Viet Nam Tours -
The Long Tan Trek Tour - 2010
This page records the October 2010 Long Tan Trek Tour.
(Last updated 25 November 2010)

q Battlefield Tours
- Long Tan Trek Tours
- VN Decisive Battles Tours
- Europe Battlefield Tours

q Site
- Home Page
- Feedback/Contact Dave

q Dave's WebSite
http://sabben.com

q National Network Travel's WebSite
http://nntravel.com.au

q AVVRG WebSite
http://avvrg.org.au

 

The French architecture of the Post Office, Saigon


The former Presidential Palace, Saigon, now "Reunification Palace"

 

 

 

"Bim" stands inside a huge B-52 bomb crater
in a rubber plantation
near the site of Balmoral (remember, this crater
is now 40 years old -
still very impressive!)

 

 

Shrine to NVA killed
at Coral and other battles in the area

 

VC/NVA memorial to their dead at Coral and
other battles in the area

 


Two ex-6RAR Diggers, James and Michael, stand beside the original
Long Tan Cross


Dave, standing with the "big shots" at the
Dong Nai Museum

 

 

Unfortunately, there's nothing left to see of the former 1ALSG site

 

(L to R) Tour Guide Tuan, Geoff, Judith and Richard enjoy the fresh air

 

 

 

There were several Powerpoint presentations thru the Tour, each on a decisive battle we'd cover the following day

One of the map/diagrams of the battle of Long Tan

 

 

 

 

Dave briefs the Tour
 on the layout of
the Nui Dat base

 

 

 

 

 

The Australian Consul- General to Ho Chi Minh City, Mr Graeme Swift, officially opens the Kindy...

 

...while the children
wait to perform

 

 

 

 

 

Sue leads the Trekkers out of the rubber plantation and into the unknown...
Photo: James

 

 

 

 

 

John plays "Moses" as he assists the group across a flooded part of the Trek
Photos L: Dennis; R: Mike

 

 


Lunch in the rubber plantation - not exactly as D/6 remembers it from 18 Aug 1966.

Bob, Barry and John opt for liquids with their lunch (it WAS a hot day!).

Bim, Greg, Charlie, Pin and Dennis all seem to share the same opinion.

 


Sue, James, Jan, Richard, Margaret, Cameron, Peter and half of Michael (sorry Michael!). The lake in the background
3 Photos: Simon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave stops for one of the briefings - they were given 10 minutes apart to maintain the
 "real time" flavour
of the battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for another briefing:
Geoff and Kevin listen in while Barry and "Bim" hold up a rubber tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Viet Vets stand at the Long Tan Cross - L to R:
John, Gregor (Navy), "Bim", Bob, Kevin, Dave, Michael, Dennis and Kerry.
Photo: James

 

 

 

 

 

Two rooms were in use, with dental procedures happening for the Long Tan children. Pictured L to R are Ms Thuy (Tran Thi Thanh Thuy), an anaesthetic technician, and two hygienists Kelly Bird and Lorraine Dignan
both from Qld.
2 Photos: Mike

 

 

Three photos of the children at the clinic and the orphanage, where our gifts were distributed
 photos provided by
Greg & Lyn Jaunay
.

 

 

 

 

Standing on what was the minefield, now a road. The rim of the Horseshoe is in the background

 

 

 


Michael talks about the mine incident. He was with 6RAR on the day, on the radio, and gave the Tour a vivid description of the event.  The dense bush behind us shows the bush-cover of the "Light Green" area

 

 

 

 

Bim negotiates the entrance to the tunnels, which are really the dirt excavated from between huge boulders.
Photo: James

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boat ride gave the Tour a feel for riverine ops conducted by the Aussies in the mangrove swamps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tran Cao Van Street- scene of much combat when retaking the city south of the Perfume Rv

 

The Tour walked the street...


Then...


