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All The Way -

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(generated from captions) This Program is Captioned Live.

Good evening, Tony Jones with a

Lateline update. Prime Minister

Gillard has vowed that a deal to cut

'green tape' regulations hampering

big projects will not come at a cost

to the environment. The agreement

came at a meeting between Government

and key business leaders ahead of

tomorrow's COAG summit. Today,

governments have heard the voice of

Australian businesses. Anything

that harmonises and tries to

streamline things in what are

tortuous processes is a good thing

for us. But the clean energy

industry says it's now become the

target of a bitter political debate.

Industry leaders have told Lateline

they fear bipartisan support for

green energy is collapsing, after a

call from the New South Wales

government to scrap the national

renewable energy target. The

suspended Health Services Union boss

Michael Williamson has resigned from

another key position. Late today,

Unions New South Wales accepted his

resignation as vice president of the

organisation. He was expected to be

stripped of the job if he hadn't

quit. Mr Williamson is accused of

corruption but has denied any wrong

doing. And to discuss the challenges

facing the union movement we'll be

joined live by the new ACTU

secretary, Dave Oliver. That's

Lateline, at 10.30pm. NARRATOR: In May 1965, bound for war in Vietnam left Sydney. the first Australian troops They were headed to what would become in Australian history. the longest and most hated conflict (Gunshot) Australia's soldiers, The Vietnam War not only tested with America to breaking point. it stretched Australia's friendship We didn't do it the American way. We did it our own way. that became important. It's what they didn't tell us shit followed. Because anywhere the Americans went, could have a better friend. Well, I just don't think Australia and, in the long-term, disastrous. It was cynical as Americans will go all the way. And Australians will go all the way of our alliance with America. The Vietnam War was the first test Britain, our traditional ally. It was our first war fought without America, and cement America to Asia. We hoped it would cement us to in the jungles of South Vietnam But 10 years of fighting delivered a very different outcome. of anguish and disillusionment, How this happened is a story and wishful thinking P of misplaced trust in the name of which our politicians of 50,000 young Australians. risked the lives After World War Two, Australia watched with mounting alarm withdrew from Asia. as European colonies the power vacuum. We feared what would fill MAN: The aim of the communist over all of Vietnam. is to establish control support every revolutionary movement MAN 2: The communists everywhere and political order. against the existing social flared in Malaya A communist insurgency like it might go Red. and Indonesia looked between a capitalist South Vietnam was divided and a communist North. into two parts at the 17th Parallel. GIRL: Vietnam is now divided from Melbourne. Vietnam is 6,000 miles Robert Menzies, Australia's Prime Minister, was on our doorstep. claimed the double 'red-yellow peril' with his five wits MENZIES: Does anybody sweep down through South Vietnam? doubt Chinese communism would ourselves with aggressive communism And that means we would find almost on our shores. was America. We believed our only hope the United States of America. MENZIES: The world needs the danger that always confronts us. But nobody need underestimate can sleep better tonight Australians and Americans defence pact like the ANZUS Treaty. because we have the mutual would tie the US to Australia, But the ANZUS Treaty we hoped was of limited value. in the event of a regional threat, it is not a commitment to defend, The ANZUS Treaty, it is a commitment to consult from that, nobody knows. and whether something follows Menzies wanted more certainty. increased its efforts His opportunity came when America to stop the communists in Vietnam. That the cost of defending freedom, must be paid in many forms - of defending America is currently needed in Vietnam. military as well as economic help This was Menzies' big chance. With America in Vietnam, a great and powerful protector Menzies thought Australia would have locked into our region. to stay in Vietnam. He actively encouraged America communist threat to Australia. There was never really a direct and diplomatic experts Senior military Prime Minister Menzies repeatedly advised only went as far as Malaya P that our line of defence over 1,000km south of Vietnam. But Menzies ignored them all of forward defence. and announced the policy line of defence here, to Vietnam. He effectively shifted Australia's was communist North Vietnam Over there, was the capitalist South. and over here, the 17th Parallel, I'm standing on the dividing line, chose to fight global communism... where the United States ..and the place our Prime Minister must defend its national interest. decided Australia in Vietnam in 1962. Australia planted its first footprint several thousand military advisors By then, the US already had in the country. was Colonel Francis 'Ted' Serong, Our first man in as part of a covert CIA mission. who was invited to Vietnam

