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Remembrance Day: remembering all

By Sasha Uzunov - posted Monday, 10 November 2008

Recent road works in Gallipoli have uncovered the remains of soldiers killed there in 1915 during World War I. Australians from all walks of life have expressed concern about our diggers’ last resting place being disturbed.

All of this tells us that the ANZAC legend has been embraced by nearly all of the community and is alive and well. But with Remembrance Day (November 11) tomorrow we need to include those from the Vietnam War as part of this legend, this ethos. It seems there are those who still make a “distinction” between Gallipoli and Vietnam, even though there are similarities.

The Gallipoli campaign, fought on the shores of Turkey and starting on April 25, 1915, involved Australian soldiers being sent to invade a foreign state, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and ease the pressure on our then ally Russia.


The Vietnam War (1962-72), once again, saw Australia send troops to a foreign country to aid our allies, the United States and South Vietnam, then fighting off communist takeover from its northern counterpart.

However, prominent journalist Ray Martin, who veterans over the years have thanked for his enthusiasm and passion for keeping the ANZAC legend alive in the media, views the Vietnam conflict differently:

Being a patriot, eulogising the ANZAC legend etc doesn't require anyone to volunteer to fight a senseless, immoral war. Even Peter Cosgrove [then Chief of the Defence Forces] has acknowledged that Vietnam was wrong.

I support every one of our troops who put their lives on the line. But that doesn't require everyone else to sign up, every time Canberra decides to go to war.

Being a patriot doesn't mean you blindly accept what the pollies [politicians] want.

Now compare this to the introduction to Ray’s story for 60 Minutes about Gallipoli (April 21, 2001):

Eight thousand, seven hundred and nine Aussie soldiers were killed at Gallipoli, but now 10 times that number of Aussie tourists make their pilgrimage each year. Most of them are about the same age as the soldiers who died there.

As Ray Martin reports, it's a phenomenon, almost a rite of passage - young Australians in search of our history, and perhaps in search of themselves.

The tone is reverential for Gallipoli but not for Vietnam. Why this disconnect? The circumstances are almost the same except that Vietnam was a counter-insurgency war and shown on television.


If commentators praise Gallipoli but condemn Vietnam is that not a contradiction? If you condemn Vietnam should you not criticise Gallipoli?

The Gallipoli campaign was fought more than 93 years ago and there are no more veterans still alive. Vietnam, on the other hand, is still a tangible, living memory for the men of Ray Martin’s generation who came to young adulthood in the mid 1960s.

The way I see it, if you support the ANZAC legend and Gallipoli, you need to support the Vietnam War. The two are connected.

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About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.

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