The internationally-acclaimed documentary Long Tan: the True Story investigates the famous battle of Long Tan, Vietnam, when D Company, a patrol of untried Australians, held off repeated attacks by two heavily-armed Viet Cong regiments. For the Viet Cong, this was to be a master stroke—annihilate the soldiers of two nations, forcing Australia and New Zealand to withdraw from Vietnam, embarrassing the US and influencing the looming Manila peace talks. What could go wrong for the Viet Cong?
The battle of Long Tan, 18th August 1966, began when infantry D company, all untried Australians and New Zealanders, encountered two heavily armed North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong units outnumbering them 20 to 1.
For the Viet Cong, this was to be a master stroke—annihilate soldiers of two nations thus forcing Australia and New Zealand to withdraw from Vietnam, embarrass the US, and influence the looming Manila peace talks.
The VC ruse was to “lure the tiger away from the mountain”, mortaring the Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat to decoy an Australian patrol into ambush in the neighbouring Xa Long Tan rubber plantation.
To dodge D Company’s deadly Task Force artillery cover, the VC would close quickly on the patrol, “fighting while hugging the enemy’s belt”.
Masters of the annihilation ambush and with a much stronger force, the VC expected victory would take about 20 minutes. But in a grim firefight in monsoonal rain D Company’s rookies held off repeated attacks by the Vietnamese who were mauled badly, losing more than 500 men to D Company’s 18 KIA. What went wrong for the ‘invincible’ VC?
For their decisive success, D Company was awarded the US Presidential Unit Citation for Gallantry. But forbidden by Canberra to accept Vietnamese medals, the diggers of D Company were each awarded a Vietnamese doll by a grateful South Vietnamese government.
This documentary will change the way the Vietnam War is reported.
Professor Robert O’Neill AO Former Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford
About the film
Produced in 1993, Long Tan: the True Story has become essential viewing for anyone interested in the history of the Vietnam War and especially in the involvement of Australian and New Zealand forces. As well as enjoying an honoured position in the DVD collections in many private homes, the DVD of the documentary has been purchased by schools, public libraries, the Australian Defence Force, and college and university libraries in Australia and around the world, including the University of Oxford, the University of Colorado, and the University of Hawaii.
Long Tan: the True Story is the result of extensive original research, and tells the story of the battle through interviews with survivors from both the Australian and the Viet Cong sides of the battle. The documentary offers an investigation into the cat-and-mouse game of intelligence and counter-intelligence which both sides engaged in.
The 54-minute documentary has been broadcast by the ABC and the SBS in Australia, by TVNZ in New Zealand, on the History Channel in Canada and Australia, and across Asia and the Pacific by Australia Television International. The DVD features the original documentary together with additional a battle analysis by the late Ian McNeill, Official Historian for Ground Operations in Vietnam.
One of the five best Australian documentaries.
SBS Television International