Just as former soldiers hold reunions to reminisce about their wartime service and enjoy the company of old comrades, those who were against the war have also come together to recall what, for many, was an exciting time in their lives. Here men who once resisted the draft stand together at the anti-Vietnam War Moratorium 20th Anniversary on 11 May 1990 at the Melbourne Town Hall.
[‘2 years gaol (jail) for something he didn’t do’ from the Riley and Ephemera Collection ‘Conscription. Anti. Undated’, poster collection] At his first press conference after being sworn in by the Governor-General on 5 December 1972, the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, advised that there would be no further call-up. Those who had received notices would not be obliged to act on them and had not further obligation under the National Service Act. The Prime Minister had also instructed the new Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, QC, ‘that all pending prosecutions are to be withdrawn. The Commonwealth Police have been asked to withhold execution of outstanding warrants and papers have been prepared for the Governor-General to remit the sentences, the remaining portion of all prison sentences, of those who are now in prison and also the remission of all outstanding fines.’ He advised that he had already signed the necessary papers and that they would be submitted to the Governor-General.
‘Demonstrate April 18th Ken McClelland Teacher/Draft/Resister’ from the Riley and Ephemera Collection ‘Conscription. Anti. 1972-1975’, poster collection On 18 April 1972, Ken McClelland, a teacher at Hawkesdale High School in Victoria, was sentenced to serve 18 months in Pentridge Prison for failing to obey his National Service call up notice. After the Labor Government came to power in December 1972, Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck, was instructed to sign papers remitting the sentences of seven jailed draft resisters, including Ken McClelland. Another was Bob Scates, who had been imprisoned for 14 months. They were released on 7 December 1972.
Moratoriums and Opposition - Australian public dissent: An anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Victoria Square, Adelaide, 1971. In the early years of Australian involvement in Vietnam, opposition, even to the policy of sending conscripts to a war zone, was limited. The National Service Scheme did attract opponents as soon as it was introduced, but it was only when the government increased the size of Australia’s commitment to the war in Vietnam in May 1966, making the use of conscripts necessary, that significant public opposition arose. National service’s early opponents included the Parliamentary Opposition, religious groups, trade unionists, academics, and young men affected by the scheme. From within this disparate anti-conscription movement groups began to form and organise, some becoming prominent and forming branches across Australia. Among them: Youth Campaign Against Conscription (YCAC) formed in late 1964 and closely aligned to the Australian Labor Party (ALP), and Save Our Sons (SOS) founded in Sydney in 1965 shortly after the government announced an increase of troops to Vietnam. The announcement gave the protest movement some momentum, but it built slowly as anti-war groups began working together and learning lessons from similar groups in the United States. By 1969 those who opposed the war had increased in number and become sufficiently well organised to coordinate Australia-wide mass protests, known as the moratorium marches of 1970–71. Involvement in anti-war activities politicised many previously disinterested Australians. Opposition to the war was a radicalising experience for some people such as the middle-class women, members of Save Our Sons, who were arrested during peaceful protests outside national service induction centres. Despite the eventual strength and widespread nature of the anti-war movement, its effectiveness in Australia is open to question. The Australian Government had followed the United States lead in Vietnam since the early 1960s and continued to do so until the last Australian troops were withdrawn in 1972. When the United States began removing its troops from Vietnam, Australia followed suit, irrespective of the well-attended protests of 1970 and 1971.
Richard Phelps completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Graduated from Abington High School in 1964 and assigned to Air Training Command (ATC) school at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado where he participated in technical training as a munitions specialist. in 1964. It is unknown if he was drafted or enlisted. Photo repaired by Dan Fox