Quotations: Australian involvement in Vietnam

This selection of Vietnam War quotations relates to Australian involvement in Vietnam. It contains statements and remarks about the Vietnam conflict by notable political figures, military commanders, contemporaries and historians. These quotations have been researched, selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest a quotation for this collection, please contact us.

“If the whole of Indochina fell to the communists, Thailand would be gravely exposed. If Thailand were to fall, the road would be open to Malaya and Singapore. From the Malay Peninsula, the communists could dominate the northern approaches to Australia, and even cut our lifelines with Europe.”
H. R. Casey, Australian government minister, October 1954

“My attitude was the same as everyone on the team, that it wasn’t going as well as the Americans were saying that it was going. There were far too many ambushes, there were far too many South Vietnamese units getting ambushed and getting casualties. To us it appeared the VC were gaining the upper hand, certainly in the countryside.”
Ronald Perkins, Australian military advisor

“The range of likely military situations we must be prepared to face has increased as a result of… the growth of communist influence and armed activity in Laos and South Vietnam… We have reached the conclusion that the Regular Army should be built up as rapidly as possible, from the present 22,750 to an effective strength of 33,000 men, which means a total force of 37,500… The government has therefore decided that there is no alternative to the introduction of selective compulsory service.”
Robert Menzies, Australian PM, November 1964

“The impression I gained, a very real impression, was that the war [in Vietnam] was lost from a military point of view… It was nothing for a whole battalion or more of South Vietnamese troops to be butchered… The Viet Cong were thoroughly on top from a military point of view. I would have said that it was just a matter of weeks or months before the war was militarily lost in Vietnam. It was as bad as that in my opinion, and a lot of people agreed with me.”
A report by Colonel O. Jackson, 1965 

“The Australian government is now in receipt of a request from the government of South Vietnam for further military assistance. We have decided, after close consultation with the government of the United States, to provide an infantry battalion for service in South Vietnam… The [communist] takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia and all the countries of south and south-east Asia. It must be seen as a thrust by communist China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.”
Robert Menzies, Australian prime minister, April 1965

“We do not think it [the deployment of Australian troops in Vietnam] a wise decision. We do not think it will help the fight against communism. We do not believe it will promote the welfare of the people of Vietnam.”
Arthur Calwell, Australian Labor Party leader, April 1965

“The course we have agreed to take today is fraught with difficulty. I cannot promise you that easy popularity can be bought in times like these. Nor are we looking for it. When the drums beat and the trumpets sound, the voice of reason and right can be heard in the land only with difficulty… But I offer you the sure and certain knowledge that we will be vindicated.”
Arthur Calwell, explaining his party’s opposition to involvement in Vietnam, April 1965

“The Menzies government has made a reckless decision on Vietnam which this nation may live to regret. It has decided to send Australian soldiers into a savage, revolutionary war in which the Americans are grievously involved, so that America may shelve a tiny part of her embarrassment… It could be that our historians will recall this day with tears.”
The Australian newspaper, April 1965

“These boys, with not only their careers but their lives at stake, are to be selected by some form of lottery, or ‘Russian roulette’. Someone has called the lottery a ‘lucky dip’. Should it be called an unlucky one? One will go and 29 will stay. Is this equal treatment before the law?”
Arthur Calwell, Australian Labor Party leader, on the ‘birthday ballot’, 1966

“One could not idealise the natural beauty of the surroundings. It harboured a committed and clever enemy somewhere within it. We were there to kill these people… Life in the scrub was total and absolute, its essence was life and death. Not a postponed or contemplated death, but a death that would occur at any instant.”
Neil Matthews, Australian soldier