Most people tend to associate the Vietnam War as a conflict waged between US and ARVN forces against the North Vietnamese Army and its Viet Cong allies. In actuality, there were several other nations attempting to defend South Vietnam from communist aggression, most notably troops sent under the auspices of the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand) banner.
In 1966, a small unit of 108 ANZAC soldiers from the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) found itself cut off and surrounded by over 2,500 North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong insurgents near the town of Long Tan, a rubber plantation in Phước Tuy Province, South Vietnam. 1 ATF began arriving between April and June 1966, constructing a base at Nui Dat, which was located astride a major communist transit and resupply route and was close to a VC base area. After two months it had moved beyond the initial requirements of establishing itself and securing its immediate approaches, beginning operations to open the province. Meanwhile, in response to the threat posed by 1 ATF, a force of between 1,500 and 2,500 men from the VC 275th Regiment, possibly reinforced by at least one PAVN battalion and the D445 Provincial Mobile Battalion, was ordered to move against Nui Dat.
For several weeks Australian signals intelligence (SIGINT) had tracked a radio transmitter from the headquarters of the 275th Regiment moving westwards to a position just north of Long Tan; however, extensive patrolling failed to find the unit. By August 16th, the communist force was positioned east of the Long Tan rubber plantation, just outside the range of the artillery at Nui Dat. On the night of 16/17 August, VC mortars, recoilless rifles (RCLs) and artillery heavily bombarded Nui Dat from a position 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the east, damaging the base and wounding 24 men, one of whom later died. The VC positions were then engaged by counter-battery fire and the mortaring ceased. The following morning, B Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR), departed Nui Dat to locate the firing points and the direction of the VC withdrawal. A number of weapon pits were subsequently found, as were the positions of the mortars and RCLs. Thus began the Battle of Long Tan.
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, is an Australian film which documents the fierce engagement as seen through the eyes of Major Harry Smith and his dispersed company of 108 young and mostly inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers. Fighting for their lives, they attempt to hold off an overwhelming enemy force of 2,500 battle hardened Main Force Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers. With their ammunition running out, their casualties mounting and the enemy massing for a final assault, each man begins to search for his own answer – and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage. The Battle of Long Tan is one of the most savage and decisive engagements in ANZAC history, earning both the United States and South Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citations for gallantry along with many individual awards. But not before 18 Australians and more than 245 Vietnamese are killed in action.