Australia and the Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War

Background

Ngo Dinh Diem lays a wreath in the commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial. [NLA 11969033 Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia]

Ngo Dinh Diem lays a wreath in the commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial. [NLA 11969033 Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia]

In September 1957 the President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, visited Australia. Feted as a man of courage and vision, Diem was credited with having made South Vietnam a viable country. The cost of Diem’s authoritarian rule to his own people was little remarked upon in Australia, a country in which few possessed any knowledge of Vietnam. As the first foreign head of state to visit Australia, Diem was received with more fanfare than even Queen Elizabeth who had visited just three years earlier.

In this photograph Diem lays a wreath in the commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial. His visit resulted in lasting Australian support for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, though none could have guessed that this support would ultimately lead to the addition of more than five hundred Australian names to the Roll of Honour, just metres from where Diem stands in this image, over the decade and a half to come.