A What is Communism?
Look at this page for an explanation.

Want to learn more? This site is the best to help you understand Australia's involvement! This BBC website is excellent for the overall picture.
Involvement in this war dominated the politics of the 1960s and sharply divided Australian society.
B The background and build up to war in Indo-China
[Locate and label the countries together known as Indo-China on your map]
Map of world - Cold War context
Use page 168-9 of Retro 2 to complete these notes:
Before the 1950 the French had control over Vietnam as one of its colonies. They were defeated by Communist forces led by Ho Chi Minh. An international conference held in Geneva in 1954 agreed that both in Korea and Vietnam, communist rule would be tolerated in the north, while American backed more democratic governments would be established and supported in the south. An area near the 17th Parallel became the Demilitarized Zone {DMZ} between the two states. The SEATO Treaty, initiated by the USA, was established as an anti-Communist defense agreement to defend against anticipated Communist aggression in the region.
North Vietnam however continued its push south to take full control and “unify” all of Vietnam under Communist rule. The famous Ho Chi Minh Trail provided access from north to south. Pro-Communist forces in the South (the Vietcong) aided them. The USA responded by sending troops and it was not long before they began to call on their SEATO allies to assist in the fight against Communist expansion. As the war escalated, Australia became involved. In 1962, the US requested military advisors be sent, and we provided 30 experts in guerrilla war. In 1965, Menzies sent 1 battalion (about 800 men). In 1966 that commitment was trebled.
*get more detail here from Australian War Memorial site

C. Why did Australia become involved?
Fundamentally Australia took part in this war because of the attitude of the Menzies-led Liberal Government- and the majority of Australians at that time - toward Communism.
Describe this attitude using these terms: communist aggression, a violent and undemocratic regime, the domino effect, a military threat, need for forward defence and containment, alliances (see page 166).
Read Menzies announcement to Parliament – read a word for word transcript of this speech. List 3 reasons given for sending troops to Vietnam. Copy key quotes.

Summary of reasons for becoming involved:

  • commitment to containing the spread of Communism in SE Asia

  • belief that Communism was a dangerous form of government which denied human rights and democracy

  • belief in the need for forward defence to prevent the Domino Effect

  • commitment to treaties and alliances - SEATO and ANZUS

  • friendship with the USA

D. What were the experiences of soldiers in Vietnam?
From the time of the arrival of the first members of the Team in 1962 almost 60,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam; 521 died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded.
From 1965, the Government sent increasing numbers of troops, including conscripts to fight the Vietcong [pro-Communist forces in the south] and the North Vietnamese army. Navy and airforce were also inolved - including a squadron of helicopters and jet bombers. The soldiers were based at Nui Dat.
A significant battle in which a small Australian force held off a large attack occurred at Long Tan [August 1966].
In 1968 the VIetcong began a massive attack - called the Tet offensive - which surprised and alarmed the allied troops. They were eventually stopped; at Nui Dat, the Australians had few casualties and repelled the attack. However, some began to doubt whether the war could be won at all. In 1969 troops were gradually being withdrawn.

Look here for more. Or use this web-site to get a clear picture of Australia's experience of the Vietnam War .This is a great web-site for those interested in deeper understanding.

Fighting in Vietnam involved jungle patrols, clearing landmines, "counter-insurgency" trying to identify and defeat pro-Communist forces. They were under constant fear of attack as nowhere was really safe. There was extensive bombing and aerial jungle spraying of 'defoliants' [chemiclas to make leaves fall off] - to clear the jungles and make it harder to hide. It was often very difficut to distinguish civilians from active Vietcong insurgents. The North Vietnamese had extensive tunnel systems and were skilled in jungle warfare. There was a very high casualty rate among Vietnamese civilians. Press covereage brought the war to Australian homes via TV news. This was the first "television war".

