Long fight a winner
THE BLOODY Vietnam War battle of Long Tan has been recognised in the 2010 Older People Speak Out regional awards.
The Chronicle’s stories on Long Tan heroic commander Lt. Col (Ret) Harry Smith’s 16-year-fight to get the medals he recommended for his soldiers in 1966, has been nominated as a finalist in OPSO’s regional and bi-weekly newspaper category.
Chronicle chief reporter Toni McRae has written about Harry’s medals campaign for 15 years and wrote most of the 2009-2010 stories for the Chronicle.
Deputy editor Stephen O’Grady has also written stories about Harry’s fight for justice.
The Battle of Long Tan was fought on August 18, 1966 between the Australian Army and Viet Cong forces in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan, about 27 kilometres north east of Vung Tau, South Vietnam.
Harry’s company from 6RAR, despite being heavily outnumbered, fought off a large enemy assault of regimental strength – later estimated to number 2500.
Eighteen Australians were killed and 24 wounded.
It was a decisive Australian victory and is often cited as an example of the importance of combining and coordinating infantry, artillery, armour and military aviation.
Last year the Federal Government finally approved additional awards for those who fought at Long Tan, but after a military HQ stuff up on who would present the medals and where, the medals still have not been awarded.
Those include Harry’s upgrading to the Star of Gallantry, one award down from the Victoria Cross.
Harry hopes the outstanding awards for his men will be presented this year.
“Justice has to be done to remove the stigma from the legendary battle and give the men the recognition they were recommended for in 1966,” he said on an earlier occasion.
Last year Ms McRae won two OPSM awards for Chronicle stories – a regional and a national award.
“We can not have integrity in the honours system when senior officers who were not there were decorated and the men who fought in combat were deprived recognition by the same senior officers.”