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The Battle of Coral by Lex McAulay

The Battle of Coral

by Lex McAulay

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The Battle of Coral-Balmoral, 40km north of Saigon, was a much larger engagement - with more Australians killed - than the better known (to Australians) Battle of Long Tan. Each however deserved it place in history for its own reasons. Both, however, were distinguished by the sheer desperation of the fighting. It is appropriate perhaps that the some of the best histories of both engagements have been written by Lex McAulay, an army intelligence officer in Vietnam as these events unfolded.

These histories do not answer the question of whether the war, or indeed the battles themselves were justified. While forthright in his own views on the justification for the war, McAulay gives what seems a fairly balanced view of the actual conduct of the campaign. But it is down at the Unit and individual level that he shines, taking up the tradition of Australian war historians from Charles Bean onwards. The story of the soldier, both Australian and Vietnamese is told in all its aspects, the mundane, heroic, ironic and the horrific. McAulay writes of sense of achievement and pride in the Australian victory, but it is (somewhat) muted by the reality of the losses on both sides, and the failures of tactics, equipment and (occasionally) command that he is honest enough to acknowledge.

To acquire (and read) these books is sometimes seen as a patriotic endeavour, reinforcing a certain jingoistic view of history and the world. One suspects the hand of editors and publisher pushing this line. But to give McAulay credit (and many other Australian war historians), the honest reporting of the 'din of battle' is one of the best places to start to make an attempt to understand both the merits and errors of Australia's involvement in - what has been for a very small country - a great many wars. The key note in McAulay's book is rememberance, not triumphalism or justification of some 'position', and he has succeeded remarkably well. Highly recommended. ( )
  nandadevi | Dec 2, 2012 |
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"A detailed and masterly account of the biggest unit level battle involving Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. The Battle- For twenty-six days during May and June 1968 the 1st Australian Task Force fought a series of actions around Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral, northeastof Saigon. The Scenario- An overnight switch in war tactics, from patrolling and ambushing to close combat action, where, for the first time in a long while, tanks and artillery support came into their own. The Men- A trained fighting force with more than their share of bravery, whose skills and sacrifice stopped the North Vietnamese in their tracks. Lex McAulay's brilliant account of reconstruction is one of the most important books on the Australian soldiers' involvement in the Vietnam War."… (more)

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