Australia and the Vietnam War

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Phuoc Tuy Province

Vung Tau

Members of 7RAR disembark from a landing craft at Vung Tau for their second tour of duty in Vietnam, February 1970. [Image courtesy of Jerzy Rainer]

Members of 7RAR disembark from a landing craft at Vung Tau for their second tour of duty in Vietnam, February 1970. [Image courtesy of Jerzy Rainer]

The port of Vung Tau lies in the south of South Vietnam on a peninsula that extends from the southern tip of Phuoc Tuy province into the South China Sea. Already a popular resort before the war, Vung Tau came to be used by Australian and American servicemen as a rest area. The influx of Americans in the early 1960s meant that much of the area’s income derived from construction projects, the presence of military bases and spending by civilian and military holiday makers.

Patrols of the United States 173 Airborne Brigade cleared the area that would be occupied by 1 Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG), between the staging area for the move to Nui Dat and a strip of sand dunes known as Back Beach. Although far from ideal, Vung Tau’s popularity as a resort area meant that the more favourable areas for construction had long since been developed.

'Vung Tau'

  • A welcoming banner strung between two trees by local Vietnamese officials during Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt's visit in May 1966. The banner reads: 'The people of Vietnam welcome the assistance from the friendly people of Australia'. [AWM P02022.002]
  • HMAS Sydney in Vung Tau harbour. Australian naval artist Ian Hansen served with the RAN during the conflict. [Image courtesy of Ian Hansen]
  • Deckchairs and surfboards on the beach at Vung Tau. From left, Gunner Bob Ferguson of Qld,  Private (Pte) Pat Mann,  Pte Tom Smith and Lance Corporal Gary Bland of NSW, 1966. [AWM SHA/66/0084/VN]
  • No 1 Australian Logistics Support Group (NO 1 ALSG), No. 2 Advanced Ordnance Depot (2AOD) stores and barracks in foreground with the Australian Amenities service canteen in the background, 1967. [AWM P01392.013]
  • Members of 2nd Field Ambulance, with Red Cross nursing sister Winsome Ayliffe, move a soldier from an ambulance during a medical evacuation. Bruce Fletcher, 1967. [Oil on canvas on hardboard, 39.2 x 49.4 cm AWM ART40580]
  • Two US Navy ships that supplied all the electricity to the town of Vung Tau and the immediate region. The ships were moored permanently at the port, 1968. [AWM P06295.002]
  • A council worker in Vung Tau, 1968. [Image courtesy of Larry Davenport]
  • An armed South Vietnamese coastal naval vessel off Vung Tau, 1968. [Image courtesy of Norm Cooper]
  • The Australian base at Vung Tau. The 1ATF Field Hospital in the foreground with the Red Cross indicating the helicopter landing pad. The RAAF base is in the background. C. 1970. [AWM P00657.015]
  • An aerial view of Vung Tau with the Peter Badcoe Club on the right. The club was named in honour of Major Peter Badcoe, VC (AATTV), who was killed in action north of Hue on 7 April 1967 and who was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross. [Image courtesy of Trevor Harvey]

The Australians who worked on establishing the base encountered many difficulties. The heat, reflecting off the sand dunes, was extreme. United States troops who had previously used the site as a staging area had left rubbish strewn about, blow flies abounded and building even small structures such as latrines proved a problem as the sand kept shifting beneath them.

Despite the difficulties, 1 ALSG established a working base and the area became home to a hospital, RAAF units, engineers, transport, ordnance and service corps units.

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View an aerial photo of Vung Tau.