Viet Cong soldiers, believed to be from D445 Battalion.
|Branch||National Liberation Front for Southern Vietnam|
The battalion operated in the Dong Nai river basin and also the Bien Hoa, Phuoc Tuy and Long Khanh provinces. It recruited principally from Dat Do, Long Dien and Hoa Long. The battalion was formed on 19 May 1965. It consisted of three rifle companies and one weapons company with a total strength of approximately 350 men and was commanded by Bui Quang Chanh aka Sau Chanh.[Note 1] The battalion fought initially against the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade between 24 May and 4 June 1966 during Operation Hardihood. American casualties during that operation were 23 killed and 160 wounded and 48 Viet Cong soldiers were reported to have been killed.
During the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966 the battalion fought against Australian Army forces from D Company, 6 RAR supported by New Zealand and US artillery. According to the D445 Battalion political officer, the unit provided "guides for the units that mortared the Task Force" at Nui Dat base on 17 August 1966. A Viet Cong medic, Chung, reported that three of the Viet Cong RCL detachment were killed in the Australian counter-battery fire and were buried nearby. During the battle D445 Battalion supported the 275th VC Regiment, which that included a North Vietnamese battalion, by attempting to outflank the Australians to the south. Meanwhile, an 80-strong Vo Thi Sau civil labour company commanded by Chin Phuong, comprising mainly women and children, lent support by evacuating the casualties. Australian veterans and historians, in the main, claim that at Long Tan D445 Battalion suffered heavy casualties, with captured personnel reportedly later stating that D445 Battalion's casualties had been 70 killed and 100 wounded, or approximately 50 percent of its strength. The total number of Vietnamese dead in the battle, according to Viet Cong and NVA histories were 47 killed. Only one member of D445 was captured at Long Tan (reportedly a 57 mm RCL gunner); and two members of 275th Regiment were captured who declared themselves to be members of "Doan 45" as their cover story.
During the retreat, Nguyen Duc Thu, the commander of D445's rear guard force, was seriously wounded by a bullet that passed through one ear lobe and went out the other and Tran Van Chien, and the commander of the 1st Company were killed. Several D445 soldiers were awarded Letters of Appreciation (Giay Khen) for their actions in the battle at Long Tan including Dao Van Trung (section 2IC 2nd Company), Tran Van Tranh (section 2IC 2nd Company), Pham Van Duong (2nd Company). One Australian M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier was hit by two rounds from a D445 recoilless rifle detachment, killing the driver and wounding the crew commander and several soldiers. However, Vietcong casualty figures of Long Tan were always difficult to account for as the battlefield was continuously bombarded by the New Zealand and US artillery during the fighting and in the aftermath hundreds of Vietcong fighters could never be identified. D445 Battalion and the main combat force from 275th VC Regiment that attacked the Australians numbered some 2,500 fighters.
In 1968 a second local force unit was formed in Phuoc Tuy, known as D440 Battalion. The unit generally performed poorly against Australian and New Zealand forces however, and was eventually disbanded in August 1970 with most of its personnel transferred to D445 Battalion. Until 1971 D445 Battalion would fight mainly with the Australian and New Zealand forces operating in Phuoc Tuy Province from their base at Nui Dat. A major loss to the Battalion was the discovery and destruction of the May Tao Mountain Base in Nui May Tao, including the battalion's field hospital and pharmacy in December 1969. When Australian troops began to withdraw in 1971 D445 Battalion was able to regain strength by taking advantage of the reducing strength of anti-communist forces. By mid 1971 the 1st Australian Task Force had been reduced to just two battalions and support arms, including one Australian battalion—3RAR— and a combined Australian and New Zealand battalion—4RAR/NZ. Australian and New Zealand combat forces were withdrawn in December 1971.
In September 1979, the battalion was involved in operations against armed FULRO guerrillas in the Chua Chan Mountain/La Nga River area of Xuan Loc that were seeking independence for ethnic minorities in Vietnam and Cambodia.
On 23 February 2011, at a formal meeting to discuss arrangements for a memorial for D445 by surviving veterans and government officials, it was stated that during the war the battalion "had wiped out more than 10,000 enemy soldiers, destroyed 120 military vehicles, shot down 20 aircraft, and seized more than 1,800 weapons of different types. More than 1,000 cadre and soldiers of the battalion had heroically sacrificed themselves."
- 1 ATF intelligence believed Sau Chanh commanded the battalion in August 1966; however, following interviews with former PAVN officers in 1988, the Australian official historian concluded Nguyen Van Kiem had done so. Yet according to the D445 Battalion history published in 1991 Chanh was in fact the unit's first commander, while Kiem commanded the Chau Duc District Company during Long Tan and only took over the battalion in early 1968.
- McNeill and Ekins 2003, p. 48.
- McNeill 1993, pp. 221–222 & 532.
- Chamberlain 2011, pp. 41 & 55.
- Davies & McKay 2012, pp. 228 & 622.
- "In helping the Australian Task Force to become established, The Americans had suffered 23 killed and a 160 wounded."OPERATION HARDIHOOD
- "American casualties during that operation were 23 killed and 104 wounded for a VC body count of 48." A Soldier Returns: A Long Tan Veteran Discovers The Other Side of Vietnam, Terry Burstall, p. 98, University of Queensland Press, 1990
- Dennis et al 2008, p.556.
- Chamberlain 2011, p. 44
- Bruce Horsefield (Director/Producer), Long Tan: The True Story, DVD, 1993
- Chamberlain 2016, p. 76.
- Chamberlain 2011, p. 42.
- Taylor 2001, p. 132.
- Chamberlain, Ernest Patrick. (2013). The Battle of Long Tan: NVA/VC Forces - Revisited.
- Chamberlain 2011, p. 45
- Chamberlain 2011, p. 46
- Chamberlain 2011, p. 47
- Australian documentary "The Battle Of Long Tan" (2006), by Red Dune Films. Narrated By Sam Worthington
- Fairhead, Fred. "A Duty Done: A Summary of Operations by the Royal Australian Regiment in the Vietnam War 1965–1972" (PDF). Royal Australian Regiment Association South Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
- Chamberlain 2011, p. 98
- Chamberlain, Ernest (2011). The Viet Cong D445 Battalion: Their Story. Point Lonsdale, Victoria: Ernest Chamberlain. ISBN 9780980562347.
- Davies, Bruce; McKay, Gary (2012). Vietnam: The Complete Story of the Australian War. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 9781741750287.
- Dennis, Peter; et al. (2008). The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (Second ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand. ISBN 978-0-19-551784-2.
- McNeill, Ian; Ekins, Ashley (2003). On the Offensive: The Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1967–1968. The Official History of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948–1975. St Leonards: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-304-3.
- Taylor, Jerry (2001). Last Out: 4 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion's Second Tour in Vietnam. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1865085618.
- Chamberlain, Ernest (2016). The Viet Cong D445 Battalion: Their Story (and the Battle of Long Tan). Point Lonsdale, Victoria: Ernest Chamberlain. ISBN 9780980562347.