Vietnam Veterans Day Saturday, 18th August 2018
The 50th Anniversary of FSPBs Coral/Balmoral
During the “Mini-Tet” offensive mounted by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces in May 1968, the 1st Australian Task Force deployed two battalions to an area 20 kilometres north of Bien Hoa city to intercept and disrupt enemy forces withdrawing from the capital, Saigon, and the Bien Hoa–Long Binh base complex. Several fire support bases (FSB) were established to provide defended firing points for artillery and mortars which would cover foot patrols to be sent out by the battalions (1RAR and 3RAR). One of these FSBs was dubbed “Coral”, situated 7 kilometres north of the town of Tan Uyen.
Fire Support Base Coral, Bien Hoa province, Vietnam. 13 May 1968. A 105 mm M2A2 howitzer, the No. 6 gun of 102 Field Battery, 12th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery. C269848
Occupation of Coral was begun on 12 May, but the defences remained unfinished when, at about 3.30 am on 13 May, it was attacked following a brief but intense rocket and mortar barrage. The 1RAR mortar platoon position was over-run, along with one of 102 Field Battery’s six 105 mm M2A2 howitzers in the base. With the aid of extensive air support, the attack was beaten off by 6.30 am and the captured gun-pit was retaken – still with the gun in it (this howitzer is now on display in the Vietnam gallery at the Australian War Memorial). Eleven Australians were killed and 28 wounded, while the attackers lost more than the 52 bodies they left behind. A further three Australians died in patrol clashes on the 14 May.
At 2.30 am on 16 May Coral again came under attack, this time from a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force estimated at three battalions strong. The base was now defended by armoured personnel carriers of A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, and 1RAR’s rifle companies, all of which were heavily engaged; part of the A Company position was occupied for a period, but the enemy was forced to withdraw. The attack was repelled after four hours of fighting, with the Australians having suffered five men killed and 19 wounded. Two members of an American battery which had reinforced the base were also wounded. Only 34 enemy bodies were recovered, but blood trails and drag marks indicated that many more casualties had been removed.
Howitzer from FSB Coral that is now on display in the Conflicts 1945 to today galleries. C355767
Click on link for more The Battle of Coral/Balmoral
Times for the day are as follows:
- 0930hs – 1030hrs Gunfire Breakfast in the Shrine Precinct
1030hrs – 1100hrs Marchers Gather at Northern Forecourt for
1100hrs Step Off
1100hrs March Step Off. Official Commemoration Service
1215hrs Formalities conclude