5RAR Association Website
Special Mention
 


 

australian infantryman's combat badge
Battle of Binh Ba
An Account From a B Company Digger

By Bill O'Mara
B Coy 2nd Tour

D Company was Ready Reaction Company and already at Binh Ba when B Company
(as support) was sent to join them early afternoon on the 6th June 1969. We travelled the five kilometres from Nui Dat in APCs. As we got closer to the village we could see the damage inflicted by the armoured units, artillery & helicopter gunships.

B Coy aboard APCs waiting for the order to move forward

Duc Trung on fire as B Company enters the village

As we moved over the ground cleared of rubber trees we could see parts of the village alight. This was D Day in more ways than one.

Late afternoon on the 6th, our Platoon (6 Platoon) set up a night harbour on the edge of the rubber plantation. As usual, our M60's were placed at 4, 8 and 12 o'clock and we each took our turn during the night for sentry duty of a couple of hours per two men.

It was raining slightly, just enough to give yet another uncomfortable night, so I had put up my hootchie. Then, foolishly removed my boots after I'd done my turn on sentry. This was something I'd not done before and was never to do again.

We had a rude awakening at daylight, when a force of NVA soldiers approached our position. Most of us were asleep (me included) when our sentry on the M60 exchanged 'waves' with the NVA. Realization dawned and I was woken by the sound of our sentry belting out rounds on the machine gun and a hard kick from my 'bed mate' Peter Wardrope.

Not the best time to have your boots off ... but they were ... and I returned fire with a couple of magazines from my M16. I recall the green flash from the enemy RPG's and the sound of shrapnel into the rubber trees. I have no idea how long this lasted, but long enough to be scared.

I eventually dragged my boots on (laces still undone) and with other platoon members walked up to the area where we were being attacked from by the NVA. No bodies, no blood trail and as none of our platoon had been killed or wounded, assumed that the NVA like us, had all fired too high. I found this amazing, but guess that's what can happen in the heat of the moment. Later that same day, myself and another soldier were given the grisly task of burying six enemy bodies. I recall that they were Viet Cong (dressed in black) and not NVA soldiers from the early morning engagement.

Later that day, 6 Platoon B Company was positioned closer to the village for a 'sweep' and I managed to take the photo of our guys just before we set off over the cleared ground with APCs.

B Company at the 'Start Line' ready to assault the village of Duc Trung

As we prepared for this final sweep, we were told it would be with the APCs. In my ignorance, I thought that this meant we would be in single file behind the APCs for protection. But, as the photo below shows, that's not the way it's done. We spread out between the APCs and swept across maybe 100yards of open ground before entering the village. We were not fired upon.

B Company assaulting the village of Duc Trung

We conducted house to house clearing but I personally never found anyone alive. The damage had already been well and truly done.

As we surveyed 'The Mess' in the village, a photographer on top of one of the Centurion's asked us if we could re-enact some footage with grenades into houses etc ... we made our feelings felt!

Many years later a report was broadcasted on the ABC's television programme "Nationwide" with a soldier's claim that we had massacred women and children. This was simply not true and can only imagine that the former soldier who had made this claim was not at Binh Ba. The older men, women and kids were let out of the school house unharmed at the end of the battle. I reported the facts to Frank Cranston of the 'Canberra Times' within days of the false accusation. No enquiry was ever held as no doubt the allegations were considered to be untrue.


The battle concluded on the 8 June 1969. A large enemy force had been defeated. The battle for Binh Ba ranks as one of the major military victories by the Australian Task Force and is now part of the Battle Honours of The Royal Australian Regiment.


BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE