Were most Australian deaths in the Vietnam War from combat with the enemy?
This is true in the sense that most deaths were caused by the enemy, but the reality is more complex than that.
Here are approximate figures for the means of death of 499 of the 519 deaths recorded in the Vietnam Memorial:
• Direct enemy contact – 258. This includes being shot by snipers or in ambushes or other contacts, being hit by rockets or grenades, being in helicopters that were shot down.
• Mines – 109. This includes setting off enemy mines.
• Murder (by other Australian troops or in fights with Vietnamese) – 6.
• ‘Friendly fire’ (by artillery falling short, or soldiers mistaking their comrades for enemy) – 33.
• Accident (including drowning, struck by lighting, traffic accidents, falling from helicopters, fainting and hitting a concrete floor) – 29.
• Illness/disease (including heart attacks, strokes, suspected alcohol poisoning, typhus) – 28.
• Shooting or explosives accidents (including weapons, mines or grenades going off accidentally) – 36.
So about one in four of all deaths were not caused by the enemy.