Saturday, August 18, 2007

A day for remembrance.

I believe it was US Admiral 'Bull' Halsey who said something to the effect that "There are no great men, only great challenges which ordinary men must meet".

Perhaps arguable, but if you or I were put in such a position, how would we cope? Some are challenged and find out.

Look at the photo at top left. An ordinary Aussie family? Husband, Wife, Children, Grandchildren. But that gentleman 2nd from the left at back faced one of those 'great challenges'. That's Bob Buick, and on 18 August 1966,he was the platoon Sgt of 11 platoon, D Company, the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. On the afternoon of that day, Bob was at the forefront of the most significant Australian action of the Vietnam War - the Battle of Long Tan. Bob had a lot of mates there with him, and we remember all of them too, but he is a symbolic figure in that story.

The first group of soldiers to encounter the enemy that day, half of 11 platoon were killed or wounded almost immediately - including the platoon OIC, 2Lt Sharp. Heavily outnumbered, they fought off mass attacks by VC and NVA soldiers, in a tropical downpour. What they did have was artillery support however, and that made a telling difference. I have seen a documentary on the battle, and audio recording of the radio traffic exist and were part of that documentary, especially between the artillery controller and HQ. Astounding stuff if you ever get a chance to hear it. Of the artillery support called for increasing from a few guns to a full regimental fire mission. Of Sgt Buick, almost out of ammunition and believing his position about to be over-run calling in artillery strikes on his own position. (They didn't, help was on the way by then).

Today is the anniversary of that battle. It has become Vietnam Veteran's Day.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

Lest We Forget.

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