Australia and the Vietnam War

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Combat

Battle of Coral/Balmoral: Balmoral attack 2

Australians dress the wounds of a North Vietnamese prisoner captured in the aftermath of an attack on Balmoral. [AWM CRO/68/0580/VN]

Australians dress the wounds of a North Vietnamese prisoner captured in the aftermath of an attack on Balmoral. [AWM CRO/68/0580/VN]

The North Vietnamese launched their second major assault against Balmoral at 2.30 am on 28 May 1968. It appeared at first that they were trying to hit 3RAR’s A Company, on Balmoral’s southern side, but this was a feint. As firing died down in this vicinity, a large North Vietnamese force attacked towards D Company on the far side of the base.

Although bush and scrub came right up to Balmoral’s flanks, to the Australians’ surprise the enemy attacked over the same open ground that they had come across two nights earlier. They came under a merciless fire. Their own weapons seemed to be aimed high as much of their fire ripped through the trees, inflicting minimal damage on D Company. Some North Vietnamese troops sought refuge in the deep craters left after a B52 strike on the area days before. Safe from Australian fire in their temporary refuge, they were unable to advance any further. Nor could they retreat and as the battle died down they were trapped. Covering mortar fire gave them a chance to run across the open ground to safety, but most were shot down.

  • 3RAR’s Regimental Sergeant Major, Vince Murdoch, tends a wounded and blindfolded North Vietnamese soldier at Balmoral.  [AWM CRO/68/0590/VN]
  • Warrant Officer Don Miller, his head bandaged from a wound received during the fighting at Balmoral, awaits the helicopter that will take him from the base.  [AWM CRO/68/0557/VN]
  • General William Westmoreland, the American Commander in Vietnam, speaks with members of C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment.  Mick Butler, a tank commander, recalled the general being ‘very interested in my tanks.’  [AWM THU/68/0566/VN]
  • Surrounded by Australians, wounded North Vietnamese prisoners lie on makeshift stretchers and wait to be evacuated from Balmoral.  [AWM CRO/68/0582/VN]

Australian patrols went out at dawn to clear the field. A few North Vietnamese survivors, until then feigning death fired on them before being killed. Seven prisoners were taken and 42 bodies were found on the battlefield. It was a sad day, a number of the enemy dead were just teenagers, 16 or 17 years old. As had happened after earlier battles, the bodies were scooped up by a bulldozer and buried in a mass grave.


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