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Vietnam - 1962

Australia in Vietnam


To counteract the success of the NLF, the South Vietnamese and Americans instituted a "strategic hamlets programme". Villagers were moved to hamlets constructed by the South Vietnamese Army in order to isolate the NLF from its support base. The idea largely backfired and turned many villagers, who resented being moved off their ancestral lands, against the Government.

In August 1962, thirty Australian Army Instructors arrived to assist in training the South Vietnamese Army.

Australians in Vietnam

When the Australian instructors arrived in Vietnam, they found that they were teaching tactics which often directly contradicted those being taught by the American Instructors. The basic American strategy was to use superior firepower and numbers to overwhelm the enemy. The Australians, on the other hand had come from several years anti-guerrilla jungle warfare in Malaysia and advocated the use of surprise and superior skill to defeat the enemy with minimum cost on lives and material.

Autralian soldier in Vietnam

The Australians also had difficulty working with the South Vietnamese Army whose extremely rigid hierarchical structure conflicted with egalitarian nature of the Australians.

Largely as a result of these conflicts, when Australian combat troops arrived in Vietnam, they were assigned an area of Puoc Tuy Province in which they effectively operated  autonomously.

After the early Battle of Long Tan, the Australians had reasonably good control of their area of responsibility. As a result, they focused much more than the Americans on assisting the local population. Australian Army activities included building over 600 houses and more than 60 classrooms, rebuilding the main north-south highway, constructing a bridge over the Song Rai River, carrying out major repairs to the main hospital and introducing many agricultural improvements in the Province.

Unlike the majority of the Australian Task Force, the Army Training Team instructors were spread throughout Vietnam. Initially, they were intended to be non-combatant advisers but their role was soon extended to leading elements of the South Vietnamese Army in battle. Their role was similar to that of the famous American "green berets" and they became the most highly decorated unit in Australian military history. The "Team" served in Vietnam for a total of ten and half years - longer than any Australian unit has ever served in any war. 

The average Australian soldier in Vietnam was 20 years old and saw 314 days of combat in a period of one year. The average World War 11 soldier in the South Pacific had been 26 years old saw 40 days of combat in a period of four years.

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 243,000
American 11,300
Australian 30