ANZAC Order of Battle Vietnam 1962 - 1972 Australian Order of Battle for Vietnam 1962-1972


Australian Order of Battle for Vietnam 1962-1972


ARMY

Between June 1965 and March 1972 there were a total of 16 battalion tours of duty in South Vietnam. The first seven battalions each had two tours while 8 RAR and 9 RAR each had one. During this period a total of 14,325 Australian infantry men served in Vietnam and the overwhelming majority of these were with the battalions of the Regiment. Of the 415 soldiers who died on active service, 323 came from the Regiment. As far as Australia was concerned, it was an infantryman's war. That is not to ignore the valuable (and vital) contribution made by the other arms and services.

Australian Force Vietnam (AFV)

  • Headquarters Australian Army Force Vietnam

  • Headquarters Army Assistance Group Vietnam

  • Australian Embassy Guard Platoon

  • Defence and Employment Platoon

  • Field Operations Research Section

  • Headquarters Australian Force Vietnam Cash Office

  • Australian Civil Affairs Unit

  • Postal Unit

The function of Headquarters was the administrative command of all Australian forces in Vietnam. Initially, it was headquarters for Army units. From May l966, as the other services assumed an operational role in Vietnam, it included both Navy and RAAF components. The total strength was approximately 250.

1 Australian Task Force (1ATF)

  • Headquarters 1 Australian Task Force

  • Detachment 1 Division Cash Office

  • Detachment Australian Force Vietnam Cash Office

  • Provost Section 1 Provost Company

  • Australian Force Vietnam Provost Unit

  • 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit (1 ARU)

  • Defence and Employment Platoon (Hawke Force)

HQ 1 ATF commanded the Task Force. The Task Force included infantry battalions, an artillery regiment, an armoured squadron, a cavalry squadron, and other supporting arms and services. Approximately 200 staff at Headquarters planned and controlled operations. HQ 1 ATF was located at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province between Apr 66 and Dec 71.

Allied Support to 1ATF

The support of 1 ATF by 161 Field Battery RNZA and the unique integration of V and W Companies 1 RNZR into battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment was a reassertion of the ANZAC tradition, may it ever endure. See Notes on RNZIR.

Apart from the logistic support provided by the US Army in the early days, and continued in various ways even after the task force had its own functioning logistic support group, US medium artillery batteries equipped with self propelled 155 mm howitzers supported 1 ATF from both the Nui Dat base and at forward FSPBs. In addition, a heavy artillery battery with self propelled French howitzers and 175 mm guns were based at "Heavy weight" on the southern perimeter of Nui Dat. As well as artillery support, the US Army Aviation Corps supported task force operations with their helicopter companies for mobile insertions, gunship fire support, casualty evacuation (dustoff) and operational resupply.

1 Australian Logistic Support Group (1 ALSG)

  • Australian Logistic Support Company Headquarters

  • 1 Australian Logistic Support Group

  • 2 Detachment Australian Force Vietnam

  • Cash Office

  • Detachment 1 Division Postal Unit

  • Detachment 1 Comm Z Postal Unit

  • Detachment 5 ASCO Unit

  • Headquarters 2 Australian Force Canteen Unit (AFCU)

  • Detachment 2 AFCU

  • 1 Platoon 2 AFCU

  • 67 Ground Liaison (GL) Section

  • 1 Australian Rest and Convalescence Centre

  • AFV Amenities and Welfare Unit

  • 1 Psychological Operations Unit

The role of 1 ALSG (the tail that wagged the Task Force dog) was to command logistic support units which, while not glamorous, was essential to the functioning of the 1 ATF.. HQ also commanded seven detachments of logistic support elements with a total strength of 149. Upon the establishment of the 1st Australian Task Force at Nui Dat on 1 Apr 66, 1 ALSG was raised at Vung Tau. HQ 1 ALSG commanded 19 units and sub-units, with a total strength of 1015. Units under command of HQ 1 ALSG provided logistic support to all Australian forces in SVN, including the RAAF and RAN.

Despite assertions to the contrary Vung Tau was not a holiday resort for Allied forces. 1 ALSG did provide a recreation centre, including the Peter Badcoe Club and Harold Holt Memorial swimming Pool, for 1 ATF troops on local leave, and troops did leave their personal weapons in a Conex and go out to the town in civvies. However, although Vung Tau was as safe as perhaps any place in Vietnam could be at that time, it was not entirely free of enemy activity and mortar and sapper attacks were launched at selected targets like Vung Tau airbase and Phoenix Training Centre.

