[47] 7.62 mm M60 machine-guns were placed out around the perimeter, but there was no time to test fire them or to properly tie in their arcs of fire. Based in Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province, the 1st Australian Task Force was part of US II Field Force, Vietnam (IIFFV), under the overall command of Lieutenant General Frederick Weyand. Meanwhile, the Viet Cong successfully penetrated the capital on 5 May, plunging Saigon into chaos during the May Offensive in an attempt to influence the upcoming Paris peace talks scheduled to begin on the 13th. Accession Number: The extraordinary gallantry displayed by members of the 1st Australia Task Force (Forward) and associated units deployed to Area of Operations Surfers during the Battle of Fire Support Base Coral and the Battle of Fire Support Base Balmoral is being recognised by … [87] In order to bolster his defences and provide an increased offensive capability, on 21 May Dunstan ordered the Centurion tanks from C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment to redeploy the 120 kilometres (75 mi) from Nui Dat. Subscribed. Heavy fighting resulted in 17 Australians killed and 61 wounded, while communist casualties included at least 145 killed, 110 wounded and five captured, with many more removed from the battlefield. [93], The bunkers were well constructed and camouflaged, while visibility was limited to just 10 to 20 metres (11 to 22 yd) among the dense vegetation and consequently many were not located by the Australians until they were upon them. A series of sporadic contacts then took place between the Australians and withdrawing North Vietnamese parties, while at 05:30 a helicopter light-fire team became effective and forced the North Vietnamese rearguard to abandon its positions. [89] Two American M42 40 mm Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns had also accompanied the tanks and further strengthened the Australian FSBs in a ground support role. This is the story of my experiences at the battle of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral in May 1968. 3 RAR was responsible for the security of FSB Coral, with D Company defending the north-west approaches, while the remaining three companies were dispersed over 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) to the west, spread between the FSB and the New Zealand gun positions to the south-west. The attack was repelled after four hours of fighting, with the Australians having suffered five men killed and 19 wounded. That was our welcome home! [64][99][Note 4] During a three-hour battle the Australians and North Vietnamese fought each other from bunker to bunker. Public. 48 years ago on this day, 16 May 1968, the second attack on Australian Fire Support Base (FSB) Coral took place in Vietnam. As such the Australian concept of operations subsequently evolved from one of searching and clearing in order to locate and cut infiltration and withdrawal routes, into a series of reconnaissance-in-force operations from heavily defended bases. [30], 1 ATF would move with its headquarters and two infantry battalions—1 RAR and 3 RAR—as well as cavalry, artillery, engineer and aviation elements operating in support, including M113 armoured personnel carriers from A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 105 mm M2A2 howitzers from 12th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, Bell H-13 Sioux light observation helicopters from 161st Reconnaissance Flight and mortar locating radars from 131st Divisional Locating Battery. [101], Over the following days 1 ATF continued patrolling, although these operations resulted in only small-scale contact with the North Vietnamese. 2020 BATTLE OF CORAL-BALMORAL The attle of ORAL ALMORAL was Australia’s largest, longest, bloodiest and most costly battle of the Vietnam War. [114][123] Yet while the battle ended in victory for 1 ATF, they had come close to suffering defeat at the hands of the North Vietnamese. However, such events appeared to be chance encounters and caused the Australians no particular concern. This page continues the tradition of 1Battalion RAR and 12 Field Regiment RAA by recording and preserving the Battle of Fire Support Base Coral 12 May - 6 June 1968 in Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam. Ordering his men to fix bayonets, Weekes successfully reorganised the defences however, and called in close mortar fire to stabilise the position, resulting in heavy casualties among the assaulting force. [97][115] Yet the approach of the wet season concerned Hughes, who believed it could hinder the movement of the Centurions and leave them stranded 120 kilometres (75 mi) from base until the dry season. [64] The North Vietnamese had fought in greater numbers, with heavier firepower and greater intensity than previously experienced by the Australians in Vietnam, forcing them to refine their tactics. The battalion would then occupy blocking positions and patrol AO Bondi. [135] In late-1968 1 ATF was again deployed outside its base in Phouc Tuy, operating against suspected communist bases in the May Tao and Hat Dich areas as part of Operation Goodwood. In response, 1 ATF was deployed along likely infiltration routes in order to defend the vital Bien Hoa-Long Binh complex near Saigon between January and March, as part of Operation Coburg. It is estimated at least 300 North Vietnamese soldiers were also killed. 6 gun of 102 Field Battery, 12th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery.  