Australia Cross of Long Tan's return to Australian War Memorial kept secret for weeks

12:20  06 december  2017
12:20  06 december  2017 Source:   ABC News

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Memorials . The Long Tan Cross , located in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province approximately 110 km east of Ho Chi Minh City, marks the site of the Battle of Long Some marchers wore their service medals as well as peace badges. Decades after the war in Vietnam ceased, Australians are returning there.

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Seen for the first time in Australia the original Long Tan cross is unpacked at the Australian War Memorial on loan from Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa City, Vietnam. Picture: Ray StrangeSource:The Daily Telegraph.

The Long Tan Cross is a memorial which was erected by the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment on 18 August 1969 to mark the site of the Battle of Long Tan , which was fought three years earlier during the Vietnam War .

The Cross of Long Tan has finally been returned to Australians, after standing at the site of the bloody battle in Vietnam for almost 50 years.

But the cross was installed in the Australian War Memorial under the cover of darkness and its return was kept secret for weeks.

The Australian War Memorial collected the cross from Sydney Airport in early November, after the Vietnamese Government made the decision to hand it back in the lead-up to last month's APEC conference.

The cross was then kept in a storage facility until Tuesday night, when they installed it in the Reg Saunders gallery.

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson said he was proud of his staff for keeping its return a secret.

"Given the sensitivities around it, we all kept very quiet," he said.

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Long Tan Cross Filled with Foreigners. Vietnam veterans did not have an easy time on their return from the War . The dedication of the Vietnam Memorial in 1992 was the beginning of a healing process for Vietnam veterans and the Australian nation.

"Confidence has been kept."

The cross was erected by Australian soldiers in 1969 at the site of the controversial Battle of Long Tan, during which 18 Australian men were killed.

It was the most costly battle for Australian troops in the Vietnam War.

The cross's return comes after Vietnamese authorities cancelled official commemorations at the site of the battle last year, on its 50th anniversary.

"A number of attempts have been made over the years to get the cross back, including by us here at the Australian War Memorial," Dr Nelson said.

"We tried unsuccessfully to have it on loan for the 50th anniversary in 2016.

"I think the issues surrounding the frustration … in 2016 trying to go to the site and visit the cross itself, I think that played a role in it."

The cross was erected by Australian soldiers in 1969 at the site of the Battle of Long Tan. © Provided by ABC News The cross was erected by Australian soldiers in 1969 at the site of the Battle of Long Tan. 'A great act of generosity'

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He said the Vietnamese Government had recognised the emotional significance of the cross to Australians.

"It's a symbol of service, of suffering and remembering with love and emotion, the men who fought and suffered and the families who supported them," he said.

"In the end, the cross, this place, it's not about war, it's about love and friendship."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the return of the cross was a "great act of generosity" by the Vietnamese Government.

"It is remarkable that older men now, the generations of fighters on both sides, bear no grudges against each other," he said.

"They fought and they died and they served and now they are friends."

He said the agreement to return the cross promised to carry the friendship of the two nations forward.

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