One service, however, does deserve a special mention, that provided by the First Australian Field Hospital and 8 Field Ambulance. The care and service provided to medical and casualty evacuees could not have been bettered within the resources available. As soon as the patient's condition had stabilised sufficiently to permit him to travel, he was airlifted by RAAF Hercules aircraft to Butterworth, Malaysia, where he was again checked at the RAAF hospital and, if well enough, was flown to RAAF Base, Richmond NSW. From there, he would be sent to convalesce in a hospital in his home state.

Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (1962-1972)

On 24 May 62 the Minister for Defence, Mr. Townley, announced that up to 30 military advisers were to be sent to Vietnam.  This announcement preceded the formation of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), which arrived in Saigon on 3 Aug 62.  For the next 10 years members were rotated through the team for a 12-month tour of duty.  The team was withdrawn from Vietnam and disbanded on 19 Dec 72.   As the war progressed team members were gradually spread throughout South Vietnam and into the Mekong Delta.  In 70 the team began to concentrate in Phuoc Tuy Province to the east of Saigon, and by 72 the entire team was located there.

The Primary role of the team was to provide training to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) but by 1964 emphasis had shifted to advising South Vietnamese field units, para military forces and Special Forces.  In some cases team members commanded units rather than advised.   In 1970 the team reverted to its original role of training.

The AATTV became the most highly decorated Australian unit ever, its decorations including four VCs , two DSOs, three OBEs, six MBEs, six MCs, 20 DCMs, 49 MIDs as well as numerous other Australian and foreign decorations.  The unit was awarded the United States Meritorious Unit Citation and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. AATTV members participated in almost all major battles involving the ARVN in 1 Corps from 1964 to 1970.  Of the 990 who served with AATTV, 30 died on active service in South Vietnam and 122 were wounded in action. Ten members of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment served with the team.

Royal Australian Armoured Corps

  • 1 APC Troop Jun 65 - May 66

  • 1 APC Squadron May 66 - Jan 67

  • A Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment Jan 67 - May 69

  • B Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment May 69 - Jan 71

  • A Squadron 1 Armoured Regiment Dec 69 - Dec 70

  • B Squadron 1 Armoured Regiment Feb 69 - Dec 69

  • C Squadron 1 Armoured Regiment Feb 68 - Feb 69 and Dec 70

  • Det 1 Forward Delivery Troop

1 Armoured Regiment

C Squadron, 1 Armoured Regiment arrived at Nui Dat in February-March 1968, in time to support 2 RAR and 3 RAR in their operations in the Minh Dam Secret Zone in March 1968. They also were a major factor in the repulse of the ground assaults against FSPB Balmoral/Coral. Equipped with Centurion tanks, three to a troop, the squadrons of 1 Armoured Regiment gave valuable support to the infantry battalions of the task force in their search and destroy operations and clearing towns and villages of enemy as well as providing protection for forward bases.

Their firepower and flexibility were particularly effective against enemy bunkers and strong points. When C Squadron was finally withdrawn from 1ATF in September 1971, the commanding officer of 3 RAR expressed his appreciation in a letter as follows:

"It was indeed a sorry day when your tanks ceased to be operational. The effort and outstanding esprit-de-corps of your unit have truly been a major factor in the operational success of 1ATF combat units. There is no doubt in my mind that casualties would have been much greater without your unfailing support and willingness to accept calculated risks to assist my men, especially in bunker contacts and thereby carry the day in the true spirit of armoured/infantry cooperation"

(Quoted from David Horner. 'Duty First, the Royal Australian Regiment in War and Peace" Allen & Unwin, 1990, page 275.)

3 Cavalry Regiment

The APCs of 3 Cavalry Regiment first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 with lAPC troop (Prince of Wales Light Horse) as part of the initial commitment of Australian ground forces in Vietnam. Increased to a squadron strength in April 1966, they gave added mobility and firepower to the infantry, giving active support in the majority of infantry operations, as well as protection for forward bases and convoys of soft-skinned vehicles. Apart from being "battlefield taxis" for 10 to 12 infantrymen, they served as command vehicles for headquarters, mobile mortar base-plates and ambulances for battlefield casualties. Their intervention with relief forces saved the day at the battle of Long Tan and in this, as in all the other operations, they earned the respect (not readily given) of the infantry battalions. Only lightly armoured, with their high silhouette they were at risk from a hidden enemy with anti-armour weapons (e.g. RPG 2 and RPG 7 rocket launchers) and improvised anti-armour mines. The latter caused them to add a bed of sandbags to their floors. They were finally withdrawn from Vietnam with the last units of the Task Force on 29 February 1979

