This post is for Robbie and John, and all the other vets who couldn’t return to a normal life after Vietnam!
Looking back on my teens, I still laugh about the day I ran away to join the army!
The year was 1971, and I was just over one year away from compulsory military service.
I’d gained infamy at school for my opposition to the Vietnam war, and my rants in the school paper caused more than a little controversy.
Expressing opposition to conscription, and compulsory school cadet training had marked me as something as a rebel at school, a very conservative boys college.
It wasn’t that I was anti army, and would have been quite ready to defend my homeland against attack. I’m proud of the young men who did go, and I honor them for their loyalty.
Soldiers don’t cause war, politicians do!
Being the complete rebel, and having really broken out after leaving school, I completely shocked everyone when I announced in 1971 that I was going to join the army.
My Dad, a World War 2 veteran, just shook his head, and I can’t imagine what my poor mother thought!
Of course, there was a girl involved. Cheryl was my first ‘real’ girlfriend, and after we broke up I guess that I thought that I needed to prove myself!
My mate Tony was the complete opposite to me, and loved the army, and every thing about it.
After a boys night out, we’d decided to enlist.
This was his second attempt to enlist, he’d been knocked back before, and he got in on his third go!
He’s only recently retired actually, as I found out from his sister last week!
I’d never had any problem with doing profile tests, I could discern the answer that they were most likely to be looking for, but when I whizzed through the academic stuff, I knew I was in strife!
It was right about then that I realized from the look on the burly sergeant’s face that I was in deep trouble, and that if I passed the medical…
Memories of my stand against the war came flooding back, and as I stood there I knew I had to think fast…
The sergeant led us to the door, and patted me on the back. ‘I’m sorry son, you’re just not fit enough’, he said.
As we walked down the road, Tony turned and said ‘I never knew that you were an epileptic, and had hearing problems’.
‘Only when I drink too much beer’, I replied with a grin, ‘it makes my boots wobble, and when I fall down, I can’t hear a thing…’
It was Friday, and as we walked down the street, with 2 nights accommodation in Sydney and transport back to the bush, I reckoned we were in for a good weekend…
And Cheryl? Married some rich farmer from out west! Good luck to them – I guess that she was a bit of alright, but not worth dying for!
It wasn’t my war, and in my mind, it wasn’t about democracy.
Redgum: I was only 19
Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war Began: 1962, Ended: 1972.
From the Australian War Memorial Website:
Australian support for South Vietnam in the early 1960s was in keeping with the policies of other nations, particularly the United States, to stem the spread of communism in Europe and Asia.
In 1961 and 1962 Ngo Dinh Diem, leader of the government in South Vietnam, repeatedly requested security assistance from the US and its allies.
Australia eventually responded with a team of military advisers, the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV).
Their arrival in South Vietnam during July and August 1962 was the beginning of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
By early 1965, when it had become clear that South Vietnam could not stave off the communist insurgents and their North Vietnamese comrades for more than a few months, the US commenced a major escalation of the war.
By the end of the year it had committed 200,000 troops to the conflict. As part of the build up, the US government requested further support from friendly countries in the region, including Australia.
The Australian government dispatched the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) in June 1965 to serve alongside the US 173rd Airborne Brigade in Bien Hoa province.
By 1969 anti-war protests were gathering momentum in Australia. Opposition to conscription mounted, as more people came to believe the war could not be won.
A “Don’t register” campaign to dissuade young men from registering for conscription gained increasing support and some of the protests grew violent.
By late 1970 Australia had begun to wind down its military effort in Vietnam.
the last battalion left Nui Dat on 7 November, 1971, while a handful of advisers belonging to the Team remained in Vietnam until the following year.
In December 1972 they became the last Australian troops to come home, with their unit having seen continuous service in South Vietnam for ten and a half years.
Australia’s participation in the war was formally declared at an end when the Governor-General issued a proclamation on 11 January 1973.
More Information from the Australian War Memorial!
The Vietnam war was the cause of some of the greatest social and political dissent in Australian history!
Many draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and protesters were fined or gaoled.
Unfortunately, soldiers met a hostile reception on their return home.
This is as much a blight on the country’s history as its involvement in the war in the first place!
Herds: I was Only 19
Why two versions of the same song? I know that it doesn’t make sense, but then, neither did the war! Actually the footage in the second clip is very good, and is the reason that I included it!