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.
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!
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.
My Vietnam veteran father attended the fiftieth anniversary commemoration for the Battle of Long Tan in Canberra today. He knew people there, but the battle took place two years before he arrived in Vietnam.
He was the organiser for the Battle of Binh Ba commemoration a few years ago (which he did fight in), which took place at the same spot (the Vietnam memorial on Anzac Parade, running down from the Australian War Memorial).
When my father and another veteran went out to lunch, a woman saw their medals and paid for the whole thing. They didn’t know until after she had gone!
Here are his unedited pictures from today.
It was a gorgeous day, and the military flyovers came straight over our house, but I couldn’t make it to the actual event this time.
It’s Anzac Day in Australia. So here’s a video from the Battle of Binh Ba in the Vietnam War. My father fought in this battle. He is driving an armoured personnel carrier.