The Battle of Binh Ba
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.
Regarding the Battle of Binh Ba in June 1 969, Australian official history accounts omit that – while most of the 33rd NVA Regiment elements at the Battle were in Binh Ba village, one battalion was tasked to ambush the 5RAR relief force coming north up Route 2 from Nui Dat. According to a 33rd Regiment history monograph, the initial plan was for the “33rd Regiment to conduct an ambush battle from the Sông Cầu hamlet up to Đức Mỹ hamlet”
Australian official history accounts of the Battle of Bình Ba in early June 1969 omit that – apart from occupying the village of Binh Ba on Route 2 north of the 1 ATF Núi Đất base, the communist forces (ie 33rd NVA Regiment, D440 Local Force Battalion), planned to ambush the expected 1 ATF relief force as it moved north up Route 2 to Bình Ba. According to a 33rd Regiment history monograph, the initial plan was for the “33rd Regiment to conduct an ambush battle on Australian forces lured north from their Núi Đất base – in the area of Route 2 from the Sông Cầu hamlet up to Đức Mỹ hamlet”. Several Vietnamese accounts relate however that their planned ambush was not initiated ie: as the Australian relief force was “spread out in groups of two-and-three vehicles and did not fall into the Regiment’s ambush – so the ((33rd NVA)) Regiment’s tactical headquarters decided not to attack.” … and : “At 6am on 6 June 1969 – just as we had planned, the Australian forces from Núi Đất sent their tanks north to relieve Bình Ba. However, as the enemy was spread out in groups of two-and-three vehicles, and did not fall into the Regiment’s ambush formation, the headquarters of the Regiment decided not to initiate the ambush attack.” And: ““the Australians did not enter our ambush formation as planned.”
During a briefing at the 33rd NVA Regiment 50th Anniversary reunion in Hanoi in 2019 , the Battle of Bình Ba was depicted on a map – that also noted the site of the “un-initiated/”unsprung” Route 2 ambush. See the attached photo (the briefer was Hoàng Đình Chiến – purportedly the last-living of the NVA combatants at the Battle). Regards, Ernie