Vietnam lifts ban on Australian commemoration of 1966 battle

Henrietta Brewer
August 31, 2016

New Zealand soldiers also helped fight in the Battle of Long Tan, on August 18, 1966.

Sir Peter recalled the difficulties returning servicemen faced when they returned to Australia.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to do everything to persuade Vietnam to reconsider its decision to cancel the commemoration service for Vietnam Veteran's Day, and is said to have brokered a deal with the Vietnam Government to give Australians access to the site.

Federal Defence Minister Dan Tehan said 10 soldiers from the Battle of Long Tan would be awarded a military honour or have their existing honour upgraded.

"Harry Smith is like Phar Lap; his knowledge meant we won the battle, and his strength and big heart has saved many Australian lives in that battle".

The last-minute cancellation was described as a "kick in the guts", by the veteran affairs minister.

The Long Tan anniversary is a contentious topic in Vietnam, and visitors to the Battle of Long Tan site are not allowed to wear medals or uniforms, carry banners or make speeches.

Services are underway around Australia to mark the anniversary, including at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

"It's become a battle which has come to symbolise the Vietnam War, and the legacy from ANZAC which was carried by those young Australians".

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"Many Vietnam veterans felt alienated by the wider community from which they sprang and in many cases by the government which sent them and even most regrettably by the ex-service organisations which did not seem to embrace them".

"I do have concerns for the mental welfare of not only those Vietnam veterans in Vietnam, but also those here in Australia, " Foster said. He told reporters the veto reflected "deep sensitivities" within Vietnam and was not a response to problems in the bilateral relationship.

Vietnamese authorities in both Hanoi and southern Ba Ria Vung Tau province, where the battle took place, did not respond to requests for comment.

"There are 3500 people who are booked in to go the Long Tan cross and that's why they are not happy".

"I understand that there had been rumours circulating to indicate there is an Australian victory celebration in Vietnam, which is wrong, totally wrong".

"We respect the right of the Vietnamese government to determine what ceremonies and observances are held in their country, but to change the rules literally the day before was very unreasonable", he said.

A Vietnamese source said police were concerned about security.

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