CANBERRA, Australia — A retired Australian army officer on Wednesday won a 50-year struggle to gain official recognition for the bravery of 10 soldiers who fought under his command during Australia's most costly battle of the Vietnam War.
Harry Smith, 83, was presented at Parliament House with a recommendation by a review tribunal for nine soldiers to be decorated for the first time and a 10th soldier to have his medal upgraded for courage shown during the Battle of Long Tan in a Vietnamese rubber plantation on Aug. 18, 1966.
Smith, a retired lieutenant colonel, led a company of 105 Australian soldiers plus three New Zealanders supported by artillery that won a rain-drenched, three-hour battle against more than 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, the Australian government said. Eighteen Australians were killed and 24 wounded, while the Vietnamese were estimated to have lost hundreds of troops.
Within hours of the battle ending, Smith said he recommended to his commanding officer that 20 soldiers under his command be decorated.
Initially, only eight battle veterans were
He has since campaigned relentlessly to have others recognized. Wednesday's verdict of the
Smith said he was happy with the decision despite the tribunal dismissing his application for another soldier to be awarded his first decoration and another two decorated soldiers to have their
"Justice has been done," Smith said. "I learnt from my years in the army that you have to keep on fighting and you eventually win."
Three of the 10 veterans to receive new
Australia deployed more than 60,000 military personnel to Vietnam between 1962 and 1973, of whom 521 were killed. The Battle of Long Tan anniversary next week has become Australia's official Vietnam Veterans Day.
Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press
©2016 The Canadian Press
Join the Discussion
paNOW is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules: Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic, be responsible, share your knowledge, and please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. See full commenting rules.