title: history


Chronicle of the Vietnam War... The Australian experience


The French gain full colonisation of Vietnam and divide Vietnam into three areas. Cochinchina (south), Annam (central) and Tonkin (north). Underground political parties emerge. The strongest is the Communist Party, later to be led by Ho Chi Minh.


Japan invades Indochina and occupies Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh merges his Communist Party, (renamed the Communist Workers Party) into a broad coalition called the Viet Minh. The Viet Minh receives aid from the United States to carry out guerrilla warfare against the Japanese Occupation Forces.


With the defeat of the Japanese in August, Ho Chi Minh assumes power and proclaims the independence and unity of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV)


Ho Chi MinhHo Chi Minh asserts that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam is the only legal government; recognised by the Soviet Union and China. Australia, America and Great Britain support the government of Emperor Bao Dao. America provides military and economic aid to the French in Indochina.


Viet Minh wave the victory flag at Dien Bien Phu17th May. After a 55 day siege, the French are finally defeated at the "Battle of Dien Bien Phu." The defeat signals the end of French presence in Indochina.

21st July. The Geneva Accords partitioning Vietnam but calling for joint elections on reunification within two years. During that year, 850,000 people migrated south, most of them Catholics and small landowners. Some 80,000 Vietnamese went north almost all of them guerrilla cadres who had resisted the French.

11th October.  The two Vietnams' come into being.


The United States begins to funnel in aid directly to the Saigon Government and agrees to train the South Vietnamese Army


President Diem with Sir Robert MenziesSeptember. The Prime Minister of Australia Sir Robert Menzies greets the President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem and reaffirms support for the Republic of South Vietnam.


20th December. Hanoi leaders form the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam, which the Saigon Government dubs the "Viet Cong" meaning Communist Vietnamese.


17th November. United States Government seeks an indication through diplomatic channels of Australia's willingness to assist in South Vietnam.


24th May. Australia's Minister for Defence Athol Townley, announces 30 military advisers will go to South Vietnam.


Sgt Hacking1st June. Military Adviser, Sergeant William Francis Hacking, becomes the first Australian to die in Vietnam


WO2 ConwayJune. Prime Minister Menzies visits Washington where talks centre on Vietnam.

10th November. The Australian Government introduces conscription for two years national service.

6th July. Warrant Officer Class 2, K. G. Conway, becomes the first Australian to be Killed In Action during an attack on his special forces camp at Nam Dong, Thua Thien Province. He held the medal of 'Knight of the National Order of Vietnam' and the 'Cross of Gallantry and Palm'.


29th April. The Menzies Government announces that combat troops will be committed to South Vietnam. The First Battalion, The Royal Australian- Regiment, (1RAR) are deployed in June. The Australians' are placed under American command and serve with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Bien Hoa Province.


26th January. Harold Holt succeeds Menzies as Prime Minister and on 8th March announces the commitment of troops will be stepped up and will include conscripts.
soldiers of 5RAR landing at Vung TauThe newly formed Fifth and Sixth Battalions' RAR, comprising roughly half conscripts and half regular soldiers are to be deployed to Phuoc Tuy province 60 miles south east of Saigon, forming the infantry element of the First Australian Task Force (1ATF) which will be under Australian command.

24th May. During 'Operation Hardihood', an operation conducted to secure the area where the task force will be placed, Private Errol Wayne Noack of 5 RAR becomes the first national serviceman to be killed in action in South Vietnam. Over the next 12 months the Fifth and Sixth Battalions' carry out major operations against VC and NVA forces.

18th August. At 4.08 p.m. D Company of 6 RAR make contact with a large force of NVA and VC just inside the edge of a rubber plantation on the northern side of Long Tan. The 'Battle of Long Tan' had commenced and over the next three hours the 108 soldiers of D Company with vital artillery support, hold their ground against an enemy force comprising the 275 VC Regiment, reinforced by an extra battalion of NVA soldiers and the D445 VC Battalion, all up numbering 2,500 soldiers. At battles end the Australians had killed 245 VC and NVA soldiers and wounded several hundred for the loss of 18 Australians killed and 19 wounded. D Company, Sixth Battalion is awarded the United States Presidential Citation.


