Operation Overlord, Vietnam: Expressions - Commemoration through Art

A printable resource to develop students understanding of Australia’s military service history through art. This activity features an image taken by Australian official war photographer John Alfred Ford. It shows a Centurion tank moving through the Vietnamese jungle during Operation Overlord. Use the background context and inquiry questions to encourage student research and learning.

Series: Expressions - Commemoration through Art
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Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War began with 30 military advisors in 1962. By the end of the war in 1975 about 60,000 Australians had served in Vietnam. They had served either in the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army or the Royal Australian Air Force. The war cost the lives of more than 500 Australians.

Around 3,000 were wounded or suffered illnesses related to their service. Helicopters were often used in Vietnam, but Australian soldiers still needed help from tanks. In June 1971, Centurion tanks were used in Operation Overlord. That operation took place near the 1st Australian Task Force Base at Nui Dat in South Vietnam.

Australian soldiers were looking for units of the Viet Cong and the People's Army of Vietnam. The photograph you see shows a Centurion tank in the Vietnamese jungle during Operation Overlord. The photograph was taken by John Alfred Ford.

Soldiers travelling through the jungle in a tank
A Centurion tank of C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, moving through the jungle in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, June 1971, photographed by official war photographer John Alfred Ford. The Squadron supported soldiers of 3rd and 4th Battalions, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR and 4RAR), in Operation Overlord on the border of Phuoc Tuy and Long Khanh provinces. AWM FOD/71/0305/VN

Inquiry questions

  • Look carefully at the photograph and describe what you see. Include all the details of the photo, even if you think they might not be significant. Keep in mind what you don't see in the photo, as often things left out can be as significant as things that are visible.
  • Is the photograph a primary or secondary source of historical information? What might have motivated John Alfred Ford to take the photograph? What challenges would he have faced when trying to take the photograph?
  • What would the conditions have been like for Australian tank crews in the Vietnamese jungle? How might the crews have been affected by those conditions? What might the crews have done to cope with the conditions?
  • The photograph is in black and white. How does the lack of other colours influence the way you see the photograph? Why might John Alfred Ford have chosen to take the photograph in black and white instead of full colour? How would the photograph's impact change if it were in full colour?
  • Armoured fighting vehicles played an important role for Australian soldiers in Vietnam. Information on those vehicles is available at Armour - Anzac Portal. Use the link to find more information about their use in Vietnam. Choose one theme about the use of the vehicles by Australian soldiers. Create an artwork that expresses that theme. For example, you might choose to focus upon roles of the crew members in the different types of vehicles. Your artwork could be a drawing, a painting, mixed media, or created using digital technologies. Discuss the artworks created by the class.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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