40th Anniversary of the Battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, Vietnam
Events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Battles of Coral and Balmoral
Units involved at Coral/Balmoral
Suggested further reading
Events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Battles of Coral and Balmoral: May-June 2008
Representatives of the units involved in the battles have established the National 40th Coral and Balmoral Anniversary Committee, which is coordinating commemorative events in Canberra and Townsville. The Australian Government has provided a grant of $100,000 to the Committee for these events.
- 12 May 2008: Australian Government-hosted reception for veterans of the battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, Canberra - Invitation only.
- 13 May 2008: National Commemorative Ceremony at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Anzac Parade, Canberra.
- Units and sub-units are arranging other commemorative activities in Canberra and Townsville.
Further information about the anniversary events can be obtained from:
or +61 2 4930 3359
1RAR Battalion Group:
or +61 2 6242 4818
3RAR Battalion Group:
John Robbins -
or +61 2 6290 1948
or +61 2 4954 8248
Mr Rod Baldwin
Ph: +64 9 298 3842
|No.6 gun, 102 Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, Fire Support Base Coral, Vietnam, 13 May 1968 (Australian War Memorial, P01769.010).
||Photograph of Fire Support Base Coral taken from an Iroquois helicopter by one of the men being flown in to reinforce the base after the night attack of 12 May 1968.
(Australian War Memorial P03022.008)
|An Australian padre, Father George Widdison, conducts a service in honour of the men of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, who were killed during the fighting around Fire Support Base Coral in May and June 1968. |
(Australian War Memorial THU/68/0595/VN)
In May 1968 Australian troops established Fire Support Bases (FSB) Coral and Balmoral across the route used by the Viet Cong to depart, and approach, Saigon and nearby Bien Hoa. The bases provided defended positions for artillery, mortars and armoured vehicles which would, in turn, support infantry patrols of the area at a time when expectations of enemy attacks on Saigon were high.
The 1st and 3rd Battalions Royal Australian Regiment (1 and 3RAR), 102 Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, and 161 New Zealand Field Battery, deployed into FSB Coral on 12 May 1968. 1 and 3 RAR began preparing ambush positions but these were incomplete when a North Vietnamese Regiment attacked the base during the early hours of 13 May. The North Vietnamese, having penetrated the 1RAR Mortar Platoon and 102 Field Battery positions and briefly forcing the defenders to abandon one of their artillery pieces, were forced back after heavy fighting.
Coral came under attack for a second time at 2.15 am on 16 May when an estimated three battalions of North Vietnamese infantry assaulted the base which was, along with infantry, now also defended by armoured personnel carriers of A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Fighting lasted several hours before the attackers were forced to withdraw.
Further mortar and rocket attacks on Coral followed, on 22 May, and again on 26 and 28 May, but the base was not seriously threatened again. Having had the opportunity to establish a strong defensive perimeter, the Australians were able launch their own attacks against the North Vietnamese. On 26 May, in a major contact, infantry and tanks destroyed part of a North Vietnamese bunker system that had been discovered in the vicinity. The Australians continued to launch aggressive patrols from Coral, engaging in combat against North Vietnamese forces and experiencing some fierce actions through until the end of May.
By this time the North Vietnamese had turned their attention to FSB Balmoral which had been established by 3RAR some 4.5 kilometres north of Coral on 24-25 May. Tanks from Nui Dat helped Australian infantry defeat a two battalion-strong North Vietnamese attack just hours after their arrival at the base on 25 May. A second attack followed on 28 May, but a combination of infantry, armour, aircraft, artillery and mortars repelled the North Vietnamese assault. North Vietnamese activity in the area subsided and operations at Coral and Balmoral were suspended on 6 June 1968.
Twenty six Australians were killed during the fighting at Coral/Balmoral. Estimates suggest that more than 300 North Vietnamese were killed in these actions, but exact figures cannot be obtained.
Units involved at Coral/Balmoral
- HQ 1 Australian Task Force
- A Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment
- HQ 12 Field Regiment (including elements of HQ Battery and Artillery Tactical HQ) with 102 Field Battery and elements of 131 Divisional Locating Battery, Royal Australian Artillery; 161 Field Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery; and A Battery 2/35 Artillery (US)
- C Squadron 1 Armoured Regiment
- Forward Repair Teams and Stores Section 1 Armoured Squadron Workshop
- 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR)
- 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR)
- 1 Field Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers
- Elements of 5/2 Artillery (US)
- 161 (Independent) Reconnaissance Flight
- Elements of 104 Signals Squadron, Royal Australian Signals Corps, elements Task Force Maintenance Area and elements of Detachment 1 Ordnance Field Park
- Elements of 2 Transport Platoon 5 Company
- Elements Australian Force Vietnam Provost Unit
- Elements of the Defence and Engagement Platoon
- Elements, Task Force Maintenance Area
Suggested further reading
For those wishing to learn more about the battle, the following sources may serve as an introduction.
- Ian McNeill and Ashley Ekins, On the offensive, the Australian Army and the Vietnam War, January 1967 - June 1968, Allen and Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, Sydney, 2003, chapters 12 and 13.
- Lex McAulay, The battle of Coral, Hutchinson Australia, Melbourne, 1988
- Paul Ham, Vietnam, the Australian War, Harper Collins, Sydney, 2007, chapters 28 and 29