In his history of 3RAR's 1967-68 tour of Vietnam, Major R. F. Stuart described Baria, located between Nui Dat and Vung Tau, as a 'sleepy town, where Australian soldiers could buy various "knick-knacks "' and have their jungle greens laundered under local contract. At the beginning of February 1968, that was about to change. As people across Vietnam looked forward to the Tet holiday and relaxed in the expectation of a cease-fire bringing a few days respite from the country's long war, Viet Cong forces from outside Phuoc Tuy began concentrating in the province. On the holiday eve they began moving towards their objectives, Baria and nearby Long Dien. At the same time local Viet Cong prepared to attack other provincial targets.
At 5:00 on the morning of 1 February 1968 heavily armed members of the Viet Cong's D445 Provincial Battalion, began entering Baria, quickly occupying the main buildings. By dawn the National Liberation Front flag was flying over the town and key installations had either been neutralised or isolated. While the opening hours of the Viet Cong's assault seemed to promise success, the guerrillas lacked the local knowledge to be sure of the strength and location of the town's defences. Nor did they receive any support from Baria's inhabitants even though one of the Tet Offensive's key aims was to foment rebellion among South Vietnam's civilian population. But their speedy occupation of Phuoc Tuy's main centre and other Viet Cong attacks across the province, gave lie to the growing belief that the Viet Cong were all but beaten in the Australian area of operations.
The Australians, like Allied forces all over South Vietnam, were surprised by the ferocity and widespread nature of the Communist attacks, but responded quickly to the threat. 3RAR's A Company boarded A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment's armoured personnel carriers, and left Nui Dat for Baria. As they approached the town, a little over three hours after the Viet Cong began their assault, the Australians came under small arms fire and as the infantry left the armoured personnel carriers and advanced towards the village, explosions from rocket propelled grenades mingled with rifle and machine gun bullets.
Before they left Australia, 3RAR underwent intensive jungle warfare training, but at Baria they found themselves in a built up environment – an unusual circumstance for Australian troops in Vietnam. Over the next 24 hours, the infantrymen, with the support of the armoured personnel carriers and United States Phantom jets, engaged in a difficult, deadly fight, moving from house to house and street to street, slowly driving the Viet Cong from their well-prepared strongholds. The battle went on for 24 hours. One helicopter pilot braved heavy fire three times to retrieve seriously injured men from the town square while the armoured personnel carriers, as well as providing heavy, accurate machine gun fire, also evacuated the wounded.
At one stage 2 Platoon rescued three American Advisors who were in Baria when the Viet Cong came. Two other Americans, and an Australian Advisor were less fortunate when they, along with 3RAR's 2 Platoon tried to rescue another American. They were killed and the carrier troop commander and an Australian soldier wounded. When another two carriers were hit by rocket propelled grenades, 2 Platoon was isolated. Only after a failed attempt by South Vietnamese forces, an airstrike and the appearance of 3 Platoon were they rescued.
By the time B Company arrived in Baria on the afternoon of 2 February, the fight was all but over. Some Viet Cong had fled the town during the night, others were killed or had withdrawn after a series of airstrikes and further pressure from 3RAR. The battle resulted in 19 Australians being wounded, the deaths of 40 enemy and the wounding of at least 14 more.
On 7 February 3RAR returned to Baria in response to further Viet Cong raids on the town. D Company was sent to secure the western approaches where they spent an incident-free night in defensive positions. The next morning the Australians moved to help Army of the Republic of Vietnam troops clear the Viet Cong from nearby Long Dien. After seeing a South Vietnamese battalion withdraw under fire, some of them in panic, B Company experienced sporadic contacts and were subject to sniper fire but held their position. Just as worrying as the Viet Cong, was the too-close-for-comfort artillery fire called in by the South Vietnamese. While neighboring platoons weathered the Viet Cong's intermittent fire, 5 Platoon experienced a violent contact when they were ordered to rescue a South Vietnamese officer and an American adviser who had become separated from their unit during its withdrawal earlier in the day. After 4 Platoon joined the assault the situation stabilised, but the Vietnamese officer had already been killed as had three of the Australians.