Robert O’Neill

Robert O’Neill was the Intelligence Officer of the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, for much of its first tour in Vietnam, 1966–67. He later became a strategic analyst and historian of war, serving as Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU, 1971–82; Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 1982–87; and Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford University, 1987–2001. He was also the Australian Official Historian for the Korean War, 1970–82, and Chairman of Trustees of the Imperial War Museum, London, 1998–2001.

Vietnam Task »

The 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, 1966–67

Authored by: Robert O’Neill
Publication date: 2022
On 24 May 1966, eight hundred men of the 5th Battalion landed at Nui Dat in Viet Cong territory. For the next 12 months they were faced with the task of restoring peace, civil law and regular commerce to the Vietnamese of Phuoc Tuy Province. This book is a detailed record of those months in the monsoon jungles—of the problems that were faced and the solutions that were found. Captain O’Neill’s position as Battalion Intelligence Officer enabled him to view the war from the standpoint of the Battalion as a whole. However, he does not omit description of personal feelings—towards the Viet Cong, the jungle environment, the Vietnamese people and the other allied forces involved in the war. Most of the book was written on the spot in Vietnam. On operations or at Battalion Headquarters, Captain O’Neill jotted down details of the war against the Viet Cong; putting the events of each day in order, often in the small hours of the following morning. Thus not only is this a factual account of the 5th Battalion’s activities over the year, it is also a vivid and compelling picture of the war in Vietnam from the soldier’s point of view.

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Vietnam Vanguard »

The 5th Battalion's Approach to Counter-Insurgency, 1966

Publication date: February 2020
The Vietnam War, and Australia’s part in it, was a major military event, calling for willingness to face death and destruction on the battlefield on the part of those sent there, especially the men of our infantry battalions who formed the spearhead of our forces in Vietnam. For many reasons, the Australian public know relatively little about what our Army did in Vietnam during the war, particularly during the years of our peak commitment, 1965–72. This book attempts to make the true nature of the war clearer to readers, emphasising how hard fought it was during major operations. Twenty-seven of the contributing authors of this book were involved in the 1966 deployment of the 1st Australian Task Force into Phuoc Tuy Province. This formation was the first Australian Army force larger than an infantry battalion group to be deployed into a major war since World War II. 5th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (5 RAR), was in the vanguard as the task force’s first element committed to operations to seize and occupy Nui Dat base and embark on establishing dominance over the enemy. The narratives presented in this book give rare insights into thoughts of the soldiers at the time and how they have come to view the Australian Government’s hurried expansion of its initial commitment to that war, the Army’s state of preparedness for that wider involvement, and how those in its forefront adapted to get the job done, both in and out of operations, despite numerous shortcomings in higher level planning. Both professional soldiers and conscripted national servicemen have contributed viewpoints to these pages.
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