Battle of Binh Bar
Memories by Cfn Richard Ross Burriss
1st Armd. Regt. LAD
Prelude: This was a battle fought mainly by ‘D&B’ company 5RAR in conjunction with Centurion tanks and APC’s on the village of Binh Ba, 10Clicks to the north of Nui Dat, fought over 2 days on the 6/8 June 69. 1. Australian KIA Pte Wayne Teeling 5RAR who had only been in country for a month, and 18 Aust. WIA.
1st Armoured Regiment LAD 6 June 1969
An event took place some weeks before 6 June, while it had nothing to do with the battle of Binh Ba, it could have had very serious consequences for me on the day of the battle.
While stationed at FSB Wattle, my SLR was stolen by some Americans. I reported this to our unit OC, CAPT Eddie Sullivan when I returned to Nui Dat the following day.
Because I was due to go home on R&R on 11 June, CAPT Sullivan said if he reported the rifle stolen, the ensuing inquiry would cause my R & R to be cancelled.
He reported it missing when I returned saying it had been lost in the jungle after falling off the back of the ARV. If you walked around Nui Dat without a rifle, you could be questioned about where it was, which could prove embarrassing so I bought a very early model Armalite from one of the tankies for $40.00 and this solved the problem.
In early June a new ARV arrived at the LAD, call sign "28 Delta". It had no armaments, no radios and no armoured side shield for crew protection. On the 5th June we were tasked to go to a FSB near the village of Duc Thanh, north of Nui Dat along Route 2, but due to the unready state of 28D, this was postponed for the day. All of the 5th June and well into the night, work was carried out to fit radios a .30 cal MG and side protection shields.
By the morning of 6th June, everything was completed, but we couldn't get the radios working or the IC. The B SQN OC MAJ Alex Smith couldn't wait any longer and ordered us to go.
We were to go on our own, but because Route 2 was declared an “ORANGE” road, we were entitled to an escort and CAPT Sullivan insisted on it. I have often thought of what might have happened if we had gone alone. At 0800hrs, we headed out the north gate with 20E as our escort.
As our vehicle was new, tight and not run in, so to speak, we could not keep up with 20E. I was sitting on top of the ARV’s winch house reading a stick book, SGT Ted Spargo was standing in the commander’s compartment and our driver Kevin “Ratmo” Perry was trying to squeeze every bit of speed out of 28D, while also wondering why he had forgotten to bring his pistol magazine.
As we came to the southern outskirts of the village of Binh Ba, a group of about seven ARVN soldiers were heading on foot away from the village and waved down 28D. They were pointing at the village and yelling “VC.VC!!”
I recall yelling back to them that if the VC were that way, pointing to the village, then they were going the wrong way. One yelled back “VC No 10” and off they went.
As we started off again, I heard shooting-small arms fire-and stood up to see where it was coming from. How dumb was that? It was at this moment that a loud dull thump came from ahead of us. I looked towards 20E and saw a huge black ball of smoke come from the left side of the turret. 20E came to a halt. We also stopped about 100 metres behind.
I stared at the tank just sitting there. I had no idea what had just happened. Seconds later there was another thump and a cloud of dirt erupted in a paddock about 20 metres to our left. Realisation struck like a sledgehammer—we were in contact.
I literally dived for cover– head first onto the rear engine compartment. I grabbed my $40.00 Armalite, aimed at a window of the first hut on the left and fired, just one shot before the bloody thing jammed. The noise from that shot, which was I suspect was very close to Ted’s right ear, startled the daylights out of him. I remember the look on his face, “Shit this is real”. Ted dropped down, cocked the .30cal and while peering through the small viewing ports, unleashed a belt. I don’t recall seeing him hit anything probably because I had taken cover again while trying to unjam the Armalite. 20E still had not moved, no return fire, nothing. She sat there like she was dead in the water. The VC probably thought that too, and this could be why she didn’t cop any more fire.
28 Delta’s job was now to move up to 20E, hook up the tow cables and pull her to safety. I knew we would cop it if we tried and was expecting to hear Ted order me to tell Ratmo to move up and get the lines ready. But then, 20E took off and charged passed the village. As I recall, no small arms fire was aimed at either 20E or us. I turned to Ted and said we should go back to Nui Dat and raise the alarm because we would certainly take fire if we tried to run the gauntlet and follow 20E.
The decision to head back to Nui Dat proved to be the correct one. We didn’t know it at the time, but the RPG that hit the tank had taken out their radios. After we raised the alarm at Nui Dat and the OC had scrambled a large contingent of various forces to the village of Binh Ba, we were asked to remain on station at the north gate. While there we heard two mortars whistle overhead and explode inside the base.
It was soon after this that one of the most awe-inspiring events I’ve ever heard took place; the entire radio traffic of the Battle of Binh Ba was played over the camp’s loud speaker system. To this day I still marvel at the cool-headed bravery of those tank commanders. They were even imitating the posh British accents of fighter pilots; having a bit of bother with the last hut, Charles pop over and give us a hand there’s a good chap.
And Brian Sullivan in mid-sentence was forced to duck under an RPG and copped a cut on the back of his neck from one of its fins. That blew me away.
I only fired one shot that day but it was the first shot for our side.
What a day. It changed my life forever, never want to do it again.
Ross Burriss June 2009