Changing Attitudes Towards the Vietnam War in Australia

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Australia was involved in the Vietnam War from 1962-1972 with originally thirty army advisors being sent over to South Vietnam. Over this period of time Australian attitudes towards the Vietnam War changed greatly due to two main contributing reasons. These reasons were the media and television viewing the prominent issue of conscription.

When it was first announced in April 1962 that Australia was to fight in Vietnam it was seen by the majority as necessary and needed. Many Australians supported the war because of their fear of communist advancement and the Domino Theory. They were motivated to support the war by the common dreaded thought that Australia might fall next to communist rule. Furthermore many Australians believed fully in the government as a protection strategy. This policy advocated that it was better to fight communism in South Vietnam than on Australian soil.

The US President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) arrived in Australia in October 1966. He was greeted by a grand welcome. The support of the Vietnam War at this time was in such a majority that the number of troops were increased. Large crowds came to welcome LBJ with cheers, ticker tape parades and welcome parties. Pro-war slogans such as ‘All the way with LBJ’ were commonly on the street with place cards and banners demanding the end of the war.

The issue of conscription made Australians question the viability of Australia being involved in the war due to the obvious lack of volunteers. A limited form of conscription was introduced by Menzies in 1950, abolished in 1953 and then re-introduced in 1964. This required males on their 18th birthday to enlist in ‘national service’. However, the first form of conscription only required home service the 1964 version allowed overseas service. The first ever conscripts to be sent overseas during peacetime in Australian history was in May 1966. These conscripts were chosen by a random birth date lottery. In their first months in South Vietnam the...
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