May 26

This Day in History

Vietnam War

May 26, 1965:

Australian troops depart for Vietnam

Eight hundred Australian troops depart for Vietnam and New Zealand announces that it will send an artillery battalion.

The Australian government had first sent troops to Vietnam in 1964 in the form of a small aviation detachment and an engineer civic action team. They were increasing their commitment to the war with the deployment of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR). In 1966, the Australians once again increased their troop strength in Vietnam with the formation of the First Australian Task Force, which established a base of operations near Ba Ria in Phuoc Tuy province. The task force included two infantry battalions, a medium tank squadron, and a helicopter squadron, as well as signal, engineer, and other support forces. By 1969, Australian forces in Vietnam totaled an estimated 8,000 personnel.

New Zealand had initially sent a small engineer detachment to South Vietnam, but later sent an artillery battery in July 1965. Over time, the New Zealand contingent, which was placed under the operational control of the First Australian Task Force, grew to over 1,000 men.

The Australian and New Zealand contingents were part of the Free World Military Forces, also known as the "many flags" program, which was an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enlist allies for the United States and South Vietnam. By securing support from other nations, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus behind his policies in Vietnam.

Australia and New Zealand began to withdraw their troops in 1970, following the lead of the United States as it drastically reduced its troop commitment to South Vietnam.

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