Australia and the Vietnam War

  • Carl Bridge
Part of the Problems in Focus: Manchester book series (PIFM)


Few outside Australia and New Zealand today even realize that Australian troops fought in the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The Australian forces barely rate a mention in the standard works.2 And the story of the impact of the war on Australian politics and society is little known beyond Australia and often greatly misunderstood by Australians themselves. Here, therefore, is a survey of Australia’s Vietnam military commitment and experience, both in theatre and on the ‘home front’; an attempt to explain why Australia was involved, how its troops conducted themselves and to what ultimate effect.


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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    For example, Gabriel Kolko, Vietnam: Anatomy of A War1940–75 (New York, 1986) ignores them altogetherGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Michael Maclear, Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War(London, 1981) has five short mentions.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For good accounts see Peter Edwards, Crises and Commitments: The Politics and Diplomacy of Australia’s Involvement in South East Asian Conflicts, 1948–1965 (Canberra, 1992)Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    and Gregory Pemberton, All the Way: Australia’s Road to Vietnam (Sydney, 1987).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See Eric Andrews, Australia and China. An Ambiguous Relationship (Melbourne, 1987).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    See Gregory Clark, Fear of China (Melbourne, 1967).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    In a press conference in April 1954, probably quoting US political columnist Joseph Alsop; see Nigel Rees, Sayings of the Century (London, 1987) p. 212.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For accounts, see Ann Curthoys and John Merritt (eds.), Australia’s First cold war 2 vols (Sydney 1985–6);Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Robert Manne, The Petrov Affair (Sydney, 1987);Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    Robert Murray, The Split (Melbourne, 1970).Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    See Ritchie Ovendale, ‘The cold war, 1949–51’, in Carl Bridge (ed.), Munich to Vietnam (Melbourne, 1991 ) p. 58.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    On task force thinking, see Ian McNeill, The Australian Army and the Vietnam War’, in Peter Pierce et al. (eds.), Vietnam Days (Melbourne, 1991) ch. 1.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    For a contemporary analysis of Australia’s new defence policies, see T.B. Millar, Australia’s Defence, 2nd edn (Melbourne, 1968 ).Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    Entry for 19 May 1966 in Don Aitkin (ed.), The Howson Diaries. The Life of Politics (Melbourne, 1987) p.223. Howson was Minister for Air.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    For example, Frank Frost, Australia’s War in Vietnam (Sydney, 1987)Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Terry Burstall, Vietnam, The Australian Dilemma, (Brisbane, 1993 ).Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    The best short account is McNeill, ‘The Australian Army and the Vietnam War’; see also Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia (Melbourne, 1990) ch. 10.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    Gary McKay, In Good Company: One Man’s War in Vietnam (Sydney, 1987) pp. 80–2.Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    The best account is in Ian McNeill, To Long Tan: The Australian Army and the Vietnam War, 1950–1966 (Canberra, 1993) pt 4.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Grey, op. cit., p. 238; Kolko, op. cit., p. 200; Daily Telegraph (London), 4 April 1995. There were also about 1000 Australian women in Vietnam during the war, nearly all of whom were civilians, and three women were killed; Siobhan McHugh, Minefields and Miniskirts: Australian Women and the Vietnam War (Sydney, 1993 ), pp. 50, 76.Google Scholar
  21. 27.
    Peter King, ‘Introduction’ to Peter King (ed.), Australia’s Vietnam: Australia in the Second Indo-China War (Sydney, 1983) p. 10.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    For a comparative discussion see Ann Curthoys, ‘The Anti-War Movements’, in J. Grey and J. Doyle (eds), Vietnam: War, Myth and Memory (Sydney, 1992) ch. 6.Google Scholar
  23. 32.
    For an example of Whitlam’s masterly fence-sitting in 1969, see Graham Freudenberg, A Certain Grandeur: Gough Whitlam in Politics (Ringwood, 1987), pp.166–9. See also Kim C. Beasley, `Federal Labor and the Vietnam commitment’, in King (ed.), Australia’s Vietnam ch. 3.Google Scholar
  24. 38.
    Ken Inglis, ANZAC and the Australian military tradition’, Current Affairs Bulletin vol. 54, no. 11, 1988. For Matteson and his colleagues in the `underground resistance’ see Hamel-Green, op. cit., pp. 123–5.Google Scholar
  25. 40.
    Some of these issues are explored in Donald Home, Time of Hope: Australia 1966–72 (Sydney, 1980) and Robin Gerster and Jan Bassett, Seizures of Youth: `The Sixties’ and Australia (Melbourne, 1991).Google Scholar
  26. 42.
    See G. Bolton, Oxford History of Australia vol. 5 (Melbourne, 1990) p.172.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alastair Parker 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl Bridge

There are no affiliations available

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