Brief History of Australia in Vietnam

The involvement of Australia in the Vietnam War began in the early 1960s and lasted until the early 1970s. Here is a brief history of Australia’s participation in the conflict:

1. Background: The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era conflict between North Vietnam (backed by communist forces) and South Vietnam (supported by anti-communist forces and the United States). The conflict escalated in the 1960s, and the United States sought international support for its efforts in South Vietnam.

2. 1962: Australia’s involvement officially began in 1962 when the Australian government sent military advisors to South Vietnam. These advisors were part of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) and were tasked with training and assisting South Vietnamese forces.

3. 1965: As the conflict intensified, Australia decided to increase its commitment. In 1965, the government announced the deployment of combat troops to Vietnam. The first Australian combat troops, comprising the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), arrived in South Vietnam in May 1966.

4. Operations: Australian forces were primarily involved in ground combat operations against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. They operated in different regions of South Vietnam, including Phuoc Tuy Province, Bien Hoa Province, and the Central Highlands.

5. Battles and Contributions: Australian troops participated in several significant battles during their involvement in the Vietnam War. Some notable engagements include the Battle of Long Tan in 1966, where a small Australian force held off a much larger Viet Cong attack, and the Battle of Coral-Balmoral in 1968, which was a series of actions against North Vietnamese forces.

6. Withdrawal: As the war became increasingly unpopular, both internationally and domestically, Australia began reducing its troop presence. The withdrawal process began in 1970, and the last Australian combat troops left Vietnam in 1972.

7. Casualties: Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War resulted in significant casualties. Over 60,000 Australian military personnel served in Vietnam, and 521 lost their lives. Many others were injured or suffered long-term health issues due to the war.

8. Legacy: The Vietnam War had a profound impact on Australia. It sparked intense debates about foreign policy and Australia’s alliance with the United States.

The war also had social and cultural ramifications, contributing to a period of political and social unrest in the country. Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War remains a significant chapter in its military history and has shaped subsequent foreign policy decisions and approaches to international conflicts.

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  • Bruce Cameron May 16, 2023  

    The number of Australian service personnel who died as a result of their service in Vietnam during the prescribed period of the War has been altered from 521 to 523. (Of course, many hundreds more have died as a direct result of their service, but outside the prescribed period. Neither DVA nor Government will recognise them, however, nor honour them with a Memorial.)

  • In the “Brief History” posted on the VETERAN WEB site on 16 May, I noted several minor errors eg:
    “Australian forces” did not fight in the “Central Highlands” of South Vietnam – ie apart from AATTV advisors (who served in all Military Regions). However, some airstrikes by RAAF aircraft were conducted into the Central Highlands.
    1 RAR did not arrive in “May 1966”, but earlier in mid-1965.
    A VC “division” did not attack Australian forces at Long Tan – rather, the principal VC forces were the 275th VC Main Force Regiment and the D445 VC Local Force Battalion – with some support elements.
    VC losses at Long Tan were not “50-300” as cited in the “Brief History” video but, in my view – based principally on detail in the captured notebook of the QM of the 275th VC Regiment (recovered by 2RAR in February 1967), the 275th Regiment suffered about 210 KIA. Regarding “NVA” at Long Tan – earlier in May 1966, the 275th’s 3rd Battalion was disbanded after heavy losses and replaced by the NVA D605 Battalion (from the North) as the 275th Regiment’s third battalion.
    The “Brief History” also refers to the “Hat Bich” – which is no doubt a reference to the Hat Dich area (actually pronounced “Hat Zich”), a VC “Secret Zone/Base area” that extended into north-western Phuoc Tuy Province.
    Regards, Ernie Chamberlain

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