Vietnam Veterans

Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War began with a small commitment of 30 military advisors in 1962 (AATV) which increased over the following decade to a peak of 7,672 Australian personnel following the Menzies Government's April 1965 decision to upgrade its military commitment to South Vietnam's security. 


By the time the last Australian personnel were withdrawn in 1972, the Vietnam War had become Australia's longest war, in which a total 49,211 had served, with 521 KIA and 2396 WIA, and was only recently surpassed by Australia's long term commitment of combat forces to the War in Afghanistan. 


It remains Australia's largest force contribution to a foreign conflict since the Second World War and was also the most controversial in Australian society since the conscription controversy during the First World War. Although initially enjoying broad support due to concerns about the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, a vocal anti-war movement developed in response to Australia's program of conscription.


The date 18 August was chosen as the commemorative Vietnam Day for all Veterans following the historic victory at the Battle of Long Tan fought on 18 August 1966. 


The timeline below lists some of the land battles fought over this period. 


  • 1965 8 November—1 RAR fights one of the first set-piece engagements of the war between Australian forces and the Viet Cong at the Battle of Gang Toi. Two servicemen, Private Richard Parker and Private Peter Gillson, are posted missing believed killed during the fighting. Their bodies are recovered more than forty years later and returned to Australia for burial. 
  • 1966 8–14 January—1 RAR participates in Operation Crimp in the Ho Bo Woods as part of the first divisional- sized operation of the war, targeting an underground Viet Cong headquarters. 23–24 February—1 RAR is involved in the Battle of Suoi Bong Trang north of Bien Hoa airbase. 
    18 August – 6 RAR - The Battle of Long Tan in a rubber plantation east of Nui Dat in 1966 could have been an Australian military disaster, but is instead remembered as a decisive victory when 105 men of D Coy, 6 RAR, and 3 NZ Artillerymen faced a combined force of VC and NVA 275th Regiment estimated later to be between 1500 to 2500 troops. As torrential rain began to pour, artillery support was called in from Nui Dat as it became clear the Australians were facing forces better equipped and more numerous than expected. 18 Australians were killed - 17 from D Coy and 1 from the 1st APC Squadron. 21 were wounded. 245 Vietnamese dead were found on the battlefield, with captured documents later suggesting hundreds more had been killed or wounded. The Australian soldiers had been outnumbered 20 to 1 and despite their success against overwhelming odds, the Battle of Long Tan was still the costliest battle for Australia during the entire Vietnam War. Advancements in broadcast and video technology, in combination with the dozens of journalists sent to cover the war, meant that Long Tan became the first significant Australian battle in history to be televised back home. "The Legacy of Long Tan has remained a current affair amongst Australian Vietnam Veterans as the defining moment in the legend of Australian stoicism that comes to the fore in any conflict in which young Australians become embroiled," historian Graham Parks said. 
  • 1967 August—A Company, 7 RAR was involved in heavy fighting in the eastern Hat Dich area during the Battle of Suoi Chau Pha. Australian casualties were heavy with 5 KIA, one died of wounds and 19 wounded. 
  • 1968 January / February – Tet Offensive. VC and NVA attack Saigon and surrounds including Ba Ria, just 6 kms from 1ATF at Nui Dat. Elements of 3 RAR engaged in Ba Ria while a number of HQ units were involved in Saigon. 13 May—Battle of Coral–Balmoral Fire Support Bases becomes the bloodiest engagement for Australians in Vietnam when 25 Australians are killed and nearly 100 wounded during 26 days of fighting in AO Surfers, north-east of Saigon. 1 RAR is involved at FSB Coral with 3 RAR engaged at FSB Balmoral. The operation lasts till 6 June 1968 
  • 1969 6–8 June—Australian forces including 5 RAR destroy a large communist force in heavy house-to-house fighting during the Battle of Binh Ba. Over 100 VC KIA for the loss of 1 Australian 
  • 1970 February/ March - 8 RAR engaged in the Battle of the Long Hai’s, a series of ambushes and assaults versus D445 VC and NVA units. 
  • 1971 7 June—Battle of Long Khanh takes place where 3 RAR, with Centurion tanks in support attack a heavily fortified base camp during Operation Overlord. Although the Australians capture the bunker system, and a second system located to the south, the bulk of the communist forces successfully withdraw. 21 September—the Battle of Nui Le is fought in Phuoc Tuy Province. A tactically inconclusive encounter between troops from 4 RAR and the NVA 33rd Regiment north of Nui Dat, it proved to be the last major battle fought by Australian forces in the war. 5 Australians KIA and 30 WIA . 
  • 1972 Australian combat troops are withdrawn from Vietnam leaving some elements in Vung Tau and Saigon until 1973. 

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