Phuoc Tuy Province
The first Australians deployed to Vietnam were members of the Australian Army Training Team who were dispersed throughout the country. They were followed by members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) who served in Bien Hoa Province with the United States 173 Airborne Brigade. However, Australia's Chief of Army, Lieutenant General John Wilton, was keen both to field a force that could operate independently of United States forces, and to provide additional troops in support of the fight against the Viet Cong.
Wilton believed that deploying an Australian task force would achieve both these aims as well as allowing Australian soldiers to fight the war according to their own doctrine and techniques. The Government agreed and the expansion of Australian forces in Vietnam to a task force was approved on 8 March 1966.
Phuoc Tuy province was selected as the site of the task force base. Lying on South Vietnam's southern coast, three quarters of Phuoc Tuy, in 1966, was covered with rainforest and grassland. There were hilly and mountainous areas but much of the province was flat. Those areas under farmland were mainly used to cultivate rice, Phuoc Tuy's main industry, along with rubber. From a military point of view, the province was a suitable size for task force operations and it had access to the sea through the port of Vung Tau, which could serve as a logistics base.
The South Vietnamese Government's authority over Phuoc Tuy was limited almost entirely to the provincial capital Ba Ria. In the countryside, the Viet Cong had built up an extensive cadre and political organisation that reached into every town and village. The province's roads were dangerous, subject to ambush and passable only with heavy escort. The Viet Cong had established bases in Phuoc Tuy's mountains and jungles. Military estimates placed the number of communist troops in the province at about 5,000. These troops relied on the support of many of Phuoc Tuy's villages.