February 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968, widely accepted as the turning point of that War.
During that time the Australian Army engaged in joint operations with NZ and American troops and, for the first time, North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong forces attacked an understrength Australian Fire Support Base, code named Andersen, set up near Bien Hoa.
The history books have for too long ignored the battle at Fire Support Base Andersen, probably because the Commander of the Australian Force Vietnam at the time, Major General Arthur MacDonald, saw the results (ie small number of Enemy dead) as ‘not spectacular’. Body count was his measure of success, and the sacrifice of his Diggers (Infantry, Artillery and Engineers) and their families of apparent little consequence.
One of the most tragic outcomes of the battle was the decimation of an Australian Army Engineer patrol (acting as Infantry) outside of the base; four sappers were killed on one night (two more a month later) and three wounded, that is, of the section of ten, nine became casualties. The battle was a precursor to battles at FSB Coral and Balmoral but fails to get proper recognition in the history books, even those covering sapper history.
I have interviewed and corresponded with a number of Commanders and Soldiers who were there at Andersen (including COL John Kemp AM, OC 1 Field Sqn at the time) and have compiled their story into an article title ‘A Night in the Year of the Monkey’, copy attached. This full article formed the basis of a story that appeared in condensed form in Edition 30 of the Vietnam Tunnel Rats Association’s Holdfast Newsletter No. 30.
The sapper survivors of FSB Andersen, particularly those from 3 Troop 1 Field Squadron RAE, are living treasures within our Corps.
Sapper, 1 Field Sqn RAE, SVN 1969-70
Foundation Member, Vietnam Tunnel Rats Assn Inc.
You can read the article here FSB ANDERSEN A NIGHT OF THE YEAR OF THE MONKEY 1968