who no-one knew anything about. MAN 3: Well, he was only a colonel of the highest level in Saigon He had put himself into the councils and was respected as such. plus this knowledge, This man had this charisma, outside the square. plus this ability of thinking Serong was a staunch Catholic to defeat the communists. on a personal crusade fighting the Japanese in New Guinea He cut his teeth and communist insurgencies in Burma. By the time he arrived in Vietnam, world's experts on guerilla warfare. Serong was regarded as one of the Saigon's US-trained soldiers He thought had taken 'a bucket to a bushfire'. play a much bigger role in the war. Serong was convinced Australia should Menzies wanted to hear. It was just what Prime Minister MAN: (Yells) That's right! jungle warriors P 'the Dirty 30' P Serong hand-picked his best Training Team in Vietnam, to create the Australian Army known simply as the Team. the Team touched down in Saigon. In August 1962, (Artillery fire) Not only was South Vietnam infiltrated by communist insurgents, the people were in the grip of the corrupt and tyrannical President Ngo Dinh Diem. Vietnam is predominantly Buddhist. But Diem and his family were orthodox Catholics who imposed an intolerant and much-resented moral code. (Church bells chime) Diem was greatly admired by Ted Serong and Australia's powerful, conservative Catholic leaders. They saw the war in Vietnam as the defence of a Catholic outpost in a sea of communism. Diem was America's puppet and entirely dependent on American money. MAN 4: At one stage, Lyndon Johnson went to Vietnam when he was vice-president. While he was in Saigon, he said that Diem is 'the Winston Churchill of Asia.' And I said to him, 'Did you really mean you think he's the Winston Churchill of Asia?' And Johnson said, 'Shit, he's the only boy we got out there.' Meanwhile, Serong's Team got on with the job of training the South Vietnamese Army in counterinsurgency tactics. By 1965, the Team had grown to over 100. But Serong didn't see eye to eye with the US Commander, General Harkins, who was filing false reports on the progress of the war. General Harkins issued instructions to his staff to accentuate the positive, decentuate the negative. He said, 'I am an optimist and I'm not going to allow my staff to be pessimistic.' And I really think, under General Harkins, the situation slipped out of control without Washington understanding what was happening because of his overly optimistic reports. Serong saw how the communists' military wing, the Vietcong, immersed themselves amongst the peasants... ..how they won the local hearts and minds and how they employed terror tactics when loyalty couldn't be bought. KARNOW: The communist movement in Vietnam was fundamentally a nationalistic movement, because we were up against an enemy that was prepared to take unlimited losses. American imperialism is the aggression. When I interviewed him later, 'How long would you have gone on fighting?' He said, '10, 20, 30, 50 years,' regardless of losses, regardless of the cost. So, for him, it was a sacred cause. Now, we get in there a battalion at a time... Ted Serong believed the only way to defeat the communists in Vietnam was by using the tactics of guerilla warfare. Our own particular skills, counterinsurgency and specifically jungle fighting are best applied here where the jungle is, where the mountains are. We put the outposts into the area where they're going to be effective. As the Vietnam War escalated, this area in the Central Highlands played a hugely important strategic role. We're close to the borders of Laos and Cambodia, and the Ho Chi Minh trail P the North Vietnamese supply line to Vietcong forces in the south. MAN 5: The Ho Chi Minh trail wasn't just one trail - it was a series of tracks and trails. And the onward movement of that equipment was on backpack or on bicycles or on elephants. The local tribes here P the Montagnards P had no loyalty either to the North or the South. But in the early 1960s, the Americans decided they could be useful P to block the Ho Chi Minh trail. Ted Serong had just the man for the job. It was here that the CIA sent a 26-year-old Australian to raise an army of mountain warriors loyal to Saigon. I broke them into eight-man teams - hit-and-run teams. They would ambush trails in between villages and so on. But it made it unsafe for the enemy to use those tracks and trails without the risk of being ambushed. By embracing the Montagnards' aspirations and customs, Petersen won the loyalty of the locals. His Montagnard army grew rapidly to over 1,000 men. The chiefs were coming in with their young men and saying 'Can you protect us?' And we would absorb those into our team as we grew. Despite his success with the Montagnards, Barry Petersen's counterinsurgency tactics were largely ignored by the Americans. But elsewhere in the south, the communists were gaining ground and the Americans weren't happy. Someone had to take the blame. On the afternoon of November 1, South Vietnamese generals overthrew and executed President Diem and his brother. Despite public denials, CIA fingerprints were all over the coup. The United States had helped assassinate the head of state Australia and America had been propping up. But the first the Australian Government heard about Diem's assassination was in the press. Days earlier, Paul Hasluck, Australia's External Affairs Minister, had publicly praised 'our friend Diem'. Hasluck now looked like a fool. Australia wasn't in the American tent at all. We were in the dark. Meanwhile, in the Central Highlands, Barry Peterson could see why the Americans tactics weren't working. PETERSEN: They would operate from a base and they'd operate in force. And it was easy to track that force. We were in smaller groups, patrolling and ambushing. So there was a big difference between the way we operated, and certainly the way I