March 12th – This Date in the Vietnam War

On March 12th 1965, the United States Navy launched Operation Market Time with the aim of obstructing the resupply of Communist troops in South Vietnam through river and coastal routes. This military maneuver subsequently prompted the Navy to enlist the help of the United States Coast Guard in conducting riverine and coastal patrols throughout the Vietnam War.

Seven years later, on March 12th 1972, the final remnants of the First Australian Task Force withdrew from Vietnam. The Australian government initially deployed a small aviation detachment and an engineer civic action team to Vietnam in 1964, but they bolstered their presence in May 1965 with the deployment of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR). The formation of the First Australian Task Force in 1966 resulted in an Australian base of operations near Ba Ria in Phuoc Tuy province. The task force featured an additional infantry battalion, a medium tank squadron, and a helicopter squadron, alongside signal, engineer, and other support forces.

By 1969, the Australian troop presence in Vietnam stood at around 6,600 personnel. These troops were part of the Free World Military Forces, a coalition created by President Lyndon B. Johnson to encourage other countries to support the United States and South Vietnam. By enlisting support from other nations, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus around his policies in Vietnam. This initiative was also referred to as the “many flags” program. Following the lead of the United States, which had begun to drastically reduce its troop commitment to South Vietnam, Australia began to withdraw its troops in 1970.

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