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Military Resources: Recent Conflicts

This State Library of South Australia guide to military related information includes medals, militia and Australian involvement in conflicts. The emphasis is on South Australian resources.

Introduction

Since World War Two Australians have taken part in many other wars and conflicts, including Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and the ongoing "War on Terror".  In some conflicts we have marched into the front line, in others we have worked as peacekeepers and humanitarians. 

Due to privacy laws and the need for security, records on individuals and conflicts less that 30 years old are not yet available to the general public. (Archives Act 1983)

While an individual's records may not be available there are still many resources that give can give specific or background information on these conflicts.  Newspapers of the day can give a wealth of information.  Published battle and battalion histories, biographies and autobiographies can also help give a sense of place and time.

The First Gulf War 1990 - 1991

Iraq invaded the neighbouring country of Kuwait in August 1990. In response, the United Nations (UN) Security Council imposed trade sanctions on Iraq. Australia contributed ships, including HMAS Success, HMAS Sydney (IV), HMAS Adelaide, HMAS Brisbane and HMAS Darwin, to patrol the Persian Gulf to enforce the trade embargo.

In November 1990 the UN set a deadline of 15 January 1991 for Iraq to withdraw its troops from Kuwait. The United States (US) coordinated a multinational force which was placed on alert in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia. Australia contributed four medical teams. When Iraq did not comply with the deadline, the multinational force began a campaign of aerial bombing. This was to continue for the duration of the war. Ground troops began attacks on the Iraqi forces in Kuwait and targets within Iraq on 24 February 1991. After two days Iraqi troops were ordered to retreat and on 27 February the US-led coalition claimed victory and announced the war over. Fighting ended the following day and the ceasefire was officially accepted on 6 April 1991.

After the war, the United Nations established a Special Commission to locate and destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Australia contributed to the Commission; most notably Australian Richard Butler led the Commission between 1997 and 1999. Australia was also involved in Operation Habitat delivering humanitarian aid in Northern Iraq and Kurdistan.

Over 1,200 Australians served in the Gulf War. There were no Australian deaths.

While the State Library of South Australia holds many reference works related to this conflict, we hold little in the way of records relating to individual South Australians involved.  As for accessing service records for those who served in this conflict, the Australian War Memorial says the following:  As it is less than 30 years since official records for this conflict were created, files are not yet available for public access (Archives Act 1983).

Desert Storm 1998-1999

When Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990, precipitating the Gulf War, the United Nations (UN) approved economic sanctions on Iraq. Australian forces assisted with the monitoring of this trade embargo. At the end of the Gulf War Australians participated in the United Nations Special Commission to locate and destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In 1998 Iraq withdrew its cooperation with the UN inspectors and the United States (US) and Britain began 'Operation Desert Fox', consisting of bombing raids designed to destroy any weapons that might still exist. In December 1999 the UN created the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to replace the Special Commission. UNMOVIC was rejected by Iraq.

The War on Terror 2001 -

On the morning of 11 September 2001 hijacked passenger aeroplanes were crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York (the Twin Towers), the Pentagon in Washington DC and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The estimated number of people presumed dead from these attacks, including those on the planes, hijackers, those in the buildings and surrounds and emergency workers who attended the sites, is over 2,900. In the early afternoon, US President George W Bush stated, 'Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.' US officials believed Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, to be the mastermind of the attacks and vowed to bring to justice the terrorists responsible and any governments that supported or harboured terrorist cells. This became known as the 'War on Terror'.

In October 2001 the US and Britain led coalition attacks known as 'Operation Enduring Freedom' against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Australia committed to the coalition on 18 October. 'Operation Enduring Freedom' continued until March 2002. As part of the 'War on Terror' campaign, the US and Britain resumed bombing raids in Iraq in September 2002 to increase pressure on President Saddam Hussein to remove weapons of mass destruction. Bush warned the UN that if the organisation would not act to check Iraq's disregard for calls to disarm, then the US would act alone against Iraq.

On 12 October 2002 bombs were detonated at Bali's Kuta Beach, a destination popular with western tourists, particularly Australians. The death toll was 202, including 88 Australians. Indonesian Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiah, which is believed to have links with al-Qaeda, was thought to be responsible. This terrorist attack, which directly affected Australians, strengthened the Australian government's support of the 'War on Terror'.

UN weapons inspectors were allowed back into Iraq in November 2002 and reported that Iraq had been more cooperative, but that more time was required. In mid-March 2003, however, weapons inspectors were withdrawn and Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq.

The US, British and Australian governments maintained that Iraq harboured terrorists who may have been responsible for September 11 and other terrorist attacks and also stated that, although UN inspectors had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, weapons were still in existence and posed a grave threat. Despite some opposition from the Australian public, on 18 March the Australian government pledged forces already stationed in the Persian Gulf to assist US troops. The Iraq War began on 20 March 2003 when the US-led 'Coalition of the Willing' commenced a bombing campaign of Baghdad.

By early April the US-led forces had secured control of Baghdad. On 1 May Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. In October, the UN passed a resolution that validated the US action in Iraq but stressed that power must be passed to an Iraqi government as early as possible. Hussein was captured near his hometown of Tikrit on 14 December 2003. On 28 June 2004 an interim Iraqi government was established. Hussein was transferred to Iraqi custody. Elections were held in January 2005 and the Shia United Iraqi Alliance won a majority of seats. In April, a new government was formed led by President Jalal Talabani. In October, Hussein was put on trial facing charges of crimes against humanity. He was found guilty in November 2006 and sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on 30 December. The situation in Iraq continues to be volatile and coalition troops remain to assist in the country's post-war reconstruction and attempt to curb the continuing violence.

While the State Library of South Australia holds many reference works related to this conflict, we hold little in the way of records relating to South Australians involved.  As for accessing service records for those who served in this conflict, the Australian War Memorial says the following:  As it is less than 30 years since official records for this conflict were created, files are not yet available for public access (Archives Act 1983).

However, the newspapers of the day are accessible and carry details of both individuals and conflicts.

Australians as Peacekeepers 1947 -

Since the first peacekeepers left Australia for Yogyakarta (Indonesia) in September 1947, over 30,000 Australians have been involved in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations either under the Australian flag or as part of the United Nations. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) have been involved in over a hundred operations (large and small), including Korea, the Middle East, Kashmir, Cyprus, Sinai, Cambodia, Namibia, the Western Sahara, Somalia, Rwanda and East Timor, providing forces and leadership for peace observation and enforcement, weapons destruction, demining, training, and disaster relief all over the world.

While the State Library of South Australia may hold reference works related to these conflicts or operations, we hold little in the way of records relating to South Australians involved. As for accessing service records for those who served in these operations, the Australian War Memorial says the following: If it is less than 30 years since official records for these events were created, files are not yet available for public access (Archives Act 1983).

Terry Kelly - A Pittance of Time

A tribute to those who have served as Peacekeepers.

South Australians at War

South Australians at War showcases digitised material relating to South Australia's war history:

Finding a person online

Due to privacy laws and national security issues the names of those currently serving in the armed forces are not available online.  However details of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice during recent conflicts may be found through the links below.

Books on Recent Conflicts

Archival Resources

Useful Websites

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There is more material available at the Library than is listed here. You can search for additional items on the catalogue using the search box on this page, in the top right hand corner underneath the orange tabs.

Suggested subject headings are

  • Afghanistan War
  • Australia. Armed Forces
  • Australia. Army
  • Australia. Navy
  • Australia. Royal Australian Air Force
  • Australia-History, Military
  • Iraq War 2003
  • Persian Gulf War, 1991
  • South Australia-Armed Forces
  • Women in War-Australia