Tag: Vietnam War

Remembering Long Tan: Australian army operations in South Vietnam 1966–1971

Reading time: 5 minutes
The anniversary of Long Tan reminds most Australians that despite winning that iconic high intensity battle, the Australians and New Zealanders lost the Vietnam War. In fact, the First Australian Task Force (1ATF) fought at least 16 big battles, and through superior firepower from artillery, armor and airpower, won them all, sometimes by a narrow margin.

But most of the struggle in Phuoc Tuy province and South Vietnam was a prolonged low intensity guerrilla war. The big battles only mattered if the US and her allies had lost them, as big battle success allowed the allies to stay in the War. Enemy defeats just forced the enemy to revert to low intensity guerrilla war, which the allies had to control if they were to win.

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Australia and the Vietnam War: Looking Back

Reading time: 10 minutes
This is an appropriate time to reflect on what we have learned from 50 years of political argument and scholarly study about the war. How has a half-century of controversy, reflection and research affected presentations of the war for general audiences, such as the 18-hour documentary series The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and the British historian Max Hastings’s book Vietnam: An epic tragedy, 1945–1975?

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‘Vietnam vanguard’—a unit history of lasting value

Reading time: 5 minutes
The 5th Battalion’s approach to counter-insurgency, 1966. The first Australian infantry battalion to be committed to Vietnam in 1965, 1RAR, was inserted into the American 173rd Airborne Brigade. Theirs was not a happy experience. The Australians were not impressed by the American way of war, with its emphasis on massive firepower and measuring success by body counts and kill ratios. Many thought that the tactics developed by Australian and British forces in the Malayan Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation were better suited to the Vietnam campaign, and less likely to lead to a politically unacceptable casualty rate.

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What Vietnam and Iraq should teach Canberra

Reading time: 7 minutes
If we learn more from losses than wins, then the Canberra system has much to gain from examining its lousy performance in the processes that took Australia to war in Vietnam and Iraq. For Australia, both wars were all about the alliance with the United States. Both were wars of choice, although the regional implications Canberra read into Vietnam meant it was closer to a war of necessity than Iraq.

Both wars exemplify the Prime Minister’s most profound prerogative and Parliament’s lack of power. The entry to both showed the Canberra system performing below its best, revealing again the truth that artifice and farce often attend the most serious of moments of government.

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Australia, Indonesia and Confrontation

Reading time: 4 minutes
Between 1963 and 1966, Australian troops supported British and Malaysian forces who were opposing the Indonesian ‘Confrontation’ (Konfrontasi) of the new federation of Malaysia.
The Indonesian Confrontation (as it’s now officially designated) was a relatively small conflict instigated by Sukarno, soon wiped from the public mind and memory by the much larger war in Vietnam. But Jakarta’s provocative mixture of political rhetoric, diplomatic posturing, and low-level military engagements always carried the danger of escalation, threatening Australia’s national interests and complicating our alliance relationships.

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