Gallantry awarded for service during the
Battles of Coral and Balmoral
NOMINAL ROLL – 1st ORDNANCE FIELD PARK
PERSONNEL WHO WERE DEPLOYED FORWARD TO FSB CORAL DURING OPERATION TOAN THANG- MAY/JUNE 1968
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The extraordinary gallantry displayed by members of the 1st Australia Task Force (Forward) and associated units deployed to Area of Operations SURFERS during the Battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral is being recognized by the Unit Citation for Gallantry in Canberra.
Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon Darren Chester MP, said the Battles of Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral were among the largest and most protracted battles fought by Australians in the Vietnam War.
“The men who fought at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral displayed collective gallantry which is worthy of the Unit Citation for Gallantry,” Mr Chester said.
Click on this link to read the Minister’s Media Release.
A detachment from 1 OFP (RAAOC) is listed as being a unit or element that comprised 1ATF (Fwd). A list of those guys who served at FSB Coral can be found in the Nominal Roll above.
Congratulations to our Coral Guys for this long overdue (fifty years) recognition.
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 armored 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 kilometers 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, armor, 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 (includes 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
Photos at FSB Coral
Supplied by Colin Cross, Les Wilkinson and Tony Flanagan
(Click on a photo to see a larger view)