On a two-week cruise through Asia a highlight of our stop in Vietnam was a day tour to the infamous battle fields of Long Tan. In 2016 we remember the battle 50 years on and many travellers have paid their respects, our visit that much more special as we happened to visit at the same time as a Veteran who had actually been there on those fateful days.
There is something to be said about experiential learning, this day happened to be one of those rare moments that our whole family will remember forever. Standing at the memorial site, in the middle of an otherwise baron field, with an old Vet retelling his memories of the battle sent shivers up our spine that I still recall today as I am writing this blog.
Fifty years ago (18 August 1966) during the Vietnam war, the Battle took place in the rubber plantation fields near Long Tan, South Vietnam. Reportedly 18 Australians lost their lives, and more than 200 Viet Cong, in what was one of the worst battles Australian troops experienced during that war.
Today, a memorial stands in the middle of the field to remember the fallen Australian soldiers and the courageous battle they fought when the odds were so stacked against them. Visitors pay their respects at the site and remember the courage and bravery of the Australians who battled.
Upon arrival at the site on our tour our guide recited her facts and figures about the battle. The stories and incidents that led to the memorial we stood upon in itself made us aware that we were visiting a sacred site. The cross that stands there today at one point was “borrowed” to mark the grave of a local villager, leaving the memorial just a barren field.
After a minute’s silence however, from the corner of the field, we could hear an old digger telling his recounts of the battle. It was then that we realised just how special our visit was.
The Vet told of the conditions the soldiers endured, the mud they laid in and the proximity to which they were to the enemy. All of which was spine chilling and incomprehensible to a modern day Australian family who had never had to even fathom such challenges.
To remember our fallen soldiers is something we all should do, to be privileged to visit the site on the same day as a digger was something else.
When we left the memorial site we visited a village school that has been funded by Australians. It was great to see that at the site of such tragedy Australians have left a positive mark on the province that caused tragedy to so many.
If you have a chance to visit the site whilst the soldiers are still here to retell their story, I encourage you to do so. Fifty years on we realise that the soldiers that were there at the Battle will not walk with us for too many years more.
Lest We Forget.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are interested in travelling Vietnam, you may also want to read our blog Getting Dirty in Vietnam where we visit a mud bath in Nha Trang.