In June 1964 the New Zealand Government sent a detachment of Royal New Zealand Engineers to assist the United States forces in defending the Republic of South Vietnam from invasion by the North. The Engineers were replaced in June 1965 by 161 Battery, RNZA. Other military units were to follow and 161 Bty served with Royal Australian Artillery field regiments, usually as part of the 1st Australian Task Force in support of Australian and New Zealand infantry units. The battery left Vietnam in May 1971 after providing virtually continuous fire support to 1 ATF components and other friendly forces for six years.
Approximately 750 members of 161 Bty served in Vietnam after training at 161 Battery Depot. Tours of duty were 12 months with reinforcements being rotated through the battery each month.
Initially, the battery was equipped with four 105mm L5 pack howitzers, but this was later increased to six. These pieces were considered ideal for the current mobile type of operations because they could be lifted by the helicopters which were then available and were needed only for short periods in each fire base. Later operations required sustained fire for longer periods, and the L5s were replaced in 1967 with 105mm M2A2 howitzers which were lifted by the larger twin-rotor CH47 Chinook helicopter.
and the big guns roar . . .supporting artillery fired 'continuous fire' (24 guns firing 3 rounds per gun per minute) and will drop a total of 2,639 rounds of 105mm and 155 rounds of 155mm (from the Yanks) during the battle.
The VC assaults continued, but each was repulsed by our Artillery and small arms fire. The VC would then withdraw, re-organise and assault again, with tremendous MG and small arms tracer fire lighting up the fading daylight like a million fireflies. Our FO moved the gunfire around onto the VC, and by this time we had the support of all 24 or so Australian, NZ 105mm and US Army 155mm guns. They fired over 3000 rounds in support of D Company that afternoon. During lulls, between VC assaults we were able to walk around, tend to casualties and re-distribute weapons and ammunition ready for the next onslaught.
As in US provided the guns to ensure common ammo rather than US manned the 105s, They certainly manned the 155s.
We know from Guy Bransby's book that NZ arty worked for Aus Inf and vica versa etc! official AWM
In August 1966, when Long Tan occurred (D Coy 6 RAR vs 274 VC Regt & D445 Provincial Mobile Bn (approx 2000 all up)), 1 Australian Task Force comprised two RAR bns and a field regiment with 3 fd btys (at that time 103 & 105 Btys RAA & 161 RNZA under RHQ 1 Fd Regt RAA), amongst other arms and services. Also assigned to and positioned with 1 ATF was a US 155mm bty (M109 at that time, A Bty 2/35 I think).
At Long Tan arty ammo expediture over 3 or 4 hours was 3198 of 105mm from the three fd btys and 242 of 155. The 155 was in depth, 105 was close. The FO with D Coy was from 161 Bty.
The 105s were indeed L5 Pack How (which of course used M1 ammo), the following year they were replaced by M2A2, basically L5 wasn't up to the amount of firing and were falling to pieces. However, in 1970 one L5 re-entered servce as the 7th gun of 106 Fd Bty.
Long Tan was in a monsoon storm and as we found in Borneo (in 38 Bty anyway) the Italian sights fogged up (well the Italians have never been noted for optics), this caused a few probs on the gun posn, abetted by the smoke lingering due to the weather and aiming points being lost all over the place, difficult conditions. The good news was that the range was only about 5 km so chg 5 was OK.
Less successful was during the initial VC moves 36 hrs earlier, the RAA locaters failed to located a single mortar during an attack on 1 ATF base at Nui Dat, they were using a really useless radar, AN/KPQ1, originated by the USMC, but it was very lightweight and could operate in the surf. However, the LPs had got the right direction and the CB plan covered all the likely spots anyway.
Ah yes, some more detail, probably only understandable by those over 50. Aust and NZ BCPs used UK type equipment - Plotter Lightweight, C of M Graph, a much simpler Displacement Calculator than the UK equivalent. Unlike Borneo (and Radfan?) proper met was available becasue the US bty brought a met sect with them.
Of course the most notable RAA action was FSB CORAL in May 1968. Two guns of 102 Fd Bty and the bn mor pl were overrun. Serious fighting including gunners using bayonets, but en was driven off. Splintex was all expended (never leave home without it if there's a chance your bty might meet the enemy zu fuss).
I was lectured to on my DC OPA cse about Lon Tan by an Aussie IG with glasses - I canât remember his name. Good talk though. Talked about fire boxes and working a 8" Bty up and down the space between 3 other Bty providing the flank fires in close country
We all went bowling as the end of cse piss up.
Incidentaly one of the students Kenny Mc from 40 Regt is now an IG in the same branch.
either this is how time flies or we are all just getting old
'Fireboxes' - not a term that was used by RAA in Vietnam. 8 inch was only very very rarely used in close spt, they spent their time on H&I. Had this IG actually served in SVN or was he regurgitating third hand war stories?