Vietnam War First tour 6 RAR served two tours to Vietnam as part of Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War. The first tour was between June 1966 and June 1967 and the second tour was between May 1969 and May 1970. 6 RAR departed for its first tour of Vietnam in May 1966 on HMAS Sydney, arriving at Vung Tau in time to celebrate the battalion's first birthday before moving to Nui Dat, in Phuoc Tuy province, where they joined 5 RAR as part of the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF). Initial operations focused upon securing the task force base. After this was achieved 1 ATF began patrolling operations throughout the province in an effort to undermine the operations of the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units that were operating in Phuoc Tuy. Using tactics that the Australians had developed during the Malayan Emergency 1 ATF focused upon reducing the enemy’s contact with the local population to deny them of their main source of sustainment and reinforcement; this was completed by carrying out cordon and search, and search and destroy operations. During this time 6 RAR carried out two major operations. The first operation was codenamed "Enoggera" and was focused upon clearing the village of Long Phuoc, while the second operation, "Hobart", was a search and destroy mission carried out over the course of five days. Several VC camps were destroyed in these operations and numerous caches of weapons and supplies uncovered, while 36 enemy casualties were inflicted. Between 16 and 18 August 1966, 6 RAR undertook Operation Smithfield, which was later to become known as the Battle of Long Tan. The battle began on the evening of 16 August when the Task Force base was attacked by a VC force using mortars and recoilless rifles. The next day 'B' Company was sent out to clear the area to the east of the base, before they were replaced by 'D' Company on the morning of 18 August. While performing a sweep through a rubber plantation, 'D' Company was contacted by a regimental-sized VC force and they were soon under attack from three sides. Under a torrential downpour and a thick mist that blanketed the plantation, the battle raged for over three hours as the 108 men from 'D' Company fought for their lives against a force estimated to be up to 2,500 men. As the rest of the battalion mobilised to relieve the beleaguered 'D' Company, a patrol from 'B' Company were the first reinforcements to arrive. As the battle continued, a relief force from 'A' Company arrived at a critical moment, on board seven M113 armoured personnel carriers from 3 Troop, 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron and launched an attack on a VC battalion that had been forming up to launch an attack aimed at 'D' Company's rear. Enemy casualties as a result of this attack were heavy, having come at their flank, and as a result the VC units were forced to retire, leaving the Australians in command of the battlefield. The extent of the Australian victory was not known until the following day, however, when 245 bodies of dead enemy soldiers were counted in the plantation and the surrounding areas. It is believed that many more were also removed during the battle. Seventeen men from 6 RAR were killed, along with one from the 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron, during the fighting around Long Tan and later 'D' Company was awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation by the then President Lyndon B. Johnson. While the men of 'D' Company received this honour, the role of the other 6 RAR men in this battle should not be understated, nor should the contributions of the various Australian, New Zealand and American artillery units, as well as the bravery of the RAAF helicopter crews that flew through weather that would normally have grounded them to resupply the infantry on the ground. 6 RAR continued to conduct patrolling and security operations throughout Phuoc Tuy as 1 ATF took on a larger role in the province. 6 RAR undertook a further seventeen operations, before being relieved by 2 RAR in May 1967. Having celebrated the battalion's second birthday on voyage back to Australia on HMAS Sydney, 6 RAR arrived back in Brisbane on 14 June. Second tour The Battalion returned to Vietnam for its second tour of duty on 19 May 1969, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel David Butler. Relieving 4 RAR, the battalion was re-designated as 6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) due to the fact that there were two New Zealand rifle companies attached to them at this time, along with two mortar sections and two sections of assault pioneers. The main focus of 6 RAR's second tour was pacification operations, which essentially involved conducting operations designed to help create a situation of internal stability in order to allow the South Vietnamese government to take more control of the situation in the country. 6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) carried out its first operation in this program between 30 May and 1 July 1969 when it launched Operation Lavarack. This operation involved the establishment of a number of fire support and patrol bases to the north of the main Task Force base at Nui Dat, from where company sized patrols commenced large-scale reconnaissance-in-force missions. Lavarack proved to be very successful and the battalion was involved in some 85 contacts with the VC during this time, resulting in over 102 VC killed and at least 22 wounded. Over the course of the rest of the tour, 6 RAR conducted a further fourteen operations, and as they began to dominate their area of operations they were increasingly called upon to provide support to a number civil community reconstruction projects and assist in the training of local South Vietnamese forces. As a result of the battalion's efforts, by the end of their tour the enemy presence in their area of operations had been so badly weakened that they were forced to operate in small groups only, engaging the Australians in combat only when it was necessary to survive. On 18 August 1969,the battalion conducted a ceremony on the site of the Battle of Long Tan to dedicate a memorial (known as the Long Tan Cross) to the engagement. 6 RAR’s last operation of the war was Operation Townsville, which was conducted between 23 March and 24 April 1970. A search and destroy mission that was carried out in the north-eastern regions of Phuoc Tuy province, the operation resulted in a huge coup for the Australians when they captured the operational signals codes and one-time cipher pads used by the VC headquarters in charge of the Ba Long province. In May 1970, 6 RAR was relieved by 2 RAR and returned to Australia shortly afterwards. Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War came to an end before the battalion was called upon to deploy for a third tour. Total 6 RAR casualties for both tours were 61 killed and at least 148 wounded. Balanced against this, in its second tour the battalion was credited with having killed 60 VC, wounded at least another 64 and captured a further 51. Members from the battalion received the following decorations: two DSOs, seven MCs, three DCMs, six MMs, three BEMs, one QC, and 23 MIDs.
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