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Vietnam - 1969 to 1975

Withdrawal

1969

In January:, peace talks began in Paris and Richard Nixon was inaugurated as President of the United States.

In February: Communist forces launched another Tet-style offensive attacking 115 bases, towns and cities.

The Battle of Binh Ba

In June, Australian infantry, tanks and armoured personnel carriers fought an 8-hour battle with North Vietnamese troops at the town of Binh Ba. 1 Australian was killed and 10 wounded; more than 100 enemy were killed.


In May, two Australians, Warrant Officers Ray Simpson and Keith Payne, earned Victoria Crosses for exceptional bravery while leading elements of the South Vietnamese Army.

In September, Ho Chi Minh died.

In November, President Nixon announced his policy of "Vietnamisation", meaning that American ground troops would be gradually withdrawn and South Vietnamese troops would take their place.

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 897,000
American 475,200
Australian 7,670
New Zealand 550
South Korea 58,870
Phillipines 190
Thailand 11,570

1970

In February, Australian troops conducted major operations in the Long Hai Hills, killing 34 enemy. Later in the month, 9 Australian soldiers were killed and 16 wounded in a landmine explosion.

In February, news broke of the "My Lai Massacre"

The My Lai Massacre

On 16 March 1968, C Company of the 1st Battalion, 20th US Infantry were ordered to "sterilize" the villages in the My Lai area. In the previous month, the Company had lost 42 men, mostly to landmines, without seeing an enemy and was keen for revenge.

The 1st and 2nd Platoons moved through the village to eliminate the enemy. However, there were no enemy to eliminate, the Viet Cong having already left; only old men, women and children remained. Some soldiers fired on the village. Others, believing the shooting was coming from Viet Cong, also opened fire.

When the first soldiers reached the village, they realised that there were no enemy there and tried to stop the shooting.  When Lieutenant William Calley reached these men he ordered them to kill the villagers. When they refused, Calley and Sergeant David Mitchell opened fire, killing about 80 civilians.

The Americans continued to attack the village, killing a total of between 450 and 500 old men, women and children.

Part of the incident was witnessed by a helicopter pilot who reported it to his commander and chaplain but the Army accepted a false report and kept the incident quiet. It was not until a year later that one of the soldiers, after being discharged from the Army, made it public.

Lieutenant Calley was tried on 122 counts of murder. He was found guilty of at least 22 of them and sentenced to life imprisonment. Three years later President Nixon ordered his release on the basis that no single individual should take the blame for the actions of so many.


In March, General Lon Nol seized power from Prince Norodom Sihanouk in Cambodia.

In April, South Vietnamese and, later, American troops attacked communist positions in Cambodia.

News of the invasion of Cambodia brought large demonstrations in both Australia and America. In Australia, 120,000 people marched in the first "moratorium " rally. In America, four students were killed and sixteen wounded by National Guardsmen trying to control a protest at Kent State University in Ohio. Shortly afterwards, two more students were killed during protests at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

In September, 100,000 people marched in the second Australian Moratorium rally and 300 are arrested,

In November, President Nixon announced the withdrawal of 40,000 American troops as part of the "Vietnamisation" process/

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 968,000
American 334,600
Australian 6,800
New Zealand 470
South Korea 48,450
Phillipines 70
Thailand 11,570

1971

In February: South Vietnamese troops with US Air support invaded Laos in an attempt to destroy North Vietnamese bases and supply routes.

In March: William McMahon became Prime Minister of Australia and announced the withdrawal of 1,000 Australian troops.

In April: President Nixon announced the withdrawal of a further 100,000 troops.

In June: the New York Times began publication of the "Pentagon Papers" which revealed indiscriminate bombing, political assassinations and drug trafficking by the US military and intelligence services. A new wave of protests broke out in America and Australia. 100,000 Australians marched in the third Moratorium rally.

In August: Australia and New Zealand announced the withdrawal of most of their troops.

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 1,046,250
American 156,800
Australian 2,000
New Zealand 100
South Korea 45,700
Phillipines 70
Thailand 6,000

1972

In January: President Nixon announced that the US forces in Vietnam would be reduced to 69,000.

In February: the last Australian combat troops left Vietnam and in August: the last US ground combat troops left.

In December: Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister of Australia. He immediately abolished conscription and announced the withdrawal of Australian Army instructors from Vietnam, leaving only an Embassy guard.

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 1,048,000
American 24,200
Australian 130
New Zealand 50
South Korea 36,790
Phillipines 50
Thailand 50

1973

In January 1973: the United States and North Vietnam sign a Peace Agreement in Paris.

In March,: the last US troops (except for a Defence Attache Office) left Vietnam

Troop levels:  
South Vietnamese 1,110,000
American 50

1974

In January 1975: the South Vietnamese Government claimed that the war has not ended and that 13,778 South Vietnamese troops, 2,159 civilians and 45,057 communists have been killed since the Peace Agreement.


1975

In March, North Vietnamese troops captured the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.

In April, North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon and took over government.