Nam Dong is situated 32 miles west of Da Nang in a valley near the Laotian border; it was manned by South Vietnamese personnel with American and Australian advisers, and served as a major thorn in the side of local Vietcong militants.
The Viet Cong struck at the camp at 2:30 a.m. to achieve the element of surprise, and reached the outer perimeter where South Vietnamese special forces managed to hold out. The battle lasted for five hours when the Viet Cong decided to abort the mission, fleeing into the jungle at sunrise. At 9:45 a.m. six USMC helicopters arrived to extract the special forces. At the end of the battle, a total of 372 allies (twelve American Green Berets, 300 South Vietnamese, and sixty Nung soldiers) held off deadly attacks against 900 NVA and Vietcong, often pinning Viet Cong groups in the narrow cliffs leading into the valley, where they were easily targeted by artillery.
Captain R. C. Donlon became the first American to be awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam for valiantly killing two Vietcong sappers and thereby preventing them from breaching the Nam Dong base, while sustaining shrapnel wounds in the process.
It was at this contact that the Australian member of the Australian Army Training Team (Vietnam) AATTV, Warrant Officer Kevin Conway, was cited by his commander, then Colonel Francis Philip (Ted) Serong for a Victoria Cross, the highest gallantry award for Australian service personnel. Kevin Conway was in a forward weapon pit with an American Master Sergeant, Gabriel Alamo, who was killed in the North Vietnamese assault. Conway alone fired his mortar upon the assaulting enemy in ever decreasing range fire until he was forced to bring his mortar fire upon himself to save the perimeter of the base.
Sergeant Terrance D. Terrin, U.S. Army Green Beret Medic, was awarded the silver star for gallantry in battle.
Warrant Officer Conway has never received the cited award for valour. He was the first Australian to be killed in action in the Vietnam war. Serong stated that it was American Special Forces politics that denied Conway his Victoria Cross. M/Sgt Alamo was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The Green Berets
A key battle scene in the 1968 film The Green Berets was based on this battle.
- Viet Cong and PAVN strategy and tactics
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- Kelley, Michael P. (2002). Where We Were In Vietnam. Hellgate Press. pp. 5–351. ISBN 1-55571-625-3.
- "One Who Was Belligerent". TIME Magazine. 1964-12-11. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,897370,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-22.
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