US military planners began to question if a decisive victory could ever be achieved and the offensive stimulated the US public opposition to the war. 50,000 Australians, including ground troops, air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam. Suddenly Australians were made aware of the problems of refugees. The official death toll was 521, the third-largest of any conflict Australia had joined, but far smaller than those of the two world wars. Opposition to conscription focused both on preventing young men being forced into such a war and on the coercive and militarist nature of the scheme itself. By early 1965, when it had become clear that South Vietnam could not stave off the communist insurgents and the North Vietnamese for more than a few months, the US commenced a major escalation of the war. Australian War Memorial website. Second, the United States had no business in Vietnam, but to obtain natural resources. For Australian troops, the effects of the offensive were felt around their base at Nui Dat, where a Viet Cong attack on targets around Baria, the provincial capital, was repulsed with few casualties. 18 Australians were killed and 24 wounded. Also known as “America’s Longest War,” U.S. involvement in Vietnam War did not end until 1973. While the “Tet Offensive” ultimately ended in military defeat for the communists, it was propaganda victory. From 1965 to 1972, 15,381 national servicemen served in the Vietnam War, with 200 killed and 1,279 wounded. In short, the Vietnam War started as a result of the U.S.’s strategy of containment during the Cold War, which aimed to prevent the spread of communism throughout the world. Sir Robert Menzies was elected Prime Minister of Australia in 1949 and maintained leadership for sixteen years. Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger offered one point of view in his 1967 book “The Bitter Harvest.” A onetime adviser to John F. Kennedy, Schlesinger compared Vietnam to a quagmire: The first step into a quagmire inexorably draws one down a slippery slope. In 1978, the first boats reached Australia at Darwin. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, Served: 49,211Died: 520Wounded: 2,396Men awarded the Victoria Cross: 4. The 1964-1972 anti-Vietnam anti-conscription movement was specifically aimed at ending Australia’s intervention in Vietnam and the associated conscription scheme. This was the belief that if one country fell to communism, it was likely that the … This reliance was undermined by the events of World War II. The Vietnam War was a military campaign launched by North Vietnam against South Vietnam. In August 1966 a company of 6RAR was engaged in one of Australia’s heaviest actions of the war, near Long Tan. Vietnam became a subject of large-scale news coverage in the United States only after substantial numbers of U.S. combat troops had been committed to the war in the spring of 1965. Protesters included a group of men who had served in the conflict and called themselves the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Even the smallest protest about Australian or US nuclear or war policies tended to be branded by the government and mainstream media of the day as “communist inspired” or “fellow-travelling” with communists. You will notice that during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars there was no major protesting because the kids in college and middle class kids would not be drafted to go fight the wars. The Vietnam War was the longest war in American history and the most unpopular American war of the 20th century. The 8th Battalion departed in November but, to make up for the decrease in troop numbers, strength was increased and its efforts, like those of the taskforce, became concentrated in Phuoc Tuy province. All nine RAR battalions served in the taskforce at one time or another – at the height of Australian involvement it numbered some 8,500 troops. Removing Jungle in Vietnam Agent orange- A powerful Herbicide used to remove foliage and potential food for the soldiers. Their arrival in South Vietnam in July 1962 was the beginning of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese civil war began in 1959. The Vietnam War lasted from 1964-1973—the longest war in American history until it was overtaken by the one in Afghanistan—and servicemen typically did one-year tours of duty. The battle eliminated communist dominance over the province. By contrast, the conservative government, mainstream media, and other pro-war sections of the community viewed the Vietnam War in Cold War terms as one of “Communism versus the Free World” in a context where the Soviet Union and China were supporting the North Vietnamese communist government, and the US, Australia and other Western countries were supporting the South Vietnamese government. The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of WWI. 60,000 soldiers had been sent to the front, a third of them conscripts. At Kent State University, National Guardsmen killed four students while attempting to end a campus protest. When the Khmer Rouge came to power in April 1975 it imposed a cruel and repressive regime that killed several million Cambodians and left the country with internal conflict that continues today. At the end of April 1970 US and South Vietnamese troops were ordered to cross the border into Cambodia. As part of its preparations for sending troops to the war, the Menzies Government had earlier announced in November 1964 a “birthday” ballot national service scheme under which 20 year old males would register and the required number of conscripts would be drawn from a twice-year lottery. The Domino Theory. Menzies wanted to achieve a better lifestyle for all Australians and was bitterly opposed to communism. The antiwar movement unfolded in three broad phases: Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, Search the Australian Living Peace Museum, Opposition to the Vietnam War in Australia, The Second Phase: Civil Disobedience 1967-69, The Underground Resistance Network & Widening Civil Disobedience, The Third Phase: Mass Mobilisations & Moratoriums 1969-72, The Role of Church Groups in the Vietnam War Campaign, Conclusion: The Achievements of the 1964-72 Antiwar Movement, The First Phase: