This August 18 marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan: one of the best known Australian engagements of the Vietnam War, so we’ve gathered together a reading list of first-class fiction and non-fiction titles for young and old to discuss and reflect on the Vietnam War, with all its complexities and controversies.
Not only was The Battle of Long Tan one of the heaviest – it involved an action of 108 ANZACS against a Viet Cong (North Vietnamese) force estimated between 1,500 and 2,500 – it was also one of the few battles in the recorded history of the world to be won against such odds.
For children to adults: I Was Only Nineteen
A powerful and moving picture book about the Vietnam War based on the Redgum’s unforgettable song, the words of John Schumann are beautifully illustrated by Craig Smith. I Was Only Nineteen invites a new generation of readers to consider the impact of war, and to reflect on the consequences for both the opposing military forces and for civilians either living in the war zone, or waiting patiently at home for their loved ones to return. It offers a powerful message with universal meaning. Learn more about the book with teacher’s notes on our website.
For teens: Dreaming the Enemy
David Metzenthan is one of Australia’s finest writers, and yet again presents an elegant and deeply moving look at war, this time in a novel set in the aftermath of the Vietnam War showing the impact on soldiers of both sides. Learn more about the book with teacher’s notes & reviews on our website.
It touches on many issues: the aftermath of war, including how returned fighters were and are treated; the effects on mental and physical health and on families and relationships. It looks at conscription, the politics of wars, the destruction caused by the bombing and napalm, the attitudes of Americans, the contribution of Australians, and much else. The story is infused with humanity and embellished by Metzenthen’s flair for language and flashes of dry Aussie humour.
– The Australian
Dreaming the Enemy is an important book. It helps us to remember things like conscription don’t just belong to the harmless world of YA fiction, and realise we can never again ignore the problems of our returned soldiers, whether we agree with the war they’ve fought in or not.
– Readings Books
For adults: Vietnam
For the complete Australian story of this war, two Vietnam veterans Bruce Davies with Gary McKay retrace the footsteps of soldiers and politicians, villagers and the enemy in this meticulously researched history of the Vietnam War. This is a book for anyone who wishes to understand why Australia went to war, and who wants to make sense of the intensely unrelenting warfare.
The book is meticulously researched and documented and provides deep knowledge of the places and locations of the War. Insights from the enemy make this book unique, and places it apart from many other texts on the Vietnam conflict. This formidable book certainly examines numerous aspects of the Vietnam War under a high magnification microscope. It is a valuable reference work on this conflict, which stands apart from a number of others on this subject.
– Naval Historical Review
Who better to tell the story of Long Tan than those in direct command during the battle? This is an in-depth account by the six Australian commanders and one New Zealander commander of the units which made up the Australian fighting force in the Battle of Long Tan.
As well as the battle itself, the ongoing efforts of the Long Tan commanders to right the many wrongs perpetrated in the wake of the battle, and their own journeys from the events of August 1966 draw the reader into a compelling dialogue on the aftermath of Vietnam.
A Sappers’ War (and Tunnel Rats)
These two books from Jimmy Thomson and Sandy MacGregor bring to life the realities of the Vietnam war on the ground. The sappers were the forward scouts, the mine clearers, the bridge builders and the tunnel rats, often the unsung heroes of Australia’s war in Vietnam, and these books showcases their endeavours.
The authors have captured brilliantly the experiences of sappers during their tours of Vietnam — from the sharp end fighting support infantry and tanks to construction tasks to help Vietnamese villagers. This is well written, easy to read and is highly recommended.
– Inside History Magazine