In June 1969, on their second tour of duty in Vietnam, members of the Fifth Battalion (‘The Tigers’), mainly D and B Companies and Pioneer Platoon with support from engineers, gunships, tanks and APCs, engaged a formidable force of enemy in and around Xa Binh Ba. This village was located some 6 kms north of the Australian base camp at Nui Dat.
At the end of the second day the battle was over and it was time to assess the cost and devastation. Damage to homes and buildings and rubber trees and gardens was naturally quite extensive due to the central focus of the fighting. A number of Australian soldiers were seriously wounded and one (Pte. Teeling) had been killed. The number of enemy dead numbered around 100. Today, Binh Ba has grown extensively in area and population since that battle 50 odd years ago. Yet, despite the time lapse, some scars of the battle still remain today … some physical and some psychological … for both sides.
NB. A group of just a few huts is termed a hamlet with its name prefixed by ‘Ap’. A village, prefixed by ‘Xa’ is made up of several hamlets linked together.
“We were all over Vietnam and I talked to a lot of people … the only ones
who know how to fight this thing are the Australians and the Viet Cong.
I sent company commanders to train with the Australians … so they could
pick up the skills of those well-trained and careful jungle fighters.”
- Lt. Col. David Hackworth (ex-U.S. Army) in About Face, 1989.
Bill O'Mara's image of B Coy's form-up line in the 'rubber' prior to advancing on the enemy - Binh Ba, 6 June, 1969
Battle of Xa Binh Ba
Video courtesy You-Tube
Battle of Xa Binh Ba
In June of 1969,
This Asian war had reached its height;
Viet Cong in Phuoc Tuy in decline,
Yet, would try one more major fight.
Operations north, along Route 2,
Had flushed them from their hide;
Influence fading, as they withdrew,
Determined to restore their loss of pride.
VC and hard core from Hanoi,
Instructed for one more try;
Take on the men from Uc-Dai-Loi,
Succeed, or fail and so would die.
The ‘Tigers’ back in Viet-nam,
Would avenge dead 50 mates;
Pawns still were they, in this foreign land,
Allies of the United States.
A reserve force stood by, for in this war,
Viet Cong often hit and ran;
Such lessons learnt three years before,
After the Battle of Xa Long Tan.
So whilst troops rested back at base,
Or down in ‘Vungers’ for a day,
One group remained alert in case,
Of need to move without delay.
This force this time, Delta from the Fifth,
Food and ‘ammo’ stored in their packs,
30 minutes notice to go out with,
Three tanks and armoured ‘tracks’.
In a plantation of mainly rubber trees,
North from Nui Dat, which wasn’t far,
Dwelled a group of Catholic Vietnamese,
Within the hamlets of Xa Binh Ba.
Viet Cong would lure these Uc-dai-loi,
To this place marked on their map;
Ideal locale, ‘friendly’ town the ploy,
Spring a well-planned deadly trap.
So, at a tank was fired an RPG,
From this village as their bait,
Australian patrol, in response there’d be,
Cong would just sit tight and wait.
As Reaction Force moved on out,
Enemy diversion in Hoa Long;
Action there both north and south,
Proved Intelligence once more wrong.
The Aussies soon moved to retaliate,
Colonel ‘Genghis’ Khan who led 5RAR,
Warned ‘friendly’ villagers to evacuate,
‘Tigers’ had surrounded Xa Binh Ba.
* * *
Above this cordon, ‘choppers’ flew,
D and B moved through in a sweep;
Lines of ‘grunts’ and armoured too,
Extended wide and back three deep.
Advance was slow as each house cleared,
Cong with rockets and AKs;
Running, sniping, hiding, re-appeared,
Tracers piercing smoky haze.
Diggers under fire from everywhere,
A network of tunnels underground;
So each tank advanced, releasing their,
Explosive canister round.
Direct hit to one, damage to all three,
A tank commander down with wounds;
Degree of fire confirmed VC,
Present in more than just platoons.
A ‘Light Fire Team’, flew three of these,
Armed gunships in crisscross lines;
Spraying houses, farms and rubber trees,
Old scars today remain as signs.
With 5RAR plagued by short delays,
Some leaders rankless and quite young;
This fight dragged on for two whole days,
Extending north into Duc Trung.
No match in firepower, on this day,
Yet, no quarter shown by us or them;
Although young Nasho Teeling K.I.A.,
To Sgt. London, a D.C.M.
In the market place, caught thereupon,
Cong surrounded on each side;
When last shot fired, one Aussie gone,
And 90 ‘Vietnamese’ had died.
There’s a place deep in those rubber trees,
Buried dead, where little grows;
A mass grave now hiding all of these,
With I.D.s that no one knows.
And from ’round about old mothers mourn,
For their sons they’ve long time lost;
Loving bonds then broken, forever torn,
Part of their cause’s tragic cost.
Re-building programs soon employed,
Victory came at a dreadful price;
So many deaths, crops and homes destroyed,
With ‘hearts and minds’, the sacrifice.
And some locals bitter, still, it seems,
Along with some ‘Tigers’ from 5RAR,
Their war had caused such horror scenes,
Such as in this Battle of Xa Binh Ba.
After the Battle of Binh Ba - 90 odd VC and 1 Australian lie dead within the village. (Coutesy 5RAR files)