Australians in Vietnam

The most comprehensive site about Australia’s involvement in Vietnam.

18,000 Australian soldiers did their tour of duty in Nam. 504 of them KIA.

Did you Know?

  1. Estimated overall casualties 5,773,190
  2. Estimated Dead 2,122,244
  3. Dust-off Missions 500,000
  4. Patients air-lifted from battlefields 900,000
  5. Assassinations (South Vietnam) 36,725
  6. Abductions (South Vietnam) 58,499
  7. Estimated South Vietnamese citizens Killed 587,000
  8. South Vietnam Military personal Killed 220,357
  9. Defoliants used (US Gallons) 19,000,000
  10. Area sprayed (acres) 3,500,000
  11. Helicopters Used 12,000
  12. Helicopters Downed (Enemy ground Fire) 4,865
  13. Average age of World War 2 Soldier 26
  14. Average age of Australian Soldier in Vietnam 20
  15. Americans Killed 58,169
  16. Australians Killed 504
  17. Americans killed less than 20 years old 11,464
  18. Americans severely disabled 75,000
  19. Amputations and crippling wounds were 3000/0 higher than WW2.
  20. Ammunition expended each month (tons) 71,000
  21. Average of Artillery rounds expended each day in Vietnam 10,000
  22. The number of men who registered for National service in Australia, 804,000
    Of these 63,000 were called up, and 18,000 went to Vietnam
  23. The US Air Force missions over Vietnam 1,899,688
  24. Total tonnage of bombs dropped by US Air Force 6,727,084
  25. During WW2 the Bomb tonnage dropped on Germany 2,700,000
  26. Fixed Wing Aircraft lost in Vietnam 3,750
    27 . The US airman lost in Vietnam 8,040
  27. B52’s Bombers lost in Enemy Action in Vietnam 18
  28. B52’s Bombers Lost due to mid air collisions and other accidents 13
  29. The number of Field Rations consumed each month in Vietnam 10,000,000
  30. Litres of petroleum products consumed each month 303,000,000

The Infantry Soldier in the South West Pacific in WW2 saw an average of 40 days in combat in four years. The Australian Infantry Soldier in Vietnam saw an average of 314 days in the bush in one year. In Vietnam the avg time elapsed between being wounded and being in Hospital was 1 Hour. The Percentage of those seriously wounded and saved was 82%. The Percentage of those wounded who died after reaching Hospital was 2.5%.


(an underground man)

The leading scout raised his arm in the village of Long Phuoc
He’d found another tunnel, but who’d go down to look?
The corporal passed the word back, it went back far behind
To let his platoon commander know of his recent find

Then along came this soldier, with mud from head to toe
“Where’s the tunnel entrance?” was all he wanted to know
When they showed the soldier, he quickly looked around
And before you could stop him, he’d gone underground

Now he’d been searching on his gut, all that day I bet
Look out for booby traps that good ol’ Charlie sets
Then he found the wire, stretched out taut and thin
But he deloused that booby trap, with a safety pin

Then he found the weapons leaning on the wall
There was no disputing he’d found a real big haul
When he finally surfaced, wearing a big grin
He proudly showed the Diggers what he’d found within

Now he’d like to sit down, and roll himself a smoke
But he’s been called up forward, by another bloke
So when you see that hat badge, that’s like a bursting shell
Remember that this fellow has crawled half way through to hell

And if he’s in a bar mate, you buy that bloke a beer
Because Sir, you’re drinking with an Aussie Engineer

I thought you might like this one Lancer.

Hi WaistGunner,

Thanks, I like it. At one time I had been collecting pieces written by soldiers and gathered few interesting things mainly from North Africa.

Tunnel rats from Nam it’s an amazing story. I met one of them about 17 years ago and we kept contact. He moved to QLD few years ago.
And I tell you, bloke was absolutely crazy, (in a positive sense of course), he would go to hell and back then asked permission to go again.
I met him once in RSL club on ANZAC Day and we both had a couple of beers and then couple too many…
I get cab home and he stayed a bit longer. On his way home he climbed 50 metres crane on nearby building site. Cops spotted him and he started to argue with them and refused to go down…
Finally he tied himself to the boom with his belt and went asleep… 50m below cops, ambulances, fire brigade and crowd of people was waiting long into the night. I think he slept about 4 hours, than get down.
They not charged him because it was ANZAC Day.

This is the way Tunnel Rats entertain…



Interesting numbers up there, in respect to the soldiers age…is a mistake to download the conscription age, we do that and also pay the price in Malvinas /Falklands.

From what I have heard alot of physcological problems came from the vietcong doing fire and runs. Killed many kept everyone on thier tones. Fire and Movement used to combat the Cong.

Anyone with that many days in combat is going to have severe psychological difficulties I think…

I know a lot of U.S. vets said that one of the problems they had a hard time dealing with was the contrast between being helicoptered into a “hot-LZ” and be in vicious combat on moment, then be quickly extracted an go to a safe area where they had cold beer and hot steak the next. It was like a shock of cold and hot…

Theoretically good living conditions in bases should help to overcome combat stress reactions. Theoretically…
I think you’re right. I read forum attended by soldiers in Iraq. They complained about the same thing. From relative comfort of air conditioned quarters and right after eating ice cream they go on patrol.
What about creating topic in “General discussion” relating to “battle fatigue”?




I first learned of the tunnel rats in the 8th grade. Out school janitor was with them. Once he opened up he had some interesting tales to tell. He was a bit on the (positive) crazy side as well. But I guess after being in the tunnels not much could compare in terms of adrenaline and fear.

I read one theory on Vietnam cambat fatigue that it wasn’t the quick transport from combat to safe that was the greatest contributing factor but rather the fact that there were no real safe zones a soldier could to get at all (except Taiwan or Hawii on R&R).

