SYDNEY: A Vietnam War hero has accused senior army officers of fabricating citations with “mythical statements” after the battle of Long Tan so they could receive awards while denying them to the troops who fought an action that cost 18 Australian lives.
The extraordinary claim is contained in a new book Long Tan, The Start of a Lifelong Battle by the commanding officer of Delta Company 6RAR at Long Tan on August 18, 1966, then Major Harry Smith.
It will be launched by former Major General John Cantwell on Vietnam Veterans Day tomorrow.
Mr Smith has fought for justice for his men for almost half a century and his book claims the Task Group commander, the late Brigadier Oliver Jackson (DSO), and Battalion commander, the late Colonel Colin Townsend (DSO), falsified accounts of the battle.
“In 2007 Prime Minister John Howard sent me a 150- page dossier about Long Tan awards, which contained Townsend’s citation for a GRVN Cross of Gallantry with Palm,” Smith writes.
“In this citation it said, in par t: ‘His (Townsend’s) personal presence and calm control of the battle inspired confidence in all ranks and enabled the battalion to inflict an overwhelming defeat on the enemy despite their greater strength, as is attested by the large numbers of enemy dead, weapons and equipment left on the battlefield.’
“It was a fabrication.” He also said the official report extended the end of engagement from 7.10pm to midnight to make it appear Colonel Townsend was actually in a “hostile” area and therefore eligible for the DSO. “This is like saying that World War II ended when the troopships arrived back in Australia!” Smith writes. During the entire Vietnam War just 22 private soldiers were given gallantry medals while some 150 officers were given high awards. This included several brigadiers at Task Force Headquarters, well away from the front lines, who received Distinguished Service Orders (DSOs), then second only to the Victoria Cross.
Long Tan, The Start of a Lifelong Battle, published by Big Sky Publishing, RRP $29.99