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The Battle of Binh Ba: a baffling "Mystery" and SIGINT Failure ? - NO!

The Battle of Binh Ba: a baffling "Mystery" and SIGINT Failure ? - NO!

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In early June 1969 during the Vietnam War - as part of a communist "high point", the 33rd North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment occupied the village of Binh Ba in Phuoc Tuy Province (South Vietnam) - planning to lure and destroy a reaction force from the 1st Australian Task Force's base at Nui Dat about six kilometres to the south of BInh Ba.
However, the NVA ambush on Route 2 was not initiated - and the 33rd NVA Regiment was defeated, losing 53 soldiers killed. This article examines signals intelligence (SIGINT) aspects of the Battle.
In early June 1969 during the Vietnam War - as part of a communist "high point", the 33rd North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment occupied the village of Binh Ba in Phuoc Tuy Province (South Vietnam) - planning to lure and destroy a reaction force from the 1st Australian Task Force's base at Nui Dat about six kilometres to the south of BInh Ba.
However, the NVA ambush on Route 2 was not initiated - and the 33rd NVA Regiment was defeated, losing 53 soldiers killed. This article examines signals intelligence (SIGINT) aspects of the Battle.

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Published by: Ernest Patrick Chamberlain on Oct 22, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/05/2014

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 THE BATTLE OF BINH BA - a baffling
“Mystery”
and SIGINT failure ?
 – 
NO !
1
 
Brigadier E.P. Chamberlain CSC (Retd)
2
 January 2013On 6 June 196
9, the Australian Task Force’s Ready Reaction F
orce (RRF) engagedthe 33
rd
North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment at Binh Ba village
 – 
about six kilometresnorth of the 1
st
 
Task Force’s
 
(1ATF’s)
Nui Dat base. The official Australian history
 – 
 
“Fighting to the Finish” (2012),
contends that:
(in) t 
he enemy mystery” … “there seemed to be no clear rationale for their 
((NVA/VC)) actions. Australian commanders and intelligence officers were baffled. During the initial occupation of Binh Ba, 33 NVA Regiment had apparentlymaintained strict radio silence, eluding task force signals intelligence
.” – 
p.237.That account in the official history is incorrect and needs clarification.With Presidents Nixon and Thieu scheduled to meet on Midway Island on 8 June
1969 and the communists’ Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) to be formally
announced on 10 June, 1ATF intelligence reporting from the period indicated that Hanoi
 planned a period of “high point” attacks in the South from early to mid
-
June 1969 “toemphasize the enemy’s ((
ie
 NVA/VC’s)) continuing capability to conduct offensive action.”
 
The Viet Cong’s Military Region 7
 
established a “Campaign Headquarters” t
o direct the
“high point”
activity in their Ba Ria-Long Khanh Province, including a major attack againstthe village of Binh Ba
 – 
and lesser attacks on both Hoa Long and Hoi My villages. The attack would include an ambush of any 1ATF Ready Reaction Force.At the end of May 1969, the 1,100-strong 33
rd
NVA Regiment
was “fixed” by signals
intelligence (SIGINT) direction-finding in south-eastern Long Khanh Province about 55kilometres north-east of Nui Dat.
3
33
rd
Regimen
t’s
 principal radio station was intercepted
and tracked by 1ATF’s 547 Signal Troop
as the Regiment then moved south-west into PhuocTuy Province
 – 
crossing the Song Ray River on 2 June and located just north of Binh Bavillage near Duc Trung hamlet on 4 June. The Task Force commander and the senior staff were progressively briefed on the 33
rd
 
Regiment’s movements.
 
The VC’s D440 Local Force Battalion was
initially scheduled to occupy Binh Bavillage
 – 
with the 33
rd
NVA Regiment to then ambush the expected 1ATF relief force as itmoved north up Route 2 from Nui Dat. However, D440 was attacked by an Australianelement while in its pre-
assembly area, and the “occupation task” was re
-assigned to the 33
rd
 
Regiment’s 1
st
Battalion. D440 later played a limited
“cameo” role in the Battle – 
losingseveral killed and a 75mm RCL captured.
1
This article appeared in The Bridges Review
 – 
Journal of the Australian Intelligence Corps, Issue 1, January2013, p.91
2
In June 1969, Lieutenant Ernie Chamberlain served as the 1ATF intelligence liaison officer in Baria.
3
 
The SIGINT “fixes” of the 33
rd
 
 NVA Regiment’s movements towards Binh Ba village were declassified by the
responsible Canberra-based agency in early 2011 and provided to the author.

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