Australia and the Vietnam War

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An American Chinook bringing supplies to the new Fire Support Base at Coral on 12 May 1968. [AWM P01770.010]

Australia and the Vietnam War:

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. more…

4 Troop, 1 Armoured Regiment, moving through Binh Ba. [Image courtesy of Roger Foote, 1st Armoured Regiment Association]

Battle of Binh Ba

6 June 1969

In the years following the establishment of the Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat, the nearby village of Binh Ba was subject to several cordon and search operations but the insurgents continued to return to, and operate from the village.

Living on Route 2, a major road that ran from Phuoc Tuy’s capital Ba Ria northwards into the neighbouring province, Binh Ba’s residents were accustomed to seeing military traffic passing through their village. On an early June morning in 1969 two Australian armoured vehicles were making their way northwards along Route 2 when they came under fire from a nearby house. The shot, believed by some to have been fired by a nervous soldier and by others to have been a deliberate provocation, had its effect. Within hours an Australian force sat just beyond Binh Ba awaiting the order to go in and clear the village. Ahead of them lay a battle of unexpected ferocity in a setting unlike almost any other experienced by the Australians in Vietnam. more…

An aerial shot of Fire Support Base Coral taken on 13 May 1968, the day after the base was established and after the first attack on the base the previous night. [AWM P03022.008]

Battle of Coral/Balmoral

12 May — 6 June 1968

In war there are moments when instinct and training come together to warn soldiers of impending danger. So it was for a group of Australians in a nondescript corner of South Vietnam’s Bien Hoa province on the evening of 12 May 1968. There, at Fire Support Base Coral, established just hours before, as infantry moved into ambush positions, artillerymen prepared their guns and mortar men dug their pits, more than one soldier felt that ‘something funny was going on’, that there was ‘an atmosphere in the air’.

After darkness fell occasional bursts of tracer lit the sky, some Australians could hear Vietnamese voices beyond their positions and men, who no one could identify, were seen moving through the shadows. Then, in the hours before dawn, North Vietnamese troops launched a massive assault against the new base, initiating a series of actions more violent and protracted than anything yet experienced by the Australians in Vietnam. more…

Hoi My, South Vietnam. 1967-02-17. Informal group portrait of nine members of 5 Platoon, B Company, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), outside the Platoon Headquarters during Operation Bribie. [Image courtesy of J. O'Halloran]

Operation Bribie

17 February 1967

On the morning of 17 February 1967 a Viet Cong force attacked the fishing village of Lang Phuoc Hai on Phuoc Tuy’s coast. At first estimated to be a company, then two, later reports revealed the attack to have been made by an enemy battalion. Shortly after 10:00am the Viet Cong began to withdraw chased by airstrikes and artillery fire.

An Australian force – members of the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) and armoured personnel carriers of A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment – were dispatched to cut-off the enemy’s escape routes. Expecting to encounter scattered groups of fleeing Viet Cong, they found themselves instead fighting for their lives in the midst of a strongly held defensive position. By evening eight Australians were dead and almost 30 wounded. Operation Bribie as the battle was known, was among Australia’s worst days in Vietnam. more…

An American Chinook bringing supplies to the new Fire Support Base at Coral on 12 May 1968. [AWM P01770.010]

Battle of Long Tan

18 August 1966

Three months after the Australians established their Task Force base at Nui Dat, in the heart of South Vietnam’s Phuoc Tuy Province, the Viet Cong determined to rid the area of this unwelcome incursion. Having brought the base under fire on the night of 16–17 August 1966, a large Viet Cong force remained undetected in the area. Australian patrols found some evidence of their presence, radio traffic indicated enemy movement in the vicinity, but of Viet Cong troops, there was no sign.

Then, on 18 August, as a concert party was setting up for a show at the Australian base, men of D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, walked out through the wire to continue the search. That afternoon, as they approached a nearby rubber plantation there were fleeting contacts with Viet Cong who appeared, and disappeared just as quickly into the scrub. Then as a tropical storm gathered, the Australians came under fire more intense than anything yet experienced by the Task Force. Over the next few hours the survivors of D Company fought for their lives in rain-swept darkness of Long Tan. more…

This website, honouring the service of Australians in Vietnam between 1962 – 1972, is a work in progress. Over the coming months further material will be added.

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