On 18 February 2020, DVA held a National Commemorative Service to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley, conducted in Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. The service took place at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.
More than 350 attendees paused to acknowledge and remember the service and sacrifice of all those who took part during the Operation. The next of the kin of those killed were among those who laid wreaths.
Operation Hammersley began in February 1970 when C Company, 8th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR), along with a troop of armoured personnel carriers from 3 Cavalry Regiment, tanks from 1 Armoured Regiment, sappers from the Royal Australian Engineers, a mortar section from 8RAR’s Support Company, along with air support, were deployed to secure a quarry site at the foot of the Long Hai Hills.
The Long Hai Hills were a stronghold for the Viet Cong and had been the target of previous operations and air-strikes. The Australians had early success during Operation Hammersley and the scope was increased until most of 8RAR became involved. While the Australians had the support of armoured vehicles, the enemy knew the lay of the land and were able to use the caves running beneath the Long Hai Hills to their advantage.
When it seemed like the Australian troops were in a position to drive the enemy out of the area, they were ordered to withdraw to make way for a B-52 air strike. The strike was accurate, but few of the enemy were killed as they expected the raid.
The Operation saw 12 Australians killed and 59 wounded, with a further two killed in the days following. Most of these casualties were caused by landmines.
Dr Robert Hall, an 8RAR veteran of Operation Hammersley, delivered the Call to Remembrance. He said:
Today is a day to reflect on the qualities of endurance and courage that characterised the Australians’ service in Vietnam, often in the most trying, difficult and dangerous of circumstances. It is a day to reflect on what the war in Vietnam, and what operations like Hammersley, cost Australia – what it cost those who served, and what it cost their families.
If you would like to watch the Operation Hammersley National Commemorative Service, visit the ‘Live videos’ on the DVA Facebook page. More information about Operation Hammersley is available on DVA’s Anzac Portal or on the Australian War Memorial website.
Photo: Veterans of Operation Hammersley are thanked for their service during the National Commemorative Service for the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley. Department of Defence.