Royal Australian Artillery

  • 105 Field Battery 65-66

  • 1 Field Regiment

    • 101 Field Battery 66-67 and 69-70

    • 103 Field Battery 66-67

    • 105 Field Battery 69-70

  • 4 Field Regiment

    • 106 Field Battery 67-68 and 70-71

    • 107 Field Battery 70-71

    • 108 Field Battery 67-68

  • 12 Field Regiment

  • A Field Battery 71

  • 102 Field Battery 68-69

  • 104 Field Battery 68-69 and 71

  • 131 Divisional Locating Battery 66-71

The first field battery to support Australia ground forces in Vietnam was the 161 Field Battery RNZA which arrived in country on 16 July 1965, shortly after the arrival of 1 RAR, thus reinforcing the tradition of ANZAC. 105 Field Battery of 1 Field Regiment arrived in the September that year and was increased to Regiment strength in April 1966. The artillery gave fire support to the infantry both from the Nui Dat base and from forward FSPBs. At FSPB Coral, the gunners found themselves firing splintex over open sights as the enemy broke through the wire and they had to take up small arms for their own defence. They were withdrawn in December 1971.

Royal Australian Engineers

  • Det 198 Works Section 9 Jan - 1 Mar 67

  • 198 Works Section 2 Mar 67 - 23 Dec 72

  • Det 11 Movement Control Group 1 Apr 66 - 12 Mar 72

  • 3 Field Troop 14 Sep 65 - 31 Mar 66

  • 1 Field Squadron 1 Apr 66 - 18 Nov 71

  • 21 Engineer Support Troop 1 Apr 66 - 9 Dec 71

  • Det 55 Advanced Engineer Stores Squadron 1 Apr 66 - 16 Feb 68

  • Det 55 Engineer Workshop & Park Squadron 17 Feb 68 - 12 Mar 72

  • 55 Engineer Workshop & Park Squadron

  • 17 Construction Squadron 1 Apr 66 - 12 Feb 72

  • Det 11 Movement Control Group 1 Apr 66 - 12 Mar 72

  • 30 Terminal Squadron 9 Jan 67 - 12 Mar 72

  • Det 1 Division Postal Unit 1 Apr 66 - 8 Nov 67

  • Det 1 Communication Zone Postal Unit 19 Oct 66 - 23 Feb 72

  • 1 Small Ship Troop (Clive Steele) 26 Jun 66 - 23 Nov 66, 3 Dec 66 - 9 Jan 67, 17 Jan 67- 16 Mar 67, 29 Jan 68 - 27 Apr 69, 21 Jul 69 - 2 Mar 70, 11 Jul - 3 Sep 70 and 2 Mar - 12 Mar 71

  • 1 Small Ship Troop (Harry Chauvel) 23 Oct 67 - 21 Mar 68 and 2 May 70 - 6 Jun 70

  • 3 Small Ship Troop (Vernon Sturdee) 11 Apr 66 - 25 Jun 66 and 23 Jan 67 - 14 Dec 67

  • 4 Small Ship Troop (Brudenell White) 22 Sep 70 - 24 Oct 70

  • Det 32 Small Ship Squadron (John Monash) 5 May 66 - 14 May 66, 3 Dec 67 - 31 Jan 68, 17 Feb 68 - 31 Mar 68, 16 Dec 68 - 26 Dec 68, 20 Feb 69 - 4 Mar 69, 25 Oct 69 - 7 Dec 69 and 27 Jul 71 - 14 Aug 71

  • Det 32 Small Ship Squadron (Clive Steele) 23 Feb 71 - 20 Mar 71

  • Det 32 Small Ship Squadron (Harry Chauvel) 11 Nov - 15 Dec 70

1 Field Squadron RAE

Field works and land clearing continued throughout their commitment in Vietnam, not only for forward bases, FSPBs, and landing zones (LZ) but also for the protection of the villages and Vietnamese troops in Phuoc Tuy Province. They also performed road building and construction tasks for the Civil Aid Programme.

Engineer Combat Teams from 1 Field Squadron also operated with the rifle companies or at infantry battalion headquarters in support of the rifle companies. They were equipped with two essentials on operations; firstly their expertise on Viet Cong mine warfare, tunnelling and booby-trap techniques, and secondly, the tools of their trade - explosives, primers, detonators, detonating cord, demolition charges and mine detector equipment. To their lot fell the dangerous tasks of clearing minefields and booby-traps and the clearing and destruction of camps and tunnel complexes. The dangerous and unpleasant nature of their work must have made it rank with that of the infantry sections' forward scouts as the nastiest job in the task force. The engineers were withdrawn from Vietnam in November-December 1971.

