Australia and the Vietnam War

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Battle of Binh Ba: Aftermath

One of Binh Ba’s houses as it appeared on 8 June 1969. David Moles and Al Lamb, Bushranger crewman who flew in support of 5RAR at Binh Ba, Moles holds an AK47 given to him by members of 5RAR after the battle. Two members of 7 Section, 2 Troop, 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers, Mick Weston and ‘Noddy’ Norris, sit outside one of Binh Ba’s houses after the battle. Two members of the Armoured Corps point to RPG damage on one of the tanks. [Images courtesy of Phillip Hills, David Moles, Mick Weston and Ray Collins, not to be reproduced without permission]

The Australians in Binh Ba had been lucky: Teeling was the only man killed. Many years later his niece, Sandy, visited Vietnam. She dropped a rose quartz crystal, given to her by Teeling’s widow, Carolyn, in Halong Bay as a gesture of respect to an uncle she probably never knew. One loss in a battle of such ferocity must be considered fortunate, but for those who knew and loved that individual, the death remains a tragedy. The same tragedy befell many Vietnamese in Binh Ba. Casualty figures vary, but it seems that more than 100 VC and NVA, possibly many more, lost their lives in the battle. Several South Vietnamese soldiers were also killed in the fighting. To the engineers, plant operators from 1 Field Squadron and 21 Engineer Support Troop, fell the unpleasant task of digging a mass grave in which to bury the enemy dead.

Sadly, a number of villagers also lost their lives during the battle. In such a confused, intense fight no amount of care could have prevented civilian casualties. Houses and vegetation limited the field of vision and some of the enemy, members of a VC guerrilla unit rather than the NVA, were hard to distinguish from Binh Ba’s residents. During the latter part of the first day’s fighting, some NVA troops discarded their uniforms for civilian clothes making it more difficult for the Australians to make the distinction. However much they lamented the loss of civilian lives, and it is clear from veterans’ writings and interviews that this has weighed heavily on some, those who fought at Binh Ba should also be proud that their efforts, often at great personal risk, prevented a far greater loss.

The devastating effect of Australian fire on one of Binh Ba’s houses. An Australian Centurion on churned up ground, Binh Ba. Tanks from 4 Troop near Binh Ba’s school building. Members of 4 Platoon try to procure beer from a Vietnamese lad after the battle. A tank passes through the gate on the road into Binh Ba. [First image courtesy of Mike Nettleton, second, third and fifth images from Roger Foote, fourth image from Mo Hancock, not to be reproduced without permission]

The 1st Armoured Regiment, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and The Royal Australian Regiment were all awarded a battle honour for Binh Ba. A number of individuals were also recognised for their bravery. The village, left in ruins, was rebuilt and today Binh Ba stands, as it did forty years ago, beside the rubber plantation from which many residents still derive their income. The old market place in the village centre now hosts a memorial complex dedicated to the 33rd NVA Regiment, many of whose soldiers died in the battle. The village has grown and newer buildings adjoin Route 2, obscuring the old and making Binh Ba appear very different to the place that for two days in June 1969 was the scene of a fierce battle.

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View Video of the rebuilding of Binh Ba. [AWM F04344]