By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Vietnam: The Australian War
By Paul Ham (HarperCollins, $55.00, hardcover, 812 pages)
Offering an Australian perspective on the Vietnam War, this special illustrated edition also places the pictures within a narrative history of the entire campaign, appropriately recording the full stories behind the images.
This is so the reader can gain a “deeper, more empathetic understanding of the complexity and sadness” of this war.
It documents a selection of some of the most extraordinary images of the Vietnam War. The most scorching is the ‘image that never rests’ of a little girl – Kim Phuc – running from her village, her body scorched by napalm, a “picture which did more than any to turn the world in revulsion from this conflict”.
Exposed, as grossly inadequate, are the explanations of what happened in Australia’s longest and most controversial military campaign. It was an extraordinary decade and the “simplistic arguments” that divided parliament and the people in the 1960s.
Prized author, journalist and publisher Paul Ham seeks to correct those misunderstandings with this mammoth compilation, assisted by the hundreds of interviews and newly-declassified documents.
This remarkable visual legacy not only brings to light the big Australian battles at Long Tan, Coral and Balmoral, but also the struggle at home and how politicians of all ‘stripes utterly failed the troops, almost half of who were conscripted on the throw of a dice’.
Whatever one’s view of the war, the Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen did their duty – with courage and, in the main, restraint. The Australian people shared responsibility for this tragic episode that sealed the fate of 50,000 servicemen and women.
The book maybe far too long at over 800 pages, yet this classic account is perceptive and enlightening.
Some experts may even pick up factual oversights, but Ham has been credited with uncovering crucial information about disturbing behaviour of Australian federal politicians and top military commanders in dealing with the war in Vietnam.
Edition 309, 17 April 2012
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.