...and now

 

 

 

Tanks and artillery next to the Forbidden City in the Citadel


Many walls still bear the bullet and shrapnel marks of the Tet '68 fighting

 

 

 

Long Hung Catholic Church - damaged in the Tet '72 fighting and left by Quang Tri city as a war monument

 

View from Quant Tri citadel

 

An old French "pill box" at Con Thien


The "Rockpile", with "Razorback" visible to right rear

 

 

A small museum briefs visitors to the tunnels...


...before they venture underground (the flash makes it look bright but in fact it's very dim)

 


Three different styles of Bailey Bridge formed the only link across the Ben Hai River (the centre of the DMZ)

Richard, James and Bob discuss what's left of Camp Carroll - which is "nothing much"!

 

 

Khe Sanh has a great indoor and outdoor museum...


...but it's being on the airstrip and seeing the distinctive skyline that tells you what it was like at Khe Sanh in 1968

 

 

 

Da Krong Bridge - saw heavy fighting during the War

Both Da Krong and A Shau valleys offered spectacular views of rivers between huge mountain ranges

 

 

 

 

 

The "normal" view, with haze obscuring the heights.

 

But by darkening the same photo...

...the true mass of the mountain can be seen.
In the centre of the photo you should be able to see FIVE ridgelines!

 

 

 

 

French fortifications in the Hai Van Pass
north of Da Nang

There's nothing left at Red Beach II, where the Marines first landed in 1965, except the beach...


 

...while at China Beach, resorts have crowded out the memories and the whole beach is buzzing

Marble Mountain - a secret wartime VC hospital - stands out, surrounded by marble merchants

 

 

 

 

Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum - closed every Oct/Nov, so we didn't see inside...

...but we saw inside the Army Museum -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 18 Tourers stand before the tank that breached the Palace gates in Saigon in 1975

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sue realised a life's dream - to stand on the airstrip at Dien Bien Phu.
But Richard is more interested in his luggage

 

The Him Lam Resort lies in a lovely green setting

 

 

The airstrip at Dien Bien Phu sits in the valley floor, still overlooked by the hills which once held the Viet Minh artillery

 

 

 

Richard and Dave support the sign for General Vo Giap's command bunker

 

Beryl, Kevin and Charles study the monument
to the French at
Dien Bien Phu

 

 


What a way to end the Tour - a day on the water in Ha Long Bay

Tourers enter by ones and twos thru the tunnel and into the hidden and enclosed bay beyond.
Wild monkeys come to the waterline to be fed

 

 

Spectacular and peaceful - Ha Long Bay well deserves its
World Heritage
listing.....

 

.....until the peace is shattered by the likes of Barry...

"Laughing Tiger";
"Hidden Dragon"
2 Photos: Dennis

 

The seven ladies of the Decisive Battlefields Tour:
Petrice, Judith, Beryl, Jan, Di, Sue and Robyn.
Well done, ladies

 

Only the huge limestone caves could entice us off the boats and onto dry land


James, Michael, Robyn and Judith take a breather on the stairs outside the caves

 

 

 

Kevin, Petrice and Don ready for lunch on board.
The meals throughout the Tour were great

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


And then it was time
to say "goodbye"...

Photo: Bob

Our thanks to:
Mike, Dennis, Simon,
Greg, Bob, Robyn & Lyn Jaunay and our own camera for their photos.

And as we get other
photos we'll add and acknowledge them too.

Finally, a big vote of thanks to National Network Travel's
Judi Gifford,
 who you've all talked to but most haven't met:

"
Thanks, Judi - it wouldn't have happened without you!"

All the best...
Dave & Di Sabben

---------- LONG TAN TREK TOUR 2010 ----------

Dave's second Long Tan Trek Tour departed Australia 16 October - fully booked (again), with 30 passengers, included 10 Viet Vets, 9 ladies, and ages ranging from the 20s to the 70s.

                       
    The Flyer for the                    The Itinerary for the       
     2010 Tour                          2010 Tour
(13 pages)

The first week took in a tour of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC - Saigon)...
 

...some B-52 craters left in the vicinity of FSB Balmoral...

... a VC/NVA memorial and shrine on the Coral battlefield site...

...the Dong Nai museum (where the original L T Cross is on display)...