operated with my eight-man teams. But Petersen was working for the CIA and they had other plans for his Montagnard warriors. My CIA controller came up one day and said, 'Barry, I want you to raise counterterror teams.' I said, 'What are counterterror teams?' He said, 'They're assassins. When the Vietnamese finger somebody as an informer, your team goes and kills them.' Well, I said, 'No, you can't do that.' The Americans didn't like Petersen's go-it-alone attitude. He was relieved of his post. Australia gave him the Military Cross. Then, in August 1964, US President Lyndon Johnson and his generals manufactured a reason to escalate America's war in Vietnam. Renewed hostile actions have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action in reply. Washington claimed the North had directly attacked an American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was the trigger Johnson needed. Over the next four years, American troops in Vietnam would grow to nearly 500,000. To justify this military escalation, President Johnson needed more flags in the war. NAGL: To convince the American people that this was truly a multinational effort, it was very, very important to have the support of friends, and in particular English-speaking friends like the Australians. Johnson asked Prime Minister Menzies to put Australian troops on the ground in Vietnam. Menzies was happy to oblige. MAN 6: I was in parliament as a staffer on the day that Menzies made the announcement. MENZIES: This decision has been made at the request of the government of the Republic of Vietnam, and it is in accordance with Australia's international obligations. That was a lie. The South Vietnamese Government at the time hadn't requested Australian troops. There was enormous panic on the government side because the request from the South Vietnam Premier had not come through. President Quat didn't want them. He thought foreign forces were a propaganda blessing to the communists. But Menzies sent the troops anyway. The Australian public overwhelmingly supported the decision. Well, if it's going to protect Australia, I think it's worthwhile. I suppose you have to really keep the communists out. Australia's First Battalion P some 1,200 men P arrived in Vietnam on 10 June 1965. MAN 7: And I just, at that point in time, didn't realise how big the war was. I don't think any of us did. We thought we were going there to fight a guerilla war. But it had the trappings of a Second World War, of a major conflict, which I'm sure most Australian diggers didn't know about. (Soldier yells commands) General William Westmoreland was by then running America's war. NAGL: General William Westmoreland was an extremely conventional soldier and a very, very successful one. And when he came to Vietnam, he fought the kind of war that he knew how to fight, that he'd fought in World War Two, that he'd seen in Korea. He was unable to make the conceptual leap from fighting a conventional war against an enemy who announces himself to fighting an unconventional war who hides among the people. For Westmoreland, the number of enemy killed revealed who was winning the war. He introduced a daily quota system of body counts, which became an end in itself. Rival American units held body-count races with scoreboards for the largest number of kills. MAN 8: Because they were taking lots of casualties they had to let the American public know there was a tremendous number of Vietcong being killed at the same time, so the body count became a determinant. Civilian corpses were not always distinguishable from combatants, and so American units regularly boosted the tally with the civilian dead. The human impact of the war was lost in a statistical deluge. The Australians would never see body counts as the sole measure of success. They arrived in Vietnam hoping to use counterinsurgency tactics they'd already deployed successfully in Malaya. But the Americans were fighting a very different war. NAGL: They used massive amounts of firepower. There were free-fire zones, where anything that moved was accepted to be an insurgent, a member of the Vietcong insurgency. The Americans often deployed a tactic known as 'the tethered goat'. Their own forces would be used as bait to draw the enemy into battle. Massive firepower was then used to annihilate everything in sight. The American military might, we were just in awe of that. I'd never seen artillery fired at angle. I'd never seen tracer rounds. I'd never seen high-performance jets and air strikes in action. To be quite honest, it frightened the crap out of us. NAGL: There really were a lot of opportunities along the way for the United States to learn from the experience of our allies. But we wouldn't listen to the Brits, we wouldn't listen to the French, the Australians. The American army knew how to fight a war and it was determined, under General Westmoreland, to fight the war it knew how to fight. The Iron Triangle was a 300km sq area just north of Saigon that seethed with elusive enemy troops. It was here, during their first major joint operation, that Australian troops experienced firsthand America's war. ESSEX-CLARK: We were waiting to go in, sitting near a rubber plantation overlooking the area. We could see the B-52s coming over, we could see the bombs drifting down and we see this ripple of bombs going around, and took a lot of time for the sound of everything to reach us but the hut fell down next to us because the ground was shaking from it. And I thought, 'What are we doing? I mean, what's there?' First, General Westmoreland ordered this area to be chemically saturated in herbicides. Then he had it drenched in thousands of gallons of petrol. And finally it was set alight with napalm and white phosphorous incendiary bombs. Thousands of local people were forced to abandon their homes. And then the Americans and the Australians were sent in.

