Australia’s Involvement in the Vietnam War Essay

Source C is a segment of a leaflet which highlights the perspectives of three individuals from the ‘Seamen’s Union of Australia’ on the issue of cargo handling during the Vietnam War. The leaflet is an official primary produced in 1966, incorporating a mixture of images and written text by William Flint, Basil Box and Raymond King. The perspectives of the three authors on the issue of cargo handling and the Vietnam War seem fairly clear in this source. All three writers were against cargo handling for South Vietnam and refused to take part in the process as they believed that it was simply a ‘war against women and children’.

The writers agreed that their involvement was not helping the people of Vietnam, but rather harming and creating more chaos. War opposers, like the Seamen’s Union, had plenty of relevant reasons at the time to support their idea of discontinuing Australia’s support in Vietnam. The most significant, I believe, is to persuade Australians to believe that ending the war in Vietnam is the right way to act at the time. It was a significant time in which the source was released as it could persuade many people that were unsure, undecided or even those who originally supported the war but slowly feel it was a bad idea.

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The alarming witnesses and experiences of the three writers in Vietnam could further persuade the opinions of Australians to the issue. An aim by this organisation was to bring back Australian troops, due to the lack of success in the war. Our purpose of helping out our allies seemed more and more irrelevant as our costly process of sending troops and resources slowly began to affect Australia negatively, especially in economic factors. Using this excuse as an excuse to bring back the troops was a good motive as it would mean re-building Australia economically, financially and socially.

It is also in the nature of these three Australians to put a stop and discourage unfair treatment of people, whether it is their enemies or allies. In publishing this source, the Seaman’s Union could definitely influence the attitudes and actions for the war in Vietnam. An important factor was that without the support of cargoes from Australia delivered by this organisation, the Vietnam War could end in the war in Vietnam sooner then expected. Bombs in particular were the most important weapon at the time for both attack and defence as it is easy to wipe out a large scale of area and targets.

Targeting this leaflet to the Australian government and people would have been a major contributor in change as large numbers of people can influence change. In my opinion, I believe that this source is generally unreliable even though it contains witnessed information of unfair treatment of women and children. I believe that it was published for propaganda, something which could influence the Australian public. It is exceptionally biased as it only contained relevant information and evidence which opposed to the war.

The leaflet from the Union did not include everyone’s opinions on the Vietnam War: only three perspectives were shown. We are able to interpret this source as biased because the ‘Seamen’s Union’ was a large organisation at the time, and there must have been members who supported the war or at least had differing opinions to those three authors. Another reason that suggests this source was unreliable is the images of children on the leaflet and idea of a ‘war against women and children’, which is highlighted within this source. The children in the image may not have been injured from the attack and defence of South Vietnam.

The children may not have directly been attacked but were hit by accident. They may also have simply just been caught in the crossfire of battle or even received the injuries from situations not related to war at all. The purpose of the war, according to the Seamen’s Union, was against only the innocent women and children; which is seems extremely unrealistic and difficult to believe. The idea of continually using this point is definitely to try to convince Australians to oppose due to inhumane and invalid reasons to continue the war.

During war, undoubtedly, women and children are definitely going to die, however it is hard to believe that any army, especially at that time would purposefully target women and children. The source describes the attitudes of Australian’s to be disgusted and opposed to the war in Vietnam. This was due to the unfair treatment of women and children, who were our apparently our main targets. The source also states that the war in Vietnam was unfair for the opposing side, ‘I know that only one side has bombers’. This could also mean that at the time,

Australians also felt for the families of the Vietnamese people under attack, or were victims of attack. Although the idea of unfair fighting is evident and repeated in the source we continue to speculate whether these attitudes towards the war were genuinely true, or just excuses to help bring our soldiers back and end the war. This source can only be used as a referral as to some of the reasons and attitudes of people that were against the war; we cannot think of it as a reliable source. It only gives us a narrow view of the events in the Vietnam War; we cannot use it to directly gain facts to the Vietnam War.

