A Diggers viewpoint of being at the sharp end. Gained while serving with 3 Platoon - 'A' Company -7 Battlion (Infantry) Royal Australian Regiment, as a Rifleman in Australia's longest ever war - fought in South Vietnam.  

Chapter 3 - Page 15 - Updated January 2008 - Next Page:- The Odd Angry Shot 16/35

[site map] [Chapter One]  [Chapter Two] [Chapter Three] [Chapter Four] [Chapter Five] [Chapter Six] [Arrival Images]

[contact wait out page 14] [the enemy in Phouc Tuy Province page 15] [the odd angry shot page 16] [advance to contact page 17]


 Site Index




site map1

site intro 2

orderly room 3

announcements 4

books 5

student page 6


memorial 8



  • History Of Phouoc Tuy Province
  • Battle of LONG TAN.
  • Vietnam Veterans Day - 18th August.
  • The Enemy
  • This page has few images, it is a background information page
  • The shot on the right was taken at Kapooka one of the few I have wearing a slouch hat.

 Use Map below to find your way about Phuoc Tuy Province


This page presents the setting of Phuoc Tuy Province and the enemy, the Viet Cong at the time 7RAR were undertaking their second Tour. It also it provides the background for the Battle of Long Tan which had a huge impact on future Australian and Viet Cong operations.

The shot on the left is taken from an ambush position looking towards the Long Hai Mountains. This page in future will list a number of Operations and Battles that 7RAR were involved in.


In 1962 a government decree changed the name of the Province to "Phuoc Tuy". When it was decided in 1966 that Australian forces would be responsible for Phuoc Tuy Province, preliminary operations were planned to clear the designated base area at Nui Dat from immediate threat of Viet Cong attack. In May 1966 two battalions of the 173rd US Airborne Brigade cleared the area around Nui Dat. One US company suffered eight killed and 23 WIA in one action. Phuoc Tuy Province which was about 50 km from north to south and 40km from east to west, has an area of 1958 km2, which is approximately the same size as the Australian Capital Territory.

In 1966 population was about 106,000 in villages and hamlets grouped around Routes 15, 23 and 44 to the south of the province. The dry season is from November to April and the wet season with its overbearing high humidity from May to October, with year round temperatures of 27°C (80 degrees F) except January and February which averaged about 16° C (60 °F).  The adjacent Vung Tau Special Zone was considered secure from Viet Cong interference and provided an area "in country" for rest and convalescence (R&C). It was a place that allied troops could wander through streets unarmed and quite secure, if you discount 'the cowboys". Young men on motor bikes looking for trouble and the younger kids who could steal your wallet or watch as quick as looking at you. They would surround you calling out "Uc Dai Loi".

NOTE: Uc Dai Loi is roughly translated as "Men from the South" although I would not bet on that. Over the years I have heard many 'translations'. Used as a term we heard when in contact with locals, it was said as "Uc Dai Loi - you number one" if you did the right thing. Or 'Number 'you are 10' if you were being difficult. Vung Tau had a port and airfield both of which were relatively secure and provided the nucleus for development of US and Australian logistic facilities.

 The site was picked in the early days with the view; if the war went bad the Australians could withdraw via the sea. without having to rely on the US, who would have had their own problems in that event. So it came to pass after 10 long years at war, when the last Combat Diggers left Vietnam in 1972 those of Delta Company, Four Battalion RAR, they did so via HMAS Sydney from Vung Tau.


In 1966 The local V.C., commanders could not allow the Task Force to set up and operate without taking them on or they would 'loose face' with the local population. To deal a major blow to the "Uc Dai Loi" and perhaps change the Australian commitment in Vietnam, the V.C., commanders planned an attack against the new Task Force base, if it came off, it would be devastating. Also it was important that the local V.C., units to play a large part in the attack against the Australians, so D445 was to be used for the initial and main assault.

The Battle for the Task Force did take place, but not as the VC commanders envisaged it would. Rather than a direct attack against the Task Force Base, the Aussie Diggers in the form of D Company 6RAR and the V.C., met in an 'encounter battle', under the rubber trees on 18th August 1966. Named after the area, it was called the "Battle of Long Tan".

Those wanting to know more about the Battle should read Lex McAulay's brilliant book "The Battle of Long Tan". Also there is a new book on the subject and it is well worth reading. It is called "The Commanders" and it is written by the Key Australian Commanders at the Battle. Lt Sabben among them.

