As a history buff, I love reading about war. Books and movies have long glorified it. Hollywood has long taken on war stories and made them fantastic. But that’s just what they all tend to be, nothing more than a story. Sure, some of them have some small elements of fact interspersed between the love scenes and secret long range attacks on mainland Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbour. What they lack is the true grit of being at war.
Specifically they lack a New Zealand touch. Hollywood has no interest in the grand accomplishments made by New Zealanders at war. They had a stab at Gallipoli, but they cast Mel Gibson and focused on the Australians too much for my liking.
You can guarantee that one particular New Zealand engagement will always be overlooked, this being New Zealand’s involvement in Vietnam. By the time this war came along we had seen countless thousands of lives lost in both World Wars, the small nation of New Zealand was pretty much over any form of war. Anti war protests throughout the States were happening in New Zealand. So when the call went out for servicemen and woman to fight in Vietnam, it wasn’t a popular option.
The World Wars were a fight to protect our freedom. The defence of New Zealand was the leading motivation. It was national pride, it was about us. The Vietnam War was none of those things for New Zealand. This time however, the war was televised and we didn’t like what we saw.
Because of this, these heroes have largely been ignored, and never glorified the way soldiers from the World Wars have been. Most New Zealanders could list a few famous battle sites from World War One or they would have heard of Sir Charles Upham. But ask what they know about Vietnam and you don’t get very far. Most are surprised to hear that we even sent troops there.
No Front Line by Claire Hall aims to change this perspective of New Zealand’s involvement in the Vietnam. Hall talks with our veterans from all aspects of the war. Medics, reporters, front line soldiers and many others on the ground in ‘Nam are finally given a chance to share their experiences. The book allows you to chat with the veterans, plus view loads of historical photos, all which enable you as a reader to begin to comprehend just what they went through.
The stories paint a picture not too dissimilar to experiences from other wars. As a reader you can begin to understand the hardships endured by our service personnel, not just in action, but when they came home.
Similar to other wars, the kiwi’s involved in Vietnam also relished in the opportunity to be filled with national pride. Many contributors to this book talk of the pride they had serving their country. New Zealanders serving in Vietnam formed a strong bond and from their personal accounts in this book you can see why their camaraderie continued long after they left.
As a nation we lost 37 people, thanks to this book we won’t lose their memory.
REVIEWER: Drew Thompson
TITLE: No Front Line
AUTHOR(S): Claire Hall
PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House