To what extent did the Australian people support the decision to enter the war in Vietnam in 1965?
Australia joined the Vietnam War in 1965, as support to their allies, the US. Their support was continuous throughout the war, up until they were faced with the harsh realities of what was really going on in Vietnam. Up until this, the Australians were completely oblivious to the horrific crimes against humanity that the US were committing, and until these events were brought to light in reports, Australia was blindly following their ally, as it seemed it was their duty. As more and more documentation containing incriminating evidence of the American’s crimes, such as the number of casualties and fallen soldiers, the Australian citizens’ views regarding the war changed. No longer were they completely supportive of their ally, but instead, very weary (Ross, 1995).
Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war originated in the earlier stages of World War Two, when they had to call on their allies, the US, to help defend them from the Japanese invasion. There was some sort of obligation for the Australians to then reciprocate that assistance when the United States asked for it regarding the issues in Vietnam. Prime Minister Menzies stated on April 29, 1965 that “the takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia”, further emphasizing the importance of Australian contribution in the war (Department of Veterans' Affairs). Yet as the number of deaths began to rise, the number of Australian supporters began to drop.
The citizens of Australia’s views regarding the war began to drastically change after the evidence of criminal actions in Vietnam began to surface. The citizens did not believe it was fair for these inhumane and immoral actions to be occurring, and began to protest the Australian contribution in the war. The Labour party leader, Arthur Calwell responded to Prime Minister Menzies’ speech by saying that the people of Australia “do not think that it (fighting in Vietnam) will help the fight against communism. On the contrary, we (the Australians) believe it will prolong and deepen the suffering of that unhappy people.” At this time, many protests were being held around Australia