ESSEX-CLARK: There was nothing there at all. Except, when we left, just craters. It took longer to get through the jungle after it's been bombed than beforehand because it's just a tangled mess. It just seemed so damned stupid. The operation was a complete failure. Within three months, the Vietcong regained control of the Iron Triangle. The Australians soon discovered how the Vietcong managed to survive the American onslaught. They stumbled upon an entrance to an underground labyrinth of tunnels. EATON: Everything was underground. Everything was hidden. Everything was under little spider traps, as they called them. They'd pop up out of the ground, throw a bag, fire a burst and disappear. 200km of underground passageways - fighting tunnels, meeting rooms, hospitals and food stores,

stretching from Saigon to the Cambodian border. America's massive firepower was never going to defeat an enemy prepared to live underground for years. EATON: How tenacious, how skilful, how courageous. They're amazing, absolutely amazing the way they went about that. Now familiar with enemy tactics and aware of how dangerous their American friends could be, the Australians resolved to go it alone. They pushed to command their own region, outside American control, where they could fight their own tactical war. They were assigned the province of Phuoc Tuy. Whoever controlled the province, controlled a deepwater harbour P Vung Tau P at the mouth of the Saigon River and connected by road to the heart of Saigon. When the first Australian task force arrived in Phuoc Tuy province in May 1966, the local people obeyed the Vietcong, whether by choice or by force. MAN 9: The province was actually crawling with Vietcong. Everybody's cousin, aunt, uncle, son, brother was under the influence or in the Vietcong. Into this environment, the Australian Government dropped about 2,000 men. Almost half were 21-year-olds chosen in a lottery. REPORTER: This barrel held the immediate future for 40,300 young Australians who've registered for national service. More men were needed to take control of an entire Vietnamese province. So Menzies resorted to conscription. The Americans applauded the move. They'd been pushing conscription on Canberra. How does it feel to be in the army? Oh, not so good, really. You know, you feel not free and all this sort of thing, you know. You get the hair cut off and the beard and that. It's changing life, I suppose. Fine. Really fine. Terrific experience to be in it and I'm looking forward to the outdoor life. In 1964, 19-year-olds couldn't vote. But they were deemed old enough to throw grenades and fire a machine gun. The public reacted most strongly to forcing civilian youth at random to fight in a foreign war. But Menzies was determined to meet the American demand for more troops. He ignored the public reaction. In all, 15,381 conscripts P national servicemen, or 'nashos' - would go to Vietnam. The first conscripts helped build the Aussie base at Nui Dat and then got on with the job of taking control of the province. ESSEX-CLARK: Our tactics were cautious, careful and exploratory. We wanted to know what was going on before we committed ourselves to anything. And then we wanted to make sure we had the fire support for it. And we did it our own way. We didn't do it the American way. MAN: (In Vietnamese) But the digger's tactics added little to the overall body count. General Westmoreland accused the Australians of being inactive. ESSEX-CLARK: They thought, we're pussy footers, that we're too cautious because we don't have that bang that they have, the cowboy culture, I suppose you could call it. Within months of establishing their base in Phuoc Tuy, Australian tactics and courage were put to the test. 105 Australians and 3 New Zealanders were patrolling in the Long Tan rubber plantation. The Australians had no idea that within a couple of kilometres an enemy force at least fifteen times their size waited to attack the Aussie base. MAN 10: We were just moving along very, very quietly until that forward platoon had contact. And then, if I could use an expression, all hell broke loose. They came at us in lines, waves, and they just kept on coming. There were mounds of bodies and they would simply crawl over the bodies of their mates and keep on coming. When all seemed lost, the troops radioed back to base to shoot artillery shells on their own position, hoping they could move before the shellfire hit. (Artillery fire) In the end, the artillery fired the shells just ahead of the forward platoon with devastating effect on the advancing Vietcong. SMITH: We went back in the next morning, the trees were just completely torn apart, the undergrowth was blown everywhere. Everywhere you looked, there were enemy bodies. Long Tan was the largest battle the Australians