Royal Australian Survey Corps

  • Det 1 Topographical Survey Troop A 66-71

  • Section 1 Topographical Survey Troop 66-71

Royal Australian Signal Corps

  • HQ 145 Signal Squadron 709 Signal Troop 25 May 65 - 20 Nov 67

  • 527 Signal Troop 14 Sep 65 - 5 Jul 67, absorbed into 145 Signal Squadron

  • 547 Signal Troop 1 Apr 66 - 23 Dec 71

  • 581 Signal Troop

  • 552 Signal Troop

  • 506 Signal Troop

  • 520 Signal Troop

  • HQ 110 Signal Squadron

  • HQ Signal Squadron

  • 704 Signal Troop

  • 557 Signal Troop

  • 561 Signal Troop

  • 532 Signal Troop

  • 503 Signal Troop

  • 103 Signal Squadron 1 Apr 66 - 5 Jul 67

  • 104 Signal Squadron (TF) 2 Mar 67 - 15 Dec 71, replaced 103 Signal Squadron

  • 110 Signal Squadron 2 Mar 67 - 12 Mar 72, replaced 145 Signal Squadron

  • Det 152 Signal Squadron (SAS) 31 Aug 66 - 15 Oct 71

  • AAAGV Signal Detachment 12 Mar - Dec 72

Royal Australian Infantry

  • First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) 2 Tours:  25 May 65 - 14 Jul 66, 19 Jan 68 - 28 Jan 69

  • Second Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) (2 RAR/NZ Anzac Battalion) 2 Tours:  20 Mar 67 - 18 Jun 68, 28 Apr 70 - 4 Jun 71

  • Third Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) (Old Faithful) 2 Tours:  12 Dec 67 - 5 Dec 68, 12 Feb 71 - 19 Oct 71

  • Fourth Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR) (Anzac) 2 Tours:  20 Jan 68 - 30 May 69, 1 May 70 - 12 Mar 72

  • Fifth Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (5 RAR) 2 Tours:  1 Apr 66 - 4 Jul 67, 28 Jan 69 - 5 Mar 70

  • Sixth Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) 2 Tours:  1 Apr 66 - 5 Jul 67, 7 May 69 - 28 May 70 (second  tour was as 6 RAR/ NZ-Anzac Battalion)

  • Seventh Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (7 RAR) 2 Tours Apr 67 - Apr 68, Feb 70 - Mar 71

  • Eighth Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (8 RAR) Nov 69 - Nov 70

  • Ninth Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (9 RAR) 5 Nov 68 - 5 Dec 69

  • Special Air Service Regiment Apr 66 - Oct 71

    • One Squadron Special Air Service 67- 68, 70- 71

    • Two Squadron Special Air Service 68- 69, 71

    • Three Squadron Special Air Service 66- 67, 69- 70

The Special Air Service SAS

3 SAS Squadron arrived in Vietnam in April 1966 and thereafter the three SAS sabre squadrons rotated yearly until the withdrawal of 2 SAS Squadron in October 1971. (4 SAS Squadron, raised in 1965, was disbanded to provide reinforcements for the other three squadrons soon afterwards. On 31 August 1966, approval was given for SAS Regiment's new establishment of three sabre squadrons, a base squadron and a signals squadron.) As with the ANZAC battalions, 1 and 2 SAS Squadrons had a New Zealand troop integrated with them in Vietnam. The traditional role of the SAS was long range reconnaissance patrols (LRRP), acting as the ears and eyes of the task force with deep penetration into the enemy's sanctuaries to collect such battle intelligence as enemy unit identifications, strengths and capabilities, movements and intentions. Sometimes "snatch" patrols were mounted with the intention of capturing a prisoner for interrogation. Operating in four and five man patrols, the intention was to see without being seen but they frequently clashed with the enemy and had to fight their way out. Many of their extractions were "hard", carried out under fire. Soon they were being used for offensive purposes, setting ambushes and harassing the enemy in his base areas. 1 ATE commander, Brig Hughes (October 1967 to October 1968) explained,

"The kill rate achieved by the SAS was very gratifying... I did not view the SAS as an intelligence gathering organisation, rather as a reaction force to intelligence gathered by other means".

Based on top of the Nui Dat feature which became known as "SAS Hill", the SAS Squadrons built up a formidable reputation, both in providing accurate information and accumulating an impressive list of kills. SAS personnel also served with distinction with AATTV throughout the period it served in Vietnam, the most notable perhaps being Warrant Officer Ray Simpson VC, DCM. The majority of SAS with A1TV worked within the US 5th Special Forces sphere with Mobile Strike Forces or with Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRU). With the reversion of AATTV to the training role, SAS personnel instructed with the LRRP wing at the JWTC in Phuoc Tuy Province.