Due to the nature of the Viet Cong tactics they kept every enemy base under extreme stress. I have read a few accounts of people that didn’t even realize how wound up they were until they did go on R&R and spent the first day or two just shaking because they were finally able to unwind.

A damn good read about the Viet Cong’s, (quite literally,) underground bases is “The Tunnels of Cu Chi” by Tom Mangold.
Whether you pick it up from the library or purchase it, just make sure you give it a read, as it gives a surprising insight into the systems the VC had in place.
Unfortunately it’s been published by several houses and has therefore a number of ISBN references; 978-0-89141-869-6 (0-89141-869-5) (0-42508-951-7) (0-33029-191-2) to name but a few - you’d probably be better off searching for the title & author.

Keeping with the Oz thread, the Australian SAS were supremely effective in Viet Nam, earning from their VC opponents the respectful moniker of Phantoms of the Jungle. (Until fairly recently some of the Canungra trg staff were veterans of this miitary episode.)

Horner, with the blessing and assistance of 1SASR, wrote a decent record of the unit’s history in the Near North, unsurprisingly entitled “Phantoms of the Jungle” ISBN 0-04520-006-8. This too is also well worth the time spent reading it.
(Updated four years back to cover more recent conflicts as “Phantoms of War” ISBN 978-1-86508-647-7)

Hi WaistGunner,

I’m very interested in war psychiatry because I believe that my father suffered from PTSD. He lead perfectly normal life if not counting occasional drinking bouts.
I read first one interesting book - you can find it here:

It’s about Guadalcanal vet. This convinced me that my Dad had it.

Here you can find an “official” War Psychiatry textbook published by Office of The Surgeon General USA

I would advice anyone to read it. It cover all wars including Vietnam, Falklands and Gulf War.



Another good one I read when I was still in the Army was called On Killing: The Phsycological cost of learning to kill in war and Society. Great insights. It was written Dave Crossman who was a Lt. Colonel I think. He may have been a full Colonel.


I have Tunnels of Cu Chi. Great book!

These “Official U.S. Army” photographs have no captions. I believe the U.S. General is Julian J Ewell who in 1967 commanded the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta. The Australian is Task Force Commander Major General (Brigadier) Sandy Pearson.

10 miles south of Don Glin. 6th August 1969. 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Australian Task Force. Photo by 1Lt. Mike Loehrer, 221st. Sig. Co. U.S. Army Official Photograph.

10 miles south of Ben Glin Australian troops of the 1st Australian Task Force gather and stack supplies that were bought in by helicopter that morning. 6th Aug. 1969.

Photo by 1Lt. Mike Loehrer. 221st. Sig. Co.

An Lo Voi 6 Aug. '69. A medic sargeant of the 1st. Australian Task Force administers a shot to an elderly Vietnamese man. The 1st Australian Task Force provided medical assistance and medicine to the local people about once every two months.

Photo by 1Lt. Mike Loehrer 221st. Sig. Co. U.S.Army.

Good thread.

Have some mates who served In Vietnam, some SAS,some infantry.

One mate told me they would be getting there boots polished by this nice young lad in camp who was friendly,respectful and willing to help with many things, the next night he’s rolling grenades in there tents.

Countless times those around there camps would be there enemy at night, this screwed with them big time especially as alot were female or teenagers or both.

When cleaning up after a contact in the bush, coming across dead or maimed enemy who were kids or women contributed as well. If you got an AK/47 rattling away at you, you have to shoot back.

Coming home getting shunned almost universally, contributed to there drama’s. No recognition of what they went threw and public aggression to them and there families.

There’s an interesting movie made a few decades back called "the odd angry shot’, worth a look.

I read somewhere the NVA had complete respect for all Australian Infantry.

We apparently used the Jungle as our friend just like them, when on patrol we were prepared to suffer in the conditions and spend vast amounts of time in the bush to challange the NVA/VC’s use of it.

An NVA general said the Americans saw the Jungle as a hinderance and were almost scared of it and the NVA’s use of it and thus the NVA had an advantage, he said they had no such advantage when encountering Australians.

Apparently the Australian sector become one of the most safest zones in Vietnam and dangerous for the VC, after the defeat at Long Tan the NVA moved on as attempting to destroy the Australain base was for political purposes and of no real military significance and they realised they had a fight for that sector.

The access to Battlefields for Australians and recognition of what went on is apparently unprecedented amongst combatants and Memorials are in place for battles involving Australians in Vietnam.

Every August the anniversary of Long Tan gets bigger, each year some ex NVA combatant puts on a stubborn brave face but others share freely the goings on of that battle and the respect for the Army involved.

Heck they let our Prime minister visit the long tan memorial in Vietnam.

Interesting. I seem to recall seeing a TV docu (at the time) on the South Korean (Tiger ?) Battalion acquiring much the same reputation.

When at the JWS in Johore, Malaya, some of our instructors were Australians which who had just completed their tour of duty in Vietnam. This was pretty standard, and is typical of the cooperation which existed between the commonwealth forces. These troops also saw action with British troops in the Borneo confrontation (the undeclared war between Britain and Indonesia) beween 1962 and 1966, and the skills which had been honed there, stood them in good stead in Vietnam.

An Australian won a Victoria Cross (VC) in Vietnam, which was the last to be won up until those of the Falklands in 1982.

Four actually, Maj P.J. Badcoe VC

WO2 Kevin Arthur “Dasher” Wheatley VC

WO2 “Ray” Simpson, VC DCM

and Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith PAYNE VC, the last surviving Aussie holder of the Victoria Cross.

I was writing from a memory of some forty years ago. Please forgive it being a little vague.