50th anniversary of Operation Ivanhoe and the Battle of Nui Le

Veterans, their families and members of the wider community paused on 20 September to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Ivanhoe and the Battle of Nui Le, the last major Australian offensive of the Vietnam War.

Significant anniversaries such as this one are traditionally marked with a national commemorative service in Canberra, but due to the COVID restrictions the anniversary was marked in a unique way.

Veterans across the country watched an online commemorative service, organised by the ABC and DVA. Those speaking in the service were able to participate from their homes, with DVA arranging online videos to ensure all elements of the service were included.

The commemorative address was delivered by His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC, who paid tribute to those who served in Operation Ivanhoe, and all those who served in the Vietnam War.

‘While it has been 50 years since Australians fought their last major battles in Vietnam, our appreciation, respect and pride in those who served in that conflict has not diminished,’ said His Excellency.

‘To all watching today who served in Vietnam, know that we will continue to remember and value the contribution you made in the service of our nation.

‘To all who served on Operation Ivanhoe and in the Battle of Nui Le, be proud of your service. You built on the Anzac legacy, and in doing so helped shape the generation of servicemen and women who followed.’

Operation Ivanhoe was the last offensive operation of Australia’s war in Vietnam, and the The Battle of Nui Le, fought during Ivanhoe on 21 September 1971, was the last major battle fought by Australian forces in Vietnam.

Operation Ivanhoe was a search-and-destroy sweep of the area south of the Courtenay rubber plantation involving infantry, armoured personnel carriers, artillery and engineers, along with air support.

Tragically, six Australians lost their lives in Operation Ivanhoe, with 29 Australians and one New Zealander wounded. At least five Australians received decorations for their role in Operation Ivanhoe with a further three Mentioned in Despatches.

While a full service was not possible, ACT Health granted special permission for Repatriation Commissioner Don Spinks AM to lay a wreath at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial to mark the anniversary.

Other events in areas of the country not experiencing COVID lockdowns also took place, including the dedication of a garden of remembrance in St Lucia, Brisbane, to honour those who fought in Operation Ivanhoe.

A commemorative coin was released by the Royal Australian Mint (RAM) to mark the occasion of the anniversary, and is available online from the RAM shop, www.ramint.gov.au

Those who missed the National Commemorative Service on 20 September can watch it on the ABC streaming service iView until 19 December, and DVA’s YouTube channel, DVA TV.

The Order of Service is also available to download from the DVA website.

If this article raises issues for you, please contact:

  • Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling, which offers free and confidential counselling to the veteran community on 1800 011 046
  • Safe Zone is available for current and former ADF per­sonnel on 1800 142 072. Calls to Safe Zone are confidential and not recorded.
Image with DVA crest and title saying Operation Ivanhoe virtual service