Friday, August 18, 2006

Battle of Long Tan

Well folks, it is the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan in Vietnam. Honourable Aussies, along with our buddies from across the Pacific ocean and South Vietnamese Army were at war against North Viet Nam and the Viet Cong in the south of the country. Ok, there were a couple of other countries involved too.

Today we honour the brave in that battle of Long Tan. I am including a thought for all the combatants, our side and their side. We lost a few Aussies, North Vietnam and the VC lost many, many more.

It was an awful war, as if there can ever be a good one. Awful for Australia, awful for the US, awful for Viet Nam.

What were we doing there? I know, because I have informally studied the war for many years. I concluded quite a while ago that we were wrong being there, as was anyone else. You may do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

Apart from some ongoing problems with our returned soldiers, you would hardly know it ever happened now, in Australia that is. Viet Nam still bears many scars and the war still has day to day effects on the people's lives.

Viewed from over thirty years on since we bolted from the country with our tails between our legs, the returned soldiers were treated shamefully, by the general population, by the governments and by the RSL. Not too many people would disagree with that, but what is lacking is an historical context.

People who were around then seem to have forgotten the passion of people who disagreed with the war. Not only the war, but conscription, that is forcing young men, teenagers, to go and fight. Not even old enough to vote! The misery the war caused to Vietnam and Laos and subsequently Cambodia. So many young men and women killed, millions by 1979, as a direct result of the war. All so futile.

While I feel for our returned diggers and the way they were treated, I expect I would have behaved the same toward them as many others did. The government knew which way the political wind was blowing. No welcome home for them. Without saying the war was right, they should have been treated decently by the government and the RSL.

They were mostly honourable servicemen, but the war they were involved in was not.

Signed, Hanoi Jay.


  1. Conscription was really the main issue that turned people against the war. The fact that young men didn't have a choice in being made to kill. I look at Don Chipp now being so pious about the Liberals and I could still spit in his face for drawing those marbles.

  2. I was one of those youths what was sitting shitting bricks in front of a TV in 1965 or 1966 as the numbered balls dropped during Lock 'em in Chippy's "Who Wants to be a Killionaire". Dammit I was so bloody young, don't think me own balls had dropped. Barely had pubes and the need for aftershave was nearly a decade away.

    The whole Vietman jaunt was unjust, cruel and dishonourable - as was the treatment of the returning soldiers.
    Their bad luck was to be returning when bitterness and anger (justified bitterness and anger) was still in the air. Then again their good luck was that they were returning. 520 weren't.

    The Rodent was one of those who bears responsibility for this shameful period of Australian history. (Ha, you have wonder if his preferred version of this period of history will be that which is taught in schools when Keith Windshuttle becomes the Commissar for Education.)

  3. The Rodent was one of those who bears responsibility for this shameful period of Australian history

    Addendum. OK, not directly as an MP, but certainly as a fully paid up member of the Libs - well, at the age of 18, the Young Libs (is that an oxymoron?) who were cheering on the old and elected Libs' suck up to Uncle Sam.

  4. Jah Teh, my knowledge of the protests and who were around in Canberra then is not great. In the last years of the war, was it Malcolm Frazer who was Minister of Defence?

    HE, good to hear a personal perspective. You're an intelligent bloke. Did you have any idea what the war was really about, who was right who was wrong, would it have been an honourable thing to fight for your country in Vietnam? That is an awful lot for a teenager to comprehend or know, especially back in 66.

  5. Jah Teh, perhaps the tv images too?

  6. Shall answer your questions later. off to Syddey for weekend. Am just online checking to see if any of the Virginal flights have been altered and killing a few minutes and a very black coffee before we head off to Tulla

  7. Actually it's only just come out that it was Menzies that tied us to that war.
    America needed us to give the world the appearance of a just war (sound familiar) against communism. We started with a few military advisors in the middle sixties. Try to get a book called 'Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War' by Michael Maclear. Mandarin ISBN 0-7493-0016-7. This starts at the end of WW2 and the French and American involvement in Indo-China from there.
    It's the book of the television documentary and gives a complete overview. It was also the last war where reporters were allowed unrestrained access to battles and the truth. The Pentagon learned not to do that again.

  8. If you can't get a copy, I'd be glad to lend you mine.

  9. Most kind Jah Teh. I am pretty sure I have read it, along with One Crowded Hour, Saigon and a few others. The rot really started during WWII when Ho Chi Mihn took his party on side with the Americans against the Japanese.

  10. Of course Menzies. Never an offical war. It just grew from the advisors.

  11. That was beautiful. I gave my mum the link, and she loved it too.

  12. If I remember my history, Ho went to Versailles after WW1 to try to get recognition of his country and piss off the French then.

  13. Ho did, and a deal was done and someone reneged.

  14. Sorry, a bit late with my promised response and a lot of High Riser has passed under the bridge since this post, so will be brief and pertinant (not usually my long suit).

    My sense of the situation was that the USA was (as it had always been - see the Joe McCarthy witchhunt) paranoid about communism and would mindlessly go to the barricades (dragging in supine and stupid other countries to the fray) to stop the evil commies. (Dare one suggest a parallel with the Iraq debacle?)

    My greatest sense of outrage (apart from believing we were conned into a dishonest "war".) is summed up in this sentence.

    "In late 1964 the Menzies Government introduced balloted compulsory military service for 20-year-old males."

    Guess who could go to fight for their country at 20? Guess who couldn't have a vote until they were 21? Talk about the Aztecs sacrificing virgins!!!

    What was that Boston Tea and Cucumber Sandwiches Party all about? Not taxation without representation.

  15. Although conscription was compulsory, Australian conscripts were still selected or rejected on the basis of medical and psyhcological fitness.Then they had to pass the training courses, if they passed these, they were placed into an Australian Army Regiment. Each Regiment was then rotated into and out of duty in Vietnam, however EVERY single man in EVERY single unit was not made to go to Vietnam, they were all Volunteers, if a soldier didn't want to do his duty in another country he didn't have to, they were however still required to serve for two years in the Army. In each unit that was coming up for duty in Vietnam (or any unit of any of the services of the Australian Armed Forces) there was a spirit of commeraderie so therefore not many chose to stay in Australia while their unit went overseas.
    Every single person in every unit of the Australian Armed Forces that served in Vietnam deserves to be congratulated for their efforts and sacrifice in what were extremely difficult times.

  16. Thanks for the 'colour'. Most interesting.