In 1962, the Australian government dispatched a unit of 30 advisers to Vietnam to support the South Vietnamese government’s war against a guerrilla insurgency led by communist North Vietnam. In Vietnam 3 years before the regular Australian army, the AATTV trained and eventually fought with the South Vietnamese Army, US Special Forces, the CIA and a number of tribal units. The AATTV or ‘The Team’ as it became known, were the first Australians to fight in Vietnam and, ten years later, the last to leave.
During the course of the war, The Team was awarded 4 Victoria Crosses and a multitude of other decorations. It is, to this day, the most highly decorated unit of the Vietnam War.
Aside from their accolades, what makes the men of The Team so extraordinary and unique is the close relationships they developed with Vietnamese and other native soldiers.
Whilst the regular Australian army fought exclusively alongside other Australians, the men of the Team lived and fought with their Vietnamese colleagues. As such, the AATTV saw Vietnam through the eyes of the Vietnamese people; they developed close bonds with the Vietnamese and understood the complexities and tragedies of this brutal war better than any other Australians.
Unlike the regular Australian army, which was concentrated in one area, the men of the Team were spread throughout the country operating in a variety of roles which included service with the South Vietnamese Army, the US Special Forces, native tribes and, even, the US Central Intelligence Agency under whom they fought a secretive and vicious guerrilla war against the communist Viet Cong. This aspect of Australia’s war in Vietnam has never before been revealed on television.
When the war was over, many AATTV aided their Vietnamese counterparts and their families by helping many to find refuge in Australia. For those they left behind – the living and the dead - an enduring feeling of guilt remains to this day and has been part of the AATTV’s lives.
Through the testimony of the men of The Team and those with whom they fought, even those they fought against, this new three-part series reveals a new and dramatic perspective on Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. At a time when Australia is still fighting ‘someone else’s war’, the resonance of this series is all too apparent.