Initial Dissent 1964-66 →. In 1961 and 1962 Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam’s leader, repeatedly requested security assistance. The United States supported the South, while China and Russia supported the North. In Australia the main media did not start publishing anti-war material until around a year later. Schlesinger argued that officials in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations stumbled blindly into Vietnam without understanding where the U.S. commitment would lead. The Vietnam War began in the decade before, but the conflict, and especially U.S. involvement, escalated in the 1960s. While the invasion succeeded in capturing large quantities of North Vietnamese arms, destroying bunkers and sanctuaries, and killing enemy soldiers, it ultimately proved disastrous. The only combat troops remaining in Vietnam were a platoon guarding the Australian embassy in Saigon, which was withdrawn in June 1973. It had cost the country 220 million dollars, 521 dead and a little over 3,000 wounded. Australia responded with 30 military advisers. This information was televised in detail, sparking anti-war movements and weakening the morale of Americans fighting in Vietnam. 1968 began with a major offensive by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, launched during the Vietnamese lunar new year holiday period, known as “Tet”. Vietnam War (1954–75), conflict that pitted the communist government of North Vietnam and its allies in South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. The US government began to implement a policy of “Vietnamisation’, the term coined for a gradual withdrawal of US forces that would leave the war in the hands of the South Vietnamese. Anti-war protests occurred on many college campuses. 520 died as a result of the war and almost 2,400 were wounded. … Vietnam remained Australia’s longest war until Afghanistan. [1] Opponents of the war were galvanized by the indiscriminate bombing and napalming of Vietnamese civilians, the view that the war was a civil one rather than part of a “downward thrust” of “communism” towards Australia, the perception on the part of many on the left that it represented a form of imperialism on the part of the United States, and the fact that Australia was supporting an undemocratic and repressive regime in South Vietnam. By late 1970 Australia had also begun to wind down its military effort in Vietnam. Most of the men who participated in the war were drafted to serve. And it had been lost. In the previous month a RAAF detachment of 7-8 Hercules transports flew humanitarian missions to aid civilian refugees displaced by the fighting and carried out the evacuation of Vietnamese orphans (Operation Babylift), before finally taking out embassy staff on 25 April. On April 29th 1965, the Australian Menzies Government announced it would be sending an Australian battalion to Vietnam alongside US troops. In August 1964 the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also sent a flight of Caribou transports to the port town of Vung Tau. As part of the build-up, the US government requested support from other countries. Its unpopularity helped to shape the turbulent social movements of the 1960s and led to deep divisions within the nation. The first conscript to die in Vietnam, Errol Noack, was a South Australian. Many Australians were opposed to involvement in the Vietnam War and even more objected to the use of conscripts there. The war was also unpopular with America’s youth. Many of the trade unions called the governments support of America’s decisions and foreign policy in Vietnam ‘blood for dollars’, or ‘diggers for dollars’. [9] Ho Chi Minh had many names and nearly as many political identities. Even after its federation and nominal independence in 1901, Australia’s foreign policy was for years strongly influenced by Britain. Prior to World War II, the Australian government still looked to London for leadership, diplomatic guidance and, when necessary, military protection. 400,000 people were killed or maimed by this herbicide. The Vietnam War was the most unpopular war in United States history. (The domino theory.) Australia’s Vietnam War – and keeping it in context: others in the series _____ Parades, recognition and misremembering. The Australian War Memorial describes the 26 days of intermittent fighting at Coral and Balmoral as Australia's "largest, most sustained and arguably most hazardous battle of the Vietnam War". Prior to that time, the number of American newsmen in Indochina had been small—fewer than two dozen even as late as 1964. Not only the timing but the scale of the offensive came as a complete surprise, taking in cities, towns, and military installations in South Vietnam. Unlike 1RAR, the taskforce was assigned its own area of operations and included conscripts who had been called up under the National Service Scheme, introduced in 1964. Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or gaoled, while soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home. First, the civil war in Vietnam did not involve the United States to intervene. Following the end of the Second World War the French had sought to reassert control over French Indochina. Major protests were held in Washington in 1971. Part of the narrative of Australia’s Vietnam War in the more than 40 years since our commitment ended has been that Australian soldiers returning from their deployments were badly treated by their fellow Australians. Opposition to conscription mounted, as more people came to believe the war could not be won. The Vietnam war was unpopular because we fought a war for someone else using our men and money. The anti-war protest began in 1962 when the first Australian troops were sent to Vietnam to fight with America. In early 1975 the communists launched a major offensive in the north of South Vietnam, resulting in the fall of Saigon on 30 April. Upon taking office, Ngo Dinh Diem quicklydeveloped a reputation for using force rather than democratic meansto initiate change. The advance of Japanese imperial forces into the Asia-Pacific brought an aggressive imperial power clo… In the well-known Moratoriums of 1970, more than 200,000 people gathered to protest against the war, in cities and