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Long Tan

The Start of a Life Long Battle

Authors: Harry Smith
(23 customer reviews)
01/Aug/2016
Battle of Long Tan
364
Paperback
155mm x 230mm
978-1-925275-78-0
$29.99

Long Listed for ABIA Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year 2016

On the afternoon of 18 August 1966, just five kilometres from the main Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat, a group of Viet Cong soldiers walked into the right flank of Delta Company, 6 RAR. Under a blanket of mist and heavy monsoon rain, amid the mud and shattered rubber trees, a dispersed Company of 108 men held its ground with courage and grim determination against a three-sided attack from a force of 2,500 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops.

When the battle subsided, 18 Australian soldiers lay dead and 24 had been wounded. Battlefield clearance revealed 245 enemy bodies with captured documents later confirming the count at over 500 enemy killed and 800 wounded.

These men were led by a gruff and gusty perfectionist, Major Harry Smith. Now, some 50 years after the battle, Harry tells his story. Long Tan is more than just an account of a historic battle. Harry Smith takes his readers on an extraordinary journey — one that ultimately reveals a remarkable cover-up at the highest military and political echelons.

Written in partnership with award-winning journalist Toni McRae, Long Tan is also Harry’s life story and portrays his many personal battles, from failed marriages to commando-style killing; from a horrific parachute accident through to his modern-day struggles with bureaucracy for recognition for his soldiers. Harry’s battles are tempered by his love of sailing, where he has at last found some peace.

Long Tan portrays the wrenching, visceral experience of a man who has fought lifelong battles, in a story that he is only now able to tell. Harry can still hear the gunfire and smell the blood spilt at Long Tan.

Harry Smith

Harry Smith

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith SG MC (born 25 July 1933) is a former senior officer in the Australian Army, seeing active service during the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War. He was Officer Commanding of D Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (D Coy, 6RAR) during the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966. […]

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23 reviews for Long Tan

  1. Smith is no glory hunter; he comes across as a very experienced commander in a jam trying to look after his men both then and now. The book is packed with military detail from a tough humble practical man who knows his stuff. It is gripping gritty, no nonsense reading. – See more at: http://www.mhhv.org.au/?p=4995#sthash.VGUwPd0d.dpuf

  2. A must read for SVN Veterans The best book I have read about Long Tan. It takes me right back there and explains so much of what I guessed and/or suspected. The failure to pass on information and the injustice of the awards.

  3. Very Enlightening

  4. Smith is no glory hunter; he comes across as a very experienced commander in a jam trying to look after his men both then and now. The book is packed with military detail from a tough humble practical man who knows his stuff. It is gripping gritty, no nonsense reading. – See more at: http://www.mhhv.org.au/?p=4995#sthash.yzITHORg.dpuf

