The Battle of Coral-Balmoral (12 May to 6 June 1968) was a series of actions fought during the Vietnam War between the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and the North Vietnamese People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) 7th Division and Viet Cong (VC) Main Force Units, 40 Kilometres north-east of Saigon.

The Battle of Coral-Balmoral was by far Australia’s Largest, longest and bloodiest battle, involving more soldiers of both forces, Australian and enemy, and suffering more casualties than any other battle of the Vietnam War.

Fire Support Bases (FSB) were established to provide defended firing points for artillery and mortars which would cover foot patrols to be sent out by the battalions (1RAR and 3RAR). One of these FSBs was dubbed “Coral”, which was situated 7 kilometres north of the town of Tan Uyen.

The occupation of FSB Coral began on 12 May, but the defences were still unfinished when, the base was attacked at 3.30 am on 13 May, following a brief but intense rocket and mortar barrage. During the initial assault 1RAR, mortar platoon position was over-run, along with one of 102 Field Battery’s six 105 mm M2A2 howitzers firing positions. With the aid of extensive air support, the attack was beaten off by 6.30 am and the captured gun-pit was retaken. Eleven Australians were killed and 28 wounded, while the attackers lost more than the 52 bodies they left behind. A further three Australians died in patrol clashes on 14 May.

At 2.30 am on 16 May, Coral again came under attack, this time from a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force estimated at three battalions strong. The base was now defended by armoured personnel carriers of A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, and 1RAR’s rifle companies, all of which were heavily engaged; part of the A Company position was occupied for a period, but the enemy was forced to withdraw after 4 hours of fighting. The Australians had suffered five men killed and 19 wounded. Two members of an American battery that had reinforced the base were also wounded.

On 22 May, Coral was subjected to yet another rocket and mortar barrage, but this time the NVA troops were dispersed by return fire from 1RAR’s mortars as they formed up to attack. Although there were further bombardments on 26 and 28 May, and patrols sent out from the base came into contact with the enemy, Coral was not seriously threatened again. During fighting on 26 May the base’s defenders even turned the tables on the NVA by sending a troop of Centurion tanks from C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment (which had arrived as reinforcements three days earlier), outside the perimeter wire with infantry support; these engaged and destroyed most of an NVA bunker system that had been discovered.

Enemy efforts on 26 May were primarily focused on another FSB named “Balmoral”, which was established about 4.5 kilometres further north on 24–25 May by 3RAR supported by tanks. The defenders threw back assaults launched against Balmoral on 26 and 28 May.

Over the four-week period, actions around FSB Coral and Balmoral, Australian soldiers accounted for over 300 enemy soldiers killed. They also captured hundreds of enemy weapons. In return, 26 Australian soldiers died: two from 12 Field Regiment; one from 104 Signal Squadron; 16 from 1 RAR; 6 from 3 RAR, and one from 161 Independent Reconnaisance Squadron. Over 100 Australians were wounded. Australian Army regiments involved in the series of battles were later awarded one of the five battle honours approved for the Vietnam War.






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