THE BATTLE OF CORAL: MAY 1968
The Battle of Coral in Vietnam immediately after the Tet Offensive in 1968 was the last time Australian gunners fought a serious local defence battle, as they were attacked over a period by a reinforced NVA battalion. The article is written by the GPO of 102 Bty RAA at the time, assisted as an author by others involved on the ground in the battle. The authors disagree with the Official Histories in some major aspects, and say so quite forcefully.
There are some major lessons for Gunners: on recce, orders, local defence co-ord and control, and defence of a gun position.
As the story is told, 161 Bty was the only battery actually in the assigned Regt position; the rest of the Regiment deployed some distance away. This had a number of impacts, not the least that 161 Bty was not under ground attack and could fire in support of the Regimental FSB. Anecdotally, if 161Bty had taken up its position with the rest of the Regt it would have borne the brunt of the ground attack at a stage before they were able to develop decent above and below ground protection.
This is a story of command mistakes, the loss of a gun subsequently re-taken, and leadership at gun, section and gun group level during an intense and prolonged firefight. It is a compelling read – with lots of lessons.