Vietnam

PAIU2007.077.46 At the controls of an Iriquois helicopter PAIU2007.077.46

The Vietnam War was a long war and was reported nightly on the news. To supplement Australia’s army, conscription was introduced to enlist extra soldiers to help in the effort. This system was done by selecting numbered balls, similar to Lotto, if a number was drawn that represented your date of birth, you were then conscripted for national service, which was one year of training then a one year tour of duty in Vietnam.

While in the Discovery Zone see if you would have made a good Iroquois pilot.

Conditions

Vietnam has a hot, steamy climate with many hills and dense jungles which made it hard for wheeled vehicles. It was also difficult for aircraft to land and take off, however these conditions were perfect for helicopters. Even back at base soldiers slept in tents under mosquito netting, as mosquitoes spread diseases such as malaria.

EKT/68/0083/VN Australian soldiers on patrol in the South Vietnamese jungle, 1968.EKT/68/0083/VN

Food

Meals at the base were prepared in field kitchens, but on patrol the soldiers survived on issued ration packs which could include tinned processed cheese, jam, cereal biscuits, compound chocolate, salt, pepper, sugar and 3 sheets of toilet paper. At times Iroquois helicopters would drop off hot meals and fresh supplies of rations to soldiers on patrol.

VN/66/0074/13 Australian soldiers on patrol in the South Vietnamese jungle, 1968. Photo by Gerald Wallace Westbury.VN/66/0074/13

Uniform

Soldiers serving in Vietnam were issued ‘jungle greens’, a uniform that was deep green in colour to match the surrounding jungle. Soldiers would wear ‘giggle hats’ to offer sun protection, and would carry heavy backpacks full of equipment and supplies. 

P04959.007 An Australian soldier rests and reads a book during a break on a long patrol in Vietnam. He is leaning back on his portable field radio set as he sits on the ground in a sheltered area of bush. Even though the soldier is resting, his radio would probably still be switched on and ready to receive messages. During the patrol the soldier carries his radio and pack, rifle, personal equipment, food and water. 1965. Photo by Alexander Murdoch Gall.P04959.007

Technology

The Iroquois helicopter became the symbol of the Vietnam War, and was known as the workhorse of the air. Each night on Australian TV images of Iroquois were shown. Helicopters proved extremely successful in dealing with the difficult mountainous terrain and changing weather conditions in Vietnam.

EKN/67/0130/VNUnited States Army Iroquois helicopters are landing to take Australian soldiers back to Nui Dat after completion of Operation Ulmarra, 1967. Photo by Michael ColeridgeEKN/67/0130/VN