The award of the Unit Citation for Gallantry has been approved by the Governor-General to members of the 1st Australian Task Force (Forward) and associated units deployed to Area of Operations Surfers during the Battles of Coral and Balmoral half a century ago.
On 13 May, fifty years ago Australians fought their longest and most costly battle of the Vietnam War, at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral. Twenty- six Australians lost their lives in three and a half weeks at Coral and Balmoral, with almost 100 wounded. At least 270 Vietnamese were killed, though we will never know the true figure.
Australian troops moved into the area of operations, known as ‘Bondi’ in Bien Hoa Province on 12 May 1968 and began setting up Fire Support Base Coral. They didn’t know how strong the enemy presence in the area was until a devastating attack fell upon them less than twelve hours later. Nine Australians were killed. The artillery and mortar men were hardest hit.
The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong could not tolerate the Australian presence across the route they used to attack Saigon and over the next 16 days North Vietnamese troops launched another determined attack against Coral and twice attempted to drive the Australians from nearby Fire Support Base Balmoral.
Coral and Balmoral were too strongly defended to fall to the waves of infantry sent against them, but for the men who faced these attacks the fighting was intense, close and terrifying.
The Battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral are not widely known in Australia. Yet they were among the most important of our country’s long commitment to the war in Vietnam.
All men who fought at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral displayed collective gallantry worthy of unit recognition and the most appropriate unit recognition is the Unit Citation for Gallantry.