Battle of Coral/Balmoral: Coral attack 2
Bombadier Larry Davenport manning a machine-gun after one of the attacks on Coral. [AWM ERR/68/0520/VN]
By 15 May Coral had become a strong defensive position, more prepared than it had been on that first night to withstand further North Vietnamese attacks. The next one came early on the morning of 16 May and, like the earlier assault, it began with a barrage of mortar and Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) fire, this time directed mainly against the guns of 102 Field Battery, A Battery 2/35th Battalion US Artillery and the headquarters and maintenance areas.
On this occasion two battalions of North Vietnamese soldiers were sent against Coral. 1RAR’s A, B and C companies bore the brunt of the onslaught but few of the assaulting troops were able to penetrate the Australian defences. Fire from Coral’s small arms, artillery and mortars, a United States battery, helicopters and the lethal spookies – C-47 aircraft equipped with flares and miniguns – stopped the North Vietnamese but only after, as one Australian said later, ‘a torrid four hours’.
By 6.30 am the battle was over; only the North Vietnamese rearguard fought on to cover the main force’s withdrawal. Five Australians had been killed and thirty-four North Vietnamese bodies were found in front of the Australian positions. A medic in C Company, 1RAR, remembered the unsettling effect of seeing the enormous amount of weaponry arrayed against the North Vietnamese only to find ‘a few bodies’ the next morning. The practice of removing as many of their dead as possible from the battlefield meant that no-one had any real idea of how many North Vietnamese had been killed or wounded in these battles.