This source however, can make us think about why people were against the war and the reasons used to persuade others. Whether the sources are reliable or not, it can give people an insight to their perspectives, as people within the public may have shared the same views and opinions as they did. Every source is important as it is historical evidence at the time which can never be replaced. Source A: ‘Vietnam: Questions and Answers’ Source A is part of a pamphlet, ‘Vietnam: Questions and Answers’, which captures the Prime Minister’s purpose for Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

The responses to the questions regarding Vietnam were written by then Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. It is an official primary source which was issued by the Australian government in May, 1966. This source focuses on the perspectives of the Australian Prime Minister at the time of the Vietnam War. Menzies believed that Australia’s involvement in the war was most importantly helping out the Government of the Republic of Vietnam from ‘armed aggression of Communist North Vietnam’ and to free 15 million South Vietnamese threatened by ‘oppression and terror’ from the Communists.

According to Menzies, Australia was also fulfilling its loyalty to its allies and preventing the spread of communism in South-East Asia. As a Prime Minister of Australia, his motive is most importantly targeted to the best interest of Australia, undertaking what he and the members in his party believe will benefit Australia politically, socially and economically. Figures suggest that during the period of the war, Australians were quite evenly split in supporting and opposing the war. Many at the time also seemed unsure and unaware of the significance of the war in Vietnam.

Menzies, by releasing the pamphlet, informed and made a better understanding to those Australian’s who were unclear on the issue. By applying his knowledge and sending out a public message to Australian’s most likely influenced many to agree and support his ideas as Australians trusted Menzies as a Prime Minister. Menzies had the having the greatest power at the time, and with this power came his responsibilities; to lead Australian’s in the right direction. Creating pamphlets similar to Source C targets the Australian public which is important for Menzies as the general public together is able to influence power and change.

I believe that this source is generally reliable even though it is from only one person’s perspective. This source itself seems to inform people of Menzies reason for action rather than to directly persuade people to take a side. Menzies also states valid reasons for the objectives in Vietnam, covering a wide range of reasons for Australia’s involvement. Although all four aims seemed unbiased and believable, two of them (points 3 & 4) seemed to be key points for War in Vietnam. The first was to stop the spread of communism; the second was to support its allies i. e. United States and South Vietnam.

Historical content also support the idea that communism was feared by many countries at the time, believing that it was a dangerous party which would do nothing but create harm to the world. Australia in particular feared communism, as being a capitalist country, the majority were not keen on following the ideas of Communists, especially the idea of being equal. Therefore, I believe that Australia’s role in Vietnam was to prevent the spread of Communism towards the south, helping Vietnam overcome Communism rule (supporting points 1&2), while also protecting itself at the same time.

For Australia, supporting allies was a priority as countries like the United States have helped us in the past and maintaining a good relationship with allies is important for Australia as we are an isolated country and may need further support from them in the future. As a Prime Minister, it is crucial that one needs to share the truth with the public and for the public to decide on what they believe is right, especially when Australia was a democratic country at the time. I believe Menzies could have lost a country’s trust and loyalty if he did not speak the truth on an issue which ffected all Australian’s at the time. Source A only describes the attitude of one Australian at the time however it can also reflect the opinions of the general public. Menzies shared the same opinion with a majority of people at that time. Since this was the case, the attitudes at the time for Source A suggest that the public supported the war in Vietnam. It was believed that Australia’s involvement was absolutely necessary as it was a key event not only to protect our own country from the Communists, but also to help our allies in times of need.

People past and present are able to use the information in the source to draw broad conclusions to Australia’s objectives in the Vietnam War. In saying this however, we understand that a Prime Minister can persuade and influence other members of Parliament and the public to support his ideas, which is why this source cannot be completely reliable. A second opinion opposing the war would be useful as then people can understand the different perspectives and reasons for having opposed ideas.

