Today we commemorate Vietnam Veterans’ Day on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1966.
Between 1962 – 1973 almost 60,000 Australians, including ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam.
During this time 523 lost their lives, and 2,400 were wounded in a bid to halt the spread of the North’s Communist regime into South Vietnam. This toll doesn’t account for the enormous psychological scars which burdened many who returned to an unsympathetic and, at times, hostile environment.
In 1987, well over 10 years after troops returned, Vietnam veterans received a ‘welcome home’ parade to honour their service and sacrifices that had not been well recognised in the 70s.
Over 22,000 veterans marched through Sydney, attracting crowds of over 100,000 supporters. Unlike our WWII veterans, many of our Vietnam veterans remain with us today. We reflect on our decade-long involvement in Vietnam War and the immense commitment to duty made by our Australian veterans.
Battle of Long Tan
The Battle of Long Tan was a significant moment in Australia’s war in Vietnam.
On 18 August 1966, in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan, Australian soldiers fought one of their fiercest battles of the war.
The men of Delta Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, faced a force of some 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. The battle was fought in wet and muddy conditions during a heavy tropical downpour.
By the end of the day, 17 Australians had been killed in action and 25 were wounded, one of whom died a few days later. This was the largest number of casualties in a single operation since the Australian Task Force had established its base at nearby Nui Dat the previous April.
Remembering the battles fought by Australians in Vietnam
Every year on August 18, we commemorate all the battles fought by Australians in Vietnam, from large-scale operations to platoon and section-level encounters. We remember the sailors of the Royal Australian Navy who supported land operations, and members of the Royal Australian Air Force who served in combat and transport roles.
The Australian Government and the RSL encourages all Australians to 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, a commemorative program of events marking the 50th anniversary will be held across Australia, culminating in a national commemorative service in Canberra today.
The service will be broadcast live across Australia by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and streamed online this morning at 10.30am.