Today Australians across the country are encouraged to commemorate the service of all those who served in the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan.
FILE PHOTO (August 1966): Australian APCs and dismounted soldiers pursue retreating Viet Cong troops in Phuoc Tuy Province. Photo by Billy Cunneen.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Australians should pause and reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance that was displayed throughout the battle and wider war.
“Almost 60,000 Australians served during the Vietnam War, and tragically 521* of them died with a further 3,000* wounded,” Mr Chester said.
“Tomorrow, 18 August, we commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day and the 53rd anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, where we remember the sacrifices of those who died and say thank you to all those who served.”
The Battle of Long Tan took place in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan and is widely known as one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers, who faced wet and muddy conditions due to torrential rain and the loss of their radios.
“We also remember the actions of more than 100* Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were vastly outnumbered, facing a force of 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops,” Mr Chester said.
“Tragically, some 18 Australians died* and more than 20* were wounded. This was the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian task force had arrived a few months earlier.
“This Battle formed a significant part of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War – a decade long campaign.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: CONTACT means no disrespect to Vietnam Veterans on Vietnam Veterans’ Day by highlighting what we feel is shoddy and/or lazy writing in the minister’s press release, above. In fact, I feel calling out the minister on this, is the best way I can honour those who deserve our total respect.
Aside from the intern-standard prose (especially the fifth paragraph, highlighted by italics), I feel the minister’s apparent preference for Wikipedia stats over Australian War Memorial stats is reprehensible.
Mr Chester say “…a further 3000 wounded”
Wikipedia says ~3000 wounded (i.e. about 3000)
Australian War Memorial says 3129 ‘casualties’
However, this total includes more nearly 700 non-battle casualties
AWM says 2348 Army were actually ‘wounded’ in battle
Mr Chester says “…521 of them died”
Coincidentally(?) Wikipedia says 521, while the Australian War Memorial says 500 exactly, with 426 actually killed in battle plus 74 non-battle casualties
414 Army were KIA, plus 12 Navy/RAAF KIA (not separated anywhere I could find)
The DVA web site also says 521 lost their lives – but is hyperlinked, for further information, to an AWM page that says 500
Mr Chester says “…tragically 18 Australian died…” at Long Tan
We say 18 Australians were ‘killed’ in action
Mr Chester says “more than 20” were wounded at Long Tan
We say, what’s wrong with being specific when discussing a specific battle
Also, if you are specific about one statistic in a sentence, writing protocol dictates you should use specifics for any subsequent stat in the same sentence, especially if they are related
The specifics for Long Tan are 18 KIA and 24 WIA (17 killed and 21 wounded in D Coy, 6RAR)
Mr Chester says “…more than 100” faced the enemy
Again, we say, why not be specific when discussing a specific incident, where the numbers are actually known – if you actually know them
For the record, it was 105 soldiers and officers of D Company, 6RAR. plus three New Zealand artillerymen
(supported by Australian, New Zealand and American artillery, resupplied by RAAF helicopters, and eventually relieved by Australian armour (who suffered 1KIA) and Australian/New Zealand infantry)
For the record, non-Army casualties = Navy 8 ‘died’ and 48 ‘wounded/injured/ill’ – RAAF 14 ‘died’, 56 ‘wounded/injured/ill’
And, while the AWM doesn’t separate RAAF and Navy KIA specifically, maths suggests that of the 22 non-Army who ‘died’, 12 of those were battle casualties
EDITOR’S NOTE 2: DANGER CLOSE – The Battle of Long Tan is an excellent new Australian movie that, while not 100% accurate in every minute detail, will go a long way towards educating those who have less of an understanding than they aught to. It is also a damn good ‘war movie’ if you like that genre. See my movie review here.