WO2 B.G. Long - AATTV
1970 - 71
WO2 Barry Long served in South Vietnam in 1970 - 71 and his tour of duty was divided into three parts - thus avoiding any chance of boredom due to repetitious patrolling. Initially he was posted to 2 Bn/2Regt at Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province from September 70 to February 71. With Lam Son 719 being formed, and the Advisers being held back from going into Laos, he was asked to assist in raising a MATT at Tra Bong in Quang Ngai Province. It was a great chance to see an area already written into military history. Unfortunately, his stay ended early in April as the Aussie and US groups could not agree on training systems. While at Tra Bong, Barry was able to check out the area where 'Dasher' Wheatley and his group operated and lived.
Entry to and exit from Tra Bong was by air only because of the hostility of the villagers and the control on the ground by the NVA. Aircraft landing (mainly Caribou) on this short strip did not mess around when offloading stores etc., it was land, open back, gun motors and get out of there. Any longer on the ground and they would be greeted with enemy mortar rounds. On folding of the Matt at Tra Bong, Barry was posted back to Dong Ha but this time went to 3Bn/2Regt. Maj 'Harry' HUE (see photo below) had gone by this time and his 2Bn/2Regt had been chopped up so bad they had to be reformed with new troops, which took several months.
The remainder of WO2 Long's tour was the most hectic of all, spent mostly away from the base in constant contact with the enemy either on patrols or while on the Fire Support Bases. While Barry was away patrolling, his Bn situated at Fire Support Base Fuller was overrun. The Senior Adviser and his troops escaped and it took several days before Barry could link back up with his Bn.
The US troops pulled out of Quang Tri in mid
August 1971 and Barry went back to Hue, and then to Da Nang before returning
to Australia in September 1971.
WO2 Barry Long and Maj TRAN NGOC HUE
The photo is of WO2 Barry Long and his battalion commander Major TRAN NGOC HUE (answered to the name of Harry.) He was previously the commander of the Hac Bao (Black Panther) commando unit which became the heroes of Hue during Tet '68. Of the many who would have served with the Hac Boa unit over the years, two WA members are known. They are WO2 Merv Bolitho MID (68/69) and WO2 Keith Forden (69/70).
Keith Forden has also added this little personal story of working with this very distinguished unit.
" I served with the Hac Bao from Sep 69 until May 70. During my time the commander was Dai Uy Doan. He was an excellent commander who had done some training at the Australian Army Jungle Warfare School at Johore Bahru in Malaya. During my tour with the Hac Bao we accounted for almost 200 enemy KIA for the cost of only two (2) of our soldiers lost. It was certainly the highlight of my second tour. One memorable moment was to witness a daylight attack by our troops on a defended position, where they pepper potted their way up the hill. This attack resulted in 55 enemy KIA."
Maj TRAN NGOC HUE was badly wounded and captured during Lam Son 719 where ARVN troops re-opened Khe Sanh and marched into Laos to try and break the Ho Chi Minh trail (All advisers had to stay at the base as they were not allowed to accompany their units - see, there are rules to war). They underestimated the enemy - who seemed to have taken over Laos, so great was their strength.
Harry was such a great soldier
that even the NVA treated him as a hero. He was allowed to send messages
back to his wife and family to say he was safe. We heard that he lost an
eye and an arm from that encounter. WO2 Barry Long never found out just
how Harry came out of the war.
Barry Long sitting on sandbagged PSDF lookout West of
the camp and South of the village of Tra Bong. (Notice the
shoulder holster). Who would have thought there was a
war going on with those picturesque and peaceful looking
WOI B.R. 'Snow' Lawrance at 'Tiger Compound'
Quang Tri after he had just received a US
Commendation. Other Team member is WO2
Rex Taylor and an unidentified US Army Occicer
Old Tra Bong fort. This was an old French design. They
were built in a triangular shape which did not work in
Vietnam. It was destroyed several years before this photo
was taken in February 1971. It was used a residence for
Montagnard troops and their families who guarded two
villages nearby. The new camp was built directly opposite.
Old French vehicle as it lay just outside of the
Tra Bong base. Inspecting it are WO2 Ray
'Dasher' Deed on the right and WO2 George
Francis. Both these Team members and WO2
Jim Pratten (not pictured) made up the MATT
at Tra Bong to which WO2 Long was attached.
straight out of the SF defence manual, nothing was spared and it's construction with concrete mortar pits connected to each other by concrete tunnels etc. It was near on impenetrable and yet it was overrun by a sapper attack.
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