Australia Commemorates Vietnam Veterans Day, 50 Years Since First Deployment

oldiers of the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), push through dense scrub country in search of retreating Viet Cong. This photograph was taken the day after the battle. CUN/66/0693/VN

Soldiers of the 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR), push through dense scrub country in search of retreating Viet Cong. This photograph was taken the day after the battle of Long Tan. CUN/66/0693/VN

The statement below is credited to the Australian Government, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Today, 18 August,  is Vietnam Veterans Day in Australia,  the day on which the service of the 60,000 Australian men and women who served in Vietnam is remembered by their nation. This year also marks 50 years since the deployment of the first Australian combat unit, 1RAR, to Vietnam, to serve as part of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade until the Australian Task Force was established.

Australian ground troops and Air Force and Navy personnel served in Vietnam from  1962 to 1972. 521 died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded.

In recognition of this shared service and sacrifice, Australia is a major partner in the VVEC* and has contributed  $3.3m towards its development.   The Centre will include Australian content  as well as images of the Australians who died.  These 521  images  can be seen at http://australia.vvmf.org/

The Australian Wall of Faces shows the faces of the 521 killed in the Vietnam War.

The Australian Wall of Faces shows the faces of the 521 killed in the Vietnam War.

18 August  was originally known as Long Tan Day, chosen to commemorate the men of D Company, 6RAR who fought in the epic battle of Long Tan in 1966. On that day, 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against over 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation not far from the small village of Long Tan. TheAustralians prevailed, but only after fighting in torrential rain for four hours. They were nearly overrun, but were saved by a timely ammunition resupply, accurate artillery fire from the nearby Australian base, and the arrival of reinforcements by armored personnel carrier. Eighteen Australians lost their lives and 24 were wounded, the largest number of casualties in one operation since the Australian Task Force had arrived a few months earlier. After the battle the bodies of 245 enemy soldiers were found, but there was evidence that many more bodies had been carried away. For their valor that day the men of D Company 6RAR were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

LONG TAN, SOUTH VIETNAM. 1969-08-18. THE PIPERS' LAMENT FOR THE DEAD OF LONG TAN. A POIGNANT MOMENT AT THE COMMEMORATIVE SERVICE HELD ON THE SITE OF THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN, FOUGHT IN 1966 BY D COMPANY, 6TH BATTALION, THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT (6 RAR). © Australian War Memorial

LONG TAN, SOUTH VIETNAM. 1969-08-18. THE PIPERS’ LAMENT FOR THE DEAD OF LONG TAN. A POIGNANT MOMENT AT THE COMMEMORATIVE SERVICE HELD ON THE SITE OF THE BATTLE OF LONG TAN, FOUGHT IN 1966 BY D COMPANY, 6TH BATTALION, THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT (6 RAR). © Australian War Memorial

On the third anniversary of Long Tan, 18 August 1969, a cross was raised on the site of the battle by the men of 6RAR. Veterans from the battle gathered at the cross to commemorate the fallen, and the day was commemorated by them asLong Tan Day from then on. The battle has since become emblematic of Australian service in the Vietnam War and over time, all Vietnam veterans adopted the day as one to commemorate those who served and died in Vietnam. In 1987, following the extraordinary Welcome Home parade for Vietnam veterans in Sydney, the then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced that Long Tan Day would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day. Since then, it has been commemorated every year as the day on which the service of all those men and women who served in Vietnam is remembered.

In VVMF’s future Education Center, there will be an exhibit called Partners in Service. It will honor the allied forces who supported the U.S.-led war effort in Vietnam.

*VVEC refers to VVMF’s future Education Center.

You can also read this story on VVMF’s website.

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