One of the veteran quotations on this Anzac Parade memorial reads:
WHAT WE DID ON THE BATTLEFIELD IN THE MORNING WAS ON OUR LIVING ROOM TV SCREENS THAT NIGHT
This is the first war in history that had round the clock, shot by shot media coverage. War literally was in everyone’s living room every night. Was it worse than any other war that had gone before? I don’t know but I suspect not. The difference is that civilians thousands of miles away saw it and they didn’t like it. I won’t continue in this vain.
The purpose of this review (as with all my reviews on the ANZAC Parade memorials) is to present the official facts, describe the memorials and let readers contemplate and reach there own conclusions. The bottom line is that people died and were wounded (often horrifically). It is fair to presume that no one joined the forces expecting to, or hoping to die, but die they did and we remember them. Those conscripted had no choice.
Whether or not Australia should have been in Vietnam (or any other war) is a subject for debate. Elected politicians in Australia decide – not the military.
This Memorial is dedicated to all those Australians who served in Vietnam from 1962 to 1973. In this period 50,000 Australians served in South Vietnam as part of a composite, predominantly American, force.
A design completion won by architect Peter Tonkin and sculptor Ken Unsworth sought a memorial which expressed ‘the link between the Australian Vietnam Forces and the original ANZAC Force’ and also represented ‘the controversy at home’. As in the USA, this was not a “popular “ war on the home front.
Suspended from three stelae and forming the centrepiece of the memorial is a granite ring or halo symbolising the spirits of the dead being lifted from the earth. Sealed within one of the stones of the ring is a scroll bearing the names of the 508 Australians who died in the conflict. Surrounding the memorial are six seats dedicated to the memory of the six Australian servicemen missing in action.
On the inner face of the western stelae is a larger than life representation of members of the 7th Royal Australian Regiment being airlifted by U.S. helicopters from the fishing village of Lang Phuoc Hai – a typical image from the war. On the northern stelae is a series of veteran quotations (one of which I have used above) in stainless steel lettering. The inner wall of the southern stelae is unadorned concrete and functions as a site for personal contemplation.
Surrounding the whole site and forming a frame-like canopy are numerous blue gums. Light is filtered through this canopy so that there is a continuous display of shimmering, flickering light and shadow on the external walls of the memorial.
The Memorial was dedicated on 3 October 1992, the fifth anniversary of the Welcome Home Parade for Vietnam Veterans. Vietnam Veterans’ Remembrance Day is celebrated each year on 18 August, the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in which Australia suffered 17 casualties from 108 combatants. This was thought to be a humiliating defeat until the next day when it become clear that the 108 Australian D Company troops had confronted some 2500 enemy troops of which 245 were killed. D Company became only the second Army unit in Australian military history to be awarded a United States Presidential Unit Citation.
Address: ANZAC Parade