Sunday, December 29, 2013

Australia and New Zealand in the Vietnam War: In Conclusion


By the war's end, over 60,000 Australians had served. 521 had died and 3,000 wounded. From the initial deployment of Australians in 1962 until the gradual withdrawal of forces in 1969, the nation's military had peaked to total over 7,000 active. Typically, an RAR (Royal Australian Regiment)  would muster home to be replaced by the next regiment. In 1970 when 8RAR headed home, they were not replaced. By the third week of January 1973 allied forces and North Vietnam had signed a ceasefire. In March the last US military pulled out followed by the rest in June of the same year. 

The four delegations sit at the table during the first signing ceremony of the agreement to end the Vietnam War at the Hotel Majestic in Paris, January 27, 1973. Clockwise from foreground-delegates of the US, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, North Vietnam and South Vietnam. (AP Photo #)

Once the allied forces had pulled out of South Vietnam a ferocious attack by North Vietnam on the South began. By 1974 it was evident that without the support of their former allies, the south would fall to the Viet Cong.

South Vietnamese soldier rests his eyes at a lonely outpost northeast of Kontum, 270 miles north of Saigon, March 25, 1974. The hill overlooks a vital North Vietnamese supply road and is located near the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in South Vietnam since the ceasefire. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)#

The war in Vietnam was, in itself, a tragedy difficult to grasp in its enormity. There are many sub-plots to this war. The sadness and loss of leaving the South Vietnamese to defend themselves was a tragedy. Allied forces had been aware for many, many years that 
ARVN troops (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) were not capable or not motivated to fight against the Viet Cong. Whatever the reasons, much blood and treasure was shed to train them. The fact that allied forces had spent almost two decades decimating the south by destroying villages, infrastructure, farmlands, waters, etc. made it that much easier for the North to invade and succeed at their overcoming the South.  In  1975 North Vietnamese troops marched triumphantly into Saigon while refugees piled into US helicopters and troop ships in an effort to evade capture. It was chaos. On April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese Army takes control of Saigon. And so, ends the war in Vietnam.

Although New Zealand's support was minimal militarily and as an adjunct to Australian forces, their medical teams were instrumental in health care for decades; even after the war. The Kiwis sent 3,500 of their citizens to serve in Vietnam from June 1964 . Of those, 37 died including a nurse serving with a surgical team and a member of their Red Cross team. Some sources report 187 New Zealanders wounded. 

In Remembrance of all those ANZACS
who served
in the War in Vietnam-
to those who survive we say 
Welcome Home
to those who perished
Rest in Peace
To all to all to all...
Please know you have not been forgotten.
We love our Aussie and Kiwi mates forever.

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