August 18, 2021
Vietnam veterans, their families and friends gathered at commemorations across the South Burnett on Wednesday morning to mark the 55th anniversary of the Battle Of Long Tan.
The Australian War Memorial describes the bloody encounter:
Australian soldiers fought in scores of fierce actions during the war in Vietnam. Few were as intense or dramatic as the action in the Long Tan rubber plantation on August 18, 1966. An isolated infantry company of 108 men, cut off and outnumbered by at least 10 to one, withstood massed Viet Cong attacks for three hours. They suffered the heaviest Australian casualties in a single engagement in Vietnam, but prevailed against the odds. Their valiant stand became a defining action of the war.
Seventeen Australian soldiers were killed in action at Long Tan and 25 were wounded, one of whom died nine days later. Eleven of the dead were National Servicemen and seven were Regular Army soldiers.
Their average age was 21.
However, as the Australian War Memorial notes, the recalling of a single battle on one afternoon in August 1966 now commemorates all Australians who took part in the Vietnam War.
Almost 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam, both regulars and conscripts; 521 died and more than 3000 were wounded.
Commemoration ceremonies were held in Murgon, Wondai, Kingaroy, Nanango and Blackbutt.
In Kingaroy, the organisers – the Kingaroy-Memerambi RSL Sub-Branch – asked participants to also recall the sacrifices of Australian defence force personnel in more recent conflicts, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
And local Catholic parish priest Fr Chukwudi Chinaka – who conducted the prayers at the commemoration – urged people to not only remember those soldiers who had died, but all who had returned with physical and emotional scars from service, and those who have died since they returned.
Former South Burnett mayor Keith Campbell – whose son has served in East Timor and Afghanistan – was the guest speaker.
He retold the story of Long Tan and also welcomed Kingaroy resident Judy Dixon to the ceremony.
Judy’s brother Barry Magnussen was part of 11 Platoon D Company which was pinned down in that infamous Long Tan rubber plantation in 1966.
Barry survived the war but died in 2015 and is now buried in Wondai Cemetery.
One year after his death, he was posthumously awarded the Medal For Gallantry for his actions at Long Tan.
Mr Campbell noted the lives of many Vietnam veterans were changed forever by their service, and many were treated very poorly on their return to Australia.
“The citizens of the South Burnett must not let the veterans of Afghanistan down,” he said.
Kingaroy-Memerambi Sub-Branch president Don Davey – himself a Vietnam veteran – said he could not have imagined back then he would be standing at a Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony 53 years later.
“Half of us wouldn’t have imagined that we would have lasted this long,” he said.
“But I am thankful that we are able to be here today to look back with gratefulness … and with regret for our brothers who did not return.”