ON SUNDAY 18 August, we marked Vietnam Veterans Day.
It was a time to thank the tens of thousands of Australian men and women for their service during that conflict.
The release of the Australian movie Danger Close , about the battle of Long Tan, has helped spark renewed interest in Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
As I have travelled around the region I have also noticed something else – veterans are now much more willing to talk about their experiences. Some of the stories are humorous, others speak to the horrors of war.
The treatment of our veterans upon their return from Vietnam was a shameful episode in Australia’s history.
It also overshadowed the fact that Australia’s men and women served with distinction in Vietnam.
Once they were detached from American control and given their own province to oversee (Phuoc Tuy) they were able to use the jungle warfare tactics that had served them well in World War II and later during the Malayan Emergency and operations in Borneo. It wasn’t about big set-piece battles but rather patrols and ambush. The reality is that the Australians dominated their enemy in Phuoc Tuy province and suffered far fewer casualties than their allies.
Long Tan is the most famous battle but there were numerous others, such as Coral and Balmoral and Binh Bah.
My point is that the Australian story in Vietnam is not one of defeat. The Australians served with all the skill, courage and professionalism of the ANZACS who fought for Australia before them. And they were very successful.
Some who served were volunteers. Others were conscripts. All served because their country asked them to. 521 never made it home. They all deserve our unreserved thanks, respect and gratitude.
Lest We Forget
Caption: Pictured with James Dietrich, Bill Wilcox and Bruce Irvine