The Vietnam War 1962 – 1975

Australian soldiers from 7 RAR waiting to be picked up by US Army helicopters following a cordon and search operation near Phuoc Hai on 26 August 1967. This image is etched on the Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Canberra.

1962-1975

Served: 49,211
Dies: 520
Wounded: 2,396
Men awarded the Victoria Cross: 4

Australian support for South Vietnam in the early 1960’s was in keeping with the policies of other nations to stem the spread of communism in Europe and Asia. In 1961 and 1962 Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam’s leader, repeatedly requested security assistance. Australia responded with 30 military advisers. Their arrival in South Vietnam in July 1962 was the beginning of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

In August 1966 a company of 6RAR was engaged in one of Australia’s heaviest actions of the war, near Long Tan. After three hours of fierce fighting, during which it seemed the Australian forces would be overrun by the enemy’s greater numbers, the Viet Cong withdrew, leaving behind 245 dead and carrying away many more casualties. 18 Australians were killed and 24 wounded. The battle eliminated communist dominance over the province.

50,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam. 520 died as a result of the war and almost 2,400 were wounded. The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of the First World War. Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or gaoled, while soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home.