August 24th 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Biological and transgender worldviews are mutually exclusive

CANBERRA OBSERVED Can you have too much of a renewables thing?

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Professor Augusto Zimmermann addresses NCC WA on freedoms

NSW ABORTION BILL Clear and present danger to women's health

RURAL AFFAIRS Land-clearing laws render productive land useless and worthless

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Why an indigenous referendum is misconceived

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY The post-liberal way: Make good use of the time in the wilderness

ASIAN AFFAIRS Hong Kong defies its obtrusive overlord

SPECIAL FILM REVIEW Danger Close: Australia's fiercest battle of the Vietnam War

HUMOUR Rage against the baked bean

MUSIC Riff wrap: The thing that makes it go 'pop'

CLASSIC CINEMA Dr Strangelove: Helpless fear turned to laughter

BOOK REVIEW The epic awfulness of Mao and his 'isms'

BOOK REVIEW From slave to son of the Church

LETTERS

POETRY

ZEG'S PLACE

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SPECIAL FILM REVIEW
Danger Close: Australia's fiercest battle of the Vietnam War




News Weekly, August 24, 2019

The Battle of Long Tan, a battle fought in August 1966, was the most telling single engagement involving Australian units during the entire Vietnam War.

For the North Vietnamese regime, the decision by the Australian government to commit ground forces to assist in defending South Vietnam from invasion in early 1966 required a military response.

The Hanoi regime ordered two of its battle-hardened units operating secretly in South Vietnam to inflict a military defeat on the Australian forces that would force a political decision to withdraw from the war.

So it was that just two months after Australian forces took over responsibility for the defence of Phuoc Tuy province east of Saigon, North Vietnam’s D445 Battalion, supported by the 275 VC Main Force Regiment, commenced an operation designed to capture the headquarters of the Australian Task Force.

The operation began in the early hours of August 17 with a night attack that included precision mortars backed by rifle fire on the Task Force HQ and artillery firing positions around the Australian camp.

Perimeter

The attack clearly came from within the outer perimeter that the Australians were trying to establish around the base.

The following day, the Australian Task Force Commander, Brigadier Oliver Jackson, ordered commander of the Sixth Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), Lieutenant Colonel Townsend, to send a company of soldiers to find the location of the mortar attack and, if possible, destroy it.

B Company 6RAR went out and found the place from where the attack had been launched, but found no enemy troops.

Later that day, they were relieved by D Company, which set out to follow foot tracks and wheel tracks away from the camp into a nearby rubber plantation, not realising that they were being lured into an ambush.

The forward platoon came under intense machinegun attack, and were pinned down. When another platoon (of about 28 men) went to their aid, they also came under intense and sustained attack.

The North Vietnamese now encircled the Australian company, which had been split into platoon-size fragments.

Initially, it was believed that the entire forward platoon had been wiped out, but through good discipline, the remnants of that platoon retreated to join the rest of D Company.

At about this time, a tropical storm hit, pinning the Australians to the ground while encircled by overwhelmingly supe­rior forces. The Company was then subject to relentless mortar and machinegun attacks, to the point where they were almost out of ammunition until brave RAAF helicopter pilots resupplied them in the midst of the battle.

As night-time drew near, the Australians were subject to human wave attacks as the North Vietnamese desperately tried to destroy the Australian force. The situation became so precarious that the Australians ordered their own artillery to target their own position, as the enemy were so close.

Fortunately D Company survived, assisted by good strategic decision-making, firm discipline, a strong sense of mateship, and the accurate bombardment provided by Australian and New Zealand gunners from the base.

Despite taking heavy casualties, D Company held its ground and, as night fell, they were rescued by 10 armoured personnel carriers – which look like small tanks – bringing reinforcements, and carrying away the dead and wounded.

The following day, it was announced that 18 Australians had died, and many others injured. It also became apparent, from the number of enemy dead left on the battlefield, that perhaps 800 battle-hardened North Vietnamese troops and their Viet Cong allies had perished, many as a result of the artillery bombardment.

It was obvious that what initially seemed like a serious defeat had been an astonishing triumph, against overwhelming odds. The North Vietnamese never tried this again.

Danger Close accurately portrays the sequence of the battle itself, including the horrifying situation facing the surrounded diggers. It is not for the faint-hearted, and portrays the reality of war in all its appalling details. This is a good film, but misses out in conveying the strategic context of the battle, and the utter contempt that the North Vietnamese had for human life, including those of their own soldiers.

The film’s characterisation of the Vietnam conflict as a “civil war” – a favourite argument of those who opposed Australian involvement at the time – ignores the dishonesty and deception routinely used by the communists to justify their war of conquest.

Despite this, Danger Close deserves to be seen for its portrayal of the Australian fighting spirit, which should be recognised and celebrated.




























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