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Long Tan carriers 18 August 1966

Background

The first ten M113A1 APCs were sent to South Vietnam to support Australian troops and arrived in Vietnam on 27 May 1965.  The first machine gun shields were fitted in mid June 1965.  The machine gun shields were to provide a degree of protection for the commander.

A further eight carriers were sent to South Vietnam (including two M125A1 81mm mortars carriers) in September 1965.  It was not until May 1966 that a further delivery of 26 carriers was sent to South Vietnam arriving in May 1966. These additional carriers were to bolster 1 Australian Task Force (1 ATF) then establishing its new operational base at Nui Dat.

The Situation

The task force began arriving at Nui Dat during April and June 1966. From 17 May to 15 June, United States and Australian forces secured the area around Nui Dat during Operation Hardihood.

The Vietcong operated at will in Phouc Tuy province for some years and 1 ATF was a serious threat to their control of the province.  To counter this threat the Vietcong reacted by using local force D445 Regiment and 5th VC Division to attack the new base.

The Nui Dat base was heavily mortared on the night of 16/17 August and B Company 6 RAR was sent out to locate the source of the enemy mortars in the Long Tan rubber plantation. B Company was then ordered to return to base.  D company was then sent to locate the enemy.  At 3.40pm 18 August 1966 D Company 6 Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) was ambushed and engaged by a superior force of D445 Regiment Viet Cong troops in the rubber plantation of Long Tan.

From an armoured force of 44 M113A1 carriers ten carriers were deployed to carry A Company 6 RAR to assist D Company 6 RAR.  Ten of the carriers had been in service since May 1965 and were overdue for a major overhaul.  It should be noted that Centurion tanks did not arrive until February 1968.

Lt Francis Adrian Roberts had orders "To convey A Company 6 RAR to joining D Company and break up the attack".  To achieve this order 3 troop 1st APC Squadron equipped with M113A1 APCs together with several APCs from 2 troop conveyed A company 6RAR to the Long Tan rubber plantation.  Two of the carriers (30B,33A) returned to Nui Dat to collect the 6 RAR commanding officer and his HQ group and return to Long Tan rubber plantation.

The 2 troop APCs went into battle without gun shields leaving the crew commanders fully exposed. The 3 troop carriers were equipped with gun shields.  Callsign 39M was an APC fitted out as an ambulance and was commanded by Corporal John Carter.  Cpl Carter was awarded a medal for knocking out a 57mm recoilless rifle after his 50 cal machine gun jammed and used the driver’s Owen gun to kill the enemy crew, thus drawing more enemy fire to his APC.

The carriers were:

CALLSIGN

ARN*

COMMANDER

 

30A

134186

Lt FA Roberts

Mentioned in dispatches

30B

134152

2Lt IC Savage

 

32

134164

Sgt RE Richards

Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star

32B

134145

Cpl RJ Cross

 

33A

134161

Cpl P Fottrill

 

33B

134332

CPL JJ O’Shae

 

39M

134260

Cpl JA Carter

Distinguished Conduct Medal

23

134200

CPL JT O’Reilly

 

23A

134168

Cpl PE Clements

Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star

23B

134206

LCpl WG Smith

 

 

Note: * The Army Recognition Numbers (ARNs) are based on a mileage return for October 1966 and assumed to be the same as two months before.

The M113A1 carrier had a crew of two with the commander in the commander’s cupola with one .50 inch calibre machine gun and one driver. The driver’s personal weapon at this time was an Owen sub machine gun.   The vehicle could carry up to ten troops internally. Some but not all of the APCs fitted with RT68 radios (part of the AN/GRC7 and 8 radio sets) as well as PRC25 infantry back pack radios.

It was not until October 1966 that all of 1 APC Squadron APCs were fitted with the AN/VRC 12, ANGRC 125 and Vehicle intercommunications (VIC-1) systems.  Part of this system was the AT-912/ VRC antennae which were quite different from the later AS-1729 VRC antennae that were used well into the 1980s.

          

The later AS-1729/VRC

This was replacing the in service AT-912

The earlier AT912/VRC.  

The antennae base (AB-719 was seen on Australian M113A1 APC as late as February 1969 (Normie Rowe's APC) but by this time it was being replaced by the AS-1729/VRC.

 

This image shows the style and position of callsign and army registration number on the left rear of the Long Tan APCs.

The steel rod frame for the rear mounted jerrycans can also be seen. Also just visible is the 50 cal ammunition liner simply sitting on the hull roof.

Photo Credit AWM

 

Modelling a Long Tan M113A1 APC

You will need a M113A1 kit with the Australian modifications.  This includes the hull roof with fuel cap inspection plate and cargo hatch filter box.  Internally there was 25mm of foam blanket glued to the hull roof.  The initial jerrycans on the rear of the hull were held in place by webbing straps.  These rotted quite quickly in the Vietnamese climate and jerrycans were held in a metal rod basket (see image below). The earlier antennas should also be fitted.

Vehicle markings

Not surprisingly there are very few images of Long Tan carriers taken on the day.  This summary of markings is based on markings photographed during the period July to August 1966 and fit the official requirement for markings.

Each vehicle had a large callsign on the rear ramp and ARNs on the front left (in front of the driver) on the glacis plate and on the left rear hull. They had a small version of the call sign on both sides of the hull and above the rear ARN.  A small white kangaroo just below the bilge pump outlet near the driver.

The right glacis plate had the "unit baggage, stores and equipment" marking.  In the case of 1 APC Squadron this was 1125.  This was the number over three coloured bars. These are not often seen in images.

The top right corner of the trim vane had the dimensional and weight measurements of the M113A1 APC necessary for transporting via ships to Vietnam.  This eventually wore off over time.

The APCs were still painted in US olive drab and did not change to Australian Olive drab lustreless until late 1967.

Reference Images

Model conversion parts

Conversion Update parts referred to above are available from Mouse House Enterprises:

References

  • Post Action Report by Lt Adrian Roberts (AWM)
  • The Battle of Long Tan – The Legend of ANZAC upheld by Lex McCauley ISBN 0 09 952530 5
  • When The Scorpion Stings by Paul Anderson (Allan & Unwin) out of print ISBN 1 86508 743 2
  • Australian Military Equipment Profiles – Vol.4 The M113 and M113A1 APC in Australian Service 1962 to 1972  ISBN 0 646 18181 5
  • Search the Australian War Memorial collection

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