However for the purpose of this background brief on the Enemy in Phouc Tuy my information is taken from a paper written by a former Platoon Commander of D Company 6RAR who played a major part in the Battle by the name of Dave Sabben. In the paper Lt Sabben puts the facts to close examination and establishes clearly the aims of the VC were to devastate the Task Force Base and kill as many 'Uc Dai Loi' as possible. Without the D Company Diggers performing above and beyond, as they did that day many more lives would have been lost that day and on into the future.

The battle took place outside the Task Force Base area and well within the fearsome power of the Artillery. It started about 16:00hrs when 11 Platoon had a contact following tracks, some clicks from the Task Force base. Rain had started to fall. The Company was spread out tactically with 11 Platoon up forward on the right flank. This platoon took the brunt of the intial fire from the VC. They were pinned down for some time while the Company OC maneuvered first 10 platoon and then 12 platoon to try and link up with the Diggers still alive in 11, to allow them to move back to CHQ.

The company in the spread out formation did not allow the V.C., to identify the formation and carry out mass attacks to over run the Diggers. Many major assaults took place during the battle as the V.C., commanders desperately tried to identify the Aussie positions and destroy the Australians before any help could arrive.

The situation for ammunition was critical and 2 RAAF Choppers arrived overhead in the nick of time to drop boxes of ammo directly in Company Head Quarters area. D Company Sergeant Major Jack Kirby was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery under fire in moving about the position handing out ammo and his outstanding leadership. During the battle the VC had a go at setting up a heavy caliber machine gun and he moved out of the position killed the crew and returned. Tragically he was killed some months later by our own artillery.

During the battle the Australian Artillery Regiment of 18 guns fired close to 200 rounds per gun. This is not counting the support from the Kiwis and a USA Battery firing in support. They were responsible for destroying many assault lines of the enemy as they formed up again and again to attack the Diggers of D Company. However it should be pointed out that at least half of the VC dead around the Aussie positions at Long Tan were killed by direct small arms fire, a tribute to the Diggers of D Company and their battle skills.

Meanwhile desperate measures were being taken at Nui Dat to scramble a force of APCs and Infantry to come to the rescue of D Company. About 18:00hrs they are on the way, needing to find a way over the swollen Suoi Da Bang river. By 18:50hrs the APCs and their infantry crews are in heavy contact with the V.C., who are still trying to encircle D Company, for a final assault. By 19:00rs the arrival of the APCs finally breaks the determined enemy and they stream from the battlefield leaving over 240 of their comrades behind. In the days that followed many graves are found putting the enemy dead closer to 500. By their skill, courage and determination, the 100 Diggers of D Company 6RAR fought off over 1,000 enemy solders, of a force of over 2,000 in a desperate three hour battle in pouring rain and fading light.

Many years later Veterans of 6RAR who fought at the Battle met to hold a service to remember fallen mates. Then They began to carry out the practice each year across Australia. That anniversary day also became known as the "Australian Vietnam Veterans Day" and is honoured across Australia on 18th August each year. Members of D Company were Awarded a USA Presidential Unit Citation for the Battle. Also they should have got the Cross of Gallantry from the South Vietnamese Government and some Diggers should have been awarded other individual Awards but stupid requlations and the quoter system used in Vietnam at the time prevented the brave Diggers from being recognised as they should have been.



'click here to go to a page to see the province from the air'

A similar link is at the bottom of that page to return here!

Above is a map of the Province. This is assist with some stories as being able to place A Company and Three Platoon on the ground. I will list some of the key places.

  • First on the left bottom:- VUNG TAU, home of 1-LSG the Australian Base and the First Australian Field Hospital, with its chopper pad called VAMPIRE.
  • Middle of Map:- NUI DAT should need no introduction. The site that of the Task Force, 1ATF.
  • Right of that is the area:- for the Battle of LONG TAN.
  • Go down to cross roads on right:- Town at the cross roads is DAT DO.
  • Above cross road to right:- The Horse Shoe, which was mostly moved to by road by 3 Platoon and A Company but not always.
  • Follow road South:- The road arrives at the ocean and Lang Phuoc Hai. A fishing village which was pro VC. During it Tour 3 Platoon had a number of contacts with VC around local villages.
  • To the Left:- Is the Long Hai Hills. In many of my stories I call them "Mountains", so I will not be changing my words back to hills.
  • NDP BRIGID:- Is at the bottom of the map near Lang Phuoc Hai village. It was between the big black dot and the little dotted line, to represent the Minefield.
  • Nui May Tao:- This is spot that I think we attacked late in the year? The details are contained in the story Mine Incident on page 20.


