50th anniversary of the Battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral

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A national commemoration will take place in Canberra on 13 May 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia’s involvement in the battles at the Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral in Vietnam in 1968.

The service will take place at the Vietnam War Memorial on Anzac Parade from 10 am to 11 am on 13 May 2018 and members of the public are encouraged to attend to pay tribute to those who served and died in the battles.

A Last Post Ceremony will also take place at 4.55 pm at the Australian War Memorial, conducted in honour of the veterans of the battles.

The Australian Government, through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, will provide grant funding to enable Vietnam veterans associations to conduct commemorative activities outside of Canberra. The department will also provide financial assistance to bring two descendants of those killed in the battles to Canberra for the national commemoration.

Historical information

Australian, New Zealand and United States forces were involved in a series of actions between May and June 1968 at Fire Support Bases (FSB) Coral and Balmoral some 20 kilometres north of Bien Hoa City. These bases, established across a route used by North Vietnamese forces to attack Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and Bien Hoa, provided defended positions for artillery and mortars which would, in turn, support infantry patrols of the area. 

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 3RAR began preparing defensive 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 artillery positions and briefly forcing the defenders to abandon one of their guns, 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 now defended by armoured personnel carriers of A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment as well as 1RAR’s infantry. Fighting lasted several hours before the attackers were forced to withdraw.

Further 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 and did so on 26 May when infantry and tanks destroyed 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 kilometres 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, tanks, 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.

A total of 26 Australians were killed during the fighting at FSB Coral and Balmoral. Estimates suggest that more than 300 North Vietnamese were killed in these actions, but exact figures will never be known.