The Hon Andrew Gee MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
ANDREW GEE: I’m honoured to be here on this 50th anniversary of Operation Ivanhoe and the Battle of Nui Lei as we pause to remember the Australian men and women who served in our nation’s last major action of the Vietnam War.
I'd particularly like to acknowledge all serving ADF personnel, veterans and their families joining us today.
The 14-day Operation Ivanhoe and 14-hour Battle of Nui Le claimed six Australian soldiers and wounded 29 others. A soldier from New Zealand was also wounded. May we never forget the bravery and courage of Private Maxwell Lachlan Rhodes, Private James Duff, Private Brian Charles Beilken, Private Roderick James Sprigg, Private Keith Michael Kingston-Powles and Private Ralph James Niblett.
We've heard today from Lieutenant Colonel Gary McKay, who lost four of his men at Nui Le. Heavy fire prevented his company recovering three of the fallen. New Zealand troops later retrieved our Australian sons. Reflecting on that moment, he recalled; “as they carried them to the chopper pad, the New Zealand soldiers gave them a rifle salute.”
As they've done through the generations, it was Australians and New Zealanders serving together with distinction, earning them the respect of our allies and enemies alike. That skill, courage and devotion to duty was evident from Australia's first major engagement of the conflict during Operation Iron Triangle in 1965, to Long Tan in 1966, at places like firebases Coral and Balmoral in 1968, Binh Ba in 1969 and so many others. It was exemplified by our Australians in our last actions at Nui Le and in Operation Ivanhoe.
To all our veterans and their families, particularly those who served in Operation Ivanhoe and at Nui Le and the loved ones of the soldiers who lost their lives, I offer you all the heartfelt thanks of our nation. Australia owes you an enduring debt of gratitude and respect. Even in these difficult times, you, your families, your mates even in these difficult times, you, your families, your mates and loved ones are never forgotten. Not on this day, not in the months ahead or the years to come. Not ever.
Lest We Forget.