Australia and the Vietnam War
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In this landmark book, award-winning historian Peter Edwards skillfully unravels the complexities of the global Cold War, decolonization in Southeast Asia, and Australian domestic politics. The Vietnam War was Australia’s longest and most controversial military commitment of the 20th century, ending in humiliation for the United States and its allies with the downfall of South Vietnam. The war provoked deep divisions in Australian society and politics, particularly because for the first time young men were conscripted for overseas service in a highly contentious ballot system. The Vietnam era is still identified with diplomatic, military, and political failure. Was Vietnam a case of Australia fighting “other people’s wars”? Were we really “all the way” with the United States? How valid was the “domino theory”? Did the Australian forces develop new tactical methods in earlier Southeast Asian conflicts, and just how successful were they against the unyielding enemy in Vietnam? This book provides new, often surprising, answers to these questions.
Harry Truman was caught between the traditional American antipathy towards French colonialism and his need to strengthen the French government against the communist threat in Europe. The official American position in 1945–46 was that the United States would not oppose the restoration of French sovereignty in Indochina, but would not support its reimposition by force. In fact, it began giving indirect support to the French, initially on a modest scale. For decades afterwards, the Americans and
commitment, principally through the Iroquois helicopters of No. 9 Squadron, the Canberra bombers of No. 2 Squadron, and the Caribou transports of the RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam, later No. 35 Squadron (or ‘Wallaby Airlines’). Chris Coulthard-Clark relates the work of these and other RAAF units, such as the airfield construction squadrons, in The RAAF in Vietnam. The RAAF service began with the commitment of Sabre jet fighters to Ubon in Thailand in 1962 and lasted until the service of Hercules
Vietnamese counterpart, with whom it had strong ethnic and family links. Its leader, Prince Souvannouphong, a half-brother of the royalist leader Prince Souvanna Phouma, had spent several years in Vietnam, where he met Ho Chi Minh, formed close links with the Viet Minh, and married a Vietnamese. As noted earlier, the ability of the Viet Minh to use sanctuaries and supply lines in the eastern provinces of Laos, bordering northern Vietnam, had been a major asset in their war against the French,
government. Menzies and the service chiefs wanted a clear and strong commitment, while Barwick and his diplomats wanted to distance themselves from the British position. Eventually, a compromise was reached by which Australia associated itself with the Anglo–Malaysian Defence Agreement but without a formal treaty relationship. Before committing itself, Australia wanted to have Washington’s assurance that if Australian forces became involved in serious conflict with Indonesia the ANZUS treaty
received mortar fire, which wounded 24 soldiers, two seriously, and caused some damage. The commanding officer of 6RAR, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Townsend, sent B Company to locate the mortar positions. They found the positions, but the Viet Cong had gone. On Townsend’s orders, B Company followed the Viet Cong tracks, staying out until the following morning when they were relieved by D Company. In the afternoon of 18 August, the three platoons of D Company were following tracks when they