As Menzies spoke on behalf of all Australians, his views on this subject was most definitely supported by his party and the Australian public. Given that Menzies was a Prime Minister, a majority of the public thought the way he did on this situation as people were able to trust their leader believing that he had the ability and skills to plan and take necessary actions for what is best for Australia. The source may be useful but it is however, limited into drawing attitudes to war as it only contains a small section of the source which is not particularly detailed. History Assessment Essay:

Australia during the early 1960’s, had plenty of debate and differing opinions on the issue of our involvement in the Vietnam War. Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister at the time, was a major supporter for the Vietnam War. His decision to send troops to Vietnam was not only targeted to stop Communism spreading to the south, but also to help our allies, especially the United States. Some other organisations which shared the same opinions as Menzies (representing the Liberal Party) regarding the Vietnam War included the Democratic Labour Party, The Catholic Church and the Australian ress. Even though the government and some organisations supported the war, many did not, fearing that our involvement in the war will only create further harm and chaos. A few organisations which opposed Australian’s involvement in the war were the Australian Labour Party, Protestant Churches, Universities, Conscientious Objectors, Save Our Sons group and Trade Unions i. e. Seamen’s Union of Australia. At the beginning of Australian’s involvement in Vietnam (1962), almost fifty six per cent of all Australians were in favour of the war, according to a Morgan Gallup Poll.

This figure however, dropped to forty-five per cent after three years of battle. The cause of attitudes changing was mainly influenced by the lack of success and achievement in Vietnam which started to take a toll back home in Australia, politically, socially and economically. Anti-war organisations and opposition became more prevalent as support for the war declined as the war dragged on. The largest organisation which supported the war was the Australian Liberal Party, as a majority of Australians those who trusted Menzies on the idea of Australians joining the war to protect our contry and alliances.

The Liberal Party, under the leadership of Robert Menzies, helped out the South Vietnam Government by predominantly providing troops and weapons, especially bombs. Menzies sent personnel and aircraft of ‘RAAF Transport Flight’ to Vietnam, as well as war ships to support the war. Military equipment at the time was extremely important as fighting in the war did not necessarily depend on one-on-one combat, but rather using bombs and aircraft to hit the areas of target more faster without sacrificing soldiers.

As there were not enough Australian soldiers taking part in the war at the time, compared to the Communists, Menzies decided to introduce conscription in Australia for the war. Therefore in 1964, it was compulsory for all 20-year-old males to join the National Service under the National Service Act of 1964. The selection of conscripts was based on date of birth, and conscripts were obligated to give two years’ continuous full-time service, followed by a further three years on the active reserve list.

The main objective for Australian’s involvement in the war was to stop the Communists moving further south, and taking over the world. There was a genuine fear of communism in Asia spreading to Australia. The entry of Australia into the Vietnam conflict was the culmination of over 15 years of domestic and foreign policy for successive Australian governments. Australia also being a capitalist country, did not appreciate the idea of the Communist theory of ‘equality’ as it would mean changing Australian society significantly.

Menzies believed that Australia’s involvement in the war was necessary as it helped out Government of the Republic of Vietnam from ‘armed aggression of Communist North Vietnam’ and to free 15 million South Vietnamese threatened by ‘oppression and terror which would be their lot under the domination of the communisms of the North. ’ According to Menzies, Australia is also fulfilling its loyalty to its allies and preventing the spread of communism in South-East Asia.

It is also necessary for Australia to help and maintain a good relationship with allies, to ‘honour our treaty commitments and our alliances’ as we are an isolated country and may need further support from them in the future in times of attack and defence. The Catholic Church was also a supporter of the war, believing that South Vietnam should remain a democracy. The significance of the Catholic Church was that it had the ability to persuade many people to be influenced by its perspectives.

The Democratic Labour Party was an organistion which originally a party combined with the Australian Labour Party, but split from it in 1954, that was influenced by the Catholic Church to share the same opinions and ideas to them. The Democratic Labour Party had a very large Catholic membership and was also very anti-communist. As a significant number of people were Catholics in Australia, the ideas of the Catholic Church were accepted by most of them. Word of mouth may have influenced a rise in opposers over the years, supporting the idea to stop communism from spreading.

The main reason reason for the Catholic Church and Democratic Labour Party to support Australian’s involvement in Vietnam was because they believed that democracy was the right way to run society. Both organisations wanted to see South Vietnam as not only the last democracy in South East Asia, but as a Catholic democracy. The Catholic Church mostly encouraged the war to fight for Vietnamese democracy as they disliked the idea of having only one person/s opinion to rule a country. The Democratic Labour Party also agreed with this theory, however, it was also determined to oppose any ALP policies therefore, it automatically supported the war.

