VIETNAM - THE WAR AUSTRALIA WON
Australia won its war in Vietnam. We joined the war to help stop the fighting in South Vietnam. This mission was accomplished in 1973 after which Australia withdrew from the conflict.
A Vietnam veteran awarded the Medal of Gallantry for actions at Long Tan questions how some people can still to this day suggest that Australia, “lost the war, that we had been defeated – that we didn’t do the job”.
Dave Sabben (pictured), who was Commander of 12 Platoon, Delta Company 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, during the Battle of Long Tan, says Australian forces entered Vietnam with a clear mission – to help stop the fighting in the South.
“We didn’t go to Vietnam to invade the North,” he said. “We didn’t go to topple their government. We didn’t go to remove Ho Chi Minh from power. We went to help stop the fighting in the South.”
“We achieved this in January 1973 (when) the Allies forced the North to sign the Paris Peace Accord. The Accord agreed to a halt to all hostilities; the withdrawal of all non-Vietnamese forces; the exchange of POWs and, importantly, that the North would honour their border with the South.”
In January 1973 the then Governor General, Sir Paul Hasluck told the Australian Parliament and people that “hostilities in Vietnam have ceased”. The war was over.
“We had achieved our aim. The fighting in the South was stopped. We came home,” Dave said. “It was more than two years later in March 1975 that the North broke the peace treaty. They invaded the South in a deliberate act of a new war.”
Dave, who has dedicated much of his post-war life to sharing the story of Vietnam and to supporting recognition of the service of all Veterans, says the attack in 1975 by the North was not an extension of Australia’s war.
“We were not at war with North Vietnam in 1975. We had had no troops in Vietnam for two years,” he said. “In fact, we had an embassy in Hanoi at the time and had diplomatic relations with North Vietnam.”
Following the withdrawal of combat troops a small number of Australians remained in Vietnam to staff the embassy until 1975, when RAAF humanitarian flights were called in to evacuate staff as North Vietnamese forces descended on the city.
The last Australian to “step off” Vietnam was a member of the RAAF aircrew evacuating embassy staff before Saigon fell.
While Australia’s military involvement in the war ended in 1973 the official keeper of Australia’s war record, the Australian War Memorial, records the war as 1962-1975.
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