Australia’s Involvement in the Vietnam War

The origins of the Vietnam War lie in the post World War II period when the European empires were being dismantled. The region which is now Vietnam was then part of Indo-China, part of the French empire. Revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh had led a national liberation struggle against wartime Japanese occupation (and the French colonialists) from 1941. With military and financial support from communist China, the Viet Minh made substantial gains, roundly defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Vietnam temporarily partitioned into North and South pending the outcome of peace talks. The peace talks broke down, but the struggle continued. The United States had been involved from the beginning, providing military advisors and financial assistance from the end of World War II. By 1954 they were paying for 80% of the cost of the French effort. American involvement was formalised and strengthened. Following the Gulf of Tonkin incident when US destroyers were fired upon by North Korean patrol boats, Congress authorised President Johnson to use ;all necessary measures; to ;repel any armed attack; on 7 August 1964. This resulted in increased bombing raids and, more significantly, an expansion of ground forces, from 23 000 in December 1964, to 316 400 by October 1966.
Australia;s involvement began in 1962 when, in response to a request from the government of South Vietnam, Australia sent 30 military advisers to train and improve the effectiveness of South Vietnam;s Army. By 1965 this had been increased to 100 advisors plus six transport aircraft. That year, after a further request from the South Vietnamese Government, Prime Minister Robert Menzies decided to send a battalion of ground troops to provide support in South Vietnam. According to Menzies; statement of April 29 1965, ;The takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia and to all the countries of South and South-Eas…


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