Today marks Vietnam Veterans’ Day, when we remember and pay tribute to the brave men and women who fought in the Vietnam War and the Battle of Long Tan.
Originally known as Long Tan Day, Vietnam Veterans’ Day on 18 August is a day to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all Australians during the Vietnam War.
This year is the 55th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, which is generally regarded as one of the fiercest battles fought by Australian soldiers during the conflict.
On that day in 1966, 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against over 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan.
Vastly outnumbered, they prevailed after fighting in torrential rain for four hours but lost 18 men and more than 20 wounded in the contact, the largest number of casualties in one operation after the Australian task force arrived in Vietnam.
More than 60,000 Australian defence and civilian personnel served during Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War over 11 years between 1962 and 1973. Of these, 521 Australian service personnel died and more than 3,000 were wounded.
The Vietnam War was the first major conflict to be covered extensively on television and had a profound effect on Australian society, politics and popular culture.
Vietnam veterans have gone on to make a significant contribution to the ex-service and wider Australian community, helping secure many veteran support services, including the Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service (now known as Open Arms).
This is a difficult time for many current and former defence personnel, including our Middle East veterans and Vietnam veterans, for whom the situation in Afghanistan has brought back memories of the Fall of Saigon in 1975.
Veterans should look out for each other, and reach out to support services available to them and their families, including Open Arms, and ex-service organisations such as RSL Sub Branches, Mates4Mates and Soldier On.
On Vietnam Veterans’ Day, all Australians are encouraged to support our ex-service community, and stay in touch with any veterans they know and check in on them.
To learn more about the Vietnam War and Vietnam Veterans’ Day, you can visit the Anzac Portal.
Support is available for current and ex-serving defence personnel, and their families through Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling by phone on 1800 011 046 (international +61 8 8241 4546) or you can visit www.openarms.gov.au. Safe Zone Support offers anonymous counselling by phone on 1800 142 072 or you can visit www.openarms.gov.au/safe-zone.