Anyone who loves history comes to learn that it is messy. They must not only accept this reality, but learn to embrace it. Unlike an epic saga, history is only of value when it is presented to us with “the bark on…” This becomes even more important when dealing with pivotal events. One such for Australia was the battle of Long Tan in South Vietnam on August 18, 1966.
In the Fall of 1965 the U.S. Army got a wake-up call at the Battle of the Ia Drang. Less than a year later the Australians got theirs at Long Tan. There were many remarkable similarities between the two. Unfortunately, much of the Australian Army brass either did not closely study the lessons of Ia Drang, or else decided that they did not apply to the Australians deploying into Vietnam in 1966.
My time serving with Australians was in Africa, not Asia, when I served under a third country’s command. I claim no special knowledge, and freely admit that America in RVN made many mistakes. It often failed to learn from not only its mistakes, but also from its successes. Immediately after the Ia Drang victory, other units from the 1st Air Cavalry Division were deployed in the same general area; but they operated tactically far more like conventional infantry and took heavy casualties for maneuvering in a manner that the NVA was experienced in handling.
The Australians speak English. They have a recognizably similar culture (sort of…sometimes we are people “separated by a common language”) and have sided with us gallantly in many places since 1917. But their history has been markedly different from ours.
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