Return to Vietnam: An oral history of American and Australian veterans’ journeys
Cambridge University Press, $141.95 hb, 288 pp
Australia’s Vietnam War has passed through several phases in the last six decades. In the mid-1960s the commitment of combat forces by the Menzies and Holt governments was strongly supported. The war and the associated conscription scheme became the focus of enormous controversy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, contributing to Labor’s electoral success in 1972. Gough Whitlam did not pull out the troops – that had already been done by his predecessor, William McMahon – but he did recognise the communist government in the north, even before the war was over. In the 1980s and 1990s, debate over the wisdom and morality of the war was superseded by emotive controversies over the reception given to returning veterans and the effects of service on their postwar physical and mental health. It remained possible for many Australian veterans to retain the geopolitical views that had shaped their commitment, as well as believing that they had fought their war more honourably and successfully than their American counterparts.