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AUSTRALIAN MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN THE VIETNAM WAR – TIMEFRAME

1945–62

French forces returned to Indo-China after the end of World War II to reassert colonial rule. The First Indo-China War began in late 1945. In 1950, Ho Chi Minh declared a Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). Australia, following the lead of the US and Great Britain, recognised the French-sponsored government of South Vietnam. As the French withdrew in the early 1950s, American support of South Vietnam increased. During the early 1960s, pressure from the USA for Australian support of South Vietnam increased.

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1962

AWM: BEL/69/0696/VN

A Montagnard soldier was shown how

to search a captured enemy at Pleiku,

South Vietnam, by Warrant Officer

Class 2 Lachlan Scowcroft, AATTV,

October 1969.[AWM BEL/69/0696/VN]

24 May: The Australian Government announces the dispatch of thirty military advisors to South Vietnam.

31 July: Colonel Francis ‘Ted’ Serong, commander of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), arrives at Saigon.

3 August: The main body of the AATTV arrives at Saigon.

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1963

9 May: The first Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operational mission begins with a Dakota from the Transport Flight of No. 2 Squadron flying in food and medical supplies for refugees.

1 June: The first Australian military death in the war occurs when Sergeant William Hacking of the AATTV is accidentally killed.

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1964

OAWG PHOTO

Headstone of Warrant Officer Class 2

Kevin Conway, AATTV, who was killed

in action on 6 July 1964 at Nam Dong,

South Vietnam. He is buried at Kranji

Military Cemetery, Singapore.[OAWG]

8 June: The Australian Government announces expansion of the AATTV, with advisors able to serve in combatant units.

6 July: The first Australian combat death occurs when Warrant Officer Kevin Conway of the AATTV is killed in action at Nam Dong.

8 August: The first RAAF unit is deployed—RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam arrives at Tan Son Nhut with Caribou aircraft. 10 November: The National Service (Conscription) Act is passed to reintroduce national service.

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1965

10 March: The first ballot for National Service is drawn.

29 April: The Australian Government announces commitment of an infantry battalion.

3 June: Leading troops of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), land in South Vietnam for deployment to Bien Hoa. This also marks the first use of Qantas charter flights to move troops into (and out of) South Vietnam—they become known as ‘skippy flights’.

8 June: The transport ship (converted aircraft carrier) HMAS Sydney, with destroyer escort HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Duchess, arrives at Vung Tau on the first naval logistical support operation.

30 June: The first National Service intake begins recruit training.

17 August: The Australian Government approves an increase of the force in Bien Hoa to a battalion group, with 1RAR to be supported by artillery, additional armoured personnel carriers, engineers, army aviation and further logistical support.

13 November: The first Victoria Cross of the war is awarded to Warrant Officer Kevin ‘Dasher’ Wheatley of the AATTV, killed in action.

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1966

AWM: EKN/69/0085/VN

Pipers played a lament for the dead during the

commemorative service held in August 1969, on the site

of the Battle of Long Tan, fought by D Company,

6RAR in 1966.

[AWM EKN/69/0085/VN]

8 March: The Australian Government announces the deployment of a task force of nearly 4500 troops, including two infantry battalions, Special Air Service (SAS) troops and support units, to be deployed in Phuoc Tuy.

May–June: 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) is established at Nui Dat and 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1ALSG) is established at Vung Tau, Phuoc Tuy.

24 May: The First National Service death on active service and the first death recorded in 1ATF occurs when Private Errol Noack of 5RAR dies of wounds.

30 June: Prime Minister Harold Holt, visiting Washington DC, pledges that Australia would go ‘all the way’ in support of American policy in Vietnam

18 August: The Battle of Long Tan is fought as ‘D’ Company, 6RAR, runs into a much larger enemy force and eighteen Australians (including one of the relief force) are killed. The anniversary has become Vietnam Veterans’ Day.

22 December: The Australian Government announces further increases in the military contribution to defence of South Vietnam.

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1967

6 February 1967: The first Royal Australian Navy (RAN) unit is deployed ‘in country’ when the Clearance Diving Team 3 arrives in Vietnam.

15 March: The first Australian warship deployed for service on the gun line, HMAS Hobart, joins the US Seventh Fleet at Subic Bay, The Philippines.

5 May: The first Australian servicewomen sent to Vietnam—four nurses of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps—arrive on posting to the 8th Field Ambulance.

26 May: The first ‘Anzac battalion’ arrives, with V Company of the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Regiment, attached to 2RAR, forming 2RAR/NZ.

