‘AUSTRALIA IN THE VIETNAM WAR’
Did anyone in your family serve in the Vietnam War?
YES: Who served in this war and around what age were they?
NO: What did you remember about the war?
YES: What were their views on the war? Did they have the choice to serve in the war, or were they forced to? NO: How were you kept updated on the happenings of the war?
YES: Did they have any positive experiences? What were they? NO: When the Vietnam soldiers came back, how did people/you react?
YES: Did they have any negative experiences? What were they? NO: Were you in support of the war? What was your view?
What did you think about the response to the war in Australia?
Did your life change after the war? If not, do you know of anyone whose life changed because of this? If so, how did it change your life? -------------------------------------------------
Interviewed: Mrs T. Tildsley
The Vietnam War was the longest conflict in which Australians have been involved in. The war lasted for ten years, from 1962 – 1972. Approximately, 60,000 personnel were involved by serving in this war, including ground troops, air force and navy personnel.
The fear of communism remained to be a political issue in which guided and influenced people and government parties. An example of shown concern was when the leader of the Liberal Party, and Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, Robert Menzies (1949 – 1966), pledged to introduce legislation to outlaw any attempts of executing any Communist Party in Australia.
For this reason, the fear of communism, troops were committed to the war in Vietnam. There was concern over communism in Australia because of the Domino Theory. The Domino Theory was based on the belief that if one nation fell under communist domination, the neighbouring countries would fall under communism too, like a line of dominoes. The government devised a defence policy which was called the forward defence policy. This policy was based on the concept of ‘the best defence is offence’ – sending Australian troops overseas to fight against potential enemies to prevent a war occurring on Australian soil.
In Australia, there were views about communism that were for and against. These views were expressed by a number of people and their actions. Some of these included, as mentioned above, Robert Menzies proposed that communism was negative and should not have a part in Australian society. In comparison, another Australian, deputy Labor leader, Dr Evatt, who was not a direct supporter of communism, fought for the same rights that every political party withheld (see source 1.1.).
Perspectives: Interview & Research
During the Vietnam War, Mrs T. Tildsley was a primary student in Australia who grew up away from the city. No one in her family served in the Vietnam War, however she was able to recall some events that occurred during that time, giving a child’s perspective on the event.
Her knowledge and updates of the war came from television, which was black and white during that time. Television was well protected – rarely showing violence and inappropriate images, however, when Australians became involved in the war, it was shown on television. This was “disturbing and terrifying” for her personally and possibly many others, because they were not often exposed to these types of images.
A few years ago, she had the opportunity to visit Vietnam. There she saw an image of an American soldier holding a severed head, possibly a member of the Viet Cong. Since she was a child, she had encountered many disturbing images that influenced her view on war.
Mrs Tildsley did not only have unsupportive views of the war purely due to images. She could also remember television personnel talking about conscription – men who were twenty years of age were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service (DLNS) to be...