Vietnam War Commemoration Commission

Week of June 9

Week of June 9

On June 10, 1965, the first Australian combat troops arrived in South Vietnam by sea aboard the HMAS Sydney. These soldiers belonged to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR). The remainder of the 1RAR arrived by air in the following days and weeks. At the time, the 1RAR consisted of approximately 1,400 men, including one combat infantry battalion, a signals unit, and several other elements. The 1RAR established its headquarters near Biên Hòa Air Base, where the regiment was officially attached to the U.S. Army 173d Airborne Brigade.

Australia was among the earliest of the U.S. and South Vietnamese allies to commit to fighting in Vietnam. The first Australians arrived in Southeast Asia in 1962—30 jungle warfare specialists assigned to help train South Vietnamese counterinsurgency forces. At its peak, the number of Australian troops deployed to Vietnam at any one time was 8,000, in 1968.

One of Australia’s most significant battles of the war was the battle of Long Tân on August 18, 1966. On that day, an Australian patrol of about 100 men discovered a North Vietnamese regiment that was preparing to attack the Australian Army base at Núi Đất. Heavily outnumbered but supported by nearby artillery, the Australians held off the North Vietnamese regiment for several hours before finally being reinforced and relieved in the evening, forcing the attacking Communist troops to retreat.

In all, over 60,000 Australians served in the Vietnam War as ground combat troops, pilots, artillery officers, sailors, and in countless other roles. A total of 521 Australians were killed during the course of the war.1

1“Australia and the Vietnam War: Bien Hoa Province,” (accessed 4/1/14); Graham A. Cosmas, United States Army in Vietnam: MACV: The Joint Command in the Years of Escalation, 1962–1967 (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 2006), 211–12, 218. Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2nd edition; Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 83; Jeff Doyle, Jeffrey Grey, and Peter Pierce, Australia’s Vietnam War (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2002); Stanley Robert Larson and James Lawton Collins, Jr., Allied Participation in Vietnam (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1985).

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