Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War was the longest war in Australia’s history. From the time Australia arrived at Vietnam in 1962 almost 60 000 Australians served in the war. 521 had died from the war and over 3000 were wounded. The war was the greatest social and political dispute since the referendums of World War 1. During the war it started to show that the attitudes towards the Vietnam War started to change in Australia.
Propaganda started to spread in Australia about being part of the “domino effect”. Australia’s fear of communism started to escalate after the outbreak of “the Petrov affair”. People started to question if the fighting against communism was even necessary or worth the trouble. Unlike World War 1 and 2 the Vietnam War was filmed in colour and was shot across the media all over the world showing the terrible chaos of war such as Agent Orange which sent casualties and nurses wounded.
This sent the first change of mind about war to society and the doubt that Australia might be threatened by the influence of communism. The major issue began when in 1964 the Menzies government decided to bring back in conscription. The public retaliated this by creating groups and protests and in some cases people refused their conscription. One of the main protesting groups was the “Save Our Sons” which consisted of Mothers which helped voice their opinion against the forced innocent killing of the sons at the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War also had a lasting impact on the Vietnam veterans, who although fought their hardest for the county they returned to a country who saw them as less than heroes. They suffered psychological and medical problems from open Battles, Sniper attacks, chemical warfare and stress from war life. When the veterans arrived back to a non-supportive Australia they were seen as “murderer”, No parades were held for them, they were met with disrespect rather than thankfulness. This was added on to their trauma of war, Vietnam veterans suffered untreated psychological problems.
They felt guilty because they left the South Vietnamese people down and the sight of civilians killed in crossfire wars left them getting constant bad dreams. They developed anxiety disorders and post-dramatic stress disorders and found it hard to settle back into the daily life of a typical Australian. This spilled over in their domestic life, with divorce rates going higher and 38% reported that their marriage failed within 6months of their partners returning. Suicide rates were higher than average by almost 20-25% higher than the Australian average.