Thanks to Ray Kuschert for allowing us to reproduce his words below in commemoration of Long Tan Day 2023. Ray is an admin of the Facebook Group Aussies in Vietnam where this piece was initially published. We recommend all Aussies based in Vietnam or visiting in the future to visit this group as it’s a great place to get information and share information. Thanks also to all the veterans on both sides for their selfless and courageous efforts and for those who have played a part in our connection to our home here in Vietnam and our ongoing ANZAC Friendship Match, hopefully back in it’s rightful home in 2024.

“Mum and Dad and Danny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal” are those haunting opening words by John Shewman in the song that told the story of a soldier’s experience of War. And the icon of this conflict for many Australians is the Battle of Long Tan. Today, Long Tan Day has taken on a new meaning as it remembers all of the 75,000 Australians that served in the decade of Australia’s involvement in the War.


It was midafternoon on the 18th of August 1966 when a group of soldiers were patrolling at a rubber tree plantation just outside the Village of Long Tan, about 12kms east of Ba Ria City in Southern Vietnam. It was in an area the size of 2 football fields where Australian soldiers came face to face with an unknown number of Vietnamese soldiers and a battle ensued.


As the battle ignited, gunfire decimated trees and anything that moved in the field. The Australians called in heavy cannon support from the Nui Dat base some 5kms to the north and for the next few hours mayhem spilled out over this, otherwise, peaceful farming area.


As regular as it is in Vietnam, the typical monsoonal rain hit, and the thick red dirt turned to sticky mud and the trenches in the ground filled with orange red water. Soldiers lay dead and wounded in the mud as the mist of gunpowder and rain settled over the field. Hell on earth had appeared as the sun set over this battle ground.


The battle eventually died down and what was left was a field of death. Vietnamese and Australian men lay dead and wounded. And, due to the bad weather and poor visibility, most of the injured would spend the entire night laying in the mud clinging to life, some too scared to move for fear of being gunned down by the enemy.


The next morning saw a confronting salvage operation begin. Words will never accurately describe the carnage and devastation the rubber tree plantation 3 kilometers from the village on Long Tan. After the smoke, rain and shock settled. 18 Australians and an estimated 275 Vietnamese lost their lives in the horrendous moment in history. The moment offered no winners, no victory, but a memory that would become the icon of a generation and the symbol of a War that should never have been.


The 18th of August every year is raising with importance. It is not idolizing war, but remembering history and this takes us all a step closer to making sure it never happens again.


For me, it is a day to remember the 821 Australians, some 75,000 Americans and 3 million, yes, 3 million Vietnamese and SE Asian people that lost their lives in a war that should never have been. Let’s hope we all learn from history and never send our children to war again that is without meaning or purpose. Lest we forget.


“And there’s me, in my slouch hat, with my SLR and greens. God help me. I was only nineteen”