Australian Conscription in Vietnam War

Categories: AustraliaVietnam War

The conscription issue during the second Indo – China war in the 1960’s tore apart the fabric of Australian society and resulted in divisions in all sections of the community. There were many reasons for Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, including the allegiance commitments of South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). The introduction of conscription illustrates the main purpose of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

The conscription issues and the war itself caused social division in reaction to the Vietnam War.

In 1964 compulsory National Service was introduced under the National Service Act. The Defence Act was amended in May 1965 to provide that National Servicemen could be obliged to serve overseas, a provision that had been applied only once before – during World War Two. Paragraph one The Australian government supported the USA involvement in the Vietnam War, and Australia felt it was imperative that the North Vietnam have a proper defensive treaty, as a number of other countries felt the same way, so SEATO was created to deal with this situation.

SEATO was a much stronger agreement to support Australia’s security needs in the Pacific. It also helped to highlight the growing division between Australia and Britain and the new dependence on the United States (US). ” (N/A, The ANZUS Treaty and SEATO Alliance, 2013, Skwirk. com. au Interactive Schooling) Australia joined the SEATO because it could support Australia in the Pacific. As America joined in the Vietnam War, Australia supported them to join the war as well.

The Australian government feared the idea of communism overtaking their nation, this fear lead to the decision of forcing their young men to be conscripted to join the war in South Vietnam.

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Conscription was a tremendous issue for the families of the young men who fought in the war because many males were being conscripted sent into the Vietnam War without any choice or opinion. As a result of the fear of communism, Australia decided to support the US to join the Vietnam War and fight for the South Vietnam.

SEATO was one of the reasons that Australia joined the war, because it was a much stronger agreement to support Australian security of the needs in the Pacific, Australia joined the SEATO to against the North Vietnam. As Australia got involved the war, the conscription has leaded to the depressions and social divisions in the Australian society. Paragraph two The purpose of the second Indo-China war of conscription was to avoid communism spreading to Australia.

This caused Australian men and women to become infuriated and create groups against conscription. Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) was keen to get more supporters of his actions in Vietnam, to give them legitimacy. This was during the Cold War, both North and South Vietnam tried to gain the moral upper hand over the other in a way that does not happen today. “You have in us [the Australian Liberal delegation] not merely an understanding friend but one staunch in the belief of the need for your presence in Vietnam.

We are not here because of our friendship, we are here because, like you, we believe it is right to be there and, like you, we believe American forces should stay there as long as it seems necessary to achieve the purpose of the South Vietnamese Government and the purpose that we join in formulating and progressing together. And so, sir, in the lonelier and perhaps even more disheartening moments which come to any national leader, I hope there will be a corner of your mind and heart which takes cheer from the fact that you have an admiring friend, a staunch friend that will be all the way with LBJ. ( Wikipedia, A Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today, 2004, Today In Alternate History) From this speech -‘All The Way with LBJ’, to show that LBJ tried to convince other Australia to join the war with them together, and America knew that Australia would support them, and Australia had training teams in Vietnam before 1965, just as the America did. The main reason that Australia was afraid of the communism was the domino theory, the countries of South-East Asia was like dominoes.

If one ‘fell’ to communism, this would lead to the fall of another, and so on until all were ruled by communists. It is evidenced that Australia was very fearful of communism and of growing Asian power, by offering Australia’s full unquestioning support of the United States (US). Australia’s foreign policy is basically to secure protection by cuddling up to a more powerful friend; since World War Two America has been Australia’s powerful friend.

Australia supported America by helping them in conflicts such as joining the Vietnam War was one of the prices that Australia paid for the protection. Paragraph three Conscription led to people combining together and creating groups to revolt against the conscription and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The social divisions appeared in all sections of the Australian community. Conscription started as choosing 20-year-old males in Australia in 1964, but then it turned into conscripting teenagers. In 1964 compulsory National Service for 20-year-old males was introduced under the National Service Act. The selection of conscripts was made by a sortation or lottery draw based on date of birth, and conscripts were reduced to give two years’ continuous full-time service, followed by a further three years on the active reserve list. Young men who were subject to the conscription lottery also formed their own anti-conscription organization, the Youth Campaign Against Conscription.

Like Save Our Sons, it spread to other states – New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. (Wikipedia, 11 March 2013, Conscription in Australia) In 1965 a group of concerned Australian women who had ‘lost’ their husbands and sons joined together and created the Save Our Sons (S. O. S) which was established in Sydney with other branches later formed in Wollongong, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Newcastle and Adelaide. In the same year, young men who were subject to the conscription lottery also created their own organization the Youth Campaign Against Conscription (YCAC).

One of the social divisions would be conscription affect people’s daily routine, and people were being anti-war and anti-conscription. Overall, the governments’ fear of communism spreading into Australia was why they chose to continue supporting the America. This is most likely because the war and conscription were mostly fused into one without taking account of a nuanced position that addresses the two issues separately. The importance of keeping the two issues separate is that the Government would have been more credible if it had simply pursued the war and not sent conscript. Conclusion

In conclusion, conscription issue during the Vietnam War in the 1960’s put Australian society into the social divisions in all parts of Australian community, especially in 1966 people started to stand out and combined into organizations to against it. The reason that they supported and followed the United States (US) to join the Vietnam War would be Australian Government was afraid of the spreading of the communism. Australia supported the defence of the people in South Vietnam and intellectual consistency to accept the use of conscription in a war that was supposed to be fought in defence of freedom; instead the war got extended.

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Australian Conscription in Vietnam War. (2016, Sep 28). Retrieved from

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