Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan movie stirs vivid memories for Little Pattie

It was August 18, 1966. Seventeen-year-old Patricia "Little Pattie" Amphlett was on a tour of Vietnam with Col Joy and the Joy Boys, playing gigs for Australian soldiers. On that day they had three shows at Nui Dat, an Australian base.

The instructions were clear: depart the base by 4pm. But things didn't go to plan. There were explosions within hearing distance, tension was mounting.

Little Pattie got on a helicopter about 4pm as ordered, and was flown to safety at Vung Tau.

That day is remembered forever as The Battle of Long Tan, when Australian Major Harry Smith and his company of 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought more than 2000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers in a muddy rubber plantation.

A new movie, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, has brought that historic event back into the spotlight.

For Little Pattie, now 70 years old, that day in 1966 has never left her. The movie includes a depiction of the concert with Little Pattie (played by Emmy Dougall).

"It really shaped me in so many ways as a human being for the rest of my life, it means a lot to me," she said of the events of that day.

Mirror image: Emmy Dougall, who plays Little Pattie in Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, and Little Pattie.

Mirror image: Emmy Dougall, who plays Little Pattie in Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, and Little Pattie.

"To watch this innocent, shy teenage performer, to watch myself, to know the background of it, to know how those performances and my experience had a huge affect on me.

"I know it's been a positive effect. I know there wouldn't be many 17-year-old girls who would come face to face with such a thing. How can I say it - I was shy, but very inquisitive, and quietly wanted to understand everything that was going on.

"A big sticky beak. That's how I was . . . feeling the gravity of what the young men were doing. The seriousness of it all."

It really shaped me in so many ways as a human being for the rest of my life.

Little Pattie

From the safety of Vung Tao that night, she remained awake, as body bags of dead soldiers were choppered in. She was grateful that her brother, then aged 20, had not been drafted and was not serving in the war.

On reflection, Little Pattie does not hesitate to say what it meant to her: "It made me forever try and do my best to understand people and where possible to empathise with them. Certainly not to judge ...

"It also made understand, or try to understand, what were we doing there. Made me question forever the pointlessness of so many battles and wars. I marvel, I wonder why do we still do it."

She gives the movie the thumbs up. "I really think it's a wonderful movie," she said. "Yes, it's about a battle, but really about the human side of it. Quite graphic, but overriding that, in my opinion, the quite beautiful side of it. Beautiful. Sad. tragic."

Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan is showing now. Find a cinema screening it at dangerclosemovie.com.au

This story The day war changed Little Pattie's attitude first appeared on Newcastle Herald.