There were four levels of enemy in the Province. 274 Viet Cong Main Force Regiment, 1200 to 1500 strong, was based in the area of the boarder between Bien Hoa, Long Khanh and Phuoc Tuy and operated in all these areas. There were two Viet Cong Local Force Infantry Battalion: D440, 350 to 400 strong, based in the Phuoc Tuy-Long Khanh boarder area astride Route 2: and D445, of about the same strength, based in the south-east of Phouc Tuy.

There were also three substantially district-based Viet Cong Local Force Companies: C23, the Xuyen Moc District Company, 30 strong; C25, the Long Dat District Company, 110 strong; and C41, the Chau Duc District Company, also 110 strong. The lowest level of enemy was found in numerous village guerilla units from eight to 20 strong. At times there was some evidence of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) as reinforcements in D440 and D445.

The enemy was armed with a wide array of weaponry. Main Force and Local Force units had Chinese or Soviet 7.62mm AK47 assault rifles and SKS rifles as their standard weapons. Officers often carried 7.62 mm K54 pistols. The most common machine gun was the Chinese or Soviet 7.62 mm RPD.  Perhaps the most effective Viet Cong weapons were the rocket propelled grenades-the RPG, often called the B40 by the VC and the RPG7 (B41). Each RPG had the capacity to inflict a mass of shrapnel wounds with a single shot and had considerable anti-armoured personnel carrier capability.

Before the arrival of 1ATF at Nui Dat and the Task Force taking over the responsibility for the larger part of Phuoc Tuy, D445 virtually operated at will as a Battalion. Its bases were closer to the areas of population and it had a particular unhindered association with the people who supplied the intelligence and supplies needed for its operations. Since the destruction and denial of these forward bases and difficulty of large scale movement being undetected for any length of time the Battalion must spend more time in preparation for operations. Also it must be prepared to accept heavier casualties if it does concentrate for an operation and is discovered by air or contacts a reaction force.

DEFENCE:- Experience had taught D445 Battalion that the only way to be safe from air and artillery is to dig. If camps are located in areas remote from the possibility of ground actions then only minor attention is paid to the siting of the whole camp tactically. Where it is considered that the camps could come under enemy attack they are sited bearing in mind mutual support, depth, camouflage and counter attack. The defence works are well built and capable of withstanding all but a direct hit. Sentries, mines and booby traps are extensively employed to warn of any approach and to provide a low level protection of an caches the Battalion may have placed. When it choose to fight it will press an attack tenaciously and with skill.

The main enemy group opposing 7RAR during its two tours was D445 and just naming it will evoke a response from a Digger who served in the field. During the war the number of VC killed by our forces in D445 Battalion would have been enough to wipe out the battalion a few times over, but the unit some how survived the war and vets of the unit have been interviewed many time over the years about their battles with the Uc Dai Loi and about the Battle of Long Tan in particular.

The VC lost a huge number of their soldiers during the war with the Australians and sometimes images of the dead were used on 'Cheiu Hoi' pamphlets drooped over the jungle to try and get them to change over to the Government side. In my humble opinion the mauling the VC received at the hands of the brave Diggers of D Company on 18th August 1966, set the tone for future operations against the Australians by the local VC and NVA.

While there were a number of big battles over the years between our forces and the enemy I am sure that the memory of and the losses inflicted on the VC at Long Tan caused them to try and avoid contact unless it was absolutely unavoidable. As the site develops a list will be placed on this page of major engagements that took place between the two forces during the war.

A 'Cheiu Hoi Pamphlet

A 'Cheiu Hoi Pamphlet Reverse Side

Another Pamphlet

Enemy AK 47


NOTICE:- The information about Nui Dat, Phouc Tuy Province and the Enemy came from the 7RAR Association publication "Conscripts and Regulars, with the Seventh Battalion in Vietnam" with the kind permission of Major General M. O'Brien CSC the author of that book.

The information about the Battle of Long Tan came from a paper written by former a 6RAR D Company 12 Platoon Commander Lt David Sabben. The paper is called "Was The Battle of Long Tan a VC Ambush", and was presented to the Australian War Memorial on Friday 1st November 1996.

Many thanks to Peter Haran & Robert Kearney for permission to use the map below from one of their books. They are authors of these books:- TRACKERS,  FLASHBACK & CROSSFIRE, Published by New Holland.



[contact wait out 14] [the enemy in P/T Province 15] [the odd angry shot 16] [advance to contact 17]

'click here to go to a page to see the province from the air'

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