On 29 April 1965 the Prime Minister. Robert Menzies. made a statement on Vietnam to a half-empty House of Representatives. At eight o’clock at dark he announced the extension of Australian committedness in Vietnam both militarily and economically. After three old ages of supplying military advisers to assist develop the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Australia was now to direct its ain ground forces into the South East Asiatic state in the signifier of an foot Battalion ( soldiers who fought on pes ) .
The Australian Government is now in reception of a petition from the Government of South Vietnam for farther military aid. We have decided – and this has been done after close audience with the Government of the United States – to supply an foot battalion for service in South Vietnam… . The coup d’etat of South Vietnam would be a direct military menace to Australia and all the states of South and South-East Asia. Excerpt from Prime Minister Robert Menzies’ address in Parliament. 29 April 1965
This address did non look like the beginning of the biggest of all time deployment of Australian military personnels outside the two universe wars. The instead low cardinal proclamation underplayed the extent of Australia’s eventual engagement. Like the USA. Australia got easy drawn in to what was basically a civil war and a nationalist conflict for independency. The Vietnam War ne’er fulfilled any of its promise as a epic conflict against the immoralities of communism that the US and Australia thought it would.
The first military personnels
In 1962. after petitions from the US and the Republic of Vietnam ( RVN ) . Australia had sent in 30 military advisers to help with the preparation of the RVN Army. These advisers were extremely skilled in jungle warfare. They had been involved in the confrontation with Indonesia and had learned from Australian action in the jungles during World War Two. A Royal Australian Air Force squadron was besides posted to nearby Thailand to move as back up.
By 1964. it was clear that the South Vietnamese forces would be beaten by the combined attempts of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. If nil was done. the South Vietnamese democracy ( such as it was ) would fall into communist custodies. America began directing in more military personnels and asked for more states to go actively involved so it would non look like merely an American action. but a group of states assisting out a beleaguered democracy. In June. Australia responded to the ‘more international flags in Saigon’ run and upped the figure of its advisers to 60. By 1965 that figure rose once more to over 100. and. of class. by April the foot battalion announced by Menzies in parliament was on its manner. The Vietnam War had begun in earnest and so had Australia’s engagement in it.
The 1st Battalion. Royal Australian Regiment ( RAR ) . dwelling of 778 soldiers. arrived in Vietnam in May 1965. These were calling soldiers. work forces who had chosen a occupation in the ground forces – draftees were non sent until the following twelvemonth. Conscription had been re-introduced to Australia in November 1964. It was called the National Service Scheme and required all work forces to register when they turned 20. Each twelvemonth certain day of the months were drawn and those whose birthdays were on that day of the month ( and who passed the medical and educational trials ) had to function in the ground forces for two old ages. Anyone who did non carry through their National Service duties without a good ground could be fined or imprisoned. The first ground forces units incorporating National Service draftees entered the Vietnam War in early 1966. See image 1
More military personnels sent
In the following two-and-a-half old ages. the Australian committedness to Vietnam was expanded on a figure of occasions. By August 1965. there were over 1000 soldiers doing a Battalion group. In May 1966. that became a undertaking force of 4500 work forces and by October 1967. the Australian troop Numberss reached a extremum of 8300 work forces. From 1962 until 1971. about 50 000 Australians served in Vietnam. Although it was a big figure of military personnels by Australian criterions. it was merely a little proportion of the overall Numberss. particularly compared with the 500 000 military personnels sent in by America. See life
Although the bulk of Australian military personnels contending in Vietnam came under American bid. they were able to utilize their ain tactics in contending the Viet Cong. The Australian military personnel spent the bulk of their clip walking the jungles and seeking small towns for Viet Cong military personnels. but they besides fought in rather a few major battles. See image 2
The 1st Battalion RAR was originally based in Bien Hoa Province near the South Vietnam capital of Saigon. The battalion joined US forces in uncluttering the country of Viet Cong forces to procure the nearby air base. Then. between 1966 and 1971. the chief Australian Task Force. incorporating the 5th and 6th Battalions was based in Phuoc Tuy state.
The Battle of Long Tan
In 1966 Australian soldiers took portion in the important and now celebrated conflict of Long Tan. They beat the Viet Cong after being lured into an ambuscade in a gum elastic plantation. The company involved in the conflict received the United States Presidential Citation for their triumph and along the manner proved themselves to the Viet Cong. who. after Long Tan. would no longer readily prosecute Australian military personnels in that country. The Viet Cong came to gain that unlike the bulk of the Americans. Australians had old experience of jungle warfare and were a force to be reckoned with.
During the conflict of Long Tan. 17 Australian military mans lost their lives compared with 245 on the Viet Cong side. Australian military personnels had proven themselves. but it did non halt the Viet Cong go oning to turn in size and strength. Alternatively of being able to set down the rebellions with the military personnels that were already in the state. both America and Australia had to maintain increasing their committednesss to run into the turning menace from the Viet Cong. See image 3
Counting the cost
Australia’s troop Numberss kept mounting. as did the budget. The war in Vietnam finally took 520 lives. wounded over 2000 more work forces and cost $ 200 million. The twelvemonth 1968 was the worst twelvemonth for Australian casualties. By 1969. in line with American policy. Australia began scaling down its presence in Vietnam. although the last Australian soldier would non go forth until 1971.