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Justice after fight for Long Tan honours

AAP logoAAP 10/08/2016 By Lisa Martin

Long Tan commander Harry Smith has claimed a partial victory in his fight to have the heroism and sacrifice of his men honoured 50 years after one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith, 83, has campaigned for decades to rectify deficiencies in what he believed was a shambolic system for military awards.

He was commander of Delta company during the Battle of Long Tan and was not satisfied with the level of recognition awarded to soldiers at the time.

The Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal was tasked with considering the cases of 13 of his soldiers.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan announced on Wednesday he would write to the prime minister and governor-general seeking approval to accept the tribunal's recommendations in full.

The tribunal has recommended military honours or upgrades for 10 soldiers but Mr Smith's bid for the late Jack Kirby to receive a Victoria Cross was rejected.

The tribunal decided that the distinguished conduct medal awarded to him in 1966 was appropriate to recognise his leadership in the battle.

Mr Smith said he had done his best to put a strong case to the tribunal.

"Justice has been done," he told reporters in Canberra.

"I believe that the outcome has been excellent, compared with what has been done before."

The tribunal recommended medals of gallantry for Lieutenant Adrian Roberts, Sergeant Frank Alcorta and Lance Corporal Barry Magnussen (deceased) and commendations for gallantry for Second Lieutenant Gordon Sharp (deceased), and Privates Neil Bextrum, Ron Brett (deceased), Ian Campbell, William Roche, Geoffrey Peters and Noel Grimes.

The tribunal also backed a previous decision not to award an honour to the late Corporal William Moore and Private Allen May.

Mr Smith expressed some disappointment over the Kirby decision.

He said Kirby had run around under fire distributing ammunition to troops and joking with soldiers as they fought for their lives.

"Jack was a man who had no regard for his own safety," he said, describing him as an inspiration.

"Great big man he was, how he never got hit surprises me to this day."

Kirby died in February 1967 when a shell from a New Zealand gun accidentally landed on the Australian position.

Next Wednesday and Thursday there will be commemorations of the battle at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

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