Australia and the Vietnam War

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Combat

Battle of Coral/Balmoral: Patrolling

While patrolling Coral’s perimeter after a North Vietnamese attack, a member of 1RAR steps over the body of a North Vietnamese soldier killed during an attack earlier that morning. [AWM ERR/68/0504/VN]

While patrolling Coral’s perimeter after a North Vietnamese attack, a member of 1RAR steps over the body of a North Vietnamese soldier killed during an attack earlier that morning. [AWM ERR/68/0504/VN]

The fire support bases at Coral and Balmoral were established in part so that Australian patrols could cover an area that was used by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to launch attacks on Saigon.

After the major attacks on the bases, patrols routinely swept the area outside the wire in search of North Vietnamese survivors or stragglers. These patrols did not generally venture far, and for those who participated in them they could be unsettling affairs as they encountered all the detritus associated with recent combat, including the shattered remains of enemy dead.

In addition to these sweeps, the daily routine at Coral and Balmoral involved infantry patrols, sometimes accompanied by Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and/or tanks, venturing thousands of metres from the bases and seeking contact with the enemy. While encounters were common, these patrol actions were generally limited in scale and duration. But for the men involved the enormous tension generated by searching for an elusive and well-concealed enemy, of never knowing from one moment to the next when the silence would be rent by hostile fire, was exhausting. Only with hindsight could any patrol outside the wire be regarded as uneventful.

  • A patrol from 1RAR makes its way through the wire on Coral’s perimeter as they search for signs of the enemy after one of the attacks on the base.  Behind them are the rubber trees through which the North Vietnamese attacked early on the morning of 13 May. [AWM THU/68/0596/VN ]
  • Australians with their tracker dogs at Coral in May 1965. The dogs, mostly black Labradors, were trained to follow the scent of human blood, waste and food, and were used by patrolling Australians to locate enemy troops. [AWM P01765.003]

On some occasions patrols resulted in heavy fighting that could last for hours. During one such action Private Richard Norden of 1RAR carried out the daring rescue of a wounded man under heavy fire for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His actions were typical of many during the weeks of fighting around Coral and Balmoral.


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View a map of Coral Balmoral [DVA]