...a bus trip down Route 15 to Vung Tau where we enjoyed an hour cyclo trip from the former 1ALSG site...

...to the Grand Hotel... - see group photo at end of page.

After an evening briefing on the Australian presence in Viet Nam generally and on the Long Tan battle in particular...

...we bussed to Nui Dat, where Dave explained the base layout and the NVA's intentions for a huge attack on the base set for the night of the 18th of August 1966.
 

On Tue 19 Oct, the Nui Dat Kindy was officially opened. The Kindy is one of the AVVRG charities that the Tour supported, so the Tour attended the opening for an hour or so...
 

...after which we started on the Trek from Nui Dat to the Long Tan rubber plantation, following as closely as possible the route that Delta Company, 6RAR, (D/6) took on the 18th....

...negotiating a creek in the process...

...and stopping for a "bush" lunch in the plantation a few hundred metres from where D/6 had stopped for lunch on 18 Aug 1966.


 

After lunch, we walked the battlefield.  It was the highlight of the Tour - the Long Tan battlefield looks VERY similar to the way it looked in 1966. The walk was timed to be as long as the actual battle took - some 3.5 hours.  We walked to all the places where the D/6 soldiers experienced significant events during the battle - the initial contact, the first and final Company positions, the left hook by 10 Platoon, the right hook by 12 Platoon, the place the Company took the ammo resupply and, of course, the place of the heroic stand by 11 Platoon.

Along the way, Dave described what was happening in "real time" "sitreps" - that is, since the Trek took the same time as the battle, those on the tour "experienced" the timings of the events, the delays and the sequences in detail - what took ten minutes in the Battle took ten minutes for the Tour. And those on the tour were able to ask questions and get details along the way.

At 600 and 1000 metres from the main battlefield, Dave also pointed out the places where the APC reinforcement column with A/6 aboard contacted the enemy on their way towards D/6.

Very little of the topography has changed in 44 years, tho' the slight rise that D/6 used for its final redoubt is now a slight depression.

The Tour ended the Trek at the Cross - the site of the gallant 11 Platoon action - at 5:00pm, in time for a short ceremony and photos:


*   There's a group photo taken at the Cross towards the end of this page.   *

On the next day, the Tour visited an AVVRG-supported dental clinic at Long Tan to see further Australian charity at work...

 

...then visited the Horseshoe and stood on what was formerly the infamous minefield...

...before venturing into the Light Green to the vicinity of the mine incident on Operation Mundingburra (on day 3 - 21 July 1969) which gave rise to the song "I Was Only 19".

After this, it was lunch on the beach and a visit to the Minh Dam temple in the Long Hai's. The more adventurous went into some of the tunnels:

A short boat ride to Cat Lo and back to the Grand...

Next day it was the hydrofoil back to HCMC and - for those not on the "Decisive Battlefields" extension tour, it was RTA (Return to Australia).

 

----------------- DECISIVE BATTLEFIELDS TOUR 2010 -----------------

From HCMC (Saigon), the "Decisive Battlefields Tour" flew to Hue to tour the scenes of Tet '68 fighting south...

...and north of the Perfume River...

From Hue, we bussed north through Quang Tri City and Dong Ha into the DMZ, where we visited many scenes of intense fighting during the War, including Con Thien, Cam Lo Bridge, Camp Carroll and the Rockpile...

We went down the Vinh Moc tunnels (better than & less "commercial" than the Cu Chi tunnels)...

...and walked across the "Peace Bridge" over the Ben Hai River - the actual DMZ demarcation line...

We spent the night on the Laos border at Lao Bao, then returned next day to the Khe Sanh Combat Base; scene of the critical 77-day siege...

We then drove up the Da Krong valley, past Tiger Mountain and down the A Shau valley - both valleys scenes of major US and ARVN operations during the War...

At A Luoi, we tried for a view of "Hamburger Hill" - scene of a major US action that, with the 1968 Tet Offensive and Khe Sanh, triggered the change of US policy that ultimately ended the War. Weather conditions in the valley rarely permit a good view of this mountain massif...

