Australia and the Vietnam War

DVA Logo
Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size

The Vietnam War

Australian Army Advisors

Warrant Officer Class II Peter Conway makes his way across the ‘Monkey Bridge’, a precarious looking bamboo structure leading to the ‘Y’ Regional Force Company compound, where he was an advisor, in Cho Gao District during late 1970. [AWM JON/70/0867/VN, photograph reproduced with the permission of Peter Conway]

Warrant Officer Class II Peter Conway makes his way across the ‘Monkey Bridge’, a precarious looking bamboo structure leading to the ‘Y’ Regional Force Company compound, where he was an advisor, in Cho Gao District during late 1970. [AWM JON/70/0867/VN, photograph reproduced with the permission of Peter Conway]

Peter Conway

In June 1971 WOII Peter Conway, a member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), went on leave to Australia. Like many members of the Team, he travelled using the American system, flying Pan Am to Australia and back to Vietnam. Having had that experience Warrant Officer Conway decided to let other advisors know what to expect when their turn for leave came up.

The article provides an interesting glimpse into the procedures men had to follow before leaving Saigon and suggests something of the American experience as well as that of an Australian member of the AATTV.

Warrant Officer Conway recalled only ever having received two copies of The Adviser during his year in Vietnam. The magazine ceased production at the end of Australia’s involvement in the war but the Queensland Branch of the AATTV Association continues to produce its successor, a national magazine titled The Advisor, edited since 2003 by Peter Conway.

George Logan

During the second part of his tour with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) Logan was a member of a Mobile Assistance Training Team (MATT) with the 302nd Regional Force Battalion based in Baria. The MATT teams sought to improve the military capabilities of the Regional Force battalions as part of the Vietnamisation process. This photograph was taken while Logan was on operations with a training patrol from the Jungle Warfare Training Centre. 
[AWM P00963.048 Photograph reproduced by permission of George Logan]

During the second part of his tour with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) Logan was a member of a Mobile Assistance Training Team (MATT) with the 302nd Regional Force Battalion based in Baria. [AWM P00963.048 Photograph reproduced by permission of George Logan]

Warrant Officer Class II George Logan was a member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam between 1969 and 1970. He had already served in Vietnam with the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR) during its first tour in 1967-68. In April 1970, during an operation in the vicinity of the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam’s far north, Logan wrote this letter to his father revealing something of how he viewed the war and his part in it.

The letter was written over several days and addressed to Logan’s father, a veteran of the Second World War with whom he had often spoken about his experiences of operations in Malaya and later Vietnam. By 1970 George and he agreed that letters addressed to both parents would be fairly innocuous while other letters, for his father only, would convey more of the reality of the war that George was experiencing.

Many years later, after his father’s death, George’s mother told him that the plan had failed. She had known all along of the subterfuge, and with the words ‘You don't think I wouldn't make sure I saw all the letters my son sent from the war?’ handed them back to George.

Simpson and his wife, Shoko, at Government House, Sydney, on 1 May 1970, having just been invested with the Victoria Cross by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. [AWM PEA/70/0203/EC]

Simpson and his wife, Shoko, at Government House, Sydney, on 1 May 1970, having just been invested with the Victoria Cross by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. [AWM PEA/70/0203/EC]

Ray Simpson

Within a matter of weeks in May 1969 two members of the Australian Army Team Vietnam (AATTV) performed acts of valour for which they received the Victoria Cross (VC), the final two of four VCs awarded to members of the AATTV. Warrant Officers Keith Payne and Ray Simpson were both serving in Kontum Province near the Laotian border in operations described in the dry language of the AATTV’s monthly report as involving frequent ‘contact with platoon to battalion size NVA forces’.

In several of these encounters, Simpson, a veteran of the Second World War, Korea, the Malayan Emergency and now on his third tour of Vietnam, repeatedly risked his life in a demonstration of leadership that he was extremely fortunate to survive. As the accompanying citations show, this was not the first time Simpson had behaved this way in a dangerous situation. Five years earlier he was seriously wounded but continued to lead his men through a violent action until a relief force arrived. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citations for both of Simpson’s awards are shown here.

Simpson’s soldierly skills were born of decades of experience and a lifetime of reading military history. A complex man, he could be blunt and even rude but he has also been described in The Australian Dictionary of Biography as proud, moral and compassionate, without pretension and devoted to his wife, Shoko, a Japanese woman whom he met during the Korean War. Simpson died of cancer in Tokyo in October 1978.

  • Warrant Officer Class II Peter Conway, looks on as South Vietnamese Regional Force soldiers inspect targets at which they have been firing at Cho Gao in the Mekong Delta. 
[AWM JON/70/0870/VN, photograph reproduced with the permission of Peter Conway]
  • Warrant Officer Class II George Logan of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, directing the evacuation of wounded Army of the Republic of Vietnam soldiers from the field during operations in Quang Tri Province.
[AWM CAM/70/0176/VN Photograph reproduced by permission of George Logan]
  • A fellow member of the AATTV, Ian McNeill, in his book, The Team described Simpson as possessing, beneath his rugged exterior, a ‘gentleness’. This side of his personality was captured in this photograph of him sharing a cigarette with an elderly Vietnamese woman in September 1969. 
[AWM LES/69/0617/VN]

Story Icon

Peter Conway memo in The Advisor Australian War Memorial PR85/417, file 3 of 3. This item has been reproduced with the permission of Peter Conway.

Journal Icon

George Logan letter to his father. Australian War Memorial PR89/229.

Story Icon

Ray Simpson’s citations. Australian War Memorial PR00455.001 and 002.