24 August 2023

Veterans honoured on 50th anniversary of end of Aussie involvement in Vietnam War

| Gail Eastaway
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The Snowy Monaro celebrated Vietnam Veterans Day.

RSL sub-branches combine to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day in Cooma. Photo: Gail Eastaway.

Returned and Services League (RSL) sub-branches from across the Snowy Monaro held a combined commemoration service at Cooma’s Cenotaph to honour Vietnam Veterans Day on 18 August.

The day marked the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Representatives of Cooma-Monaro, Adaminaby, Bombala and delegate RSL branches were joined by representatives of Cooma-Bombala Legacy, Cooma Laurel Club and the Cooma Ex-Services Club for the ceremony.

The service address was delivered by Vietnam veteran Bill Fogarty OAM, who is also a military historian and librarian.

Mr Fogarty recalled his service in Vietnam and the many diggers he served with, some of whom went on to play distinguished roles within the army and government.

Mr Fogarty gave colourful descriptions of some day-to-day events in Vietnam and also in the aftermath of Long Tan Day, when he was in hospital and became a standing patient to make room for the wounded from that battle.

He said on some occasions, the only people to appreciate how scared the diggers had been were “God and the laundry man”.

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Vietnam Veterans Day has been commemorated on 18 August since 1987.

Following the parade to welcome returning Vietnam veterans in Sydney, Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced that Long Tan Day would be known as Vietnam Veterans Day.

Since then, it has been commemorated every year as the day on which the service of all those people who served in Vietnam is remembered.

The Vietnam War was Australia’s longest military engagement of the 20th century.

The arrival of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam in South Vietnam during July and August 1962 marked the start of Australia’s involvement in the war.

By the war’s end, almost 60,000 Australians served during a decade of conflict until 1972. Tragically, 523 of them died and 3000 were wounded.

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The Battle of Long Tan was a significant moment in Australia’s war in Vietnam.

On 28 August, 1966, in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan, Australian soldiers fought one of their fiercest battles of the war.

The men of Delta Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, faced a force of some 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. The battle was fought in wet and muddy conditions during a heavy tropical downpour.

By the end of the day, 17 Australians had been killed in action and 25 wounded, one of whom died a few days later.

This was the largest number of casualties in a single operation since the Australian Task Force had established its base at nearby Nui Dat the previous April.

On Vietnam Veterans Day, Australia commemorates all the battles fought by Australians in Vietnam, from large-scale operations to platoon and section-level encounters.

We also remember the sailors of the Royal Australian Navy who supported land operations, and members of the Royal Australian Air Force who served in combat and transport roles.

In Cooma, other post-World War II conflicts were also remembered, including the Malayan Emergency, Korean War, Indonesian Confrontation, East Timor, the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.

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