On return from the A Shau valley, we overnighted in Hue and next day bussed south to Da Nang - scene of the first US combat troop placements. On the way we viewed Lang Co and the spectacular Hai Van Pass, complete with old French fortifications, and on to Red Beach II, scene of the Marines' first landings...

Then through Da Nang to see China Beach and Marble Mountain...

Later in the afternoon, we flew to Hanoi...

...where we toured the city military sites including the Army Museum which displays the tank that breached the Palace Gates in 1975, ending the Third Indo-China War...


That was another Group photo opportunity...

 

We then flew to Dien Bien Phu for a day and a night, staying at the historic Him Lam Resort, built on the old French position "Beatrice"...

Visits at DBP included a trip to General Vo Giap's bunker, the Museum, Hill A-1, French Commander de Castres' bunker and the French memorial to their war (with the Long Tan Cross, the only two foreign war memorials permitted on Vietnamese soil)...

It had been a hectic Tour, so the final exercise was two nights and a day at Ha Long Bay, the World Heritage site of sheer limestone cliffs plunging into calm green waters.  A relaxing day on a boat wrapped up what had been for all on the Tour an energetic, yet informative 9 days:




From Ha Long to Hanoi and flights home.  All of the hotels were either 4/5 star or the best available in the more remote areas.  Most meals and all gratuities had been included, so hands only went into pockets for personal purchases or personal tipping.

Along the way, documentaries, presentations and discussions covered most of the significant events or places to be visited or seen.  The Tour included some "surprises" not listed in the itinerary - but each of which were very much appreciated by the Tour members.

The Tour was well accepted by those on it.  A selection of passenger comments follow - more may be added as they are collated:

*
Great work! Well done. Thank you both for your tremendous input. We appreciate having been able to go back in time “together” via the ‘real places’ & the historical information. <Name> has been able to get more closure for this period of his life & it has increased my overall understanding of Vietnam then & now! We both feel very proud to have walked “with you” through the “Long Tan Battlefield” !  - M & R R
*
It was most rewarding to see the reaction of the Vietnam vets returning for the first time and to observe their loved ones appreciation of the part they played in the Vietnam war. I hope more Vets will return with their families in the future and put their "ghosts" to rest. - K & B E
*
If I'm going to do this walk [Long Tan], there's only one guy I want to do it with: Dave Sabben  - K P
*
Thank you David and Di for a trip of a life time ...
... we
had the most amazing week with you all ...
and [
thanks to] everybody else who participated, best wishes  - B & P A
*
Indeed, it was a unique experience that I will always remember...
The whole tour was fantastic, and it was great sharing it with you all... ... for me now, the war is over...  - M R

*
Thanks for a wonderful battlefields tour and in particular
your illuminating slides and lectures.

... had a WONDERFUL trip....all good – enjoyed it immensely...
<Name> is singing both your praises to all his mates
so the word will soon be around... - K & P J
*
... absolutely rapt about everything ... best I've ever done! - B B 
*
... very happy how everything went....you both did a great job. - C S
*
What a fantastic trip! - P & M & C M
*
... we all found our VN trip educational, emotional and thoroughly enjoyable.  David contributed greatly to the first category,
our own experiences to the second and the excellent companionship of each and everyone of you to the third. - S C
*
Thanks again Dave, Judi and Di for an unforgettable experience.
- R W
*
... thanks for leading a great experience for me...
...quite detailed, with a great balance of battle and background...
Accommodation was all good, transport and transfers as good as any in Europe, and the mix of travellers was enjoyable. I found the tour sufficient to understand the scope and depth of the [
Long Tan] encounter.  - G C
*
I have always been VERY proud of my country, and my time in the Forces, but after your Tour, I am even prouder. Thanks for a Great Trip! - G S
*
As a teacher and historian, I've been over dozens of battlefields, mainly Napoleonic to WW2 era. But Long Tan for me will always be in a class of its own, thanks to the unique experience of walking to it and through it with Dave, hearing his first-hand account and having many questions answered. - B G
*
J D is not on email - he phoned the travel agent on his return, who said "he was absolutely glowing in his praise of the trip
and your [
Dave and Di's] input" - J D
*
We had the most amazing week - I'm extremely sorry we couldn't make it for the second week [the tour north] - B A
*
I very much enjoyed the Tour and feel that it has helped me...
I also enjoyed everyone’s company and hope to keep in touch with you all.  I will surely recommend the tour to my friends. - R I