fought without American help. Without napalm, fighter planes or B-52s, the Australians had defeated the North Vietnamese. After Long Tan, the North Vietnamese realised they were up against a far tougher adversary. Here was a new kind of enemy who fought a different war. The Australians were willing to call in shells on their own positions and were determined to hunt down the Vietcong. Never again would the communist forces launch a direct attack on Nui Dat. In early 1966, Robert Menzies P the old Cold War warrior P retired. He was replaced by his loyal deputy, Harold Holt. By now, any threat South-East Asia may have once posed to Australia was greatly reduced. Anti-communist governments in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia formed a buffer against communism. So, what precisely were Australia's national interests in a war in which the regional threat had now dissipated? Nobody seriously posed the question. The answer of course is that we had treaty obligations to Washington and Saigon and trade opportunities with America. (Fanfare) Holt went to Washington, trade cap in hand. Johnson was happy to entertain him. The president wanted Holt to send more diggers to Vietnam. After a 19-gun salute and sumptuous dinner engagements, Harold Holt uttered his immortal pledge that bound Australia irrevocably to America in Vietnam. You have an admiring friend, a staunch friend that will be all the way with LBJ. (Chuckles) 'All the way' was a slogan, not a policy. In truth, Holt had no intention of sending the troops America demanded. And LBJ refused to relax trade barriers - he offered Australia not a scrap of economic goodwill. All the way wasn't very far at all. It wasn't only trade concessions America refused to deliver. No-one told Prime Minister Holt that, even before his visit to Washington, high-level US defence advisors were questioning America's involvement in the Vietnam War. What I found awful about it, and this is something I think of in retrospect, is the numbers of the policymakers knew it was stupid who privately were saying that it's hopeless. I remember being in a hotel room with McNamara and he's telling us that it's all hopeless. And then he'd get up the same night, the same afternoon, and say everything is going great. MAN: (From archive footage) On a spring evening of October 1966, the president's aircraft touches down at Canberra Airport. Despite the talk behind closed doors, President Johnson recognised the value of helping our Prime Minister sell the war. He came all the way to Australia in October 1966. It was the first Australian tour by an American president. When freedom is at stake and when honourable men stand in battle shoulder to shoulder, that Australians will go all the way, as Americans will go all the way - not third of the way, not part of the way, not three-fourths the way - but all the way, until liberty and freedom have won! (Applause) (Cheering) 70% of Australians now said they approved of US policy in Vietnam. The President and Lady Bird left Australia with warm memories, two albino wallabies, a boomerang and a bark painting. Meanwhile, the war ground on. And then, in early 1968, the communist forces rose and fell on the South Vietnamese cities with the ferocity of a hurricane. Tet is Vietnamese New Year P a time of peace and celebration in the Buddhist calendar. But at the start of Tet in 1968 on the morning of January 31, South Vietnam awoke to scenes of blood and chaos. It was the beginning of the end for South Vietnam. (Artillery fire) 70,000 Vietcong troops descended on the South, shocking television viewers from Perth to New York City. (Speaks indistinctly) KARNOW: It took me by surprise like it did other people, especially since General Westmoreland, the American commander, had just made a speech saying everything is going great and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Ho Chi Minh failed to ignite a revolution in South Vietnam, but he won the battle in Western living rooms. The American people had been pumped up to believe that they were winning the war in Vietnam, that the insurgents could not conduct an attack of this scale. And so that cognitive dissonance between a command that was telling them that there was light at the end of the tunnel and what ended up being the oncoming train of the Tet Offensive really completely destroyed the American people's confidence in their military and in their government. Tet was the end of Westmoreland and his strategy of attrition and body counts. Later that month, Tet claimed an even bigger scalp. I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president. No-one was more surprised by Johnson's decision than Australia's new prime minister, John Gorton. He heard about it from the press. 'This is no way to treat an ally!'

