A postscript to 5RAR’s 1969 Battle of Binh Ba
By Ernie Chamberlain
“Australian official history accounts of the Battle of Bình Ba in early June 1969 omit that – apart from occupying the village of Binh Ba on Route 2 north of the 1 ATF Núi Đất base, the communist forces (ie 33rd NVA Regiment, D440 Local Force Battalion), planned to ambush the expected 1 ATF relief force as it moved north up Route 2 to Bình Ba.
According to a 33rd Regiment history monograph, the initial plan was for the “33rd Regiment to conduct an ambush battle on Australian forces lured north from their Núi Đất base – in the area of Route 2 from the Sông Cầu hamlet up to Đức Mỹ hamlet”.
Several Vietnamese accounts relate however that their planned ambush was not initiated ie: as the Australian relief force was “spread out in groups of two-and-three vehicles and did not fall into the Regiment’s ambush – so the (33rd NVA) Regiment’s tactical headquarters decided not to attack.” … and: “At 6am on 6 June 1969 – just as we had planned, the Australian forces from Núi Đất sent their tanks north to relieve Bình Ba. However, as the enemy was spread out in groups of two-and-three vehicles, and did not fall into the Regiment’s ambush formation, the headquarters of the Regiment decided not to initiate the ambush attack.” And: ““the Australians did not enter our ambush formation as planned.”
During a briefing at the 33rd NVA Regiment’s 50th Anniversary reunion in Hanoi in 2019, the Battle of Bình Ba was depicted on a “mounted” marked map – that also noted the site of the “un-initiated/”unsprung” Route 2 ambush.
A few years ago, I acquired a colour photograph of a 33rd NVA Regiment veteran – Hoàng Đình Chiến, giving a briefing off that map to fellow NVA veterans in Hanoi on the 33rd Regiment’s special ambush planned to destroy 5RAR south of Bình Ba. Chiến was purportedly the last living of the NVA combatants at that Battle.”