5RAR Association Website
operations conducted 1969-70


 

australian infantryman's combat badge
operation surfside

12 April - 2 May 1969

Captain Mike Battle

 

During April there were  growing number of reports of enemy build ups in the area of the Ho Tram Cape. The headquarters of D445 Battalion with two companies was reported in the area east of the 'Long Green'. Aerial reconnaissance had also found that the beach in this area was being used by enemy shipping to land supplies for their installations in the Nui May Tao Mountain.

With 9 RAR in an AO (Area of Operations) in the western half of the Long Green, 5 RAR was deployed into AO Coogee which covered the area from Xuyen Moc south to the coast.

Operation Surfside was planned in three phases. Firstly, the Fire Support Base Bruiser was to be occupied and secured by D. Company and Battalion Headquarters  by the afternoon of  22 April. Then, at first light on the 23 April, B and C Companies would land by LCM's on the beach in the south-east of Coogee and push inland. A. Company was to deploy by helicopter into Bruiser Simultaneously.

Secondly, a battalion attack would be conducted against D445 when it was located, with A. Company driving into blocking positions provided by the other three companies.

Thirdly, The AO was to be thoroughly searched. Although a practice beach assault by LCM's had been conducted, and the final planning by sea movement from Vung Tau to the Ho Tram Cape had been completed, This operation was cancelled for safety reasons late on 21 April. Consequently, the two companies were inserted by road transport on 23 April.

Phase two was conducted as planned, but the intelligence information that D445 was in company size camps, proved incorrect and no large actions took place. Throughout the following days, twelve contacts with small groups of enemy occurred. It became obvious that while there could have been two enemy companies in the AO, they had broken up into small groups and were hiding to avoid contact.

Numerous bunker systems were found but in most cases these were very old, although in each system, one or two bunkers had been recently refurbished. In all some three hundred bunkers had been found, most of these were demolished.

It was on this operation that 5 RAR encountered its first M16 mines in enemy camps. Corporal R. L. Mundine of 1 Platoon detonated one on a track whilst clearing a bunker system and was seriously wounded. Three more M16 Mines were found by detectors in the same area. That afternoon 10 Platoon detonated a booby trap consisting of a trip wire and a home made grenade. The platoon commander Lieutenant Terry Stannus was one of the two seriously wounded. These mines and booby traps were cunningly placed and slowed down the operations considerably as there was no alternative but to search every inch of ground. Some piles of dressed timber and coils of wire were found near the beach, which confirmed beach landings were being made under the cover of darkness.

A and C companies reported movement of sampans in front of their locations on the beach. On the afternoon of 25 April,  2 Platoon reported four vessels one thousand yards out. By 1930 hrs, thirty sampans had moved within fifty yards of the beach in front of 2 Platoon. It appeared as though it was going to be a D. Day in reverse!  Although these craft were in restricted waters, orders were given to hold all fire until they actually landed on the beach. A large junk was holding further out to sea and was signaling to someone on the shore. Shortly after this the armada moved quickly eastward. Obviously, the mother ship did not receive the 'all clear' signal from the shore and aborted the landing. A search of this area revealed thirty four nautical charts of the south east coast of China and the south China Sea.

Because of the small numbers of enemy in AO Coogee, A and C companies redeployed into the 'Long Green' proper to see if any enemy had returned to that area after 9 RAR had left. A. Company went into ambush along a known VC communication route and was immediately successful. Three enemy were caught moving east from the area of the 'Light Green' and Route 44. One of the enemy was found to be the company commander of the second company of D445. As the operation drew to a close A and D Companies had some further small indecisive contacts and the major enemy forces remained unlocated.

During this operation, 5 RAR was given the use of local guides from the Xuyen Moc military post. These men belonged to a intelligence squad and in two instances, their local knowledge proved very valuable.


 

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