he thundered to Australia's ambassador to Washington. Gorton alarmed America. One of his first acts as PM was to freeze the numbers of Australian troops in Vietnam. Gorton personally favoured an early troop withdrawal from Vietnam. But there was a yawning gulf between what he felt and what he did. Gorton felt trapped by his party's ideological commitment to American policy. And his government depended upon the support of the fanatically anti-communist, Catholic Democratic Labor Party who rejected any withdrawal from the war. So Australian soldiers fought on, under a prime minister who no longer believed in the reasons for which they were fighting.

MAN 9: We certainly did feel very let down by the fact that we'd been thrown into an incredibly dangerous situation with a totally inadequate, lack of logistic support. EATON: Casualties were obviously increasing. Compared to the first tour, we were having far more casualties. And we're out patrolling more and further out. The battles were going further away and getting more intense. Set adrift from their national anchorage, the diggers were left to fight. For whom? For what? In essence, the troops were risking their lives to fulfil a diplomatic courtesy to America. Despite the lack of leadership and moral support from Canberra, the Australians' tactics were working in Phuoc Tuy. As well as guerilla warfare, the Australians applied civic action to help win the hearts and minds of the local people. MAN: (From archive footage) We are building a dispensary to look after their health aspects and we are also building them a water supply. By early 1968, the Australians had stabilised the province. Things had become much more secure. Commerce and industry was burgeoning. Vung Tau had once again become a popular tourist resort. MAN 12: The situation in Phuoc Tuy was pretty benign. The local VC cadre had been virtually wiped out. (Soldier yells commands) But with the war still raging in American-controlled provinces, pressure built on the Australians to make themselves available again for joint operations. They were drawn back in to the US meat grinder. And this time, they would be used as 'tethered goats' by the Americans. It was near here, north of Saigon, that the Australians established the fire support base they called Coral. In May 1968, 1,500 Australian troops were dropped in here as bait to lure the enemy out of the scrub. And I remember my soldiers saying to me, 'Something is not right here.' American military intelligence had learned that six regiments of North Vietnamese P that's some 5,000 soldiers - were gathering here. But the Americans never warned the Australians, who went into battle blind. We had no idea of potential numbers. So the most important people who should know that, who are the diggers facing an enemy, they didn't know. We were badly hit. One platoon lost half its men. The battle spread north and raged for weeks. 25 Australians were killed and 99 wounded. It was quite clear that the Americans knew there were massive forces in that area. It was absolutely clear. They had intelligence from a high-ranking defector. We only survived because of the adaptability of Australian soldiers. The United States I think has always kept allies at arms length. At one point as Army Minister, I asked Defence Minister Fairhall to go to Washington and try and find out what was happening because the army people in Vietnam wanted a better insight into overall strategy and policy, but we couldn't find out anything very much. Then, in October 1968, the Americans announced a temporary halt to their bombing of North Vietnam. Gorton found out from the press. Washington had again treated us with utter indifference. (People chant) (People yell and protest) As the war dragged on, dissent grew louder. (People yell, whistles blow) By the end of 1969, support for the war had dropped to 55%. And right behind me here, a lot of people have never demonstrated before. The political pendulum had swung to the Left and the ALP finally had an electable leader in the charismatic Gough Whitlam. MENADUE: The principal problem which the Labor party had was how to oppose the war and not be seen and, in fact, be an opponent of the American alliance. By now, General Creighton Abrams had replaced Westmoreland as the head of the allied forces. Abrams tried to win the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese using tactics that had always been a priority for the Australians. But the Americans' 'hearts and minds' campaign failed. It was never an integral part of their war effort - just a bolted-on gesture. By the time we put a general in command who understood counterinsurgency - Creighton Abrams - it was really too late. When hearts and mind couldn't be won by soldiers doing the job of aid workers, they would be won by terror. The CIA launched a campaign of organised terror. They called it the Phoenix program. Few Australians soldiers knew the extent of it. But one Australian was up to his elbows in Phoenix P Ted Serong. Serong was consumed by his crusade to save South Vietnam. With CIA support, he trained a division of the South Vietnamese police into his own private army. Under the euphemism of 'infrastructure neutralisation', Serong's death squads interrogated, tortured and murdered farmers, street sellers and postmen - anyone who supported the Vietcong. Phoenix degenerated into an arbitrary manhunt. As many as 40,000 civilians died. Serong justified the carnage by saying, 'Everyone goes over the speed limit from time to time.' By the end of 1969, public support for the war in America and Australia was collapsing. Then, in November, a news story broke that would symbolise America's descent into a much darker place and the complete loss of their moral compass. The story would become the single most powerful influence on Australian attitudes to the war. A freelance journalist, Seymour Hersh, revealed the massacre of 504 unarmed civilians by American soldiers in the hamlet of My Lai. Every man, woman and child in the village was killed P 56 were babies of less than five months. Most Australian troops tried to avoid civilian casualties. But in the eyes of the Australian public, My Lai branded them as 'baby killers'. By 1970, the war was on the nose and anti-American sentiment was running high. Prime Minister Gorton finally announced the withdrawal of one of Australia's three battalions from Vietnam. But it was the war of My Lai, napalm and B-52 strikes that most Australians opposed. Few knew the ANZACs were fighting a different war. The silence of the Australian Government marked the servicemen as complicit in the atrocities. I never felt disappointed in people's maybe adverse reaction to us being there, but very, very disappointed the way the government handled the whole thing and always felt a little bit conned. I don't think the government treated us very well at all. MCFARLANE: Those of us who were on the front line were the last to be consulted and the first to be screwed, let down totally and completely by politicians not knowing what the hell they're doing. By 1971, America's policy towards China and Vietnam was shifting. The American involvement in Vietnam is coming to an end. Unknown to the Australian Government, the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, paid China a visit. MENADUE: The Australian government and Australian officials were very much out of the loop. It was done very secretly, and started then the process of normalising relations between China and the United States. So, suddenly the ogre of China had become less so. The Australian Opposition Leader, Gough Whitlam, outraged many Australian soldiers when he also visited China. The Coalition Government protested, but were quickly silenced when it was revealed President Nixon would visit China within the year. The red-yellow threat behind Vietnam was no more. On November 7, 1971, the Australians handed over control of the base at Nui Dat to a motley and frightened battalion of South Vietnamese soldiers. We left Vietnam not with a bang but a whimper. The war was seen as an embarrassment, a humiliation. We were very successful in the job that was handed us. My belief is that we destroyed Vietnam. Absolutely destroyed Vietnam. Simply because we followed an ally, an ally that was lying to us. We followed them into battle. I just realised how much we were leaving behind and how much effort had gone into protecting the province to getting the people back on their feet and I felt very sad about that. And I still think about it. We'd given the people such hope... ..and then we left them. The only Australians now left in South Vietnam were the guards at the Embassy in Saigon, the last members of the training team. And of course, Ted Serong. ANNOUNCER: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's time. The National leader of the Australian Labor Party,

