The battle of Nui Le was the first great battle fought by 4RAR and the last battle fought by Australians in South Viet Nam.
Article courtesy of
D Company, 4 RAR/NZ ANZAC 1968/69
Gary McKay's “Delta Four” and Jerry Taylor's “Last Out”, books written about 4RAR’s experiences in South Vietnam from 1971 to 1972, describe an action in South Vietnam in September 1971 in which Delta Company 4RAR found itself in a bit of a pickle.
B Coy was already in the middle of a fire fight some 5 kilometres away but the battle of Nui Le started for D Company at 0815 hours on 21 September 1971. The whole Australian Task Force and probably half of the US Air Force were either directly or indirectly involved in support of the company.
D Coy in 14 hours of fighting from the time of contact had advanced, attacked a large battalion sized bunker system and had withdrawn. Now night time, the company discovered that it had established a night defensive position in between the Headquarters of 33 Regiment, North Vietnamese Army and 2nd Battalion, 33 Regiment, North Vietnamese Army.
85 Australians against more than 600 enemy dug in, in fortified bunkers! Most would think that the odds were fair but D Company had suffered five dead and nine wounded during the day and it was feared that the company might be annihilated should the enemy press a determined assault that night. The enemy maintained accurate small arms fire on the company during the night while D Company waited and prepared for the attack which could have had catastrophic results but which fortunately, never came. Perhaps the enemy did not like the odds!
Throughout the next day there were numerous sightings from the air of enemy foot tracks heading North but little sightings of actual enemy. Was the enemy merely clearing their wounded or had they broken contact? No one knew.
At 1739 hours, Victor Company, the Kiwis, married up with Delta Company. The Task Force breathed a sigh of relief. No matter what still might happen, the Australians of Delta Company 4RAR and the New Zealanders of Victor Company 4RAR would be facing it together.
The next day, 23 September, dawned quietly for the battle weary Delta Company and the apprehensive Victor Company. Delta Company secured the start line for an assault into the enemy bunker system by Victor Company.
Victor Company began the assault at 1105 hours moving in very short bounds in torrential rainfall through bomb and artillery craters and fallen timber and it wasn't until 1725 hours that they reached the bunkers where they found the bodies of three Australians from 11 Platoon who had been killed in the previous bunker assault by D Company.
Members of D Company moved forward with litters to bring their three young warriors away. Major Jerry Taylor insisted that D Coy would bring back their own, as it should.
V Company had cleared a rough track back to the helicopter winch point and secured it by placing riflemen at intervals along the track. As the three litters passed, the New Zealanders in succession, stood, faced inwards, stood to attention in succession and shouldered arms. It was an eloquent and moving gesture: the tribute of warriors to fallen comrades.
There are two ways to win a war. The first is to take away the enemies capability to fight and the other is to take away his will to fight. D Company at the battle of Nui Le along with B Company who were also involved in contacts with the enemy nearby, did both. When D coy attacked the 33rd Regiment of the NVA on 21 September 1971, they inflicted very heavy casualties on the 33rd Regiment including the battalion commander of the 3rd battalion who was killed by Australian artillery.
To describe the individual efforts of the soldiers of D Company during the battle would be akin to writing up individual citations for gallantry for all.
It would take too long here to describe the battle in detail but mention must be made of the support given by 104 Battery RAA who fired some 2074 rounds in support and the RAAF who flew 16 Bushranger missions, nine dustoffs and five opdems.
This was the first time that the enemy having received a very bloody nose, had refused to fight Australians.
The battle caused the 33rd Regiment of the NVA to flee from the battle ground, to flee from Phouc Tuy Province and to abandon their aim of destroying the Task Force base at Nui Dat.
4RAR, it’s supporting arms and services and in particular D Company had taken away both the enemies capability to fight and their willingness to fight. The 33rd Regiment having been soundly defeated at the battle of Nui Le never entered Phouc Tuy Province again. The battle of Nui Le was the first great battle fought by 4RAR and the last battle fought by Australians in South Viet Nam.