1st Australian Task Force’s Struggle for South Vietnam
Australian Army Combat Support Series No 3
Crows Nest NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2021
Paperback 160pp RRP $19.99
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, July 2021
The Army History Unit’s series continue to go from strength to strength. Each volume is authoritative, accessible, well-illustrated and available at an extremely good price.
This volume, in the Combat Support Series is no exception. Its author has a Defence Science background – it is therefore little surprise that his approach is analytical and strongly driven by data. Two important databases provided his material. The 1 ATF Contact Database 1966-1971 listed the small arms exchanges of fire with the enemy and the more extensive (by a factor of 10) Phước Tuy Incident Database 1966-1971 listed events of military significance. Both data sets were assembled after the Việt Nam War. However, the relevant elements of them were available to our troops during the war, and in the case of mine incidents, were supplemented by mine incident maps that were regularly updated.
It was fortunate indeed that the Việt Nam War happened before mobile phones facilitated remote detonation of mines. The ready supply of M16 ‘Jumping Jack’ mines from the Australian barrier minefield and chaotic Army of the Republic of Việt Nam minefields more than compensated for this future technological advance. 1ATF laid 20,292 M16 mines in its ill-advised Barrier Minefield and later destroyed 11,227 of them. The enemy was gifted at least 3,000 of the difference. This resulted, as the author says, in an act of self-destruction by 1 ATF.
The book does not examine the extent of the mine warfare training of sappers and infantry assault pioneers prior to their deployment to the Task Force. This is a topic that deserves closer examination.
This a welcome and systematic examination of the Vietnam mine tragedy. It is inevitable that insurgents will use mines. Many of the lessons in this book are relevant to any such future conflicts.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.