C269848. [60] Taking advantage of the extinguishing of a fire that the Australians had been using to direct the helicopter gunships, the North Vietnamese again attacked at 05:00 in an effort to further cover their withdrawal. The battle took place over many days in May 1968, after 1RAR and 3RAR, established Fire Support Base Coral. [93], On 25 May, 3 RAR began local defensive and familiarisation patrols. US casualties were also heavy and it proved to be the most costly week of the war for the Americans. Fifty-seven camps and bunker systems were also destroyed, as were large quantities of weapons, munitions and supplies. Later, two more Australians were wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade fired into FSB Coral. Battle of Coral and Balmoral The battles of Coral & Balmoral: May-June 1968 Forty years ago, in May/June 1968 Australian soldiers fought their largest, most sustained and arguably most hazardous battles of the Vietnam War. [74] During the afternoon, the patrol activity resulted in heavy fighting, and two separate actions fought within half an hour of each other by different platoons from 1 RAR led to two Australians being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)—Lance Corporal David Griffiths and Private Richard Norden. [10] Amid the initial shock, Prime Minister John Gorton unexpectedly declared that Australia would not increase its military commitment in Vietnam beyond the current level of 8,000 personnel. It is simply the events as I remember them. [54], Meanwhile, the 1 RAR Anti-Tank Platoon—commanded by Lieutenant Les Tranter—also engaged with Splintex from their 90 mm RCLs, firing across the front of the mortars and relieving the immediate pressure on them. 1. … [53] Following a ten-minute pause a number of flares signalled the start of the assault. [125], In contrast, for the North Vietnamese the battle was just one part of the May Offensive, although they later claimed to have killed 800 Australians during a single attack—a fact which may have indicated the importance they placed on it at the time. [108] Supported by APCs, the Australian infantry and tanks then assaulted and cleared several bunkers, allowing the lead platoon to withdraw after three hours of fighting. However, with contacts decreasing, on 1 June Weyand judged the Australian blocking operation to have been successful in limiting the communist offensive against Saigon, and directed US and ARVN units to relieve them. Yet many more men were undoubtedly entombed in the bunkers after being crushed by the tanks, making a comprehensive body count impossible. [71] FSB Balmoral would be developed as a battalion defensive position only, and 161st Battery RNZA was subsequently flown to FSB Coral, in order to concentrate all of the artillery in that location from where they would be able to cover the whole of the new AO. [118] Equally, the prosecution of the war would increasingly be handed over to the South Vietnamese under a policy of Vietnamization, with the Americans aiming to keep North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units off balance to prevent them from interfering with resupply and reinforcement until the South Vietnamese could fight the war on their own. [116] Nonetheless the tanks departed FSB Coral on 5 June; travelling via Bearcat and Route 15, the road move went without incident and they returned to Nui Dat by 17:00 on 6 June. Five days later 2 RAR was relieved by 3 RAR, having completed its last major operation before returning to Australia. It's known as Coral-Balmoral. [111] Operation Toan Thang I continued for another six days regardless, and 1 ATF patrolled extensively into June. Battle of Coral-Balmoral - Vimeo SD Widescreen. Intending to capture the field guns, two North Vietnamese companies rushed the Australians from the north-east firing their AK-47 assault rifles, with the 1 RAR Mortar Platoon taking the brunt of the initial attack, while the 1 ATF Defence Platoon was also pinned down by heavy machine-gun fire. [6][7] Regardless, it proved to be a turning point in the war and although it had been a tactical disaster for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, Hanoi emerged with a significant political victory as confidence in the American military and political leadership collapsed, as did public support for the war in the United States. Re-supply by road had continued daily from Long Binh to Bearcat, while following the move to Coral re-supply was primarily by air due to the threat of possible interdiction. [113] FSB Balmoral was subsequently declared closed on 5 June, with 3 RAR and its direct support battery returning to Nui Dat by air, while FSB Coral was also closed the following day. Amid the confusion, follow-up sections hesitated upon reaching the mortar position, while other groups skirmished around the flanks and between the artillery and mortars. [135] As part of the allied response the Australians were deployed to defend Ba Ria, the provincial capital, while during 20−23 August, B and C Company, 1 RAR with a troop of Centurion tanks were involved in intense urban fighting while supporting South Vietnamese forces to clear a company-sized force from D445 VC Battalion occupying Long Dien. [137] Yet such failures were neither final nor decisive and Hanoi seemed to increasingly hold the upper hand. There were six major battles that were of equal or greater duration and intensity than the attle of Long Tan and there