In 1966 Menzies retired as P.M., and was replaced by Harold Holt. Holt increased our military commitment and also announced that some conscripted soldiers were to be sent to Vietnam along with regular troops. (see p 170). Despite this, his government gained a huge majority over the Labor Opposition in the Federal election that year. When the president of the USA (L B Johnson) visited later in 1966, further evidence of the popularity of this war was shown when enormous crowds greeted LBJ warmly. (see p 169). Holt coined the slogan “...all theway with LBJ”.

"I was only 19" - was a 1983 song which drew on the experiences of veterans...

Interestingly the footage used in the video for this Redgum song, comes from this Government made documentary about the 'Diggers in Vietnam" - a more positive view of their service.

NEW Sam Worthington documentary about Long Tan - 1hr 40 mins

National Service schemes had existed in some form since WW2 in Australia. It was generally popular and many were happy to see it reintroduced in 1964. All men turning 20 had to register, however only a proportion were required to bolster army numbers. Birth dates were drawn from a lottery barrel - there was a 1 in 10/12 chance of being drawn. Nation Service lasted 2 years full time. Uni students could wait til they had finished their degree. In 1965 it was decided National Servicemen - nashos - could be sent to Vietnam. Each was given some choice - so the 18 000 who went all to some extent 'volunteered' to do so. The majority of Australians supported the idea at the start of the war.
Errol Noack, 1st National Serviceman to be killed in Vietnam, May 1966
Errol Noack, 1st National Serviceman to be killed in Vietnam, May 1966

Conscription, however, became increasingly unpopular as the war progressed and by 1970 most were against it.
Read the speech given by the Leader of the Opposition, Arthur Calwell, whose Labor Party consistently opposed both the war and conscription.
You can read Prime Minister Harold Holt's counter argument here [scroll down]

What do you think changed people's attitudes?

5. How did public opinion about the war change? The growing Protest Movement
The majority of Australians supported our involvement in the early years. However, from the start there were voices of dissent. This grew into what became known as the Protest Movement. In the early stages of the war, up to the mid-sixties, opponents of the war were in the minority. They included:
  • young people and student groups, e.g. university student unions and YCAC
  • Save Our Sons
  • Trade Unions and Left-Wing Groups
  • the ALP (Labor), led by Calwell, who felt the war was a bad solution to the problem of Communist aggression
  • some Church leaders
  • conscientious objectors

However, as the war became bogged down, its popularity declined. People questioned the reasons for the war. Television news footage showed horrific casualties particularly for Vietnamese civilians. By the late 1960s the Protest Movement had become more vocal and more widespread across the community.
Their reasons included:
  1. Heavy Vietnamese civilian casualties seen on TV news
  2. Belief that war is wrong
  3. This was a civil war and none of our business
  4. Communism and unity would be better for Vietnam
  5. We should stop following US policy 'blindly'
  6. Conscription was wrong

Use the internet to find sources that show some of the ways groups protested. Annotate each source to show which person or group produced the source, or is photographed in the source, and the date and place. What argument or point does each source make? Although there was a huge protest movement in the USA as well, and there was borrowing (especially of slogans and protest songs), please only use Australian sources.
Look for posters, marches, badges, songs, letters, speeches, symbols, cartoons, etc.
Try this site about links between womens' groups and the protest movement

· How did the anti-war movement express its ideas?
From your research and reading, list ways in which protesters expressed their dissent:
Eg sit-ins, marches, teach-ins…

* The Moratorium Movement
In 1970 leaders in the Peace Movement believed that an organized and coordinated protest event involving ordinary citizens (not just ‘rat-bag’ radicals) would be more effective in changing government policy about Vietnam. The plan was that at a set time people would stop work and march to express their views.

The moratorium called for: click here for info
· An immediate… ?
· The withdrawal of….?

Describe what you would have seen on the day of a moratorium…watch this tv coverage

Impact of the protest movement…
In both America and Australia the government was becoming aware of the increasing unpopularity of the war. President Nixon was pulling out US troops in 1970, and Australia followed suit.

In 1972, the Labor Party, led by Gough Whitlam, ran an election campaign highlighting its commitment to ending the war, withdrawing all remaining troops and ending conscription. It won the election and immediately fulfilled its promises.

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