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Sydney at Vung Tau

6 NOV 1971: Viet Nam and HMAS Sydney embarks the bulk of its final Australian army units from Vietnam at Vung Tau. Anecdotal evidence holds that most men returned from Vietnam in the dead of night, hidden from the public.

In fact, large numbers actually returned on HMAS Sydney, to a welcome by dignitaries and a parade. The manner of their homecoming affected the way in which veterans recovered from the war, those who did arrive late at night to no fanfare and the seeming indifference of the military had more trouble adjusting to life at home than did those whose return was more public and who had had the benefit of a couple of weeks unwinding on board Sydney before reaching Australia.

But the return home was only the beginning of a long period of readjustment. For a long time after the war large numbers of Vietnam veterans felt that many in Australia blamed them, rather than politicians, for the war and the way it had been conducted.

Images of the war, many still familiar, of children burned by napalm, of the dead of My Lai, of a South Vietnamese general summarily executing a member of the Viet Cong in the streets of Saigon, had an effect on public opinion and public understanding.

The fact that these images related more to the American/Vietnamese experience in Vietnam was less remarked upon. People associated the role of Australians in the war with that of the Americans in a way that failed to recognise the two countries’ different approaches to fighting in Vietnam.

Troops of the 8th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (8RAR), disembark from the troopship RAN Majestic class aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney (III), at Vung Tau harbour. During the Vietnam War, HMAS Sydney visited Vietnam on 24 occasions, transporting troops and equipment. She became affectionately known as the ‘Vung Tau Ferry’. Curated from:

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