Myth vs History
By Mark Dapin
Published by New South
RRP $32.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781742236360
Mark Dapin acknowledges that this book owes much to its predecessor, ‘The Nashos War’, published in 2014, although he does point out that, where previously he had merely identified the myths, in this later book, he tries to explain what they mean and how they came to be.
The Vietnam war was not only one of Australia’s most controversial wars but also the war that at every stage has been misremembered and obscured by myth.
In this book, Dapin attempts finally to put some of these myths to the sword. Popular myths that have stood the test of time include:
- the returning soldiers were not accorded a welcoming home parade until 1987. Not true. Welcome home parades were held on a regular basis in various capital cities, the first being Sydney in June 1966 before an estimated crowd of 300,000.
- servicemen were returned from Vietnam by air in the middle of the night to avoid anti-war protestors. Not true. The majority of aircraft had been chartered from Qantas and were also required for commercial use. ‘Planes arrived and departed at night so they could be reconfigured for commercial daytime flights. (It is true that HMAS Sydney which brought some men and equipment back from Vietnam was occasionally greeted by a small noisy group of protesters).
- No national serviceman was forced to serve in Vietnam. Not true. When the Chief of General Staff General John Witton was finally persuaded that while national service was the ‘only solution to the Army’s post-war recruiting problems’, he would not countenance a situation whereby men were given the option of volunteering to fight.
In this second volume on Australia’s Vietnam involvement, Dapin has produced a fascinating look at a unique period in Australia’s history.