21st February. During Operation Remark in the Long Hai Hills, B Company, 5 RAR sustain heavy casualties through a huge land mine and booby traps. (Read the 'Long Hai Hills incident').

May. The Fifth and Sixth Battalions are relieved by the Second and Seventh Battalions RAR. A New Zealand rifle company, Victor Company of the First- Battalion, Royal New Zealand Regiment (RNZIR) arrives at Nui Dat and is attached to 2 RAR. The Australian Battalion is re-designated 2RAR/NZ/ANZAC (ANZAC- Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). They continue to carry out operations against VC and NVA units inside and outside Phuoc Tuy Province.

18th October. The Prime Minister announces an increase of 1700 personnel to Australia's commitment in South Vietnam, including a third infantry battalion and a squadron of tanks.

17th December. Prime Minister Harold Holt drowns at Portsea.

28th December. Third battalion establishes itself at Nui Dat as 1ATF's third battalion.


10th January. John Grey Gorton is sworn in as Australia's Prime Minister

23rd January. 1ATF H.Q., 2 RAR and 7 RAR are moved to Bien Hoa Province to help protect U.S. positions in Long Binh and the Saigon area against an expected attack. 3 RAR remain at Nui Dat. 1 RAR and 4 RAR arrive to relieve 2 & 7 RAR.

The Task Force is moved in to defend Fire Support Base (FSB) Anderson. NLF/PAVN (National Liberation Front and Peoples Army of Vietnam) forces launch three attacks on the firebase. Assault troops attack in waves supported by machine guns and rocket propelled grenades (RPG's). The Australians with American support withstand the heavy fighting which resulted.

31st January. The TET Offensive begins with over 100 major attacks on cities and major towns throughout South Vietnam, including several attacks around Saigon.

1st February. D445 VC Battalion attack and enter military compounds in the provincial capital of Baria. A Company 3 RAR, in nine APC's crash through the VC cordon to rescue ARVN (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam) and U.S. forces. D445 Battalion counter attack, but with the assistance of the two ARVN battalions and American air strikes they are repulsed and withdraw from the capital.

5th May. National Liberation Front (NLF) and Peoples Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces attack 119 cities, towns and military targets across the Republic of South Vietnam. FSB Coral occupied by elements of 1 RAR and 3 RAR, supported by the New Zealand 161 Field Battery and the Australian 102 Field Battery are established in Binh Duong province north east of Saigon in an attempt to block enemy withdrawal and supply routes.

13th May. NVA carry out a pre-dawn attack supported by rockets and mortars. 1 RAR's Mortar Platoon is overrun and a gun position is captured. The Australians repel the PAVN with American helicopter gunships.

16th May. Coral is attacked again by PAVN forces but this time do not broach the defensive perimeter. The attacks on Coral cost the lives of nine Australians and 28 wounded.

Centurian tanks firing over open sights at FSB Coral26th May. FSB Balmoral, five kilometres from Coral is attacked by a large force of NVA regulars. Assault waves attacked D Company 3 RAR's defence perimeter. With Support of the tanks the NVA are repelled.

27th May. FSB Coral, D Company 1 RAR, with the support of four tanks conducts a sweep between the two fire support bases, discovers and smashes an extensive bunker system killing a large number of NVA and VC.

28th May. A pre-dawn attack is carried out by the 141st NVA Regiment against FSB Coral and Balmoral and again the NVA are repelled. The actions fought at Coral and Balmoral cost the lives of 26 Australians and a further 110 wounded.

June. The Task Force returns to Phuoc Tuy Province, with the familiar routines of clearing and ambush patrols.

November. 9 RAR commences its first tour and relieves 3 RAR. US President Lyndon Johnson announces the cessation of aerial bombing and naval shelling of targets in North Vietnam.

