Australian War Memorial WAR/70/0105/VN
Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam. 18 February 1970. Section Commander, Corporal Joe Danyluk of Port Kembla, NSW, carrying a mortar gun [M79 40mm grenade launcher] calls a halt during a sweep through bombed-out jungle after a bloody battle in the Long Hai mountains during Operation Hamersley. His company, B Company of 8th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR), together with other units of the Battalion, supported by armor, fought an estimated company of hard-core Viet Cong (VC) for a number of days in the mountains. The area was pounded by airstrikes including a raid by giant B52 bomber aircraft, naval bombardment from HMAS Vendetta, and artillery fire. Twenty-nine bodies of dead VC have been found to date.
First fielded in 1961 by the U.S. Army, the 6-pound M79 was light enough that you could carry it as a support weapon while still having a primary rifle– note CPL Danyluk’s M16 over the shoulder. In American service, it was often called the Bloop Gun or the Thumper. Meanwhile, the Ozzies referred to it as the Wombat Gun.
While armored vehicles were not often the focus of the Vietnam conflict, full-sized main battle tanks did get a chance to do more than guard gates on occasion.
Such as a sharp engagement some 50 years ago today.
This painting shows 4 Australian Centurions of C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment in Bien Hoa Province, South Vietnam 26 May 1968. The tanks let out to clear some NVA bunkers situated around the base from whence attacks were being staged on the Aussie’s base.
The battles of Fire Support Base Coral and Balmoral, during the Tet Offensive, are stuff of legend in the Australian Army.
An armored troop made up from the 1st Armoured Regiment (1 Armd Regt) was deployed on active service to South Vietnam in May 1965 and, through several rotations supported by the regiment, remained in country until withdrawn from Vietnam in September 1971. In that time, 58 Centurions had served in Southeast Asia with 42 damaged in battle– six were beyond repair. Two crewmen had been killed in action.
The regiment is still around, and today is the only armored unit in the Australian Army to be equipped with the M1A1 Abrams.
Via The Tank Museum:
A line-up of three generations of Australian tanks.
The Matilda in the middle is the oldest. It was first acquired by Australia in 1942 and used against the Japanese in New Guinea and Borneo until the end of the Second World War. Heavily armored, they were very popular. The last Matildas were retired in 1955.
On the left is the Centurion Mark 5/1. These saw service in Vietnam, where they proved highly effective and resilient. Unlike most users, the Australians kept the 20 Pounder gun throughout its life. 117 gun tanks were bought, with the first arriving in 1952.
On the right is the Leopard AS1, new to the Australian Army at the time this photograph was taken. The first arrived in 1976 and a total of 90 were bought. They were painted green all over – the brown color is mud!
If only they had some Bren carriers, Ford Scout Cars, M3 Grant medium and M3 Stuart light tanks to go with it, then they could cover the old school early WWII Australian Armoured Corps as well!
Australian soldiers move through the jungle of Papua New Guinea with their M3 Stuart tanks