ARARAT, Stawell and Beaufort representatives gathered at Ararat’s Cenotaph on Friday to mark Vietnam Veterans Day and the 51st anniversary of the battle of Long Tan.
Guest speaker Russell Rachinger recounted the history of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1975.
He said that career soldiers and 20-year-old drafted National Servicemen or ‘Nashos’ had confronted a well-trained and equipped fighting force in the Viet Cong during their deployment to South Vietnam.
Representatives from Ararat Rural City Council, Northern Grampians Shire and Pyrenees Shire placed wreaths at the Cenotaph along with Legacy and RSL groups and the Vietnam Veterans Foundation Grampians Sub-Branch.
Bugler Sandra Pope sounded Last Post and Reveille during the ceremony.
August 18 marked the 51st year since Australia’s sixth battalion met the Viet Cong on the Long Tan rubber plantation.
The Battle of Long Tan was the first major engagement for Australian forces in the Vietnam War.
Australia fielded 108 men in a battle against up to 2500 North Vietnamese Army troops and Viet Cong guerrillas.
Operations at Long Tan lasted for three days under heavy weapons fire and in monsoon conditions.
The Australian won the battle at the cost of 18 men dead and 24 wounded, but the enemy suffered 245 killed and about 350 wounded.
Member for Wannon and Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan attended the National Australian Vietnam Forces Memorial in Canberra with the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove.
Mr Tehan said Friday was a day to remember nearly 60,000 Australian men and women who served in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1975, including 521 who lost their lives and more than 3,000 who were wounded.
“We also mark the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, where 105 Australians and three New Zealanders of D Company 6RAR were engaged in one of the fiercest battles of the Vietnam War,” he said.
“In the Battle of Long Tan a total of 17 Australians were killed in action and 25 were wounded, one of whom later died of his wounds.
“D Company were greatly assisted by an ammunition resupply by RAAF helicopters, support by Australian, New Zealand and United States artillery and the arrival of reinforcements in APCs as night fell.
“On Vietnam Veterans’ Day we honour the Australians who served in Vietnam. Today is an opportunity to reflect on that period of our history and to say ‘thank-you’ to our veterans for their service.”