Newspapers are full of Vietnam related material to commemorate the anniversary of the so-called Battle of Long Tan. So I thought I would review the Vietnam Official History series.
Crises & Commitments: The Politics and Diplomacy of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-1965 by Peter Edwards with Gregory Pemberton
Controversial because it went too soft on the Liberal administrations of the 1950s and 60s that got us involved in the war in Vietnam "in a manner that proved politically and strategically disastrous" (p. 385)
A Nation at War: Australian Politics, Society and Diplomacy during the Vietnam War 1965-1975 by Peter Edwards
This even more controversial volume covers the anti-war and anti-conscription movements, escalation of Australia's military commitment and the ultimate withdrawal from Vietnam.
Edwards sometimes entertains some silly ideas but honestly points out the irony of the Clifford-Taylor mission to Australia in 1967, which was intended to drum up support for the war but led Clifford at least to have second thoughts.(p. 156)
Sue Langford contributes a superb appendix on the National Service scheme
Emergency & Confrontation: Australian Military Operations in Malaya and Borneo 1950-1966 by Peter Dennis and Jeffrey Grey
The historians somehow managed to convince the government that these conflicts needed to be covered in addition to the war in Vietnam. The book is two books in one, the first being about Malaya and the second about the war with Indonesia. Neither approached the level of conflict of Vietnam and the Australian Army was able to draw few lessons. Probably will be the least read of any of the volumes.
To Long Tan: The Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1950-1966 by Ian MacNeil
Only covers combat operations and so neglects the logistics. And only covers the 1965-66. Not very analytical. Gives the the short shift to the notion that the first National Serviceman killed did not do so in a friendly fire incident which Edwards is witless enough to entertain. Covers the controversial establishment of the base at Nui Dat and (at length) the "Battle" of Long Tan.
Medicine at War: Medical aspects of Australia's involvement in Southeast Asia 1950-1972 by Brendan G. O'Keefe and F.B.Smith
Why does the medical corps get a whole volume when the rest of the logistical branches miss out? Because they got one in WWI and II. (I'll probably have to write it myself.) A well-written and comprehensive study of military medical matters, including the issues of malaria and Agent Orange.
The RAAF in Vietnam: Australian Air Involvement in the Vietnam War 1962-1975 by Chris Coulthard-Clark
It seems that most of the Vietnam volumes are controversial and this one is no exception. The war saw considerable inter-service conflict between the Army and the RAAF which ultimately resulted in the RAAF being stripped of its helicopters in the 1980s. Coulthard-Clark gives the RAAF side (Grey and Ekins are less charitable) but it remains embarrassing to the RAAF.
Up Top: The Royal Australian Navy in Southeast Asian Conflicts, 1955-1972 by Jeffrey Grey
Originally the RAAF and RAN were to share a volume by the RAAF kicked up a fuss and paid for Chris Coulthard-Clark to write them a whole volume. This left the RAN with its own volume by default, in which Jeff gets to go into microscopic detail to fill the pages.
On the Offensive: The Australian Army in the Vietnam War 1967-1968 by Ian McNeill and Ashley Ekins
MacNeil died before getting this one finished so Ashley Ekins had to take over. This volume drops him in it. More controversial topics are covered, including the relocation of villages and the foolish border minefield. Ekins begs the big questions, insisting that Brigadier Graham was not a bad commander even though every important decision he made was wrong. However Ekins generated a new controversy when by foolishly quoting a court marshal lawyer.
Pacification and Withdrawal: The Australian Army in the Vietnam War 1968-1972 by Ian McNeill and Ashley Ekins
Will this forthcoming volume wrap it up? We certainly hope so.