towns throughout the country. A third RAAF squadron (of Canberra jet bombers) was also committed in 1967 and destroyers of the Royal Australian Navy joined US patrols off the North Vietnamese coast. In 1950 as the communist-backed Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, began to gain the ascendency in the First Indochina War, the Vietnamese nation had two parallel administrations; the Dem… Beginning in 1955, heused ARVN troops to reverse Communist land redistributionin South Vietnam and return landholdings to the previous owners.Fearful of Viet Minh popularity and activity in rural areas—whichhad increased as a result of Diem’s cancellation of the scheduled 1956elections—Diemuprooted villagers from their lands and moved them to settlementsund… It resulted in nearly 60,000 American deaths and an estimated 2 million Vietnamese deaths. As to why Australia made such a decision,my take is that it felt it “owed one” to the USA because of American actions in WW2 which helped prevent a Japanese invasion.Also,Australia may have feared Chinese expansion-North Vietnam being a front for China in this view. By the end of the year it had committed 200,000 troops to the conflict. Most of the protest/anti-war movement was strongly against conscription. Australia’s participation in the war was formally declared at an end when the Governor-General issued a proclamation on 11 January 1973. In December 1972 they became the last Australian troops to come home, with their unit having seen continuous service in South Vietnam for ten and a half years. 1964-66: Initial dissent, research and teach-ins, and electoral campaigns leading up to the 1966 Federal Election; 1967-69: A move from legal forms of dissent to nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience against conscription and Australian participation in the war; 1970-72: The mass mobilization of opposition to the war amongst the broader Australian community. third, the war was very unpopular with Americans and was not supported. "Respecting, supporting and remembering our veterans and their families. The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of WWI. It coasted the US $ 400,000 for every Vietcong dead. As well as the negative sentiments towards returned soldiers from some sections of the anti-war movement, some Second World War veterans also held negative views of the Vietnam War veterans. Vietnam had been the longest war in Australia’s history. As a result, many Australian Vietnam veterans were excluded from joining the Returned Servicemen's League (RSL) during the 1960s and 1970s on the grounds that the Vietnam War veterans did not fight a "real war". Opponents of the war were galvanized by the indiscriminate bombing and napalming of Vietnamese civilians, the view that the war was a civil one rather than part of a “downward thrust” of “communism” towards Australia, the perception on the part of many on the left that it represented a form of imperialism on the part of the United States, and the fact that Australia was supporting an undemocratic and … After the Vietnam War in the late 1970s when communists gained controlled of Vietnam, thousands of people who were afraid of the Government left in small boats. It was the first war to come into American living rooms nightly, and the only conflict that ended in defeat for American arms. Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or gaoled, while soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home. The Vietnam War In 1965 the USA launched Operation Rolling Thunder: the bombing of military targets in North Vietnam. Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War was driven largely by the rise of communism in Southeast Asia after the Second World War, and the fear of its spread which developed in Australia during the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1965, the United States officially entered the war in response to North Vietnam's attack on a U.S. military ship. Escalation proceeded through a series of small steps, none of which seemed t… The fear of communism eventually overtaking Australia was initially the main reason for Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The extension of the war into a sovereign state, formally neutral, inflamed anti-war sentiment in the United States and provided the impetus for further anti-war demonstrations in Australia. It was part of a larger regional conflict as well as a manifestation of the Cold War. During the Vietnam War and in years after, many people in Vietnam wished to escape from the communism of their homeland. war, from both sides, were extensive and brutal due to guerilla warfare and the use of chemical weapons. After three hours of fierce fighting, during which it seemed the Australian forces would be overrun by the enemy’s greater numbers, the Viet Cong withdrew, leaving behind 245 dead and carrying away many more casualties. The reason the Vietnam war was so unpopular is because the draft of middle income kids by the government. A “don’t register” campaign to dissuade young men from registering for conscription gained increasing support and some of the protests grew violent. ", © 2020 Returned & Services League Of Australia, https://www.facebook.com/RSLNewSouthWales/, https://www.linkedin.com/company/rslnsw?originalSubdomain=au, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3rFzs0MFUDG-49jis1G2fw, Subscribe to receive information from RSL NSW. By bringing combat into Cambodia, the invasion drove many people to join the underground opposition, the Khmer Rouge, irreparably weakening the Cambodian government. America's combat role in Vietnam came to an official end with the peace agreement signed in early 1973. [3] The Vietnam War was also a conscription war. Support for the war in Afghanistan has dipped below 20%, according to a new national poll, making the country's longest military conflict arguably its most unpopular one as well. The Unnecessary War The reason why the Vietnam War was a waste of time was because the of four things. The Australian government dispatched the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) in June 1965 to serve alongside the US 173rd Airborne Brigade in Bien Hoa province. 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