Bob’s perspective on Vietnam and Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan – release August 8th
When Frank said to the Brigadier that he would take the ammunition to Delta Company I was initially shocked and terrified. Delta Company 6 RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) of 108 men was pinned down by an estimated 2000 VC (Viet Cong) and rapidly running out of ammunition. However, the 9 Squadron helicopters were just support helicopters to be used in behind the front-line operations, they were “slick-ships” without effective defence against the enemy. But Frank was adamant and when I said to him that it was a suicide mission, he just said that he was still going. I had images of a helicopter full of boxes of ammunition exploding in the air as the enemy fired into us.
This is the image portrayed in the movie “Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan” about to hit Australian Cinemas with Travis Fimmel as Major Harry Smith, Officer Commanding Delta Company, and Alex Neal as me. The helicopter sequence is what I imagined it would be like. However, torrential rain meant that we were oblivious to what was happening outside and intensely focussed on finding D Company and delivering the ammunition – and getting out of there as fast as possible.
Life as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam was like this – periods of routine support operations intermingled with short periods of intense operations in which we were in close contact with the enemy, especially when we working with the SAS (Special Air Service) on insertions into and extractions from enemy territory. These operations were carried out with helicopter gunship support that could provide an intense barrier of rockets, grenade and bullets to deter the enemy from picking on us.
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