  5. Battle of Long Tan honours testament to commanding officer A WA veteran of the Battle of Long Tan says a decision to recommend military honours for 10 of the battle’s participants is testament to the dedication of his commanding officer. Neil Bextrum was a private in D Company 6th Battalion when it engaged a vastly superior force of Vietnamese soldiers in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan on August 18, 1966. The 108-man D Company force lost 18 soldiers in the battle, but held off the 275th Regiment of the Viet Cong, estimated at up to 2,500 men. About 250 enemy soldiers were killed. The Minister for Defence Personnel Dan Tehan on Wednesday recommended 10 members of D Company be awarded military honours or have their existing honour upgraded. Among the group is Lance Corporal Bextrum, who has been recommended for the Commendation for Gallantry. Lt Col Harry Smith with his service medals. Photo: Supplied? Lt Col Harry Smith with his service medals. Photo: Supplied But the 71-year-old, who left the Army as an Acting Sergeant in the years after Long Tan, said he had not thought much about the honour. You either get it or you don’t, he said. But I’m more concerned about the CO Harry Smith, that chased it up, and kept on going, for 50 years. He’s the guy that’s done all the work. The commanding officer, who was a major at the time but left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1976, initially recommended battle honours for D Company in the weeks following Long Tan. Major Harry Smith firing a captured enemy gun during the Vietnam War. Photo: Supplied (Col Harry Smith)? Major Harry Smith firing a captured enemy gun during the Vietnam War. Photo: Supplied (Col Harry Smith) Under the then-imperial honours system quota, many recommendations were either downgraded or rejected. The president of the WA RSL, Peter Aspinall, said Lt Col Smith had fought for decades to have his men recognised. Lt Col Smith penned an account of the battle, published last year, which detailed his anger at how his men’s courage was ignored following Long Tan, and accusing his superiors of embellishing their roles in the encounter. One of the things that comes through is his disappointment, and dare I say it his bitterness, in the fact his men were not adequately recognised and did not receive the due acknowledgment that he has been fighting for all those years, Mr Aspinall said. He said Wednesday’s announcement would be welcome news to the former D Company commander. I know it’s a cliche about being better late then never, he said. And of course for those who’ve passed away it is too late. But Harry has been vindicated and rewarded for his efforts in getting his men recognised the way they have been. It is just regrettable that those who have subsequently passed away never got the satisfaction of being recognised for their courage. Mr Aspinall and Cpl Bextrum will travel to Canberra next week for the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Long Tan. The date also marks Vietnam Veterans Day, celebrating all Australian combatants and casualties of the conflict. Cpl Bextrum said it would be a good chance to catch up with mates he now only sees every few years. I speak to them on the phone every now and again. From D company there’s a few passed away in the last couple years, he said. But there’d probably be about 100 left. It’ll be an event for sure. – ABC http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/state/wa/2016/08/11/long-tan-vietnam-harry-smith/

  6. Being a Vietnam veteran and seeing first hand how the system worked I admire this man for his dedication to his men and unit. To see all those chair born hanger on’s in there ivory towers who make the decisions about things that have taken place outside their warn fuzzy cocoons get told a few facts about how it really was is great. The top brass always get recognized regardless of where he was at the time and the poor guy at the sharp end is left out in the cold. A Great Job Harry, well done, stick it to them. I’ve been to hell and back, where were you when the s*** was hitting the fan.

  7. I have just finished reading the Kindle version of Harry Smith’s book and what a great read! Harry Smith is a true soldier and obviously a first class officer and leader. It is an amazing story of bravery and courage in a ferocious battle between Australian troops and NVA and Viet Cong soldiers in the rubber plantation of Long Tan during the Vietnam War. But then to read how his unit was denied many of their awards was disheartening and a total disgrace to the Australian Army. Colonel Smith is to be congratulated and lauded for his unrelenting efforts to have his men acknowledged for their bravery and sacrifice during the battle at Long Tan.

  8. I have just finished reading the Kindle version of Harry Smith’s book and what a great read! Harry Smith is a true soldier and obviously a first class officer and leader. It is an amazing story of bravery and courage in a ferocious battle between Australian troops and NVA and Viet Cong soldiers in the rubber plantation of Long Tan during the Vietnam War. But then to read how his unit was denied many of their awards was disheartening and a total disgrace to the Australian Army. Colonel Smith is to be congratulated and lauded for his unrelenting efforts to have his men acknowledged for their bravery and sacrifice during the battle at Long Tan.

  9. Harry Smith is a warrior, a remarkable warrior with courage, guts and determination to see his Delta Company soldiers get the awards and recognition they so richly deserve. His telling of the Long Tan battle and the afterwards farce of the awards quota system is certainly an eye opener. I really enjoyed his book and wish him all the best for the future.

  10. Outstanding recount of events….

  11. It is not just about the battle at Long Tan but his on going struggle to have official recognition for those men who fought there

  12. I enjoyed this book. I have read every book on offer in relation to the battle of Long Tan and being an amateur military historian I have visited Nui Dat and walked the Long Tan Battle site on 3 occasions. What impressed me was the simple but effective manner in which the author described the situation leading up to, during and after the battle from the battalion commander’s perspective. The author’s description of the battle was well described and I felt like I was actually there. The author was also able to describe his life after the army in an entertaining manner. It is obvious to me from this and other books that these brave soldiers were overlooked and treated badly when the aftermath of the battle was discussed in relation to the bravery awards which were earned but down graded or never presented due to the quota system in place at the time. The author’s displeasure regarding this situation is obvious to the stage where it appears to be a burning thorn in his side nearly 50 years on. I enjoyed this book and I wish the author and former members of D Company 6RAR all the best.

