5RAR Association Website
Second Tour 1969 ~ 1970 ... An Overview
 


 

Australian infantryman's combat badge
Republic of South Vietnam
The Battalion's Second Tour of Duty

Situation Report February 1969

Map of bordering provinces to Phouc TuyIn 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


Area of 5RARs operations
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 and5RAR Soldiers searching for concealed weapons 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 liaise with 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 K.I.A.

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 Viet Cong firing RPGsof a 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 corporal.

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 the5RAR soldiers mopping up after the Battle of Binh Ba 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 Unit.

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 infantrymen and tanks patrolling togetherbunker 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 February 1970.


LTCOL Colin Khan CO 5RAR 2nd TourLieutenant Colonel Colin Khan D.S.O., had this to say about the Battalion's second tour.

"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 action".

The Battalion were accorded 20 awards and returned to Australia in February 1970

Operations carried out by the 5th Battalion During its Second Tour

FEDERAL 1 MARCH 1969 9 MARCH 1969
OVERLANDER 10 MARCH 8 APRIL
DEERSTALK 12 APRIL 18 APRIL
SURFSIDE 21 APRIL 2 MAY
TWICKENHAM 1 2 MAY 13 MAY
ROADSIDE 13 MAY 22 MAY
TWICKENHAM 2 22 MAY 2 JUNE
HAMMER 6 JUNE 8 JUNE
TONG 7 JUNE 8 JUNE
ESSO 1, 2 AND 3 15 JUNE 15 JULY
DISTANT TRUMPET 21 JULY 25 JULY
CAMDEN 29 JULY 30 AUGUST
KINGSTON 14 SEPTEMBER 15 OCTOBER
KINGS CROSS 31 OCTOBER 12 DECEMBER
BONDI 1 AND 2 27 DECEMBER 16 FEBRUARY 1970


Tiger head of 5/7 battalion
In 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."

On 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' Here

 

Biblography

Video Cassette
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

 

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