Australia: Pacific Ally

August 17, 1966

Report Outline
Australian Support for America in Asia
Discovery and Settlement of Australia
Australia in the Twentieth Century

Australian Support for America in Asia

Strong support from Australia for the United States military effort in Viet Nam has made the land “down under” a strong favorite of the Johnson administration. Australia, and the neighboring island state of New Zealand, are the only nations populated by westerners that have contributed fighting forces to the spreading conflict in Southeast Asia. Some 4,500 Australians and a New Zealand artillery company joined the battle in South Viet Nam last year. And both Australia and New Zealand have dispatched engineering units to Thailand to help build air bases and a highway network to support an expanding American force in that country.

The administration's appreciation of the posture of its major South Pacific ally was evident when Australia's new Prime Minister, Harold E. Holt, came to Washington this summer. After a scheduled round of talks, June 29, the Australian leader flew on to London to confer with Prime Minister Harold Wilson before returning to Canberra. But President Johnson invited Holt to re-route his homeward journey through the United States so that the two could engage in further discussions. Holt returned to Washington for two days of meetings, July 13–14. At the close of his second visit, the Australian—only Western leader to give public support to American bombing of oil depots and other installations near Hanoi and Haiphong—commented that Britain and other European nations appeared “almost oblivious to the existence” of the Pacific area.

U. S.-Austealian Defense Cooperation Since 1945

The United States and Australia are now engaged in joint military operations in the Pacific region for the third time in three decades. During the early days of World War II—when the Allies were reeling under German and Japanese attacks and Australia was preparing to repel a threatened Japanese invasion—the United States replaced Britain as Australia's principal ally. Since the end of that war, Australia has been a leading partner of the United States in security arrangements for the region. Australian troops of the British Commonwealth Overseas Forces were among the first to join American units to repel the Communist invasion of South Korea in 1950. The following year, Australia, New Zealand and the United States joined in a mutual security arrangement under the Anzus treaty. Australia and New Zealand also cooperated with this country in formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization in 1954, following the French collapse in Indo-China. Since 1955 Australian troops have been stationed in Malaya as a part of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. Originally, the Reserve—which also includes British and New Zealand forces—was ordered to Malaya to help put down an internal Communist insurgency. More recently, the forces were employed to apprehend Indonesian infiltrators seeking to advance Sukarno's “confrontation” with Malaysia.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Policy in the Pacific
Apr. 20, 1990  Should the U.S. Reduce Its Pacific Forces?
Apr. 07, 1989  Pacific Rim Challenges
Apr. 25, 1986  The Strategic Pacific
Jul. 05, 1985  Dawn of the Pacific Era
Jun. 06, 1975  Changing Status of Micronesia
Aug. 17, 1966  Australia: Pacific Ally
Nov. 04, 1964  Indonesia vs. Malaysia
Jul. 24, 1963  Malaysian Federation: Union of Convenience
Jul. 05, 1962  West New Guinea: Pacific Trouble Spot
Jan. 28, 1953  Pacific Defense
Sep. 09, 1949  Pacific Dependencies
May 03, 1945  Trusteeship in the Pacific
Conflicts in Asia
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
U.S. at War: Vietnam
War and Conflict