5th November. Richard Nixon is elected the next president of the United States and declares to; "End the war and negotiate an acceptable Peace."

From now on it becomes unquestionably a no-win war!


January. US president Richard Nixon, announces the unilateral phased withdrawal of American ground forces, with the first 25,000 men to leave in June. The "Vietnamisation" of the war commences with increasing the size of the ARVN forces and massive injection of military aid. In Australia, anti-war and anti-conscription protests and rallies become bigger and more frequent.

26th February. The Fifth Battalion, the "Fighting Tigers" returns to Phuoc Tuy Province.

6th June. NVA forces enter the village of Binh Ba, six kilometres north of Nui Dat. The Task Force dispatches two companies from 5 RAR with tanks to rid the village of NVA. The "Battle of Binh Ba" begins. As the battle was going on, VC occupy the village of Hoa Long south-west of Nui Dat. C Company 5 RAR, with the aid of a troop of tanks and APCs enter the village and with the fire-fight lasting all day, C Company finally defeats the VC.

Between operations inside and outside of Phuoc Tuy Province the battalion was involved in the "Vietnamisation" programme by training Regional Forces (RF), and Popular Forces (PF).

Leader of the opposition Labour Party, Gough Whitlam announces if elected all Australian troops will be withdrawn by 30th June, 1970.

November. 8 RAR moves to South Vietnam.

16th December. Following the withdrawal of 25,000 US troops from South Vietnam and plans by the US Government to withdraw a further 50,000, the Prime Minister, Sir John Gorton, advises any further substantial reductions will include Australian soldiers.


22nd April. Prime Minister Gorton announces that one of the Task Force 3 battalions, the Eighth Battalion, will not be replaced when its tour of duty ends.

8th May. Anti-Vietnam War protesters stage the first moratorium marches in Australian cities.


February. "Vietnamisation" begins in earnest, with large areas of the province being handed over to the South Vietnamese army.

March/April. NVA main force units re-enter Phuoc Tuy Province and are engaged by 1 ATF.

June to September. A PAVN main force unit, the 33rd Regiment extends its activities in Phuoc Tuy Province.

September. 4 RAR engage in a major battle with a battalion from the 33rd PAVN Regiment in an extensive bunker system. In the intense fighting, six Australians are killed in action. This was the last major action involving 1 ATF.
October. 3 RAR returns to Australia.

7th November. 4 RAR is the last unit to leave Nui Dat. To cover the final withdrawal, 4 RAR work out a plan to deceive the enemy into thinking the task force was continuing to operate in strength. Patrols, helicopter flights and artillery fire were kept up in an historic echo of the Gallipoli withdrawal.


A handful of Australian advisers remain in Vietnam and witness the Communist offensive in the spring, with major attacks on cities and towns throughout South Vietnam.

November. Lieutenant Colonel Kirkland, commander of the Australian Army Training Team, (AATTV) recommends a complete withdrawal by November.

The last men were home by Christmas and it was over!


23rd January. President Nixon announces agreement has been reached for "peace with honour."

27th January. Cease-fire begins.

26th February. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announces establishment of diplomatic relations with Hanoi, but retains recognition of the South Vietnamese Government.


24th January. South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu declares the war has begun again.


25th April. Anzac Day; Australia closes its embassy in Saigon, completing the withdrawal from South Vietnam.

30th April. Communist forces capture Saigon.

"End of a Tragedy

   Along and dreadful chapter of Asian History has ended ..... another unknown chapter is about to begin.
   And suddenly there is nothing left to say. The tears have been shed. A million words have described the agony and the horror and the bloodshed. It's over, thank God. Now we can only pray that the people of South Vietnam will be shown the mercy they have, for so long been denied."

The Sydney Daily Telegraph 1-5- 1975


Newspaper Article, Staff reporters (1988), The Australians Who Died In Vietnam, The Australian.
Textbooks. Maclear. M. (1989), Vietnam, The Ten Thousand Day War, 7th Great Britain, Methuen London. p/67.