Long Tan: What REALLY happened

A revisionist view of the Battle of Long Tan that is currently doing the rounds:

Original version:

On 17 August 1966, Vietcong artillery and mortars hit the 1ATF base at Nui Dat. On 18 August 6RAR sent rifle companies to search for the firing sites. 11 Platoon contacted three Vietcong; Sergeant Bob Buick opened fire and D/6RAR fought a battle that changed the balance of power in the region.

Alternative version, in a galaxy not so far away.

D/6RAR is warned for the patrol and assembles on the battalion square, ‘Peace Plaza’. As 1ATF SOPs require, before each patrol an officer above company level, in this case, the CO, reads out the Rules Of Engagement (ROE) and platoon commanders collect the statements signed by each man that he has heard and understood the rules. Also as per SOPs, each man is handed by the platoon sergeants a fresh copy of the card containing the Vietnamese language phrases to be spoken on meeting locals, regardless of the action taken by the local person/s:
‘We are your friends from Australia. We respect your culture and cuisine and share your desire for world peace. Come closer and receive gifts of food and medicine.’ All ranks recite the words.

Major Harry Smith then moves the company out of 1ATF. D/6 is disgruntled because they will miss the ‘Hands Across the Oceans’ concert by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

D/6RAR meets B/6RAR hurrying back to the concert. Major Smith deploys the company and 11 Platoon leads into the Long Tan rubber.

Three Vietnamese insurgents walk up to 11 Platoon in a non-aggressive manner, but Sergeant Bob Buick opens fire, killing two while the third runs away. Following 1ATF SOPs, 11 Platoon remains in place and the rest of D/6 arrive. The bodies of the insurgents are untouched, 11 Platoon moves away from the contact site taking care to not disturb the scene, and the brass from Sergeant Buick’s firing is collected and bagged for forensic investigation. As per SOPs, CSM D/6RAR secures Buick’s rifle for the investigation.

5RAR in APCs and Chinooks arrives to secure the 11 Platoon contact scene. RACMP, SIB, legal officers, compensation claims officers, public relations staff, AA Pych teams, Intelligence staff, Red Cross, Amnesty International, GVN representatives and media arrive by air 44 UH-1D sorties are required. The Salvation Army Landrover arrives by road but is sent back to Nui Dat as according to 1ATF SOPs, stimulants are forbidden until the investigation is completed. 11 Platoon is disarmed and removed to Nui Dat for counselling; 2Lt Gordon Sharp and Sergeant Buick are confined to barracks separately until the interview process is complete. In Australia an AFP team on standby moves to the airport for deployment to the contact site.

The AFP investigation soon shows that Sharp and Buick have different versions of what happened, and on Day Three of the AFP interviews Buick admits that he did not recite the full three sentences of greeting as required, and omitted ‘world peace’. A sub-investigation begins: how was he appointed platoon sergeant while lacking cultural communication skills? CO 6RAR considers his future.

The AFP/Defence report, tabled in Federal Parliament, shows that 2Lt Sharp did not actually see the three insurgents and that Sergeant Buick acted on his own initiative, but this does not excuse Sharp, Major Smith, LtCol Townsend or Brigadier Jackson. Buick’s action in opening fire contravened three UN Resolutions and the 6RAR Routine Order on cultural sensitivity. The Prime Minister issued a statement reaffirming Australia’s desire for world peace; the Minister for the Army announced that an extra week of training in cultural awareness would be added to the mandatory course at Canungra; the CGS announced that only officer graduates from Duntroon and Portsea would be permitted to carry live ammunition and this would be issued to soldiers only with approval of Commander 1ATF, or in his absence the senior legal officer 1ATF. The Leader of the Opposition announced that all Australian workers, students and trade union officers deplored the loss of life and reminded the people of Australia that if returned to office an ALP government would immediately withdraw the Australian military force from South Vietnam and replace it with an equivalent force of trade unionists dedicated to introducing Australian values to the workers of South Vietnam.

In Phuoc Tuy Province, the insurgents in the Long Tan rubber observed the fast substantial response to the initial contact, realised that their plan was disrupted and withdrew to the May Tao mountains to conduct intensive security investigations to identify the traitor. The survivor of the contact confessed to waving and smiling in a non-revolutionary manner to the Australians. Major Smith was appointed SO2 Cultural Affairs at HQ 1ALSG, a posting denied by the CGS to be a demotion, but as ‘career-broadening’; 2Lt Sharp was allowed to continue as commander 11 Platoon; Sergeant Buick was posted to the RAAF School of Languages for further training.

The Australian involvement in South Vietnam continued, though the interference by 1ATF in the 1968 Tet celebrations caused further upsets in parliament. Cross-cultural training was increased again.
Are you American warm? [I know you're not, it's a rhetorical question]

It's called 'irony' and is a form of humour that the British find amusing, as do most Aussies I've met.

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