‘Vietnam Veterans’ Federation responds to Honest History highlights reel’, Honest History, 12 June 2015
The Vietnam Veterans’ Federation through its national research officer, Graham Walker, has responded to our highlights reel on Vietnam mythbusting. Rather than ask Graham Walker to provide this material as a comment on the original post we are, with his agreement, posting it separately. Our highlights reel makes clear that men returning from Vietnam faced a range of issues.
Mr Walker sent this email to Honest History on 10 June 2015:
Whilst battalions may have marched through the streets on their return to cheers from the crowd, serving members were ordered not to wear their uniforms on public transport going to and from work for fear of provoking abuse.
I kept my uniform at Victoria Barracks in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, and changed into it on arrival.
The real issue is not whether the battalions marched through the streets to the cheers of crowds, but how they felt in the wider community. Many felt uneasy and kept their service to themselves.
And the issue of Agent Orange is not a simple one and not well understood.
I attach a paper on the official history account of the Agent Orange controversy that puts the veterans’ point of view.
You have quoted from Peter Edwards Australia and the Vietnam War.
Peter Edwards for years staunchly defended FB Smith’s official history account of the Agent Orange controversy (as does the AWM chief historian Ashley Ekins). Indeed Peter Edwards has written voluminously in FB Smith’s defence.
After lengthy correspondence with Peter Edwards (a sample of which is attached) he has conceded, in Australia and the Vietnam War, that the Royal Commission did find a link with some cancers and that the Royal Commission was critical of the Repatriation Commission and that the Vietnam veterans’ Agent Orange campaign did not delay attention to other war caused problems. But these concessions are made seemingly reluctantly and with no context to explain their importance.
Attached is our view of the book’s section on Agent Orange.
National Research Officer
Vietnam Veterans Federation
Attached to the email were these documents:
‘The Official History’s Agent Orange account: the veterans’ perspective‘ (a 2009 conference paper by Graham Walker, updated to 2013)
Letter, Tim McCombe, National President, Vietnam Veterans’ Federation, to PG Edwards, Official Historian, regarding FB Smith’s views of the findings of the Evatt Royal Commission on Agent Orange, 14 March 2012
‘Peter Edwards’ brief account of the Agent Orange controversy in his new book is no substitute for a full independent study‘ (statement signed Tim McCombe, National President, Vietnam Veterans’ Federation, 21 March 2014)