Mr Gough Whitlam. And the news tonight is that the Labor Party will govern Australia after 23 years in opposition. The new Prime Minister's first correspondence with President Nixon was to admonish him for the Christmas bombing of Hanoi. The President didn't even acknowledge Whitlam's telegram. The war of intervention in Vietnam is ending. The election of Gough Whitlam's Labor government worsened our relationship with America. He certainly wanted Australian foreign policy, defence policies, to be more independent, to be more based on Australia's interests. It certainly upset the Americans. The relationship with the US further deteriorated when Whitlam's Government recognised the Hanoi regime. Reporter: For Dr Cairns arriving in Hanoi today... We were the first Western government to do so. We'd reached the nadir of our alliance with America. We today have concluded an agreement to end the war and bring peace with honour in Vietnam. The first Australian officer to arrive in South Vietnam was now the last to leave. In early 1975, as the communists advanced on Saigon, Ted Serong was given control of what was left of the South Vietnamese Army. On 28 April 1975, Radio America played the secret signal for remaining CIA agents to evacuate. Serong walked through the broken city, then slipped through the gates of the American Embassy to be airlifted to a cargo boat in the South China Sea. Australia failed to achieve the one goal for which we went to war - to secure a stronger relationship with the United States. We utterly deluded ourselves about America's motives - fear of communism, Red China, falling dominoes. In time, all were subsumed by American national pride. America stayed in Vietnam simply to avoid the humiliation of defeat. And Australia found itself harnessed, not to an American strategy or policy but to the American ego. Successive governments throughout that period followed successive presidents and supported our allies in the war in Indo-China. It was a war that couldn't be won. You don't buy brownie points with a super power. I wouldn't want to go to war alongside America unless I had somebody in the war councils in Washington. The cost to our army and our nation has nothing compared to the damage conflicted on the region. The fall of south Vietnam, the boat people, the extraordinary suffering the lessons of counter insurgency rapidly enough in Vietnam. In the end, we lost what we hoped for. America retreated across the Pacific and Australia faced an uncertain future in Asia. The Vietnam War dragged us screaming and kicking to an obvious reality P that we are part of Asia and that we can only rely ourselves for our security. And yet we fight on in new wars with old allies still in the dark, still trusting our friends. Closed Captions by CSI This Program Is Captioned

