Extract from “TO LONG TAN” by Ian McNeill
The response of the communists, far from concealing their defeat, trumpeted an outstanding victory, beyond even that claimed by the Australians. The units involved were awarded medals.
On 27 August 1966 Radio Hanoi announced:
The Australian mercenaries, who are no less husky and beefy than their allies, the U.S. aggressors, have proved as good fresh targets for the South Vietnam Liberation Fighters. According to LPA [Liberation Press Agency], in two days ending 18 August, the LAF [Liberation Armed Forces] wiped out over 500 Australian mercenaries in Baria Province. LPA reported:
‘On 18 August in the coastal province of Baria, east of Saigon, the LAF wiped out almost completely one Battalion of Australian mercenaries in an ambush in Long Tan village. At 1500 hours that day, an Australian mercenary Battalion and a column of Armoured cars fell into an ambush. Within the first few minutes the LAF fiercely attacked the enemy and made short work of two companies, set fire to three M113 Armoured cars, and drove the remnants into a corner of the battlefield. The LAF then concentrated their fire on them and heavily decimated the remaining company. ‘The LAF shot down one of the US aircraft which went to the rescue of the battered Australians.
‘According to the first reports, in this battle the LAF put out of action 400 Australian mercenaries, thus annihilating two full-sized companies, heavily decimated another, set afire three M113 Armoured cars, downed one US jet fighter, and captured a great quantity of arms and munitions.
‘The day before, 17 August, the LAF in the same province wiped out over 100 Australian mercenaries. ‘For these victories, the South Vietnam LAF Command had decided to award a Liberation Military Exploit Order Third Class to the victorious units.”
Radio Peking International Service (in English) announced on 28 August 1966:
More than 500 Australian Satellite Troops including two whole companies were wiped out by the South Vietnam Liberation Army in Baria Province on 17 and 18 August when it launched fierce attacks on an Australian battalion and an Armoured Car Column, reported the South Vietnam Liberation Press Agency. In an attack on an Australian Base in Nui Thu on 17 August, the Liberation Army in Baria Province wiped out more than 100 Australian troops.
In the afternoon the following day, the Liberation Army knocked out a number of Australian troops which fell into an ambush in Long Tan Hamlet. Then, the Liberation Forces concentrated their fire on the rest of the enemy and wiped out more than four hundred Australian Satellite Troops. Two companies were completely wiped out and another company was heavily battered. Three M113 Armoured Cars were destroyed. The Command of the South Vietnam Liberation Armed Forces has recently decided to award this victorious unit with the Liberation Exploit Order, Third Class.’
These messages were also promulgated to the troops.
The communist history of Dong Nai province (in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Dong Nai approximately covers the former Bien Hoa, Phuoc Tuy and Long Khanh provinces), published in 1986, gives the battle scant mention in view of the victory claimed. It describes the communist forces as having ‘eliminated 500 Australians and destroyed 21 tanks’.’ No mention was made of their own side’s casualties at all, an unusual omission. The communist account of the battle of Long Tan had effects both in the short and long term.