An aerial view of Baria nestled at the foot of the Long Hai Hills. In his history of 3RAR’s 1967-68 tour of Vietnam, Major R. F. Stuart described Baria, located between Nui Dat and Vung Tau, as a ‘sleepy town, where Australian soldiers could buy various “knick-knacks”’ and have their jungle greens laundered under local contract. At the beginning of February 1968, that was about to change. As people across Vietnam looked forward to the Tet holiday and relaxed in the expectation of a cease-fire bringing a few days respite from the country’s long war, Viet Cong forces from outside Phuoc Tuy began concentrating in the province. On the holiday eve they began moving towards their objectives, Baria and nearby Long Dien. At the same time local Viet Cong prepared to attack other provincial targets. At 5:00 on the morning of 1 February 1968 heavily armed members of the Viet Cong’s D445 Provincial Battalion, began entering Baria, quickly occupying the main buildings. By dawn the National Liberation Front flag was flying over the town and key installations had either been neutralised or isolated. While the opening hours of the Viet Cong’s assault seemed to promise success, the guerrillas lacked the local knowledge to be sure of the strength and location of the town’s defences. Nor did they receive any support from Baria’s inhabitants even though one of the Tet Offensive’s key aims was to foment rebellion among South Vietnam’s civilian population. But their speedy occupation of Phuoc Tuy’s main centre and other Viet Cong attacks across the province, gave lie to the growing belief that the Viet Cong were all but beaten in the Australian area of operations. The Australians, like Allied forces all over South Vietnam, were surprised by the ferocity and widespread nature of the Communist attacks, but responded quickly to the threat. 3RAR’s A Company boarded A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment’s armoured personnel carriers, and left Nui Dat for Baria. As they approached the town, a little over three hours after the Viet Cong began their assault, the Australians came under small arms fire and as the infantry left the armoured personnel carriers and advanced towards the village, explosions from rocket propelled grenades mingled with rifle and machine gun bullets.
"In December 1968 I asked these 2 girls if they could get water for me. They were terrified by this white man with hair on his arms and the 'black box,' my camera, pointed at them by my radio operator. It was taken in the 'Dodge City' area." -Jack Wells. Photo by Jack Wells.
Erick W. Miller adds: Sgt Roberts. Jimmy Swindell is next to him, Wally Berry, the guy standing up in front of Donnie is Gregory Keuhl; he was burned by Napalm over his entire body. Dave 'Combat' Kuhlman by Wally. Jose was a good guy. Photo by Santos G. Castillo.