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The Australian War

HarperCollins 2010

‘Surely God weeps,’ an Australian soldier wrote in despair of the war in Vietnam.

But no god would not intervene to shorten a conflict that destroyed the social fabric of Vietnam and damaged all who participated in it.

In this first complete history of Australia’s war in Vietnam, I show how the Australian forces, guided by their experience of jungle combat, tried to fight a different war, a 'better war', to the Americans in Indochina.

That did not endear them to their American comrades. While Australia blindly went ‘all the way’ with LBJ, Washington went a fraction of the way with their most obedient ally. In fact, on the ground, American commanders refused to share military intelligence with the Australian forces. 

Drawing on hundreds of accounts by soldiers, politicians and the Vietnamese people, I reconstruct for the first time the complete history of Australia’s longest military campaign.


In Hanoi, three retired North Vietnamese commanders granted me an audience … how had they defeated the greatest military power on earth? ‘Our soldiers were everywhere,’ one said. We sipped our tea in silence.


‘Ham’s intelligent commentary on such terrible dilemmas prompts disquieting thoughts: when, for example do certain actions irrevocably diminish the society that condones them?’

The Age

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