19 June: The first RAAF death occurs when Leading Aircraftman Gaetano La Grasta of Base Support Flight, Vung Tau, is murdered.

18 October: The Australian Government announces a further commitment of forces, including a third infantry battalion and an armoured squadron.

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1968

AWM: NAVYMO167/05

Crew of HMAS Hobart at their action

stations, Vietnam, May 1968.

[AWM NAVYM0167/05]

29 January: North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launch the Tet Offensive, with major attacks across South Vietnam.

1 February: Australian troops clear Baria of enemy forces.

12 February: The Australian Government indicates no further increase in forces to Vietnam.

22 February: The first RAN death occurs when Lieutenant-Commander Patrick John Vickers of RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam dies on a combat flight.

13 May: The Battle of Coral/Balmoral begins with a heavy enemy attack against Fire Support Base Coral; after a second attack on 15 May, Australian casualties are fifteen killed and fifty-six wounded.

26–28 May: Australians defend Fire Support Base Balmoral against attacks.

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1969

6 June: The fourth and final Victoria Cross of the war is awarded to Warrant Officer Keith Payne, AATTV.

6 June: Australian troops clear Binh Ba of a strong enemy force.

16 December: With US forces gradually being withdrawn, the Australian Government advises that Australian forces will also be withdrawn.

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1970

NAVY 13343

Ammunition being loaded on board HMAS Hobart from USS

Rainier in the Tonkin Gulf during Operation Sea Dragon,

25 June 1967. [AWM NAVY13343]

22 April: The Australian Government announces that automatic replacement of battalions at the end of their tour will cease.

12 November: 8RAR returns to Australia at the end of its tour—it is the first battalion not replaced, with reduction of 1ATF underway.

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1971

30 March: The Australian Government announces further cuts to Australian forces in South Vietnam, including the withdrawal of Canberra bombers.

18 August: The Australian Government announces the withdrawal of the bulk of Australian forces.

21 September: The last Australians are killed in action—Privates Brian Charles Beilken, James Duff, Keith Michael Kingston-Powles, Ralph James Niblett and Roderick James SPRIGG, all of 4RAR.

27 October: The last Australian serviceman to die within Vietnam, Staff Sergeant John Hall of the 12th Field Regiment, is murdered. Some personnel wounded in Vietnam were to die in Australia after this date.

3 November: The only Australian servicewoman to lose her life during the war, Temporary Captain Barbara Frances Black of the 1st Field Hospital, dies in Fitzroy, Victoria.

7 November: The last Australian infantry battalion in Vietnam, 4RAR, departs Nui Dat for home.

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1972

AWM: VIL/67/0482/VN

Lieutenant Terrie Roche with Rabbit, a young Vietnamese

boy who was the mascot of the Civic Action Team, Vietnam,

June 1967. [AWM GIL/67/0482/VN]

5 March: The last units of 1ALSG depart Vung Tau. Australia’s commitment to South Vietnam is now limited to about 150 troops of the AATTV and Australian Army Assistance Group Vietnam (AAAGV).

15 July: The final death of an Australian named on the nation’s Roll of Honour for the Vietnam War occurs when Private Arthur John Gibson of 7RAR dies at Liverpool Hospital, NSW.

5 December: Conscription ends.

18 December: The withdrawal of the AATTV and AAAGV marks the end of Australia’s military commitment to South Vietnam. Some troops remain to guard the Australian Embassy.

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1973

27 January: a ceasefire between North and South Vietnam comes into effect after US President Nixon announces that an agreement has been reached for ‘peace with honour’.

March: The last US forces depart Vietnam.

30 June: The last Australian troop based in South Vietnam, the Saigon Embassy Guard Platoon, is withdrawn.

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1974

AWM: LES/68/0163/EC

Private Jack Doulis, 7RAR, being

welcomed home by his children,

26 April 1968.

[AWM LES/68/0163/EC]

4 January: After violations of the ceasefire by both sides, South Vietnam declares that the war has restarted. Without American support, South Vietnamese forces struggle to contain an enemy offensive.

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1975

March: North Vietnamese forces advance on Saigon and Khmer Rouge forces seize control of neighbouring Cambodia.

29 March: RAAF Hercules and Dakota aircraft are dispatched to assist humanitarian efforts in South Vietnam and Cambodia. They deliver Red Cross and United Nations supplies and evacuate embassy officials and their families and also some refugees, including war orphans evacuated from Saigon to Bangkok in Operation Baby Lift.

25 April: Australian military involvement in the war ends with the last RAAF flights out of Saigon.

30 April: North Vietnamese forces capture Saigon, effectively ending the Vietnam War.

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