*
(We had a father/daughter pair on the Tour - here's a comment well worth including:)
One thing that people are always asking is how it went going on this trip as a Father/Daughter duo.  I love that question, because not only did we all laugh and chat and get to know each other as absolute strangers in the tiny span of five days, no relationship was built bigger and stronger than the one between Dad and I in that small amount of time! - P A
*
The tour was the best I have been on and certainly the most friendly. - D M
*
Di and I would like to thank all the folks who took the time
to contact Judi or us and pass great compliments on their
experience of the Tours.  Thanks to All - Dave and Di
*

The 2011 Tours - the Long Tan Trek and the Decisive Battlefields Tour - have been planned with very much the same content and sequence, but with some added sightseeing, including a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels and a two-night stay at Hoi An (a World Heritage town just south of Da Nang).  Please visit the 2011 Tours webpage:
VN Long Tan Trek Tour 2011.html
to see a Flyer and an Itinerary.

                              **********************************************************************

One of the secret "added extras" sprung on the Tour group was an hour's briefing by the US MIA Office in Hanoi.
A Military Unit designated JPAC, Detatchment 2 is responsible for the ongoing search for the remains of the many
hundreds of the Viet Nam War's "Missing In Action" (MIAs) - whether they be US, Vietnamese or anyone else.
             
As the photo shows, the group was totally absorbed, for which we thank Lt Col Todd Emoto (pictured) & his staff.

                    ***   And the Group Photo taken at the Long Tan Cross...   ***

                              ----- =====THE OUT-TAKES ===== -----


Once the Tour Rules were explained to the Group, we had no further troubles


Barry and James thought the view from their hotel room was great, but didn't think much of the room itself


When the ladies saw the sign, they couldn't wait to have their husbands try the 333 Brand beer

 

 

The local vendors could never quite work out Barry's bargaining
technique...

 

 

Charles and Sue
try out their new
Pride Of Erin
dance routine.

 

 

 

It was an Australian Tour - two blokes worked on the wheels and 15 blokes made sure the beer was safe and offered advice..

Michael wasn't impressed with the age of the VC Q-Store issues.

 

Michael and Robyn do their Leonardo & Kate impersonation
at Ha Long Bay.

 

Di, our Tour Escort, had a subtle way of telling us to "go away"
Photo: Robyn

 

 

Don was pretty happy with the reaction to the new after-shave he bought in Lao Bao
Photo: Bob
 

Jan knew they were just waiting for her to step off the curb
Photo: Bob
 

Similarity?
I don't know
what you mean
Photo: Bob
Photo: Wikipedia

 

 

 

There was no clear winner in the
"Red Beach Belly" competition, tho Bob took the prize for trying
Photo: Sue


 

All Dave said was... “The beer's run out and we may have to harbour here tonight”
Photo & caption: Dennis


I don't know why Doc, but my son has tummy aches, and I'm getting a lot of lower back pain!
Photo & caption: Dennis


The mass wedding was going great, until John was told
he could not marry two at once!
Photo & caption: Dennis

 

Cap'n Ahab kept a keen watch out for Moby Dick
Photo: Robyn



John: “ Yeah Greg, me old seaweed, you're definitely
listing to starboard “
Photo & caption: Dennis

"Don't worry, Dear -we'll get it fixed.  A quick trip to Bunnings should do it..."
Photo: Dennis
Caption: Di

 

Dave hoped the decor of the room would compensate for the lecture

Peter was sure he'd stepped in something unwelcome out there in the bush
Photos: James





 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Got a pic and a caption?  There's room for more - your photo next..?