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Vale Dave Beahan - veteran of the Battle of Long Tan

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We've lost another of those great men - this from the Facebook group Danger Close.

Very sad to hear of the passing of another Long Tan veteran. Vale David Francis Beahan, 74 years young.

David passed away on Tuesday 28th May 2019 in his home town of Armidale, NSW after a long illness.

David was a first intake National Serviceman and after recruit training at Kapooka, he joined the recently formed 6RAR at Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane.

David went to 9 Section, 12 Platoon, Delta Company 6RAR one of Harry Smith’s boys.

David served as Number 2 on his mate Peter Dettman’s M60 machinegun and after 9 months of training deployed to Vietnam in June 1966.

Dave fought and was wounded in the Battle of Long Tan.

After his service in Vietnam, David worked at the University of New England and was involved with the Armidale community.

He was always proud to be a member of 12 Platoon, Delta Company 6RAR Australian Army.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fellow veterans.

Lest We Forget.

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This story was printed in The Armidale Express on the 50th anniversary of the battle.

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It was a daily routine.

Pete, who lives in Tingha, was the gunner; Dave from Armidale was his number two; and Shorty, who was from Emmaville, was their forward scout.

All three were conscripted on the same day just one year earlier in 1965.

Dave recalls the day his number came up.

“I was in the very first national service intake in 1965,” he said.

“I was 19.

Dave was ordered to the Minto building on Rusden Street for a medical check with the government doctor, who turned out to be his local GP, doctor Leitch. 

“I walked in, put my form down and Leitch said ‘where’s your other letter’?”

“What other letter?” I said.

“He said ‘the letter from someone important in town to say why you shouldn't go’.”

Dave told his doctor he didn’t have one and was then given a choice that would change his life forever.

“‘Which of these forms would you like me to sign?’ Dr Leitch said"

“This one means you go, this one, you won't.

“I cursed my decision for the whole two years of my army career,” Dave said.

The trio met in Armidale and boarded a midnight train bound for Kapooka and would later join Sixth Battalion, Delta Company, Twelfth Platoon at Enoggera, Brisbane.

Their war-bound flight left Amberley Airforce Base less than a year after they were conscripted.

Dave said a refuelling stop in Manilla provided an unexpected opportunity for the soldiers.

“We got off the plane in Manilla and all went to the bar,” he said.

“And we quickly found out that if you bought a beer and handed over a 50 cent coin, you got change of one of their dollars.

“So - you’re making money.”

Delta Company arrived at Nui Dat in southern Vietnam in June 1966.

Between patrols, the first few months were spent constructing their base, building an airfield, digging trenches and running barbed wire around the perimeter.

During the night of August 17, the base came under mortar attack.

The following morning, just over 100 members of Delta Company - Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Platoons with three New Zealand soldiers, were dispatched to the Long Tan rubber plantation to investigate where the mortar fire had come from.

“Eleventh Platoon were leading when they took enemy sniper fire,” Dave said.

“They returned fire, killing one enemy, and then pursued five others that fled.”

Ten and Twelve Platoons followed in formation.

“Then the firing got far heavier and we realised we’d probably run into a platoon [about 30 soldiers],” Dave said.

But as it turned out, Delta Company had run into three battalions.

“108 guys do not expect to run into 2500 to 3000 enemy,” he said.

“And that’s exactly what happened.”

For the next four to six hours, in torrential rain, David Beahan, Peter Dettman and Richard Brown would face continual machine gun and rifle fire.

“We were in a lot of shit,” he said.

“We were all petrified, we were pissing our pants - not that it mattered because we were ringing wet and covered in mud anyway.

“We were all praying, ‘please don’t let me get killed, God’.

“I reckon I would have said the Hail Mary a thousand times.

“And when night set in, the amount of [machine gun] tracer fire going backwards and forwards was just unbelievable.”

Company commander major Harry Smith called for the New Zealand artillery to bring the artillery shells in closer to their position, despite the kiwis’ concerns about hitting Australians.

“The kiwis said it would be too close,” Dave said.

“Smith told them if you don't bring it in closer we won't be here to worry about.”

A shell threw Dave back from his position against a rubber tree.

“Peter said I might have been knocked out for a minute,” he said.

“Eventually, late at night, we heard the APCs [Army Personnel Carriers] arriving and we thought ‘Ah shit - we’re saved’.

“And once the APCs did arrive, the enemy withdrew.”

In the same way they had left, Dave, Pete and Shorty all returned to the New England region having survived what became one of Vietnam War’s most infamous battles.

The odds Delta Company faced that day were among the worst in recorded military history.

The trio maintain a strong friendship today and will all attend 50th-anniversary commemorations of their battle later this month.

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 From right, Peter Dettman, David Beahan, Richard "Shorty Brown and Merv McCulloch in Vietnam.

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