During the period of just over five years, some 580 SAS Soldiers served in Vietnam. They conducted 1175 patrols (not including 130 by the NZ SAS) the majority being reconnaissance, recce-ambush and ambush patrols. Their service in Vietnam reinforced their reputation as an elite unit of the Australian Army.

Australian Army Aviation Corps

  • 161 Reconnaissance Flight 14 Sep 65 - 8 Mar 72

  • 161 (Independent) Reconnaissance Flight

Australian Intelligence Corps

  • Detachment 1 Division Intelligence Unit 15 May 66 - 2 Oct 71

  • 1 Psychological Operations Unit

Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RASC)

Bien Hoa

  • RAASC Detachment  65

Vung Tau

  • HQ 1 Company RAASC 66-67

  • 1 Transport Platoon RAASC Apr 66 - Jul 67

  • 87 Transport Platoon RAASC Apr 66 - Jul 67

  • Detachment 276 AD Company Apr 66 - May 67

  • Detachment 1 Division Postal Unit Apr 66 - Nov 67

  • HQ 5 Company RAASC Mar 67 - Mar 72

  • 2 Transport Platoon Apr 67 - Nov 70 

  • 85 Transport Platoon (Tipper) Mar 67 - Sep 71

  • 86 Transport Platoon Jan 67 - Mar 72

  • Saigon Detachment 1 Comm Z Postal Unit Oct 66 - Feb 72

Nui Dat

  • HQ 26 Company RAASC Nov 69 - Jun 71

  • 85 Transport Platoon Mar 67 - Sep 71 

  • Elm 176 AD Company Jun 67 - Nov 71

  • Elm 1 Comm Z Postal Unit 67 - Jun 1968

Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (RAAMC)

  • 1 Australian Field Hospital 13 Nov 67 - 14 Dec 71

  • 2 Field Ambulance 1 Apr 66 - 5 Jul 67

  • 8 Field Ambulance 2 Mar 67 - 12 Mar 72

  • Detachment 1 Field Medical/Dental Unit 20 Nov 67 - 25 Nov 71

  • Detachment 1 Field Medical/Dental Equipment Detachment 20 Nov 67 - 25 Nov 71

  • Detachment 1 Field Hygiene Company 5 Dec 67 - 12 Mar 72

Royal Australian Army Dental Corps

  • 33 Dental Unit May 66 - Mar 72

Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps

  • 5 May 67 - 25 Nov 71

43 members of the RAANC served in Vietnam with 1st Australian Field Hospital and 8th Field Ambulance

Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps

HQ 2 Company Ordnance Depot (Type A) 1 Apr 66 - 15 Nov 67 - redesignated 2 AOD -  includes the following subunits:

  • 13 Ordnance Supply Control Platoon

  • 16 Ordnance Vehicle Platoon

  • 14 Ordnance Stores Platoon

  • 18 Ordnance Depot Laundry and Bath Section

  • 15 Ordnance Ammunition Platoon

  • 19 Ordnance Supply Control Platoon

  • 20 Ordnance Stores Platoon    9 Jan 67

  • 2 Advanced Ordnance Depot (includes subunits listed above, 16 Nov 67 - 12 Mar 72)

  • 1 Independent Armoured Sqn Workshop Stores Section   (redesignated) 29 Jan - 2 Feb 68

  • 101 Field Workshop Stores Section 1     Apr 66 - 5 Jul 67

  • 102 Field Workshop Stores Section    2 Mar 67 - 12 Mar 72

Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (65-71)

  • Detachment 131 Div Loc Bty Workshop

  • 1 Field Squadron Workshop

  • 106 Field Workshop (Type A)

  • 1 TF Headquarter Light Aid Detachment (LAD) Detachment

  • 1 APC Squadron Light Aid Detachment Detachment

  • A Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment Light Aid Detachment

  • B Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment Light Aid Detachment

  • A Squadron 1 Armoured Regiment Light Aid Detachment

  • C Squadron 1 Armoured Regiment Light Aid Detachment

  • 1 Field Regiment Light Aid Detachment

  • 4 Field Regiment Light Aid Detachment

  • 12 Field Regiment Light Aid Detachment

  • I Independent Armoured Squadron Workshop

  • 1 Armoured Squadron Workshop

  • 17 Construction Squadron Workshop Detachment

  • l Division ST Workshop

  • 5 Company RAASC Workshop

  • 101 Field Workshop (Type A)

  • 102 Field Workshop (Type B)

Citizens Military Forces Observers

Army Public Relations Service


ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY

Naval support for Vietnam began in May 1965 when the converted aircraft carrier, HMAS Sydney, transported elements and stores of 1RAR and supporting units to Vung Tau. Direct involvement began in February 1967 with the allotment of a Clearance Diving Team (CDT3).