Live. Tonight, they came, they

lis scpBed they promised to cut

red tape - they listened and

they promised to cut red tape.

Today, Governments have heard the voice of Australian

businesses. Tomorrow in COAG,

we will take action having

heard that voice Anything that harmonises and tries to

streamline things in what are

torturous processicise a good

thing for us. But not everyone

was a believer. If the Prime

Minister is serious about

taking this nation forward, get

rid of this crazy tax, make

sure we can get on and take

this nation forward.

Good evening, welcome to

Lateline. I'm Tony Jones. Two

years ago he was top of the

tree, national President of the

ALP. Tonight, after months of

scandal-filled headlines, the suspended Health Services Union boss Michael Williamson has

quit his remaining post with

Unions NSW. It's take an very

long time for the union

movement to finally take action

against the besieged industrial

warrior. Now they've done it.

We'll ask the incoming ACTU

secretary Dave Oliver about the

implications of the growing HSU

scandal for Labor and some of

the other issues on his desk.

You can be part of the

conversation with our guest

tweeter, journalism lecturer

and 'Canberra Times' columnist

Jenna Price at Lateline

hashtag. First, the retreat

from renewables. Conservative

State Governments take aim at

clean-energy programs. And off

the wall, Russian protesters

express their views on

buildings all over Moscow. The

Gillard Government has hailed a

deal with business leaders to

slash into the myriad

regulations affecting major new