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Y10 Humanities Extended Response Paragraphs

Why was Australia involved in the Vietnam War?

Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War was caused by a fear of the threat communism posed to the nation and obligation as a result of the defence agreements Australia was a part of. Firstly, for many Australians the war was initially seen as ‘black and white’. It was good versus evil, communism versus capitalism and democracy. The war was seen this way because to Australians the idea of their country becoming communist was shocking and preposterous, and at the time ‘anti-communism had reached fever pitch’. Additionally, the domino theory exacerbated this fear. It was believed that ‘if South Vietnam fell to communism, then nation after nation would fall like dominos’. This theory was amplified by Prime Minister Robert Menzies who repeatedly preached to Australians that ‘the takeover of South Vietnam would be a direct military threat to Australia’, sparking more unnecessary fear. Furthermore, PM Menzies secretly ‘asked the South Vietnamese to request Australia’s intervention’. This resulted in South Vietnam calling for Australian troops and military advisors be sent to Vietnam. It can be assumed that the reasoning behind Menzies actions was to secure a ‘position for Australia under the US wing’, a position of safety. This was essentially an insurance policy. Finally, the ANZUS agreement and the SEATO treaty played a definitive role in Australia’s involvement in the war. The ANZUS agreement detailed that Australia, New Zealand and the United States would come to each other’s aid if necessary. The South-East Asia Collective Defense Treaty (SEATO) agreed that ‘defensive action be taken in the event of an attack on the United States, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Pakistan. South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were also guaranteed protection under this treaty’. With South Vietnam being under threat and the US needing assistance, Australia’s involvement was inevitable due to the terms of the agreements. Essentially, Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war came down to a fear of communism and the obligation due to previous agreements and treaties with other countries. 

 

Explain why the Kent State Shooting was a significant event in the Vietnam War. 

The Kent State Shooting of 1970 was significant because it sparked further and more intense anti-war activism worldwide. Firstly, most people, not only in America, but worldwide, ‘reacted with disbelief and disgust’. People were outraged that four young students were killed in defence of an unjust war, ‘America was seemingly running off the rails’. ‘People became more angered and vocal about the Vietnam war than ever before’. A majority of people wanted the war to end, they had had enough. Resultantly, this hatred of the war ‘spurred anti-war activism’. Protesting became increasingly more prominent and intense, particularly among students. Who, according to Neil Young, co-singer of a popular song in protest of the shooting, ‘Ohio’, ‘[the students] gave their lives to protest [the war]’. Furthermore, an image taken after the shooting (shown to the right) depicting a young woman leaning over a student who had been shot and killed became a symbol of the violence of the war. Many Americans were horrified that the violence had seeped into American society. This prompted them to think sympathetically about the mass numbers of Vietnamese people (particularly young children) that were being murdered. Additionally, other countries followed America’s lead, ‘protest against the [war] spread worldwide’. Countries such as France and Australia had surging numbers of protests, that were becoming larger and larger, and in some cases more violent. ‘Student demonstrations in Paris were particularly volatile’. The anger was about the war was surging everywhere, so overwhelming that eventually the governments involved in Vietnam had no choice but to withdraw. The Kent State Shooting sparked a worldwide uproar, inspiring increased anti-war activism and a reduction in respect, trust and admiration for authority. A war could not go on with such opposition. 

What were the long-term impacts of the Vietnam War on return veterans? 

There were various long-term impacts plaguing return veterans of the Vietnam War which often resulted in them having difficulty settling back into their normal civilian lives. Firstly, the experiences of the veterans were essentially swept under the rug as the ‘Australian government had been unwilling to deal with the problems of these return soldiers of an unpopular war’. Despite what the government desired, it was not possible for most veterans to turn a new page and forget about the events of the war. To avoid ‘hostility’ upon return, from enraged civilians, they were secretly smuggled home in the night, encouraged to slip back into Australia and their normal lives as though nothing had happened. Furthermore, veterans faced ‘health problems related to chemical exposure’ and ‘physical [disabilities]’ in life after the war. Numerous health issues like cancer, fertility issues and birth defects have been linked to a particular chemical used during the war for defoliation called Agent Orange. Chances of Hodgkin’s disease were at a higher rate for veterans, caused by the herbicides used in Vietnam. Lung and skin cancer were a risk due to increased sun exposure and smoking. 3,129 soldiers were severely injured during the war, and others suffered more minor issues like hearing loss. The chances of various physical health problems were far higher for Vietnam vets.  Additionally, ’30-40% of veterans reported suffering from mental disorders’. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was the most common illness vets suffered from, with 30% of all return soldiers being diagnosed. At the time of return, PTSD was not widely known and therefore could not be treated. It was not until years later that the link between PTSD and the war was made. Rates of depression in veterans is 5 to 10 times higher than average Australians and continues to climb as vets enter their senior years. Consequently, the effects of veterans’ physical and mental issues seeped into their relationships with their families. They would ‘isolate’ themselves from their family and ‘behave irrationally until it got to a stage where [their families] just couldn’t take it anymore’. Many did not identify this as mental illness, rather a sort of self-sabotage. Readjustment was made even more difficult for vets without the support of their loved ones, because they had pushed them away. Vietnam veterans suffered tremendously from many long-term impacts as a result of the war, both physical and mental. 

Lyla P Y10


References: 

Paragraph 1

YouTube. (2020) Australia and the Vietnam Wars, accessed 14/11/2020. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbAP707TOfo&feature=emb_logo

Provided information about the domino theory and Australia’s fear of communism. 

Ross, B. (1995) Australia’s Involvement in the Vietnam War, the Political Dimension Part 1, accessed 14/11/2020. Available at: http://www.vvaa.org.au/bross-2.pdf

Provided information about the ANZUS agreement. 

Ryan, T. (2020) The Vietnam Wars Year 10 Humanities Woodleigh School 

Provided information about the actions of Prime Minister Robert Menzies during the Vietnam War. 

Paragraph 2

YouTube. (2018) The Kent State Shootings Explained, accessed 15/11/2020. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pwro3vCUdU&feature=emb_logo

Provided general information about the Kent State Shootings. 

YouTube. (2018) How Neil Young Came To Write OHIO After Kent State, accessed 15/11/2020. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FzYEn_gevw&feature=emb_logo

Provided quotes from and opinions of Neil Young. 

Ryan, T. (2020) The Vietnam Wars Year 10 Humanities Woodleigh School 

Provided information about the Kent State shootings. 

Wikipedia. (2020) Kent State shootings, accessed 15/11/2020. Available at: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings

Provided an image taken after the shootings at Pent State. 

Paragraph 3

Ryan, T. (2020) The Vietnam Wars Year 10 Humanities Woodleigh School

Provided information about the affects the war had on veterans. 

Medical Association for Prevention of War. (2020) Australian veterans’ health: Vietnam, accessed 16/11/2020. Available at: https://www.mapw.org.au/files/downloads/Vietnam%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

Provided information about the affects the war had on veterans’ health.