Military History

Vietnam Veterans Day 2021

By The Cove August 18, 2021

On 18 August, we commemorate Vietnam Veterans' Day on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1966. We remember the sacrifices of those who died and say thank you to almost 60,000 Australians who served during the 10 years of our involvement in the Vietnam War. This year we remember 55 years since the Battle of Long Tan and 50 years since the cessation of Australian combat operations in Vietnam.

From the time of the arrival of the first ADF members in 1962, almost 60,000 Australians, including ground troops, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy personnel served in Vietnam. 521 died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded.

Some of the most significant events for the Vietnam War are: (The Cove Team encourage you to click on the links to learn more about each of the actions summarised below)

03 Aug 1962 - The Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) arrive.

01 Jun 1963Sergeant William Hacking becomes the first Australian soldier to die in Vietnam when his weapon accidentally discharges.

06 Jul 1964Warrant Officer Class Two Kevin Conway, an AATTV advisor, is killed in action, the first Australian battle casualty of the Vietnam war.

10 Nov 1964 - Selective conscription is introduced for 20-year-old males.

29 Apr 1965 - The Prime Minister announced the deployment of an infantry battalion to South Vietnam, with an armoured personnel carrier troop, a signals troop and a logistic support company.

08 Nov 1965 - Operation Hump. 1 RAR fights one of the first set-piece engagements of the war between Australian forces and the Viet Cong at the Battle of Gang Toi. Two soldiers, Private Richard Parker and Private Peter Gillson, are posted missing believed killed during the fighting. Their bodies are recovered more than forty years later and returned to Australia for burial.

13 Nov 1965 - Accompanying a Civil Irregular Defence Group (CIDG) in a search and destroy mission in Quang Ngai Province, Warrant Officer Class Two Kevin Arthur Wheatley dies while defending a wounded Australian comrade. He is posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry.

08 Jan 1966 - In early 1966 1RAR was involved in Operation Crimp (08-14 January 1966). This was a search and destroy operation in the Hobo Woods, north of Saigon. During Operation Crimp, 1 RAR uncovered the Cu Chi tunnel complex. A search of the tunnels resulted in the capture of thousands of documents, weapons and supplies. Eight Australians are killed and 29 wounded.

18 Aug 1966 - Battle of Long Tan, is fought by D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. They suffered the heaviest Australian casualties in a single engagement in Vietnam, but prevailed against the odds. Their valiant stand became a defining action of the war. The Company earns a US Presidential Unit Citation (Vietnam).  

17 Feb 1967 - Operation Bribie - Eight Australians are killed and 27 wounded and 6 RAR found itself facing defeat in a thick patch of jungle near the coast of Phuoc Tuy province.

07 Apr 1967Major Peter Badcoe dies leading his company against more powerful opposition. He is posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery, conspicuous gallantry and leadership on more than one occasion.

06 Aug 1967 - Alpha Company, 7 RAR was involved in heavy fighting in the eastern Hat Dich area during the Battle of Suoi Chau Pha. Australian casualties were heavy with five killed, one died of wounds later and 19 wounded.

24 Jan 1968 - Operation Coburg was an Australian and New Zealand military action during the Vietnam War (24 Jan - 01 Mar 1968) around Long Binh and Bien Hoa areas. The fighting cost Australia 17 KIA and 61 wounded, while allied casualties included two New Zealanders killed and 15 wounded.

17 Apr 1968 - Battle of Fire Support Base Anderson takes place near the village of Trang Bom east of Bien Hoa. Seven Australian soldiers lost their lives and dozens were wounded.

13 May 1968Battle of Coral–Balmoral takes place and becomes the bloodiest engagement for Australians in Vietnam when 25 Australians are killed and nearly 100 wounded during 26 days of fighting in north-east of Saigon. The operation lasts until 06 June 1968.

24 May 1969 - At Ben Het, Kon Tum Province in Vietnam, Warrant Officer Class Two Keith Payne shows outstanding courage and leadership in saving the lives of many of the soldiers under his command, leading his men to safety under the most difficult of circumstances after an attack by the enemy of superior strength. He is awarded the Victoria Cross.

06 Jun 1969 - Australian forces destroy a large communist force in heavy house-to-house fighting during the Battle of Binh Ba.

29 Jul 1969 - Operation Camden. One Australian killed and 36 wounded with the battle fought between 3 Platoon and the Assault Pioneer Platoon of 5 RAR and the Viet Cong 3rd Battalion, 274th Regiment.

07 Jun 1971Battle of Long Khánh takes place when 3 RAR, with Centurion tanks in support, attack a heavily fortified base camp during Operation Overlord. Although the Australians capture the bunker system, and a second system located to the south, the bulk of the communist forces successfully withdraw.

21 Sep 1971 - the Battle of Nui Le takes place in Phước Tuy Province. A tactically inconclusive encounter between troops from 4RAR and the NVA 33rd Regiment north of Nui Dat proved to be the last major battle fought by Australian forces in the war. Five Australians are killed and 30 wounded.

16 Oct 1971 - Australian forces hand over control of the Australian base at Nui Dat to South Vietnamese forces.

09 Dec 1971 - 4 RAR, the last Australian infantry battalion in South Vietnam, sails for Australia on board HMAS Sydney.

03 Oct 1987Australian Vietnam Forces Welcome Home Parade

Check out some previous Vietnam articles on the Cove:

On Vietnam Veterans' Day, we pause and reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance that Australians displayed throughout the war. It's a day when we recognise all who served in Vietnam.

We ask that you check your local guides for a service near you, noting some services will be cancelled this year due to COVID. You can also attend the Last Post Ceremony - in person or via live stream - at the Australian War Memorial at 4:55pm AEST on Vietnam Veterans' Day. The ceremony will remember the service and sacrifice of someone who served during the Vietnam War.



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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