On 29 April 1965 the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, made a statement on Vietnam to a half-empty House of Representatives. At eight o'clock at night he announced the extension of Australian commitment in Vietnam both militarily and economically. After three years of providing military advisors to help train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Australia was now to send its own army into the South East Asian country in the form of an infantry Battalion (soldiers who fought on foot).
The Australian Government is now in receipt of a request from the Government of South Vietnam for further military assistance. We have decided - and this has been done after close consultation with the Government of the United States - to provide an infantry battalion for service in South Vietnam…. The takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia and all the countries of South and South-East Asia. Excerpt from Prime Minister Robert Menzies' speech in Parliament, 29 April 1965
This speech did not look like the beginning of the biggest ever deployment of Australian troops outside the two world wars. The rather low key announcement underplayed the extent of Australia's eventual involvement. Like the USA, Australia got slowly drawn in to what was essentially a civil war and a nationalist battle for independence. The Vietnam War never fulfilled any of its promise as a heroic battle against the evils of communism that the US and Australia thought it would.
The first troops
In 1962, after requests from the US and the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), Australia had sent in 30 military advisors to assist with the training of the RVN Army. These advisors were highly skilled in jungle warfare. They had been involved in the confrontation with Indonesia and had learned from Australian action in the jungles during World War Two. A Royal Australian Air Force squadron was also posted to nearby Thailand to act as back up.
By 1964, it was...