6-8 June 1969
The battle of Binh Ba was one of the more significant actions fought by Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. Before the battle, soldiers of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) had fought mainly in open or jungle settings. This battle took place in the village of Binh Ba, in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, against a large, well-armed communist force.
In early June 1969 the newly arrived 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment/New Zealand (ANZAC), deployed north of 1ATF’s base at Nui Dat, on Operation Lavarack. The battalion immediately began encountering large formations of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) soldiers, and a series of near constant firefights ensued. On the evening of the 5th of June 1969, a combined communist force of well-armed and resolute troops occupied Binh Ba.
At 8 am the following morning, an Australian Centurion tank moving north past the village was fired on; a rocket propelled grenade damaged the tank and wounded at least one of the crew. Two and a half hours later, 1ATF launched Operation Hammer, sending an understrength company of 5RAR supported by armoured vehicles and artillery into the village. What followed was two days of fierce house-to-house fighting as the Australians attempted to remove the NVA and VC from the village.
B Coy 5RAR sweep towards Duc Trung on day two of the battle.
Troops of 6 Platoon, B Company, 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR), sweep towards Duc Trung during Operation Hammer on day two of the battle.
Members of the 1st Australian Civil Affairs Unit (1ACAU) entered Binh Ba on the morning of 8 June to find a scene of utter devastation. One in five houses had been completely destroyed, with every other house suffering at least some degree of damage. 1ACAU organised the distribution of food, water and aid to villagers, and went on to oversee repair and reconstruction work in the village. Reconstruction efforts, borne mainly by Australian engineers, lasted for a month. The village school was rebuilt by B Squadron, 1 Armoured Regiment, and re-opened in November that year.
Operation Hammer had cost the Australians one man killed and ten wounded. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong had lost 99 men killed, mostly from 33 NVA Regiment. At the conclusion of Operation Hammer, the Australians, who had previously been unable to enter Binh Ba safely, were able to move freely in the village and their reconstruction efforts were welcomed by many of the villagers.
Operation Lavarack concluded on 30 June 1969 by which time 6RAR/NZ had killed 102 enemy soldiers, while one Australian and two New Zealanders had been killed, and 29 wounded.