Battle of Long Tan: Viets Cancel 50 Year Anniversary Commemoratons

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BYRON BOY: President of the Byron Bay RSL Sub Branch, Robert Asquith, as a troop carrier driver in Vietnam. Look closely on the radio antenna and you can see the Byron Bay flag he flew the whole time he was in Vietnam. Photo courtesy Rob Asquith

President of the Byron Bay RSL Sub Branch, Robert Asquith, as a troop carrier driver in Vietnam. Look closely on the radio antenna and you can see the Byron Bay flag he flew the whole time he was in Vietnam. Photo: Rob Asquith

THERE ARE concerns for the mental health of Long Tan veterans who have returned to the site of their famous battle, after a last-minute decision by the Vietnamese Government to cancel today’s 50th anniversary commemorations.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said he was bitterly disappointed with Vietnam’s decision to cancel the commemorations at Long Tan.

Mr Tehan said the Vietnamese Government notified Australia of its decision late on Tuesday, citing deep sensitivities in the country.

He told reporters in Canberra that more than 1,000 Australians had travelled to Vietnam to mark the 50th anniversary of the battle and he was hoping the Vietnamese Government would reverse its decision.

“For us to be given such short notice of the cancellation is to put it in very frank terms, a kick in the guts,” he said.

President of Byron Bay RSL sub-branch and Vietnam veteran, Robert Asquith has appealed for understanding on behalf of Australians in the wake of moves by the Vietnamese government to scale down commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan.

Less than 24 hours before the anniversary the Vietnamese government cancelled the commemoration before relenting to allow small groups of less than 100 at a time to visit the Long Tan cross that now stands in the middle of a corn field on a working farm in Phuoc Tuy Province in South Vietnam.

The Vietnamese also banned the wearing of medals and uniforms or the laying of more than one wreath. Carrying banners or making speeches was also prohibited. A concert by Little Pattie (Amphlett), who was to perform for Australian troops before the battle erupted in 1966, was also cancelled.

Eighteen Australians were killed and 24 wounded at the battle and around 3,500 veterans and family members were booked to go to today’s commemoration.

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