The Vietnam War: The Australian Experience 1962-1972.
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1967, Australian Soldiers from 7 RAR await extraction by helicopter after a search operation

1967, Australian Soldiers from 7 RAR await extraction by helicopter after a search operation



Aim:


The aim of this wiki-space is to teach students the history behind the Australian experience of the Vietnam War. From The
origins of the conflict through to the effects felt at home this website aims to inform students of the issues that were brought to the fore by this period. Focusing on literacy with the inclusion of poetry of the day this historical based analyses is a highly useful tool to the study of this period in Australian history.





Introduction

The Vietnam war was a unique experience for Australia, one which still resonates today. Both socially and culturally the war affected the nation in more ways perhaps than the preceding World wars. The conflict that took place in Vietnam itself was reflected at home in the protest movements that emerged at the same time. Never before had Australia instigated mass conscription for its male population in order to fill the ranks of the Army. This highly contentious issue along with the seemingly unquestioned support for the United States in its foreign policy were perhaps the root causes of the opposition to the conflict.


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Contemporary Art symbolising Australia's military

Contemporary Art symbolising Australia's military




Origins


At the end of the Second World War, Vietnam (then known as Indochina) had been under occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army. Originally a colony of the French Empire the Allied powers decided to allow the French to take control of its former colony. However an independence movement under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh had fought against the Japanese and did not want the French to return to power. A guerrilla war ensued which saw the French defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1955 and thus full autonomy was achieved. However political divisions began to emerge and Vietnam was partitioned into North and South. In North Vietnam the Communist controlled government under Ho Chi Minh desired re-unification under a communist model. In the South after bloody revolution Ngo Diem emerged as the leader of a Catholic ruling elite. The United States fearful of a 'Domino effect' in South East Asia where by other countries fell to communism sought to support the South Vietnamese in their efforts to reunite the country democratically. Australia as a signatory to SEATO (South East Asian Treaty Organisation) and ANZUS (Australia New Zealand and United States) was bound aid the US in this area. Towards the end of the late1950's the South Vietnamese government was in a state of crisis in its fight against the North Vietnamese. Efforts to unite the country had failed and the US began sending monetary and military aid to prop up Diem's government. In 1957 Diem visited Australia in order to secure more allies and guarantees. Sir Robert Menzies Liberal coalition party was united with the Australian Labor party in it response to help the South Vietnamese financially. The situation did not improve in southern Vietnam with the Viet Cong (the communist guerrilla fighters) supported by the regular North Vietnamese Army had control over most of countryside. The United States had military advisors stationed in Vietnam early the conflict and had been steadily increasing the troop numbers. The Australian Menzies government decided in 1962 that it too would send advisors and thus began the build up Australian forces so that by the end of the war some 50,000 servicemen and women been deployed. By 1972 with the end of Australia's commitment over 500 had been killed and some 3000 wounded. The physiological scars however remain with some Veterans.
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The Vietnam War Memorial Canberra

The Vietnam War Memorial Canberra

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An Australian Soldier as he would have appeard in the 1960's in Patrol order