Australia was a loyal and effective ally for the USA in Vietnam. The Australians who fought in that war faced many of the same challenges as those faced by American Vietnam Veterans. They encountered fierce enemies and defeated them under very difficult circumstances. When they came home to Australia they faced indifference and in some cases hostility from their fellow citizens.
Attitudes down under began to change favorably for the Aussie Vietnam Vets in 1987. That year the first welcome home parades began to take place to honor the service of the country’s veterans. Ever since World War I Australians have willingly taken up arms to protect freedom and justice taking up peace keeping duties in places many have never heard of.
A story in The Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia titled: Long Tan forged a bond that will never be broken submitted by Catherine McGregor makes a very accurate statement on the present status of Australian Vietnam Veterans. She maintains one of the greatest attributes of the “Aussie Digger” is the way they have treated their mates in the years after the war.
She also feels the Battle at Long Tan and how the Aussies conducted themselves in that action bonds all the veterans together. On August 18, 1966, Delta Company of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment clashed in the Long Tan rubber plantation with a massive force of NVA soldiers and Vietcong guerillas. It is estimated D Company, which numbered less than 120 soldiers that day, faced about 2000 enemy. The brave Australians prevailed with the help of decisive artillery fire support provided by the gunners from 1 Field Regiment Royal Australian Artillery who delivered 3,000 high explosive projectiles on the attacking enemy forces.
A folk song titled “I Was Only Nineteen” written by John Schumann in 1983 became an unofficial anthem for Australia’s Vietnam veterans. It tells a haunting story of what it was like to fight in Vietnam. The song is provided for you to hear in this episode.