AATTV veteran Bruce Davies in Quang Ngai, Vietnam.
AATTV veteran Bruce Davies in Quang Ngai, Vietnam. Photo Fong Bui

Scars of war laid bare

THE Vietnam War is infamous for, among other things, being the first televised conflict, so it's somewhat fitting that the same medium that fostered much of the controversy over the engagement is decades later helping heal old wounds.

The scars are laid bare in the new three-part series, Vietnam: The War That Made Australia, which offers a fascinating and poignant insight into the experience of the elite Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, which was embedded with the South Vietnamese army.

The series uses archival footage and candid interviews with surviving members of the team and their Vietnamese brothers in arms as it follows their emotional return to the scene of so much turmoil.

Former team member and veteran of three tours Bruce Davies said the show aimed to describe the events in a format that was easy to understand, particularly for those born after 1975.

Among the many touching moments in the series is one where Bruce confronts his demons and comes face to face with a Viet Cong soldier at the site of a battle he fought in during the pivotal Tet Offensive.

"I suffered some trepidation about going back ... What would I see? And how would my emotions handle it? That was a bit of a concern for me at first, but that soon dissipated," he said.

"I asked him how many of his friends he lost on the battlefield, and all of a sudden it was like I was watching him collapse inwardly - his eyes were watering, and he said 'more than 10'."

"This feeling flowed across to me, and I just had to get up and put my arm around him and I started to sniffle and then we were just two soldiers. Forget about the politics, the world, everything - here we are, 40 years after the event, and we're having a coffee."

The series also explores the aftermath of the withdrawal from military engagement and the subsequent influx of refugees that marked the nation's transition from the white Australia policy to a modern multicultural society.

Mr Davies said he hoped people could get a real feel for what transpired. Certainly the raw emotions expressed by both the Australian and Vietnamese subjects easily cross any generational or language barriers to make for some compelling viewing.

Vietnam: The War That Made Australia premieres on SBS at 8.30pm tomorrow.



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