8 RAR -The Eighth Battalion of the
Operation Keperra began on the 23rd January 1970 with the cordon and search of two villages in the south east of Phuoc Tuy Province, Xuyen Moc and Nui Nhon.
Practical results of the two cordons were, Xuyen Moc seven detainees on the police black list were held for subsequent checking and in Nui Nhon three were held, one of whom was a VC intelligence agent.The Battalion then returned to Nui Dat by road on the afternoon of the 25th January to prepare for deployment into the Nui Dinh Hills on 26th and 27th January.
The Nui Dinhs lying some 5,000 to 6,000 metres south west of the Nui Dat base have often been used as a stronghold for operations by the VC and NVA against the populated areas in the south of Phuoc Tuy. At this time, approaching Tet it was considered by the commander 1 ATF Brigadier Weir, to be harbouring elements of D67 Engineer Battalion and D41 Chau Duc guerillas. He therefore ordered 8 RAR to carry out operations on the eastern side of the hill complex in conjunction with 1-16 US (Mech) Bn of 2 US Bde, 1 lnf Div, who were to take the western side.
The operations of both Battalions were designed to prevent any Vietcong offensive against Baria and surrounding districts during TET. Lieutenant Colonel O'Neill's concept was to locate B and D Companies in the north east and south west of the Battalion AO in ambush positions, whilst A and C Companies drove down from the top of the mountains towards them. The enemy were thus to be swept down into the ambush positions. On completion of the sweep the companies were to be flown back to the top to repeat the operation.
The deployment began by D Company moving to its block position by tracks of B Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment and B Company to its position by truck, on 26th January. On 27th January the Assault Pioneers flew to an LZ on top of the hill complex after preliminary clearing by a light fire team of 9 Squadron RAAF. The Assault Pioneers then secured the LZ for the fly in of a section of mortars and A and C Companies.
The first important incident occurred late on the afternoon of 28th January when three enemy contacted a D Company ambush in the south of the Battalion AO, resulting in one enemy killed and one wounded, who was captured. The PW after interrogation was identified as belonging to the Chau Duc guerillas rear services element, engaged in a forward resupply mission.
After two days of operation little contact had been made although much sign of enemy presence was seen including sixty unoccupied bunkers by A Company. Lieutenant Colonel O'Neill then decided to re-locate B Company from the foothills further to the north east to cover the valley of the Song Sui and the Song Chau Pha due west of the Task Force base, as this appeared to be the logical route between the Task Force base and the Nui Dinhs for VC movement to the provincial centres. No contact was made until 2nd February when one VC was killed and one wounded by B Company.
This was followed on 3rd February by a further contact when two enemy were killed, and one wounded who was captured, again by B Company. The captured guerilla was identified as a Chau Duc and provided valuable information concerning the main Chau Duc base north west of the Nui Dinhs and locations of guerilla tunnels within Hoa Long village. Information on the Chau Duc base was followed up by 1-16 US Battalion.
On the 3rd February D Company and C Company returned to Nui Dat for ready reaction tasks. A Company continued to search the Nui Dinhs moving down the re-entrants to the south and north east of the complex with B Company remaining in location.
During the nights of 7th-9th, C Company was given local ambush tasks east of Hoa Long without contact and on the 10th was deployed to the western edge of the Long Hai Hills to protect an engineering quarrying party of 21 Construction Squadron and to ambush between the hills and the villages of'Long Dien and Dat Do. One further contact was made, resulting in 2 enemy killed,.and on 14th February A and B Companies returned to Nui Dat.
The results of Operation Keperra were:
Enemy Casualties KIA: 6 - WIA: 3 - PW: 1
Small Arms weapons captured: 3 - Small Arms ammunition captured: 100
Grenades: 2 - Explosives: 2 lb.
Food Captured: 285 lb.Rice - Salt 2 lb. - Miscellaneous: 1 00 lb.
Qwn Casualties KIA: 1 - WIA: 3
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Last modified: May 12, 1998