On 3 March 1967 the Minister for Navy announced that the guided missile destroyer HMAS Hobart would join the US Seventh Fleet for service in Vietnamese waters. Thereafter the RAN maintained one fleet unit continuously in operational waters in the Gulf of Tonkin and South China sea on six months rotation until September 1971.

Clearance Diving Team 3 (6 Feb 67 - 11 Apr 71)

In early 1967 a team of one officer and five sailors known as Clearance Diving Team 3 formed for service in Vietnam. The team was assigned to Vung Tau Harbour defence between Feb 67 and Aug 70, and was then stationed at Da Nang until Apr 71 when the unit was withdrawn from Vietnam. Eight contingents saw service in Vietnam.

The CDT3 was based in Vung Tau where it was attached to the US Navy as an Explosive Ordnance (EOD) Team. Its primary task was to assist the Inshore Underwater Warfare Group to maintain port security by regular inspection of ships' hulls, rudders, propellers, cables and anchors. Its secondary task was disposal of mines and explosive ordnance.

The protection of shipping in Vung Tau harbour, usually carried out at night, proved to be necessary and highly successful and a number of underwater sabotage charges and limpet mines were removed from anchor vessels.

In addition to its allotted tasks, the team was called upon to perform tasks outside its normal province, such as assisting the Vietnamese National Police to search junks, small boat reconnaissance of the narrow waterways of the delta region, search and destroy sweeps, setting ambushes, demolition of canal barricades erected by Viet Cong sappers and the location and demolition of tunnels and bunkers.

In September 1969, CDT3 was awarded the US Meritorious Unit Citation for outstanding service in 1969. It was disbanded on 19 April 1971 after 4 years service in Vietnam.

GUIDED MISSILE DESTROYERS 

Between 1967 and 1971, Australian destroyers were attached to the United States Seventh fleet for six-month tours of duty. Duties included the patrolling of the North Vietnam coast to prevent seaborne supplies to South Vietnam (Operation Sea Dragon), bombardment of enemy supply lines and installations, naval gunfire support to units in South Vietnam including, on occasion, to Australians in Phuoc Tuy and screening duties for capital units of the fleet. Service with the 7th Fleet ended when HMAS Brisbane was withdrawn in September 1971.

HMAS Brisbane (2 Tours: 20 Mar 69 -13 Oct 69, Mar 71-15 Oct 71)

Together with other Australian destroyers, HMAS Brisbane provided Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) along the South Vietnamese coast. Her second deployment was the last combat tour of a RAN destroyer.

HMAS Perth (3 Tours:  2 Sep 67 - 10 Apr 68, 14 Sep 68 - 20 Apr 69, 14 Sep 70 - 8 Apr 71)

Though no opposition was encountered by sea, on 18 Oct 67, during her first deployment, HMAS Perth received a direct hit from an enemy shore battery while operating off the North Vietnamese coast. An artillery shell penetrated one deck and one sailor was wounded.

HMAS Perth came under fire four times and was the only Australian ship hit by enemy fire.

Perth was awarded a US Navy Unit Commendation honour for her 1967-68 service, and was farther awarded the US Meritorious Unit Commendation for her service in 1968-69.

During her 1968-69 tour of duty, HMAS Perth spent nearly 80% of her time under-way, completed 61 underway replenishments of stores, fuel and ammunition, fired more than 7,500 rounds from her 5" gun and in steaming 45,000 miles consumed more than 10,000 tons of oil.

HMAS Hobart (3 Tours:  7 Mar 67 - 27 Sep 67, 22 Mar 68 -11 Oct 68, 6 Mar 70 -17 Oct 70)

HMAS Hobart was the first Australian destroyer deployed. During her second deployment to Vietnam, Hobart suffered two killed and seven wounded on 17 June 1968 when she was hit by missiles fired inadvertently by US aircraft. During her second deployment Hobart was under fire on three occasions. The deployment was mainly involved in NGFS in support of a joint Australian/ARVN sweep between the Long Hai hills and the coastline.

HMAS Hobart  Hobart was awarded the US Navy Unit Commendation for her 1967 deployment.

HMAS Hobart on her three deployments steamed some 124,00 miles and fired 42,475 rounds from her 5" gun.

DARING CLASS DESTROYER

HMAS Vendetta (15 Sep 69 -11 Apr 70)

HMAS Vendetta was the only Australian-built warship to serve in Vietnam and was the first Australian Daring Class destroyer to see active service. During her one deployment, Vendetta spent 93 days on the "gunline", steamed 39,558 miles, and fired 13,295 rounds from her main armament. 

RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam (16 Oct 67 - 14 Jun 71)

In 1967 the RAN formed a helicopter flight (RANHFV) from a unit of 723 RAN Air Squadron based at Nowra, NSW. On 16 Oct 67 eight RAN helicopter pilots and support staff joined the US Army 135th Aviation Company in Vietnam. The RAN contingents served with the Americans till 1971. The RAN pilots flew their last mission on 8 Jun 71 and the experiment of a mixed Australian Navy and American Army helicopter unit had been successful.

During its four years in country, RANHFV provided transport of troops from their base to enemy-occupied territory on search and destroy missions. These sorties, known as troop insertions, were frequently opposed by enemy ground fire and were therefore supported by gunships.

RANHFV was based variously at Vung Tau, Camp Blackhorse in Long Kanh Province, Camp Martin Cox/Bearcat in Bien Hoa Province and finally at Dong Tam in Dinh Tuong Province. It suffered the heaviest casualties of all RAN units in Vietnam with 15 casualties, including four killed in action and one killed in an accident. It was withdrawn in June 1971.

Also eight RAN pilots were attached to 9 Squadron RAAF for intervals between February to May 1968.

RAN Detachment 9 Squadron RAAF Jun 66 - May 69

The RAN Detachment of 9 Squadron RAAF comprised eight Fleet Air Arm pilots operating in direct support of the 1st Australian Task Force. Australian Force Logistic Support All three Australian services provided logistic support to Australian forces in Vietnam.

RAN LOGISTIC SUPPORT

Logistic support of the Australian forces in Vietnam began in May 1965 when the HMAS Sydney conveyed 1RAR to Vietnam and continued until 12 March 1972 when she returned to Australia with the last Task Force units to serve in Vietnam. In all, she made 23 voyages to Vung Tau.

HMAS Sydney May 65 -11 Mar 72

The troop transport HMAS Sydney was the first RAN ship to have operational service in Vietnam. She completed 22 voyages in 7 years.

HMAS Jeparit 9 Jun 66 -15 Mar 72

In June 1966 the former Australian National Line vessel MV Jeparit began giving logistic support to Australian forces in Vietnam, at first manned by merchant seamen and from 9 March 1967 by a mixed crew including an RAN component. On 11 December 1969, Jeparit was commissioned in the RAN, but continued in service with a mixed crew. Between June 1966 and March 1972 (when she was paid off at Sydney), the Jeparit made 43 voyages,  to Vietnam carrying military supplies and civil aid cargoes, steamed some 410,000 miles and carried 175,000 dead weight tons of cargo. Paid off on 15 March 72. 

HMAS Boonaroo May 66

Another Australian National Line cargo ship, MV Boonaroo, was commissioned into the RAN 1 Mar 67 and paid off 8 May l967. She completed 3 voyages to Vietnam.

RAN personnel who served on these vessels were precluded from the award of the Vietnam Medal by its conditions for award. It was not until this year that their services would be recognised with the award of the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal.

RAN Medical Officers

The RAN was also represented in Vietnam by thirteen RAN, RANR and RANVR medical officers posted on Australian destroyers, detached service to the 1 Australian Field Hospital, and US Army and Naval hospitals. Their tour of duty was usually of four months duration and generally included participation in the Medical Civil Action Program (MEDCAP) for the villages in Phuoc Tuy Province.

RAN Chaplains

Fleet Chaplains attended to the spiritual needs of RAN, and allied servicemen in Vietnam.


ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE

Apart from the United States, Australia was the only outside nation to make a significant contribution to air operations in Vietnam, but the substantial and effective RAAF contribution was minute in comparison with the total air effort. 

RAAF Members also served with the United States Air Force 64 - 72.   RAAF fighter pilots were given the opportunity of serving in Vietnam as Forward Air Controllers.  In addition to duty as FACs, six fighter pilots also saw service in American phantom squadrons in Vietnam.

The following RAAF elements were deployed in Vietnam:

  • Headquarters Royal Australian Air Force Element
  • Australian Force Vietnam Headquarters
  • Royal Australian Air Force Contingent Vung Tau

  • Royal Australian Air Force (Caribou) Transport Flight 8 Aug 64 - 1st Jun 66

  • Base Support Flight May 66 - Apr 68

  • Number 1 Operational Support Unit Feb 68 - Feb 72

  • Number 9 Squadron 12 June 1966 to 8 December 1971

  • Number 2 Squadron  19 April 1967 to 4 June 1971

  • Airfield Construction Squadron (Detachment B) 64 - 72

  • Royal Australian Air Force Element 161 Recce Flight 14 Sep 65 - 8 Mar 72

  • Number 35 Transport Squadron 1 Jun 66 - Feb 72

RAAF Transport Flight / 35 Transport Squadron

Initially called the RAAF Transport Flight, the unit was later designated 35 Transport Squadron (1 June 1966) - but most knew it as the Wallaby Flight - this was the first RAAF operational unit to see service in Vietnam. The Wallaby Flight was stationed at Vung Tau and was controlled by the US 834th Air Division. It began operations on 14 August 1964, initially with six De Havilland Caribou aircraft, which was later increased to seven. Three aircraft remained after a partial withdrawal in June 1971 and these were finally withdrawn in February 1972. Operating from primitive airstrips in many cases, the Wallaby Flight delivered some 100,000 tons of cargo and 300,000 passengers.

