Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: “The Battle of Long Tan: The Legend of ANZAC Upheld” by Lex MacAulay

Book Review: “The Battle of Long Tan: The Legend of ANZAC Upheld” by Lex MacAulay

General Description

I got the paperback version, so the page count is 184. It is broken down into 11 chapters and 6 appendices. There is a 14 page section of 50+ B&W photographs. There are an additional 8 maps scattered in the different chapters. The book covers the Australian side of the battle of Long Tan during the 2nd Indochina War on August 18, 1966.

The Good

This is a good book of the Australian side of the battle of Long Tan. The author did a very good job interweaving individual accounts about the battle in the different chapters. As the author did not have access to the Vietnamese side of the battle, the author includes a paragraph every now and then of what the Vietnamese side probably was doing based on their standard operations and what they did do later in the battle. While I have read several books on the 2nd Indochina War, all were accounts on US Army troops, except one which was about the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. So, this was the first book that I read about the ANZAC forces. While the battle barely lasted a day through a rain storm, it involved an infantry company of 108 men supported by artillery holding off an estimated force of 2000 NVA regulars and VC locals until they were relieved by a squadron of M113 APC’s and another company and a half of infantry. After the battle, the official Australian count was 245 Vietnamese were killed for a loss of 18 Australians killed. There is something to say about the professionalism and courage on both sides to continue to fight under these conditions.

The Bad

Really, I don’t have anything bad to say about this book. The only thing that I wish to be better was the lack of the Vietnamese accounts of the battle. But the author was hampered by the fact at the time of his research and writing of this book, the open communications with Vietnam was not available. The author does a good try to show what the Vietnamese forces probably did experience, so I have to give him credit for that, instead of totally ignoring their story.

Wargaming “Long Tan”

As in many battles where the odds are heavily on one side, it is hard to recreate the battle. Instead of trying writing up a scenario for Long Tan, I will mention that there articles for Long Tan in “Miniature Wargames” in #39 and #114. There might be more articles in other gaming magazines, but I am currently only aware of the two from “Miniature Wargames”. That would be the best route for starting to game this battle. But basically you have a company of ANZAC infantry spread out a little in platoon formations in a rubber plantation which would be a fairly clear of underbrush and good firing lanes. The ANZAC’s has a superior Forward Observer Officer and good artillery support and almost no air support, with the exception of some ANZAC Huey slicks flying in ammunitions, supplies, and evacuating the wounded. 

I would next encourage that “Charlie Don’t Surf” by Too Fat Lardies to be the rule set of choice. I think that would make the best system to reflect the ANZAC’s support and rigidness of the NVA command. Under “Charlie Don’t Surf”, the NVA must go for a military victory in destroying D/6 RAR, instead of a political victory.

A couple of painting notes should be that D/6 RAR worn black and green camouflage floppy hats that were specially obtained by the company commander. According to the personal accounts, most of the NVA were wearing their green uniforms.

Miniatures should not be hard find in any scale, accept maybe the ANZAC’s M113s. From the description of the book, the M113’s where pretty much split between having a gun shield for the 0.50 cal HMG and not having a gun shield. The picture in the book shows a gun shield like that on a M113 ACAV, but without the armored bucket. Later, the ANZAC’s M113s had a machine gun turret which is totally different than the ACAVs. It looks like that machine gun turrets came after Long Tan. If that is the case, the M113s should be available in any scale. But if any of them had the turret, I am only aware of Britannia’s 20mm M113’s with the turrets, but Britannia is no more with the pasting of the owner, David Howitt in Jan., 2011. Grubby Tanks is supposed to have the rights to the Britannia lines, but we will have to see if they are released. Liberation Miniatures list parts to make the turret for the JB Models, 1/76th M113.

Personally, I have two scales for the 2nd Indochina War: 10mm and 20mm. My 10mm is designed to be for larger battles where a company or battalion is on the board, so that is what I will eventually use for Long Tan (but I might disguise it by using an American company). My 20mm are ANZAC’s from Britannia and is a platoon size strength force. I can use them to do the action of the 11 Platoon as they fought off wave after wave of NVA troops.

Next Book Review

Well, it is back to the USA during its darkest of moments…Prohibition! The next book will be, “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” by Daniel Okrent. This book is suppose to become a Ken Burn’s documentary for PBS, so I am really looking forward to it as I have enjoyed Ken Burn’s work.


Adelaide Gamer said...

Someone recently put out a fictionalised account of the battle from the Vietnamese perspective. I think I'd run out of money that particular day and sadly didn't take a note of the title (sorry), but I do recall that it looked like a pretty informative novel.

Anything by Lex MacAuley is usually a good read. Aussie military history buffs are well familiar with him.

Sapper Joe said...

Adelaide Gamer, thanks for the tip about that book. I think I found it on Amazon: "Through Enemy Eyes" by David Sabben -

I now have it on my Amazon's wishlist!

Monster in Sydney said...

And if you haven't seen my critically acclaimed and award winning documentary on The Battle of Long Tan narrated by Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation) you can watch it in full for free here -

Sapper Joe said...

@ Monster in Sydney:

Excellent! Thank you for this link. I will have to watch it as soon as I get some free time.

Thank you again,