South Vietnam, August 18, 1966; Col Joye and Little Pattie were playing a concert for most of the Australian Task Force in Nui Dat, it was about 4pm.
Armidale’s 1 APC Squadron member Doug Lennox describes the afternoon.
“They were performing on the back of a truck as the stage,” he said
“We called it the kangaroo pad, it was a helicopter landing zone.
“And we’re listening to them … when all of a sudden the guns opened up and then all sorts of stuff was happening, helicopters and aeroplanes going everywhere.
“They took the concert party up to Task Force Headquarters.
“Initially, none of us knew what was happening.
“But we did know that someone was in the thick of it somewhere.
Three Delta Company platoons had just entered the biggest battle Australian soldiers were involved in, since World War II.
It was The Battle of Long Tan and it saw just over 100 Australian men against a Viet Cong force of thousands.
“That night, when we were standing around the perimeter, we could hear the shooting and the artillery and it was raining, it was just miserable,” Mr Lennox said.
“It was the start of the monsoon season.”
Eighteen Australians lost their lives that night, including Mr Lennox’s friend Peter Clement, who was shot when the relief team of Army Personnel Carriers moved in to help Delta Company.
“That’s still a sad thought and it’s still something that’s on my mind,” Mr Lennox said.
Thursday is Vietnam Veterans’ Day and is also the 50th anniversary of the Long Tan battle.
This year, a new plaque will acknowledge those who served and died in Vietnam.
It is the first of many new plaques that will serve as a memorial for all wars.
“For years we have been trying to get a memorial here, not just for Vietnam, but for all the wars,” Mr Lennox said.
“A lot of people from this area served in Vietnam.
“So it is important for local people to have a place where we can remember our own veterans on any given day.
“When I was growing up we were taught to learn from our mistakes, and all wars to me are a mistake.
“The new memorial is somewhere for Armidale to remember.”
Thursday’s service is at the War Memorial Fountain in Central Park at 11am.
It will be a day for gratitude and to remember those who laid down their lives on the battlefield 50 years ago.
Mr Lennox lost many mates in Vietnam.
On Thursday, he will remember them.
“[The new memorial] now means I can lay a wreath and remember my mates that were killed in Vietnam,” he said
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