were more Australian casualties than in the attle of Long Tan. Two short video clips from action at Coral/Balmoral have now been uploaded to YouTube: 3 RAR Action in Vietnam and Attack repulsed at Australian base. Casualties were heavy on both sides and although the Australians had won a convincing victory, they had come close to suffering both a political and military defeat at the hands of the North Vietnamese. The Australians then counter-attacked with elements of A Company supported by APCs, regaining the lost 3 Platoon section post. May 13, 2018: Below the War Memorial in Canberra those who fought in the Battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral during the Vietnam War are being recognised for gallantry. Tim Fischer’s death reminds us that the Australians fought an even bigger, longer and more deadly battle than Long Tan (discussed in the most recent blog) in Vietnam – the Battle of Coral- Balmoral – at which he was wounded. While Long Tan was an important battle, Coral and Balmoral had greater loss of life and more casualties on both sides. from Rodney Usback. [36] In total, an estimated strength of 3,000 to 4,000 men. [85] A Company, 3 RAR subsequently occupied a blocking position on the Suoi Ba Pho creek, ambushing North Vietnamese moving northwards and directing mortar firing onto evasion routes, killing eight and capturing two. Saturday, May 12, is the 50th anniversary of the 26-day long Battle of Coral-Balmoral which saw some of the fiercest fighting involving Australians in Vietnam. 50 Year Anniversary. [114] The operation finally concluded on 6 June, with 1 RAR returning to Nui Dat by Chinook after handing over the area of operations to the US 1st Infantry Division, while the logistic, artillery and armoured elements returned by road convoy. [49] This reconnaissance had not gone unnoticed by the Australian infantry, however, and companies from both 1 RAR and 3 RAR had fleeting contacts with small groups of North Vietnamese at last light and into the evening. [67]Command and control had been insufficient and in hindsight the lack of co-ordination in setting up the defence could have been avoided with the appointment of a local defence commander. [104] Quantities of weapons, clothing, ammunition and equipment were also recovered by the Australians. The attackers subsequently succeeded in capturing No. [76][77] By 15 May, the Australians considered their defences to be properly co-ordinated, while nearby the North Vietnamese 141st Regiment was again preparing to attack Coral after evading the intensive patrolling. [117][Note 5] They had reacted quickly and proficiently to mount a battalion attack on the first night in an attempt to push the Australians off their line of communications; however, while the attacks on Coral and Balmoral had been well co-ordinated, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had repeatedly surrendered the element of surprise with preparatory fire and poor light discipline alerting the defenders on each occasion. Military conflicts similar to or like Battle of Coral–Balmoral. Although the supply of fuel and ammunition was generally satisfactory, stocks had run dangerously low on one occasion during heavy fighting at FSB Coral due to the calculation of usage rates based on previous operations, requiring an emergency night-time resupply by Chinook while the base was under attack. Regardless, with 1 ATF lacking the manpower to hold the area, the failure of South Vietnamese forces to permanently occupy the Long Hais meant that any gains were only fleeting, and the D445 Battalion headquarters soon returned to the area after ejecting a South Vietnamese regional force company a few months later. The daylight revealed that the North Vietnamese had once again been soundly defeated leaving 42 dead and seven prisoners, while Australian losses were one killed and eight wounded. Website. [68] Hughes arrived at 08:00 and directed Bennett to redeploy his companies in all-round defence of FSB Coral, with 1 RAR consolidating their defensive arrangements with wire, sandbags, overhead protection and claymore mines, while tripod-mounted machine-guns were also emplaced to fire on fixed lines. Although there were further bombardments on 26 and 28 May, and patrols sent out from the base came into contact with the enemy, Coral was not seriously threatened again. Two members of an American battery which had reinforced the base were also wounded. The Battle of Coral-Balmoral was a series of fierce attacks fought in Vietnam 50 years ago this May. [59] Throughout the night, fire support was co-ordinated by the 1 RAR command post and the fire support co-ordinating centre, which controlled integral fires from 102nd Field Battery, its direct support battery, as well as from 161st Battery RNZA and the 81 mm mortars from 3 RAR. 1 RAR occupied the eastern approaches, with its rifle companies dispersed over 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) harbouring in night ambush positions, while C Company was isolated to the south-east picketing the road to Tan Uyen in order to provide security for the convoy due to arrive from Bearcat the following day. Yet after successfully opening a number of gaps in the wire, they failed to press home their attack. [14][16] Meanwhile, 7 RAR had finished its last operation in March and was relieved by 1 RAR on 9 April, returning to Australia having completed its twelve-month tour. 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