Monday, 6 May 2019

Reviewing Dapin's "Australia's Vietnam - Myth vs History"

It’s time for another book review, gentle reader.

I’ve studiously avoided commentary on politics. It’s never a good time to do that during a campaign.

The book in question is Mark Dapin’s Australia’s Vietnam – Myth vs History.

Dapin posted me a copy on the strength of the fact that he used some material I sent him in reference to one of the myths he eviscerated.

He looks at (amongst other things) the following accepted narratives and debunks them -
  • Every National Serviceman who went to Vietnam was a volunteer.
  • Some National Servicemen (Normie Rowe and Doug Walters, for example) were enlisted without being balloted to show that no-one was exempt.
  • The powers that were played God with the ballot process.
  • There was a hidden Australian My Lai.
  • Returning diggers were spat upon at airports and when parading in the capital cities.
The work is interesting and engaging in three ways.

First, it’s written in an irreverent non-nonsense fashion, sprinkled with factual barbs directed generally at the establishment. For me, as an habitual contrarian, that’s always a plus. In this case, the “establishment” is a generation of the more respectable chroniclers including notables like Ham, Edwards and Horner. He takes them on, and in the judgement of this humble reader, makes many of their assumptions look silly.

His conclusions are backed by research that is almost forensic in its character.

The second factor is that he readily admits that much of what he has written on the subject in the past is at least misguided and at most simply wrong. His explanation of this sets a framework for his conclusions that the war has been misremembered and mischaracterised by many, including those who participated in it.

This contention struck a chord for me. I’ve attended my fair share of reunions, and have listened to plenty of stories, tall and not so true. We call them “warries”. The telling of these stories is harmless, and probably helps the narrators make sense of their experiences, but it does nothing for the accurate recording of history.

And thirdly, his work encourages me to dig deeper in reference to the reasons for the existence of the myths in the first place. 

It’s really a three-stage process; the recounting of the myths, their debunking, and the analysis of why these myths developed in the first place.

Dapin’s book comprehensively completes the second stage of the process. I’d like to have a go at the third.

Hence I'm enrolling at USQ to do just that.

Blogging may be light as a consequence.

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