The Australian press was another organisation which advocated Australian participation in the war. Through their newspapers and other publishing’s, their support and opinions definitely came across to the general public. As the press represented a significant number of people in the public, due to Australians reading the papers, we can interpret that the idea that war was ‘inevitable given its geographical position and its treaty commitments’ most definitely was also shared in the public at the time. The press probably published these ideas for Australian propaganda reasons.

The publication of this may have been pushed forward by the Liberal Party at the time to allow the widespread idea of supporting the war. Trade Unions in Australia on the other hand, especially the Seamen’s Union of Australia, was opposed to Australia’s involvement of the war. Members of the union decided to discontinue their role of sending cargoes, which predominately included bombs to South Vietnam. The union released pamphlets which included alarming witnesses and experiences to inform and to persuade the Australian public to oppose the war against inhumane treatment of kids in particular.

Furthermore, members within the association agreed that their involvement was not helping the people of Vietnam, but rather harming and creating more chaos in the region. A member of that Union, Basil Box, also referred to the war as ‘filthy business to blow up women and kiddies’. The discontinuing of bombs at the time would see a faster end to the Vietnam War as bombs were important weapon for both attack and defence; easily wiping out a large scale of area and targets. Others unions believed that government support of America’s involvement in Vietnam as ‘blood for dollars’, or ‘diggers for dollars’.

Trade unionists believed the Australian government was sacrificing the lives of Australian troops to ensure that America would boost the economy by spending more money in Australia. Some of the more militant unions took independent action to protest the announcement and held work stoppages to try to create public awareness and to send a message to the government. The most important factor of the actions taken by the different unions is no doubt aiming to target the Australian public to support them, and hopefully bring back Australian soldiers as a result of public power.

It was also to allow Australia to re-establish itself due to our economic strain back at home and discontinue what seemed to be a long, pointless war that involved not only resources, but the casualties of soldiers. Their attempts to inform and persuade the public seemed successful as a growing number of people began to question and oppose the war. The Save Our Sons organisation was another which disapproved Australia’s role in Vietnam. It was a women’s organisation which started off as an anti-conscription group, but the attitudes changed to anti-war as the conflict dragged on.

A variety of different women joined the protest movements; ‘some joined because they were politically unaware, some because they were worried about their sons, and there were some like me with very young children…’ explained one of the founding members of the organisation. It had widespread support across all sections of Australian society. Major battles, like the Tet Offensive, had many people wondering if the Vietnam War was, in fact, winnable and for how long Australian soldiers were going to be involved. One of the major factors in a growing anti-war movement was the reporting of the Vietnam War; it was a war fought on TV.

The women in the organisation persuaded the public of their opinion as they were determined to campaign until they received what they aimed for, ‘this was a campaign that we stuck to, refusing to budge on, and we won it. ’ The main objective essentially was to bring ‘our boys’ back from the Vietnam War as it seemed they were fighting a pointless and long war without really achieving the original aims. The attitudes of Australian mothers can be described in this source. Conscientious objectors of Australia also protested against the War in Vietnam.

William White, a Sydney school teacher, was the first Australian to publicly stand as a conscientious objector to war. In July 1966, White defied a notice to report for duty at an army induction centre. White was removed from his classroom and ordered to report to Army quarters at Watsons Bay. He refused to comply, and waited at home for the authorities to make the next move. This standoff lasted for several days and gained wide press coverage causing considerable embarrassment for the Australian Government. The standoff ended when White was dragged from his home after refusing to comply with an order to enter the army.

White’s main objection was that he felt that he was being asked to kill other human being, ‘Firstly, I am standing against killing – the taking of human life… Morality, to me, is based on the respect for life. I respect people, I respect their feelings, I respect their property and I respect their equality, on the basic conscientious assumption that they have, as I have, the unquestionable right to live. ’ He also had objections to the war itself and conscription. His determination to stand up to the government and fight for what he believed encouraged others to fight for what they believe in.

His action reflected and represented the attitudes of people, males and mothers in particular, who opposed the conscription and the Vietnam War. In conclusion, there were many different perspectives and opinions regarding Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The different perspectives reflect the variety of attitudes at the time in Australia. We can draw our opinions from the range of sources and other’s experience, but it is important to have an own opinion as not all sources are reliable or portray the correct perspective.