Vietnam Veterans Day service in Yanchep

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Yanchep Two Rocks RSL member Ted Maziuk at the Vietnam Veterans Day service on Friday. Picture Anita McInnes

AT a Vietnam Veterans Day service on Friday, Yanchep Two Rocks RSL president Bill Jones explained the history of the commemoration.

Mr Jones said in 1966 Australian Army personnel with support from their Kiwi (New Zealand) mates across the ditch fought in the battle of Long Tan in a rubber plantation near the village during a tropical rainstorm.

About 105 Australians came up against a force of more than 2000 North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong.

They received some timely support provided by RAAF helicopter ammunition resupply, APCs and New Zealand and United States artillery units.

Eighteen Australians were killed while another 24 were wounded but they won the fight.

“In 1969 on the third anniversary of that engagement members of the 6th Royal Australian Regiment raised a wooden cross on the site and held a memorial service,” he said.

From that point on August 18 became known as Long Tan Day.

In 1987 following the welcome home parade for Vietnam Vets the then prime minister Bob Hawke proclaimed that Long Tan Day would be recognised and known as Vietnam Veterans Day and therefore be a day on which all of those who had served in Vietnam would be commemorated.

Butler MLA John Quigley and North Metropolitan MLC Dan Caddy at Yanchep National Park on Vietnam Veterans Day. Picture Anita McInnes

“In 2016 the Communist Government indicated they were not happy with services being conducted for the Australian forces on their soil – they allowed the cross to be removed and dispatched back to Australia where it now resides in the Canberra War Memorial.

“January 11, 1973 was the date of the proclamation by our then governor general Sir Paul Hasluck, that officially ended Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

“But that has since been amended to April 29, 1975 due to still having embassy staff in Vietnam.”

He said North Vietnam was supported by China and Russia.

The allied forces comprised military units from the United States, South Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Republic of Philippines and Thailand.

Casualties were high – he said the USA had more than 2.7 million participants between 1962 to 1973 with 58,318 killed, Australia (1962 to 1972) more than 62,000 participants with 523 killed, South Korea (1965 to 1973) more than 320,000 with 4407 killed, New Zealand (1964 to 1972) 3800 with 37 killed, Philippines (1966 to 1969) 10,000 with nine killed and Thailand (1965 to 1972) more than 40,000 with 351 killed.

Casualties for Vietnam itself were not officially released until 1995.

“As many as 2 million plus civilian casualties on both sides (and) 1.2 million North Vietnamese military and Viet Cong died.”

Wanneroo Mayor Linda Aitken and North ward councillor Sonet Coetzee at the Vietnam Veterans Day service. Picture Anita McInnes

An estimated 200,000 to 250,000 South Vietnamese military were killed.

Australia’s involvement started with the arrival of the Australian Army training team Vietnam during July and August 1962.

After January 11, 1973 the only Australian troops remaining were a platoon guarding the embassy in Saigon.

In early 1975 the communists broke the previous cease fire agreements and launched a fresh major invasion of South Vietnam, which resulted in the fall of the capital Saigon on April 30, 1975.

During April of 1975 RAAF Hercules transport aircraft flew humanitarian missions to aid civilian refugees who had been displaced including the evacuation of Vietnamese orphans.

The final mission was flying out the Australian embassy staff on April 25, 1975.

Australia has a Vietnamese Veterans memorial on Anzac Pde in Canberra, which lists the names of those who paid the ultimate price – it was dedicated on October 3, 1992.

“We are also one of the very few counties to have had a commemorative wall constructed which not only has the names of those killed in conflict but also the name of every person who served – both men and women along with 11 army tracker dogs.”

The commemorative wall in High St, Seymour, Victoria was dedicated on March 30, 2011.