Still waiting on Star of Gallantry

THE Star of Gallantry medal awarded more than a year ago to Hervey Bay's Vietnam War battle commander Harry Smith still has not been presented.

The Star of Gallantry is one level down from the Victoria Cross and Harry Smith's is only the second awarded in Australia.

Two of Lt. Col. Smith's platoon commanders, Dave Sabben and Geoff Kendall, are also yet to receive Medal of Gallantry awards announced in August last year by the Federal Government.

The soldiers were among 108 Aussies who fought the iconic Battle of Long Tan in the Vietnamese jungle on August 18, 1966, leading to the deaths of some 1500 enemy soldiers.

Harry said yesterday he did not want to comment on the medals situation but the Chronicle has learned that the three men were expecting their medals to be given to them in Canberra on Long Tan Day this year.

The expectation was that the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal that has been investigating the Long Tan medals debacle would have completed its findings by then and that other Long Tan soldiers would also get the medals they were refused 43 years ago.

The tribunal finished its report almost seven weeks ago and the 28-pager has been with Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support Mike Kelly since then.

Dr Kelly plans to release the report within the next fortnight.

The Chronicle has learned that although there is some good news for Harry and his soldiers, the former commander still hasn't managed to get the exact awards he wants for his men - and has fought for for more than four decades.

After the Long Tan battle Harry recommended his platoon commanders be given the Military Cross and Lt. Col. Smith was recommended for the Distinguished Service Order.

But all Long Tan soldiers' awards were downgraded and the DSO - for “conspicuous leadership and gallantry in combat with the enemy”- instead went to the Brigadiers, who did not fight the enemy on the ground.

Harry was given the Military Cross at the time but has never asked for a higher award.

Lt. Col. Smith, Dave Sabben and Geoff Kendall are now understood to have agreed they will only accept their new awards when their Long Tan soldier colleagues are awarded their own rightful awards - hopefully decided by the tribunal.

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