I had the opportunity to attend a special screening of Danger Close – The Battle of Long Tan last night with some Vietnam veterans (including my father) and other members of the Australian Defence Force. They actually had a counsellor there just in case, and now I understand why – it was quite the experience.
Long Tan is the best-known battle Australia (and New Zealand) fought in the Vietnam War, but I was still amazed both by the quality of the movie, and the actors in it. The “face” of the movie is Major Harry Smith, played by Travis Fimmel, of Vikings fame.
In the 1960s my father was an armoured personnel carrier driver stationed in Nui Dat, which is the base under attack in the movie. He later fought another major battle only a few kilometres from the base: Binh Ba, which had its fiftieth anniversary this year.
It was amazing to see people my father knows portrayed on the big screen, and to know people who consulted on the film.
I would strongly recommend this movie, as long as you’re prepared for it. It’s very confronting, and that much sadder because none of it is fiction.
Here are a couple of images from the day-long 50th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of Binh Ba in Canberra on Thursday.
The first one shows the Minister for Veterans and Defence on the left, and Vietnam veterans from the official party on the right. My father is the veteran in the centre. It was SO sunny that we were all blinded and melting by the end, despite it being the first week of winter!
The second image is from the Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial the same evening. The ceremony was dedicated to Binh Ba veterans in general, and to the sole Australian killed in the fighting in particular. (There was also a British D-Day veteran present.) Afterwards, veterans and their families were lined up for a photograph – I’m one of the dots on the left of the picture!
Everyone in Australia: at 2pm tomorrow the 50th anniversary commemorations for the Battle of Binh Ba – a major battle in the Vietnam War – are going to be broadcast live on television from Canberra, and then repeated the day after.
My father has played a huge part in organising this event, and hundreds of soldiers, past and present, are flying in to participate. My parents are in the official party, and will be obvious on TV, and I’ll be sitting… somewhere…! We’ve all been too busy to finalise this.
Afterwards, there’s a function at the Australian War Memorial, and then there’s a huge dinner tomorrow night, and I’ll be staying at the hotel in the city, because there’s just so much going on!
We went to the Australian War Memorial (which is here in Canberra) shortly after the national Anzac Day service concluded around lunchtime today. It was like being backstage; after hours of live television broadcast across the country, we got there when all the technical crews were dismantling the cameras etc.
This is the first time I have seen concrete bollards EVERYWHERE – the terror threat is so high now. They had two sets of dozens of big barricades on either end of Anzac Parade, where in the past there was just a flimsy plastic ribbon. It’s so sad to see that happening even in Canberra now…
My father is a Vietnam veteran, and a major commemoration for the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Binh Ba is happening here in just a few weeks (the battle was mentioned on TV today).
We – as we always do – visited the Vietnam war section, and then went to Manuka for lunch and drinks.
I can’t wish someone a “happy” Anzac Day, but here’s a shoutout to all the Australians and New Zealanders commemorating today.
A picture at the Vietnam War memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra a few years ago:
Because I live in Canberra and have a former military father (and love history!), I spend quite a lot of time at the Australian War Memorial.
I went with my father today, half because of the occasion (one hundred years since the First World War ended) – to see the thousands and thousands of handmade poppies in the garden out the front (today was the last day for the exhibition), and half because I’m currently working on the memoirs of a Military Cross-winning Vietnam veteran (my father’s commander in the war), and he was heavily involved in the Long Tan dedication ceremony.
Long Tan is by far the most famous (infamous?) battle in Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, and my father knows people in the iconic photograph.
The cross arrived at the War Memorial not all that long ago, and this is the first time I’ve seen it in its special new room. Unfortunately that room – as they tried to make it a quiet place for reflection – is practically hidden, and I think most visitors will miss it…
Today is Vietnam Veterans Day in Australia, so here is a picture of the Federation Guard marching in Canberra during the Battle of Binh Ba anniversary service in 2009 (you can find it on other sites these days, but it’s actually my mother’s photo).
Binh Ba was one of Australia’s major victories in the war, and it was one of the last operations my father was part of before returning home.
Over sixty-thousand Australians served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1972.