts of the
rugged Nui Dinh mountain complex. The paddi fields at this
time were cemented by the sun and the vegetation on the
coastal flats was tinder dry. The thick clumps of thorn
covered bamboo proved a formidable obstacle to A. and D.
Companies, as they deployed west on foot and into
Carriers (APC's) into the west of the AO.
of the battalion was to conduct Reconnaissance In
Force operations aimed at preventing the movement
of enemy forces towards Baria from the west, and thus deny
possible base plate positions from which major population
centres of Phuoc Tuy Province could be bombarded.
At 0800 hours on 2 March, 105
Field Battery fired an artillery preparation into landing
Zone (LZ) Marie prior to a heliborne assault from C. Company
from Kangaroo pad at Nui Dat. C. Company had secured the LZ
an hour later and by 1000 hours battalion headquarters was
complete on the ground followed by B. Company. In the
afternoon the companies reported fresh sign of enemy
movements and located a 107mm rocket launching site.
hours 3 March, A, C and D Companies had reported contacts in
their night ambush positions. These continued through the
night until 0800 hours 4 march. Sweeps confirmed that eleven
enemy had been killed and numerous wounded. The only
Australian casualty was 2nd Lieutenant H. Moyle of 11
Platoon D. Company. A shrapnel wound to the knee sent him
home to Australia some weeks later.
The next four
days saw the companies continuing their operations with
scattered light contact. Both the
RAAF Iroquois and
the army H13 helicopters flying in support received ground
fire. 12 Platoon D. Company killed two local guerrillas in
contact at 0655 hours 5 March. By last light on 8 March the
battalion, less B. Company, was harboured with a troop of
tanks and a troop of APC's.
At midnight under a full moon D. Company led the battalion
across the open paddi and through the bamboo to the
perimeter fence of Phuoc Hoa Long.
Long, nestled under the southern perimeter of
Nui Dat base was often
infiltrated by the Viet Cong guerrillas on resupply and
propaganda missions. An extensive political and military
communist infrastructure was also known to exist among the
5,100 villagers. 5 RAR's task was to cordon and search the
northern hamlets of the village.
C and D
Companies were to form the cordon while A and B Companies
were to conduct the search. D Company was led along the dark
corridor of trees and banana plantations by 10 Platoon. At
0150 hours heavy firing shattered the stealth of the
approach. 10 Platoon reported firing from the Regional Force
post at the northern end of the town. At the same time 11
Platoon came under AK47
fire from their right flank. The American Liaison Officer
succeeded in stopping the fire as soon as it was realised
that 10 Platoon elements had moved into their protective
minefield The battery fired continuous illumination for four
hours while engineers and infantrymen extracted the
causalities from the densely planted minefield. The RAAF "Dust
Off" helicopters provided exceptional assistance in
evacuating the casualties and assisting in their recovery
from the actual minefield. In one instance the Iroquois
hovered above the rescue party for forty minutes providing
illumination with his landing lights. This was an extremely
hazardous operation, as there was the chance of the down
blast of the blades detonating more mines. This close
support from the RAAF was to become considered normal as the
tour progressed. Those killed were
2nd Lieutenant B. Walker,
Sergeant B. Smith
and Corporal G. Gilbert,
all of 10 Platoon. Whilst this extraction was being carried
out the rest of the battalion closed the cordon.
A 0730 hours
an aircraft fitted with a loud speaker system flew over the
village and directed the people to the screening area on the
northern outskirts. By 1030 hours the sweep was under way. A
and B Companies prodded their way around the myriads of
small gardens and pagodas, searching the 263 houses in
detail. This type of operation is very exhausting because of
the ever present threat of mines, booby traps and snipers.
with the search, the screening of the people was being
carried out by elements of the Divisional Intelligence Unit,
The Australian CA (Civil Affairs) Unit, the Psychological
Operations Section with National Field Force and Special
Police detachments. During this time 1,700 people were
screened of whom eleven were detained as suspected members
of the VC infrastructure.
At 1700 hours
the battalion returned to Nui Dat.
Quintus Thrust proved that the enemy, mainly guerrillas from
the Chau Duc Company, were using the footpads around the
base of the mountains as liaison routes and infiltration
routes into the capital Baria and Phuoc Hoa Long. These
paths came from suspected base areas in the Nui Thi Vai
mountains. This was verified later on Operation Twickenham.
had been blooded and Quintus had cut her teeth. Every man
knew now the enemy and the environment which he would be
fighting for the next twelve months. But the success were
not without the loss of three fine men who paid the supreme
sacrifice. Even at this early stage of the tour it was
obvious that the modern soldier of 5 RAR was the same man
who fought on the cliffs of Gallipoli, the deserts of
Africa, and the Jungles of New Guinea.
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