LETTER: Commemorative service marks 50 years since Vietnam War

Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel

THE Vietnam War had a profound impact on Australia and we owe veterans of this conflict our respect and recognition.

I say to them all, thank you for your service.

Yesterday Australia commemorated 50 years since Operation Hammersley was carried out in the Long Hai area of Phuoc Tuy Province, from February to March 1970.

The Long Hai area had been the object of operations and air strikes since 1967, but remained a strong enemy base known to the Viet Cong as the ‘Minh Dam Secret Zone’.

Operation Hammersley began when C Company, 8th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR) and supporting elements that included a troop of tanks, a troop of armoured personnel carriers, combat engineers and a mortar section were ordered to secure a quarry site at the foot of the Long Hai hills.

As the Australians met with early success during Hammersley, the Operation’s scope increased until most of 8RAR became involved.

The early stages of fighting were characterised by infantry ambushes carried out by both sides.

While the Australians had the support of armoured vehicles, they were at a disadvantage, facing an enemy able to make use of the shelter offered by the many caves running beneath the Long Hai hills.

Hindered by the rugged terrain, the armour was also in constant danger from land mines which caused casualties among the infantry and armoured personnel.

Sadly 12 Australians were killed and 59 wounded during Operation Hammersley, with a further two servicemen killed in the days immediately following the Operation’s conclusion.

In honour of those who served and tragically died, a National Commemorative Service was held to mark the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley yesterday at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.

Darren Chester

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel

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