Vietnam Veterans' Day 18 August
On 18 August, we commemorate Vietnam Veterans' Day on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1966. We remember the sacrifices of those who died and say thank you to almost 60,000 Australians who served during the 10 years of our involvement in the Vietnam War.
Check with your local RSL or state memorial for local events. You can watch a live stream of the service being held at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.
Australians and the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was Australia's longest military engagement of the 20th Century.
The arrival of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam in South Vietnam during July and August 1962 marked the start of Australia’s involvement in the war.
By the time the war had come to an end, almost 60,000 Australians served during a decade of conflict between 1962 and 1972. Tragically, 523 of them died and 3000 were wounded.
Battle of Long Tan
The Battle of Long Tan was a significant moment in Australia's war in Vietnam.
On 18 August 1966, in a rubber plantation near the village of Long Tan, Australian soldiers fought one of their fiercest battles of the war.
The men of Delta Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, faced a force of some 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. The battle was fought in wet and muddy conditions during a heavy tropical downpour.
By the end of the day, 17 Australians had been killed in action and 25 were wounded, one of whom died a few days later. This was the largest number of casualties in a single operation since the Australian Task Force had established its base at nearby Nui Dat the previous April.
On this day, we commemorate all the battles fought by Australians in Vietnam, from large-scale operations to platoon and section-level encounters. We remember the sailors of the Royal Australian Navy who supported land operations, and members of the Royal Australian Air Force who served in combat and transport roles.
A day to say 'thank you'
On Vietnam Veterans' Day, we pause and reflect on the bravery, teamwork and endurance that Australians displayed throughout the war.
We honour those veterans who:
- lost their lives during battle
- returned home wounded, ill or injured
- lost their lives in the years since they returned
- still carry the physical and emotional scars of their service
We also pause to reflect on the impact of service on veterans' families.
Commemoration of Vietnam veterans
Some veterans didn't feel properly honoured for having served their country in Vietnam. In 1987, veterans received the welcome home parade that some felt had been denied them when they returned from war. Around 22,000 Vietnam veterans marched through Sydney, in front of a crowd of some 100,000 Australians. The book Homecomings recounts those experiences.
The Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra was officially dedicated on 3 October 1992. It commemorates all the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force and associated personnel who served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Legacy of Australia's veterans
Vietnam veterans have helped to establish support systems for those in the ex-service community.
Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling
Originally known as Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service, Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling has been operating for more than 35 years. It's a life-saving service that provides those in the ex-service community with:
- free and confidential counselling
- group treatment programs
- suicide-prevention training
- a community and peer network to support mental health and wellbeing
Long Tan Bursary scheme
The Department of Veterans' Affairs Long Tan Bursary scheme provides education funding to support eligible children and grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans. The scheme helps students to meet the cost of post-secondary education.
Applications for the Long Tan Bursary are open between August and October each year.
Every year, the scheme awards 37 bursaries, each worth up to $12,000 over 3 years of continuous full-time study.