Vietnamese & Australians on joint operation DPR/TV/1201

The seven-week marriage of an Australian infantry company with a Vietnamese battalion ends this week in a five-day operation in the hills north-west of the Task Force base at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam. The 400-strong 3rd Battalion, 52nd Regiment of the 18th Army of the Republic of Vietnam Division has been integrated with Delta Company of the 6th Battalion of Long Tan fame, for a series of operations in the province, the Australian force’s special area of responsibility. The Vietnamese Unit was the fourth to work with Australians, the other three, however, were on re-training courses. The weapon range at the foot of the Horseshoe Hill, where the soldiers have been based together, becomes a landing zone for the air assault to start the final operation, named Quyet Thang, which is Vietnamese for “We strive for victory.” At the sound of helicopters chopping the air, the men mount up with their heavy gear. The Nui Thi Vai hills were chosen for the operation after intelligence reports indicated that an enemy unit and elements of another were in the area. The Vietnamese battalion’s three rifle companies each has 20 Australians working with them and to round out the force for the operation a Vietnamese Regional Force company has been added. Major Mick Gill of Keperra, Brisbane, Qld, the officer commanding the Australian company, is in charge and the ARVN battalion commander, Captain Tang, acts on his orders. This company is being inserted direct into the foothills and as the helicopters do their approach runs the door gunners blaze away into the thicket to discourage any enemy from shooting them out of the air and to give the soldiers precious time to get into fire positions on the ground. The guns hardly finish chattering before the soldiers scramble from the choppers into swirling sand. Seconds later the helicopters are airborne again…and for the soldiers the operation has begun. These four Australians, loaded down with their packs and machine gun ammunition, head off with their Vietnamese platoon to search for the enemy. Australian and Vietnamese soldiers on the wind-up of a seven-week joint operation in Vietnam. Also identified: Corporal Brian Halls of Stafford, Brisbane, Qld (with radio set); Private Leon Bartz of Southbrook, Qld (pimply); Pte Montey Paul of Glen Huon, Tas (moustache); L/Cpl Bill Henney of Ingham, Qld (with gun).

Source: Australian War Memorial 6033142

9 Squadron and the South Vietnamese 

Just like the US forces, the Australians in Vietnam shared an important relationship with South Vietnamese forces. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam – or ARVN for short – would often work alongside Australian forces in joint operations.


At times this relationship was strenuous. As Brigadier S. P. Weir, Commander 1ATF mentioned when commenting on behalf of the soldiers of 1ATF, the Viet Cong had continually tried to infiltrate South Vietnamese forces. This was often through the ARVN component  known as RF/PF (Regional Force and Popular Force), which had been created in an attempt to counter Viet Cong activity. The goal was for RF/PF to directly counter the lightly armed VC local forces, while ARVN regular forces would focus on the main VC units. On several occasions, Weir recalls these infiltrators ambushing friendly troops, and even attempting on multiple occasions to kill advisors. This lead to worries amongst American, Australian and South Vietnamese troops. 

Nevertheless, the relationship would continue through to the end of the war. This included operations with RAAF 9 Squadron. The squadron would work with ARVN forces both in training settings, and in actual combat scenarios. In the image below, a 9 Squadron Iroquis performs a ‘hot extraction’ picking up an ARVN long range reconnaissance patrol from hostile territory. 

The footage shown above shows the close relationship held between Australian and South Vietnamese forces. From September through to 2 November 1969, the 3rd Battalion, 52nd Regiment of the 18th Army of the Republic of Vietnam Division was integrated with troops of Delta Company, 6th Battalion of Long Tan. Operations took place around Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, which was primarily under Australian responsibility.

Under the command of Major Mick Gill of Keperra, Brisbane, the 7-week cooperation was to end with one final operation; ‘Quyet Thang’, a Vietnamese term for “we strive for victory”, which is shown in the footage. 20 Australian soldiers had been assigned to each of the Vietnamese battalions three rifle companies. A Vietnamese Regional Force company was also sent to accompany them. Under the direct command of Major Gill was ARVN battalion commander Captain Tang.

Quyet Thang begins at the foot of Horshoe Hill. A weapons range is to be used as a landing zone. As the Iroquis approach, the forces mount up and board the helicopters of 9 Squadron. They were to head to the Nui Thi Vai hills, following intelligence reports that an enemy unit and elements of another were operating within the area. 

Following an approach run with guns blazing, the company was then inserted into the sandy foothills. Due to the close proximity of the helicopters to the reported area of enemy activity, it was necessary for 9 Squadron door gunners to clear a path for landing. Suppressing fire from the door mounted machine guns deterred VC fighters from taking shots at the helicopters, while also giving the troops on board a chance to get into firing positions once they hit the ground. Once on the ground, the Australian soldiers accompany their Vietnamese platoon. 

Regional force soldiers prepare to deploy on an operation by RAAF helicopter.