The Vietnam War was the longest twentieth century conflict in which Australians participated ; it involved some 60,000 personnel and grew from a limited initial commitment of 30 military advisers in 1962 to include a battalion in 1965 and finally, in 1966, a task force. Each of the three services was involved, but the dominant role was played by the Army. After the cessation of combat operations in 1972, a limited number of Australian personnel remained in Vietnam, and elements of the RAAF returned in 1975, carrying out evacuations and assisting refugees almost until the moment of South Vietnam's surrender.In the early years Australia’s participation in the war was not widely opposed. But as the commitment grew, as conscripts began to make up a large percentage of those being deployed and killed, and as the public increasingly came to believe that the war was being lost, opposition grew until, in the early 1970s, more than 200,000 people marched in the streets of Australia’s major cities in protest.By this time the United States Government had embarked on a policy of ‘Vietnamisation’ - withdrawing its own troops from the country while passing responsibility for the prosecution and conduct of the war to South Vietnamese forces. Australia too was winding down its commitment and the last combat troops came home in March 1972. The RAAF, however, sent personnel back to Vietnam in 1975 to assist in evacuations and humanitarian work during the war's final days. Involvement in the war cost more than 500 Australian servicemen their lives, while some 3,000 were wounded, otherwise injured or were victims of illness.The South Vietnamese fought on for just over three years before the capital, Saigon, fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975, bringing an end to the war which by then had spilled over into neighbouring Cambodia and Laos. Millions lost their lives, millions more were made refugees and the disaster that befell the region continues to reverberate today. For Australia the Vietnam War was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent since the conscription referenda of the First World War.Non aliquip dolor occaecat aliquip eu nisi ipsum laboris cupidatat. Sed aliquip reprehenderit mollit in, dolore sint nulla consequat culpa laboris pariatur exercitation cillum. Labore occaecat eu eiusmod fugiat. Dolore lorem amet laboris cillum nostrud commodo ut ex in. Anim est velit veniam ea sint culpa ex ut nisi sunt sed nisi excepteur culpa.
In the early 1960s South Vietnam was a land beset by problems. The government was under threat from a growing communist insurgency, losing control over the countryside outside major towns and cities and facing internal dissent. The South Vietnamese government sought assistance from the United States and her regional ally, Australia. Both countries responded with civil and military aid. Australia’s contribution was small in comparison to America’s, but sufficient to show loyalty to the United States, Australia’s most valued ally. The United States was keen to avoid the appearance of replacing French colonialism with American imperialism, and the involvement of other countries from the region, such as Australia, helped avoid this perception by suggesting a more international approach.
Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
The first contingent of the Australian Army Training Team (AATTV) arrived in South Vietnam on 3 August 1962. It numbered just 30 men and was made up of a mixture of officers, sergeants and warrant officers under the command of Colonel F.P. ‘Ted’ Serong. Team members were deployed to South Vietnam for a 12-month tour of duty with the option of extending for an additional 6 months. The AATTV’s numbers grew, as did the range of ranks held by its members, over the ten years that it served in Vietnam, peaking at 224 in 1971, shortly before Australia’s withdrawal.From the beginning the AATTV was divided into groups and dispersed. Some worked with Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) units, some with indigenous peoples in the remote, mountainous areas of the country’s north-west, some with South Vietnam’s Civil Guard which was responsible for protecting key provincial infrastructure, some with the ARVN’s elite Ranger units and some with the American Combined Studies Division which trained village militias and which was also involved in the Phoenix Program thattargetedVietCongcellsandcadresforassassination.Until 1964 AATTV personnel were forbidden from joining those whom they trained on operations, a ban that proved completely impractical when they were caught in ambushes and which diminished their credibility in the eyes of their students. After the policy changed, allowing participation in operations, AATTV members often found themselves engaged in combat more fierce than that experienced by most other Australian units in South Vietnam. By 1965 AATTV advisers were accompanying South Vietnamese Units on patrol and helping defend bases from attack. Designated as trainers they were often leaders, demonstrating military and counter-insurgency skills in the heat of battle.For many in the AATTV, service in Vietnam was an isolating experience. They often worked alone or in pairs in small, mainly American, advisory teams which served with Vietnamese units. Their dispersal meant Australia had a country-wide presence and with it the ability to assess the situation outside Phuoc Tuy, the province in which most Australians in Vietnam served.As Australia and the United States began to withdraw their forces from Vietnam the AATTV’s role changed to resemble what it had been like when they were first deployed. Training became the main priority as Vietnamese units were prepared for the time when they would have to fight without the support of allies. The last members of the AATTV to leave South Vietnam departed on 18 December 1972, a little more than ten years after the first members arrived.During their decade in Vietnam the AATTV became the most highly decorated Australian unit to serve in the war. Four Victoria Crosses were awarded to AATTV members, along with numerous other awards and decorations, including those issued by the United States and the Republic of South Vietnam. Most awards recognised bravery in combat; some were for service to the people of South Vietnam.
One of the most famous images of the Vietnam War was captured by Michael Coleridge on 26 August 1967. The image which has been etched on the rear wall of the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra, shows members of 5 Platoon, B Company, 7RAR waiting to be airlifted by US Army helicopters from an area just north of Phuoc Hai.