9 Squadron RAAF

9 Squadron was located at Vung Tau. It was initially equipped with eight "D" Model Iroquois helicopters but most of these were replaced by the more powerful "H" model later in 1968. It supported the 1ATF on operations, providing troop movement, carriage of cargo, casualty evacuation, and later gunship support (the gunships were designated "bushrangers"). It could not, of course, fulfill all Task Force requirements but operated in company with US Army helicopters. 9 Squadron operated in South Vietnam from 12 June 1966 to 8 December 1971.

2 Squadron RAAF

2 Squadron equipped with the Australian-built Canberra B Mk 20 jet bomber, arrived in Vietnam from Malaysia on 19 April 1967 and flew its first sorties on 23 April. It was based at Phan Rang under control of the US 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, itself part of 7th Air Force. 2 Squadron Canberra's carried out missions throughout the four Corps areas. They were noted for their precision bombing at low altitude and were also employed at night on "Combat Skyspot"/"Combat Proof" missions. (All weather sorties controlled by ground-based MSQ-77 radar.) Earning the respect of their USAF associates, the Australian airmen built up an impressive record of 11,963 sorties, with a loss of only 2 aircraft and 2 crewmen. It returned to Australia on 4th June 71, 13 years after having left Australia from Darwin en route to Butterworth, Malaysia.

Hercules Aircraft

Hercules aircraft from 36 and 37 Transport Squadrons, based in Australia, were used from the initial deployment of 1RAR to the final withdrawal of AAAGV and AATTV elements, in transporting troops and supplies between Australia and Vietnam. Specially fitted and crewed Hercules were also used for the medical evacuation of wounded to Australia via the RAAF hospital at Butterworth, Malaysia.

161 (Independent) Reconnaissance Flight

161 Recce Flt arrived in September 1965, and redesignated 161 (Indep) Recce Flt in April 1966 with the arrival of 1 ATF. Though based in Vung Tau, their Sioux helicopters nicknamed 'possums" accompanied battalions to their forward bases, flying in direct support, returning to Nui Dat base at dusk. These and the Cessna aircraft of 161 (Indep) Recce Flt performed a variety of tasks, including reconnaissance, navigational assistance to companies operating in thick scrub, radio relay and aerial observation in the adjustment of artillery fire. They were also used for casualty evacuation in emergency, one pilot landing his helicopter three times under heavy fire in Baria's town square to evacuate the wounded of A coy 3 RAR during the 1968 Tet Offensive, a deed which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. 161 (Indep) Recce Flight was finally withdrawn from Vietnam in March 1972.

RAAF Nursing Service MEDEVAC Flight)

RAAF nurses tended the wounded on the medical evacuation aircraft which transported them from Vietnam to Australia usually via Malaysia.

RAAF Chaplains

RAAF Chaplains attended to the spiritual needs of RAAF personnel as well as Australian and US troops.


CIVILIAN and PHILANTHROPIC

Red Cross

The Australian Red Cross contributed a welfare worker who was based at Vung Tau.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army maintained the Red Shield Hut.

War Correspondents

The Australian War Correspondents provided news and feature stories for distribution to media in Australia.

Official War Artists, Historians and Photographers

As with other wars, official representatives were sent to Vietnam to collect data, information and impressions of Australia's military involvement.

Civilian Medical Teams

Civilian Medical Teams from major Australian hospitals were sent to Vietnam as part of a civilian aid program.

Australian Entertainment Groups

Australian entertainers volunteered for service in Vietnam with specific entertainment groups which were formed and financed separately.

Everymans Welfare Organisation

Everymans is a philanthropic organisation which supports the Australian Defence Force. They provided moral support to soldiers in the field from Recruit Training onwards.


SOURCES:

Brian Ross, Australian Order of Battle 1962-1972

Bob Teusner (9RAR), The Australian Veteran and the Vietnam Experience

See Also: 


Copyright 2000 Brian Ross and Bob Teusner.
Non-commercial distribution for educational purposes permitted if document is unaltered. Any commercial use, or storage in any commercial BBS is strictly prohibited without written consent.


 

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