Australians at War
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[ Vietnam ]
Vietnam War
Vietnam War Private Montey Paul, moves cautiously down a jungle stream.


Australian support for South Vietnam in the early 1960s was in keeping with American policy of stemming the tide of communism.

When the Australian government announced in 1964 the dispatch of a taskforce including conscripts called up under the National Service Scheme, public support began to decline. Later, images delivered on the nightly news, like the summary execution of a captured Viet Cong by the South Vietnamese chief of police, ensured the fight for public support at home was lost, and that Australia's position had become difficult to sell to the electorate.

From the arrival of advisers in 1962, until the last battalion left Nui Dat in November 1971, 50 000 Australians, including ground troops and Air Force and Navy personnel, saw service. Of these, some 500 were killed and almost 2,400 wounded. The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of the First World War.


MATES - THE STEP'S THE SAME, ON THE MOON OR A MINE... MATES - "THE STEPS ARE THE SAME, ON THE MOON OR A MINE..."


There is a long tradition of artists and photographers covering and commenting on wars. While a cartoon appearing in a tabloid may appear to be a long way from recruitment posters of WWI, it captured the mood with simple and stunning accuracy.


COURAGE UNDER FIRE - CHOPPER RESCUE UNDER FIRE COURAGE UNDER FIRE - CHOPPER RESCUE UNDER FIRE


During the Vietnam War the wounded were generally speedily evacuated by helicopter.


WORN WITH PRIDE - NO WALK IN THE PARK WORN WITH PRIDE - NO WALK IN THE PARK


What was known as, "a walk in the light green", was no picnic. Soldiers in Vietnam had to deal with dense jungle terrain, an uncomfortable tropical climate and a well drilled, well hidden enemy.


GETTING THROUGH IT - WHO'D BE A NASHO? GETTING THROUGH IT - WHO'D BE A NASHO?


It was a time of full employment and recruitment programs had disappointing results.

Pay and conditions of the regular army weren't attractive. The government's answer?


AUSSIE KNOW HOW - SHEER BLOODY BOMB PROOF AUSSIE KNOW HOW - SHEER BLOODY BOMB PROOF


If as the old saying goes "necessity is the mother of invention", war is the time of the greatest necessity. In Vietnam land mines were a constant source of suspicion and injury. Anything that could stem the flow of injuries and property damage was gratefully appreciated.


THOUGHTS OF HOME - A COUNTRY AT WAR WITH ITSELF THOUGHTS OF HOME - A COUNTRY AT WAR WITH ITSELF


Officially we were halting the "domino effect", one nation in a region falling to communism and others following. But it came at a price that many Australians decided was too high.



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