Author(s): Ekins Ashley
Fighting to the Finish tells the story of the Australian Army in Vietnam during the peak years of the Australian military commitment to Vietnam War. As the ninth and final volume of The Official History of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-1975, this is the successor to the acclaimed To Long Tan by Ian McNeill and On the Offensive by Ian McNeill and Ashley Ekins. This volume describes the activities of the Australian Task Force in Vietnam during its peak years, from the middle of 1968 to the end of 1971. For most of this period, the army maintained a force of over 6000 troops in Vietnam. Eleven infantry battalions and their supporting arms undertook tours of duty and carried out almost 100 major operations. Australian soldiers fought a difficult war on several fronts simultaneously, conducting reconnaissance-in-force operations in remote enemy-dominated areas of Phuoc Tuy province, pacification operations to provide security in the populous regions, and civic action and reconstruction tasks to improve the lives of the local people and to help restore government control.
The pace of operations was unrelenting and intense, and the cost was high - 250 soldiers were killed in action or died of wounds and other causes during this period. This book provides a comprehensive account of operations, actions and their context, including a fresh interpretation of the fierce clash between Australian infantry and armour and North Vietnamese Army forces in the village of Binh Ba. It also includes the most authoritative account of the clearing of the controversial barrier minefield that caused high numbers of Australian casualties. It covers the phased withdrawal of the task force as enemy pressure increased the burden and dangers for the remaining soldiers; and, for the first time, an account of the aftermath of the war in Phuoc Tuy province leading up to the defeat of South Vietnam in 1975. Authors Ashley Ekins and Ian McNeill have had unrestricted access to official government records, including highly classified defence files and operational records.
They have supplemented this material with extensive interviews with participants, personal papers and correspondence, communist Vietnamese histories and discussions with former Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers. Their work is marked by unflinching critical analysis and candour about the successes and failures of the Australian Army experience in Vietnam and covers the Australian involvement at virtually every level, from the senior commanders and planners to the experiences of infantrymen on patrol and in contact with the enemy. The product of years of intensive work, Fighting to the Finish throws light on the experience of Australian soldiers in Vietnam in a way that has not been possible before.