  13. I have just finished reading the Kindle version of Harry Smith’s book and what a great read! Harry Smith is a true soldier and obviously a first class officer and leader. It is an amazing story of bravery and courage in a ferocious battle between Australian troops and NVA and Viet Cong soldiers in the rubber plantation of Long Tan during the Vietnam War. But then to read how his unit was denied many of their awards was disheartening and a total disgrace to the Australian Army. Colonel Smith is to be congratulated and lauded for his unrelenting efforts to have his men acknowledged for their bravery and sacrifice during the battle at Long Tan.

  14. An excellent book by a top fighting officer

  15. An excellent book by a top fighting officer

  16. In light of the appalling treatment our servicemen received on their return from Vietnam, it should come as no surprise that their treatment with regard to awards and recognition for gallantry would be any better. Harry Smith SG MC tells the story of his life and military career and by all accounts was an extremely good commander of men who has fought bureaucracy with tenacity in an effort to get appropriate recognition for his troops. The no BS story of what he and his men faced in the battle of Long Tan tells of the strength, courage and amazing sacrifices made by Australian soldiers in an unpopular war. Harry may not be as great a writer as he was a leader but his story is one that I highly recommend reading.

  17. Being a Vietnam veteran and seeing first hand how the system worked I admire this man for his dedication to his men and unit. To see all those chair born hanger on’s in there ivory towers who make the decisions about things that have taken place outside their warn fuzzy cocoons get told a few facts about how it really was is great. The top brass always get recognized regardless of where he was at the time and the poor guy at the sharp end is left out in the cold. A Great Job Harry, well done, stick it to them. I’ve been to hell and back, where were you when the s*** was hitting the fan.

  18. Harry Smith is a warrior, a remarkable warrior with courage, guts and determination to see his Delta Company soldiers get the awards and recognition they so richly deserve. His telling of the Long Tan battle and the afterwards farce of the awards quota system is certainly an eye opener. I really enjoyed his book and wish him all the best for the future.

  19. Outstanding recount of events….

  20. It is not just about the battle at Long Tan but his on going struggle to have official recognition for those men who fought there

  21. I enjoyed this book. I have read every book on offer in relation to the battle of Long Tan and being an amateur military historian I have visited Nui Dat and walked the Long Tan Battle site on 3 occasions. What impressed me was the simple but effective manner in which the author described the situation leading up to, during and after the battle from the battalion commander’s perspective. The author’s description of the battle was well described and I felt like I was actually there. The author was also able to describe his life after the army in an entertaining manner. It is obvious to me from this and other books that these brave soldiers were overlooked and treated badly when the aftermath of the battle was discussed in relation to the bravery awards which were earned but down graded or never presented due to the quota system in place at the time. The author’s displeasure regarding this situation is obvious to the stage where it appears to be a burning thorn in his side nearly 50 years on. I enjoyed this book and I wish the author and former members of D Company 6RAR all the best.

  22. I have just finished reading the Kindle version of Harry Smith’s book and what a great read! Harry Smith is a true soldier and obviously a first class officer and leader. It is an amazing story of bravery and courage in a ferocious battle between Australian troops and NVA and Viet Cong soldiers in the rubber plantation of Long Tan during the Vietnam War. But then to read how his unit was denied many of their awards was disheartening and a total disgrace to the Australian Army. Colonel Smith is to be congratulated and lauded for his unrelenting efforts to have his men acknowledged for their bravery and sacrifice during the battle at Long Tan.

  23. I feel for LT COL Harry Smith as no amount of medals could ever balance the feeling associated with the young men he lost under his command during that conflict
    Lest We Forget

    We go to Canberra where the official announcement on Jack Kirby DCM’s upgrade to a Victoria Cross will be announced. Jack Kirby was recommended for the Victoria Cross by Harry Smith SG MC after the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam in 1966, but was only awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal. This decision to upgrade his DCM has been half a century in the making.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8jLRFT5jSE

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