CLOSE BUT SO FAR
It is ironic that the recently released movie Danger Close which tells the story of the battle of Long Tan, is largely being ignored by Vietnam veterans across the nation, even as we approach the annual celebration of Vietnam Veterans Day. Despite being a fine movie, directed assuredly by Kriv Stenders, with battle scenes as authentic as they can be on film, the movie unfortunately deals with a battle that polarises veterans of the war.
Of course, some will claim that such movies will exacerbate their PTSD as an excuse, but the reality is that veterans are weary of the exaggerations and embellishments about the battle emanating mostly from the former Company Commander involved - Major Harry Smith. Indeed, other than badgering successive governments for decades for more gallantry medals (which always resulted in him being awarded the highest ones) Smith has much to answer for.
It is a truism about Australian war movies (Gallipoli; Breaker Morant; The Odd Angry Shot) that there is always a focus of maintaining the Anzac ethos, and Danger Close does its best to continue that tradition. But it comes at the cost of historical accuracy and military integrity. Long Tan was not the biggest battle in the war fought by Australia. The battles of Balmoral and Coral were far greater, but as is always the case, where there is great loss of life, the military throws up a smokescreen of 'heroism' to placate a public that was already protesting our involvement in the war.
It fails to explain how the Task Force's secret Intelligence unit (SIGINT) managed to lose tack of 2500 enemy soldiers own its doorstep; does not explain how Smith managed to lose visual contact with his platoon; ignores anecdotal evidence of cowardice by men of Delta company; and only touches on what was widespread abuse of the gallantry award system.
No, Long Tan was no great victory. The fight was never taken up the enemy. All Major Harry Smith Company did was defend its position, and try and survive. As a movie, Danger Close comes close to being magnificent, but its failure to look under the surface of historical accounts of the battle leaves it open to being just another sop to the gatekeepers of our military history.
Don Tate, Albion Park Rail
The man who chaired the banking royal commission, Kenneth Hayne, during a recent TV interview, "hit the nail on the head" in identifying the major reasons why the Australian public appear to have so much mistrust in our politicians. Kenneth Hayne believes our great nation would be far better served if the democratic process of governing was conducted in a more transparent manner than in his words, an "opaque decision making processes".
Kenneth Hayne also identified another practice which irritates and annoys many Australians. That is the abandonment of reasoned parliamentary debate around policy issues of importance to the nation and, in its place, divisive sloganeering i.e. Tony Abbott's "Stop the boats" and, Scott Morrison's cheap shot at the unemployed and or the under-employed, "Have go get a go". Both slogans have obviously proven successful for the LNP electorally but at what cost to Australian society generally and, more importantly, to the morale of our less fortunate Australians?
Barry Swan, Balgownie