The Long Tan Commemoration - Lt Colonel Harry Smith is presented the Star of Gallantry by Federal Member for Hinkler, Mr Paul Neville.
Photo:  Valerie Horton / Fraser Coast Chronicle
The Long Tan Commemoration - Lt Colonel Harry Smith is presented the Star of Gallantry by Federal Member for Hinkler, Mr Paul Neville. Photo: Valerie Horton / Fraser Coast Chronicle Valerie Horton 11m358b

Vietnam veteran wins 50 year long battle

IT HAS taken 50 years of battling bureaucracy for Harry Smith to get his men the recognition they deserve.

The Vietnam veteran, who fought at Long Tan, recommended the men he served alongside for official recognition back in 1966.

Now, thanks to his ongoing efforts, the bravery of nine of his men is set to be recognised by Australia's Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at a ceremony in Canberra.

Mr Smith, who lived in Hervey Bay but now resides on the Sunshine Coast, said three of the men were set to receive the Medal for Gallantry for their services while six would receive the Commendation for Gallantry.

Mr Smith was awarded the Military Cross on August 18, 1966, for his leadership and gallantry while commanding Delta Company during the Battle of Long Tan.

Then in August 2008, that medal was upgraded to a Star of Gallantry.

But Mr Smith admitted that just made him even more determined to fight to have the men in his company recognised.

"They honoured three officers but none of the soldiers," Mr Smith said.

"That just added to my fight for justice."

Mr Smith waited 30 years until the information surrounding the actions of his company were no longer classified and then spent 20 years campaigning to have their bravery honoured.

Mr Smith said a very distinguished panel had decided the outcome, with all but one of his soldiers to be honoured.

Although the date for the ceremony has not yet been set, the soldiers will soon finally be acknowledged - but sadly for one it will be too late.

Barry Magnussen, one of the soldiers who was set to be recognised at a ceremony in Canberra, died in December last year.

But Mr Smith said Mr Magnussen's family would attend the event in his honour.

While he won't be receiving a medal this time around, Mr Smith said he understood he would be receiving an invitation to the service in Canberra.

He said while the Governor-General didn't often take part in such ceremonies, he understood Mr Cosgrove, himself a Vietnam veteran, was to personally take part in the ceremony that would finally recognise the feats of the men in his company.

Eighteen Australian soldiers were killed during the Battle of Long Tan.



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