Battalion's Second Tour of Duty
Report February 1969
1969 the Task Force was operating in Bien Hoa Province which still contained the major
airbase and the major logistics base in South Vietnam. At nearby Long Bin and Long Khan
Province to the north was the area of operations of the 199 U.S. Brigade, and Bin Tuy
Province was an area of operations for ARVN and Regional Force units.
Phuoc Tuy Province
Within Phuoc Tuy Province an ARVN Battalion
was responsible for the Long Hai Hills and Route 2 and Regional Force Units looked after
Route 4, long Dien, Long and Light Green, and Zuyen Moc.
This left 1ATF responsible for the Nui Dinh Hills, Binh Ba, the rubber east of Route 2,
and some areas west of the route.
The enemy units operating in the five provinces were a number of NVA and VC units, local
force VC consisting of the D440 Battalion and the long standing protagonists, the D445
Battalion, plus local VC units at Dat Do, Long Dien, and Hoa Long. The Battalion
encountered all of these units and we developed a healthy respect for our enemy who showed
great courage and determination, and showed a willingness to die for his cause.
From February 1969 to February 1970, 17 major operations with constant day and night
patrolling to ensure local security of the area. Frequently during the four or five day
breaks between operations, resting Companies were required for clearing patrols and
ambushes. The Battalion, like other Battalions remained on continuos operations throughout
the year and this placed tremendous sustained pressure on the Infantryman which has not
been surpassed in any war, and must inevitably take its toll.
On several major operations a Vietnamese company or battalion were placed under the
command of the CO 5RAR. This would normally necessitate the allocation of the Battalion's
NCO's to the Vietnamese units to guide and assist with their operations, and
5RAR for support and assistance. It was while on one such task with an ARVN company in the
Long Green area that Sgt Allan McNulty of A Company organised the defences of the company,
and the evacuation of the wounded while under heavy enemy attack. He directed the use of
artillery and helicopter gunships for two hours to prevent the enemy from over-running the
ARVN force. Advisory teams called MAPS were dispatched for lengthy periods to assist
Vietnamese Regional Forces protecting villages. Within two weeks of arrival in Vietnam the
Battalion was involved in its first shakedown operation around the Nui Dinh Hills, and the
dry paddy fields west of Nui Dat. The operation was a "recce in force" to
prevent the movements of Viet Cong forces towards the provincial capital Baria. Almost
immediately the companies came in contact with small enemy parties resulting in 14 VC
Towards the end of March 69, the Battalion was moved to an isolated area of operations in
Long Khan Province, and established the first major independent Fire Base
"Sally". The aim of the operation was to locate the main Viet Cong headquarters
which was responsible for the organisation and control of all the VC operations around
Saigon. Contact with the enemy was immediate and continuos. It was the beginning of the
'Tiger Bunker Operation' which was to continue throughout the year. The bunker complexes
in the area of operations was typical of the type the Battalion was to strike. The
exception was that they were the biggest to find, some consisting of 100 individual
bunkers with communications trenches connecting between the
bunkers. The Battalion located
the senior enemy headquarters and in excess of 800 bunkers, destroying 700 and rendering
the remainder unusable.
Throughout May the Battalion was on operation 'Twickenham' in the Nui Thi Vai mountains,
against the VC D67 Sapper Battalion and the D445 Battalion. The Battalion were laying
ambushes around the mountain and A Company found itself in continuos contact with its
ambush patrols with the VC unit D67. The operation was successful with 22 enemy K.I.A. and
cleared the VC from the mountain.
The Battle of Binh Ba
June 69 saw D Company as the 'Ready Re-action Force' on stand by with what was part
tank troop and a APC troop on 30 minutes notice to react anywhere within the province.
Binh Ba village was three miles north of Nui Dat, on Route 2, with a population of 1,000
rubber workers and farmers. The houses were concrete and tile structures.
At 0800 hours on the 6th June a tank and other vehicles moving through Binh Ba were fired
on by RPG's from the village. Initially, intelligence believed there were two
enemy platoons, so Task Force H.Q. despatched the Ready Re-action Force. At 1030 hours
D Company came under heavy RPG and machine gun fire, and it was evident that there were
more than two enemy platoons. The District Chief immediately gave permission to take
whatever action was necessary to clear the VC from the village. At 1300 hours when it was
realised that the action was escalating, the Commanding Officer of the 5th Battalion was
given control of the battle and he deployed forward a small tactical headquarters. He
ordered D Company into blocking positions east of the village. At the same time C Company
was dispatched to counter another enemy attack against the village of Hoa Long south of
Nui Dat. By this time D Company, supported by Centurion Tanks, had fought their way to the
centre of the village, fighting from house to house and grenading dugouts. The tanks were
receiving heavy RPG and machine gun fire which drew much of the fire away from D Company.
