8 RAR -The Eighth Battalion of the
Operation Hamilton was mounted to follow up the success of Operation Hammersley. On the night of 19th February 1970, when 8 RAR was withdrawn from the Long Hais for a B52 strike, the bulk of D 445 moved into the Tan Ru area. No contact was made with them until A Company 6 RAR operating in the South East of their AO contacted a strong enemy bunker system east of Dat Do and just north of Route 23, on lst March.
After a lengthy fire fight in which 13 friendly wounded were sustained, the enemy was identified as elements of D 445. The identification was extremely valuable, as it was essential after the battering this Battalion had sustained in the Long Hais to keep up the pressure on it and if possible to destroy it. This was the first positive identification of D 445 since 8 RAR's major contact on 18th February.
Although the enemy moved from the bunkers after the 6 RAR contact, the Commander 1 ATF Brigadier Weir, decided to deploy three companies of 8 RAR to AO Ascot with the Battalion Headquarters moving to an old Fire Support Base, Discovery, about five thousand metres west of Xuyen Moc Village. One company was to remain in the Long Hai Hills as a protection group for the quarrying operation, with the secondary roll of ambushing major exit routes from the Long Hais.
On the 3rd March 1970, Battalion Headquarters deployed by road from lsa to Discovery, and A Company flew into Discovery to begin operating west of the base. B Company deployed by road to its AO and D Company followed next day by air. The Battalions task was to locate D 445, particularly the headquarters element and if possible to encircle and destroy it.
With D 445's capacity to move rapidly and disperse quickly and also its proven ability to survive over the years, this was a formidable task. There were however some factors in 8 RAR's favour. The enemy was battered, with the usual assumption following that his morale was suffering. He was short of food and medical supplies. He had been forced from a location in the Long Hais where he had lived comfortably and in relative security for seven months and was on the run.
Lastly and perhaps most important of all, he had vacated his base adjacent to the Long Dien and Dat unable to carry out his propaganda and intimidation tactics in the most populous areas of the province. Despite this, the questions that faced Colonel O'Neill were these, first, the perennial "where is he" and second "once found how can destruction be assured?"
The answer to the first question came on 7th March when a report was received to the effect that HQ D 445 was located in the Battalion AO in an area approximately four thousand metres south west of Xuyen Moc. The Battalion was immediately given additional resources, as D Company 6 RAR and A Company 7 RAR were passed to under operational control of 8 RAR, with support being supplied by a troop of tanks and a troop of cavalry. The Battalion plus D Company 6 RAR was rapidly deployed to block the area, while A Company was given the task of reconnaissance in force within the block.
D Company 7 RAR simultaneously cordoned off Xom Trai Den four thousand metres west of the target, in order to catch any enemy who might be on liaison and reconnaissance tasks in the village. No contact was made that day and the following day A Company 7 RAR passed back to Task Force operational control. The reconnaissance in force continued on the 8th, D Company 6 RAR being given an additional task of checking an area south west of the original target. During a sweep of the new target, enemy firing from bunkers initiated contact, killing three members of the company and wounding five others. As the company applied pressure the enemy broke from the bunkers and withdrew south and south east. The subsequent search revealed nine freshly constructed bunkers containing some documents and ammunition.
During D Company 6 RAR's fire fight the companies of 8 RAR, the tanks and APC's were deployed immediately to surround the enemy location. Deployment took place rapidly but no contact was made and it was apparent that the enemy in the nine bunkers had made an extremely rapid withdrawal. D Company 6 RAR following up their search of the nine bunkers located an additional 20 bunkers approximately 300 metres further south. All were recently constructed, were located near water and had been occupied in the s apparent that the original intelligence report had been substantially correct, but the location given had been 2,000 - 3,000 metres north east of the actual enemy site. Once again the elusive D 445 had come close to destruction.
On the 10th March the companies deployed to separate A0s south east of Xuyen Moc in an attempt to locate D 445 elements which were thought to have moved generally east after the contact on 8th March. By the evening of 10th March the Battalion was in position and conducting reconnaissance and ambush tasks over a wide area from the coast to route 23 in the north. Quick results followed when B Company contacted a small enemy force that afternoon, killing one and capturing a weapon.
Two days later C Company was withdrawn from lsa and moved into AO Ascot to join the rest of the Battalion in reconnaissance and ambush. No further enemy contact was made until the 18th March, although sizeable bunker systems and caches were discovered by C, B and A Companies.
On the 18th March B Company which had moved to a new AO north east of Xuyen Moe made contact twice. On the first occasion two Vietcong were contacted returning to a small camp site that had beendiscovered by a platoon. One of the enemy was killed and he was later identified as a postman for the Xuyen Moc guerillas. The platoon remained in location and later in the day contacted two more enemy, one of whom was killed and the other wounded and captured. Identification was again of Xuyen Moc guerillas.
On 21st March C Company returned to Nui Dat for base patrol tasks and the other three companies continued to maintain ambushes within their AO's. No further contact was made until 23rd March when a platoon of B Company engaged between 6-8 enemy in a small jungle camp. The Vietcong withdrew rapidly and 6 Platoon B Company was airlifted from Fire Support Base Discovery to cut off the withdrawal route. As they landed they made fleeting contact with the escaping enemy, capturing a weapon and pack, but just failing to cut the escape route. On 24th March the two remaining companies and the Battalion Headquarters returned to Nui Dat.
The results of Operation Hamilton were inconclusive. D445 which was the primary target had been chased hard but always managed to stay one jump ahead of the Battalion in spite of some very rapid reaction. Undoubtedly the enemy had been pushed away from the villages temporarily, but it was equally certain that he would be back.
Results of the Operation were:
KIA 3 - WIA 1 - WIA Possible 1
Weapons Captured. 7
7.62 400 rounds - Grenades 2 - Mines 2 - RPG Rounds 2 - Mor Rounds 62
57mm Rounds 19 - Rice Captured: 1 200 lbs.
KIA 2 - WIA 8
Attachments. KIA 3 - WIA 5 - Accidental WIA 1
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Last modified: May 12, 1998