Australia enters - 1962
In the early 1960s South Vietnam was a land beset by problems. The government was under threat from a growing communist insurgency, losing control over the countryside outside major towns and cities and facing internal dissent. The South Vietnamese government sought assistance from the United States and her regional ally, Australia. Both countries responded with civil and military aid. Australia’s contribution was small in comparison to America’s, but sufficient to show loyalty to the United States, Australia’s most valued ally. The United States was keen to avoid the appearance of replacing French colonialism with American imperialism, and the involvement of other countries from the region, such as Australia, helped avoid this perception by suggesting a more international approach.
Australia’s initial military contribution to South Vietnam was modest; comprising a team of 30 advisers who worked in various areas of the country under the command of Colonel F.P. ‘Ted’ Serong. Known as the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), they gave Australia a presence in South Vietnam and were seen as an embodiment of the Australian doctrine of ‘Forward Defence’ - meeting threats at their source rather than waiting to fight an enemy on Australian soil.
Colonel Serong arrived in Saigon, South Vietnam’s capital, on 31 July 1962. His men followed on 3 August. This small unit was the vanguard of Australia’s decade-long involvement in the Vietnam War.