Fierce and confused fighting continued for over two hours and it was later revealed from
bodies and captured documents that the enemy force was the First Battalion 33 NVA Regiment
and the local guerilla unit. D Company made a second sweep through the village in the
afternoon. Supported by APC's and a fresh troop of tanks, the initial troop having been
badly hit; all crew commanders having been wounded, and all ammunition expended. Further
clearance of houses ensured and on a number of occasions soldiers had to hold their fire
and expose themselves to the enemy as a number of civilians were still in the village and
unable to escape. The value of training was borne out. Of the 21 rifle sections involved,
12 were commanded by private soldiers, two platoons were led by sergeants and 1 by a
Binh Ba was one of the major operations of the war, working with the local Vietnamese
forces and responding to their call
against an enemy force which had long been using Binh Ba for resupply and transit
purposes. The battle accounted for 91 VC K.I.A., for the loss of 1 member K.I.A. and eight
W.I.A. While D Company was involved at Binh Ba, C Company with a tank troop was heavily
involved in a similar but smaller successful operation against the VC Chau Duc District
The months of June and July saw a long operation east of Nui Dat around the towns of Long
Dien, Dat Do, Hui Mi and Zuyen Moc and will be remembered for the mines. Another highly
successful operation was 'Camden' conducted throughout the month of August in the tri
border area of Long Khan, Bien Hoa and Phuoc Tuy provinces. The enemy involved was the 700
strong 274 Regiment.
During Camden, 40 separate contacts were made with enemy main force units and on several
occasions three companies were in major contacts in different areas of the operation at
the same time. Once five contact incidences occurred simultaneously.
'Kings Cross', a six week operation saw the Battalion back in the
same area as the
bunker battles in operation Camden, two months earlier. The enemy once
again was the 274 Regiment and in particular the 3rd Battalion, Regional Headquarters and
their heavy weapons company. as always the Battalion was supported by APC's and tanks.
As a farewell gesture the Battalion was given Operation Bondi 1 & 2, a seven week
mission in a huge area of operations extending some 30 kilometres square. The area
concerned was the eastern half of Phuoc Tuy Province, in the areas of Long Khan and Binh
Tuy Province and for the first time for 5RAR, the May Tao Mountains. The area was so large
that one conventional fire support base "Pat" was established in the area of Tua
Tich and three other temporary bases to support the Australians out of range of Pat.
The Battalion returned to Australia in
Lieutenant Colonel Colin Khan D.S.O., had this to say about the Battalion's second
"The Battalion was
proven to be second to none. Our Warrant Officers and NCO's were superb and the unequalled
wealth of their experience shone through. Our officers from the three schools of Duntroon,
Portsea and Scheyville blended as one to give the direction and example expected of them.
Trusted as they were by being given the singular honour by leading the greatest
infantrymen Australia has produced and I refer to our private soldiers, that regular and
national serviceman the man who walked up front to bear the brunt and made whatever was
achieved possible. It was a humbling experience to all of us who had the privilege of
leading such men. We remember our achievements have a price. 25 killed in action and 202
wounded in action. To all of the then young Tigers I pay my tribute and my thanks for the
year you gave of your best to uphold the finest traditions of the Australian Army, the
Regiment and the Battalion."
During its tour of South Vietnam the battalion
had suffered the loss of 25 killed in action or died of wounds and 202 wounded in
The Battalion were accorded 20 awards and
returned to Australia in February 1970
Operations carried out by the 5th
Battalion During its Second Tour
1 MARCH 1969
9 MARCH 1969
ESSO 1, 2 AND 3
BONDI 1 AND 2
16 FEBRUARY 1970
December 1973, the Fifth and Seventh Battalions merged to become the
5/7th Battalion and later the 5/7th Battalion (Mechanised). 5/7th maintained the mascot of
the old 5th Battalion, "Quintus" the Tiger and
maintained the motto,
"The Fighting Tigers."
the 3rd of December 2006 saw 5RAR de-linked from 7RAR
and became once again a battalion within its own right
within the Royal Australian Regiment. The De-Linking
Ceremony was conducted at 1 Brigade Parade Ground,
Robertson Barracks Darwin.
On the 14
February 2007, on a hilltop
overlooking Port Augusta, the Tiger Battalion re-dedicated
itself to its Colours in a ceremony at Cultana Field
Training Area. CO 5RAR, Lt-Col Jake Ellwood, said
the Colours, which were originally consecrated and blessed on
October 29, 1967,
symbolise the regiment's important links with its history,
traditions and its soldiers.
Lt-Col Ellwood said the re-dedication of the Colours follows the
de-linking of 5/7 RAR and the re-raising of 5RAR on December 3,
2006, after 33 years to the day as 5/7RAR. The original Colours
were laid up at Kapooka (with 7RAR Colours) in April 2004.
The ceremony marked a small milestone in Australian
military history, with the Tiger Battalion being the first unit
to re-dedicate itself to its original Colours.
For more, read the history of the 5th Battalions'
The History of the Fifth Battalions VHS Colour, Copyright 1993, 5th
Battalion R.A.R. Association
M. R. Battle (1970)The Year of the Tigers, Sydney
Australia, Printcraft Press