The Vietnam War was the longest conflict ever involving Australian military troops. Approximately 60,000 Australian soldiers served between 1962-1975; casualties numbered more than 3500, including 521 killed.
Conscription was adopted by the Australian government in 1964 and proved unpopular in much the same way the American military draft was viewed. Australian troops were initially assigned to U.S. units, but beginning in 1966 they acted independently and exclusively in Phuoc Tuy province, a coastal area bordering on the South China Sea east of Saigon. The Pacific nation provided troops that represented the army, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Royal Australian Navy.
Since Australian tours of duty in Vietnam lasted only one year, combat stress was considered more limited among Australian soldiers than their American counterparts. Returning Australian soldiers also found exclusion and negative reaction common from World War II veterans who felt they had not fought--and won--a real war, not unlike the reaction felt by many returning U.S. Vietnam veterans.
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In the early 1960s Australia supported S. Vietnam as the policies of other nations, particularly the United States, to stop communism in Europe and Asia. In 1961 and 1962 Ngo Dinh Diem, leader of the government in South Vietnam needed more securty. Australia eventually responded with 30 military advisers, dispatched as the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV). When they arrived in South Vietnam in July and August of 1962 it was the beginning of Australia's direct involvment. In August 1964 the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) sent a flight of transports to the port of Vung Tau.
In 1965 the US escalated the war. By the end of the year it had committed 200,000 troops. U.S. asked friendly countries to help in the region, including Australia. The Australian government dispatched the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), in June 1965 to serve alongside the US 173d Airborne Brigade in Bien Hoa province.
Eventually the war escalated. However, in the U.S. and Australia, more and more people were protesting against it. By 1969 anti-war protests were getting stronger in Australia. People believed the war was none of their business, saying that it was an internal war. Young people urged each other to "not register". The US started a gradual withdrawal of US forces. During the time of the withdrawing of forces, the activities of the Australians in Phuoc Tuy province shifted to training the South Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces.