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on 23 September 2002
Crossfire is one of those relatively rare books that document part of the Australian experience of war in Vietnam: something that is largely unknown and under-appreciated (in the UK). The book is understated (part of its appeal), but extremely engaging in the way it tells the story of the recconaissance platoon of the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. There is no hype, no sensationalism, no attempt to rationalise or justify - just a straightforward account that reads very much like the diary of personal experience that it is.
The authors dwell almost entirely on operations, and the effect on those that undertook them becomes apparent as the book progresses. The whole book exudes a sense of realism, and manages to convey very effectively, a sense of what fighting in Vietnam must have been like. The book is sufficiently light on military jargon to appeal to a wide audience, but anyone who has served will appreciate the story all the more.
A counter-thread to the story of military operations in Vietnam runs through the book, which documents the progress of a group of veterans coming to terms with their experience in Vietnam. Again, there is no attempt to moralise or justify - the book simply tells the story of one group of men's service. The overwhelming feeling is that the book has been written on behalf of those Australians who fought in Vietnam - young men who served their country, some of whom subsequently paid a heavy psychological price.
One of the most appealing aspects of this book is its positive tone. The respect that the authors had for those they served with is apparent throughout, and those sections dealing with the problems experienced by Vietnam veterans concentrate on men successfully coming to terms with their memories.
In summary, if you want a realistic, absorbing account of Australian infantry operations in Vietnam - read this book.
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on 26 April 2017
I've read many books about Vietnam, I was born in 1949 and often thought that I should have been there. I'm glad I never went there, it's easy when you're young to imagine the heroics but it takes age, experience of life and a book like this to get but the smallest inclination of the horror of war,especially the Vietnam war.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to get an idea of the feelings of any young man, in any war and wonder how on earth they can remain sane after experiencing the action described in this book.
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on 20 May 2012
Recommended by a friend, purchased the Kindle edition and wasn't disappointed. Great read from start to finish passing on the recommendation
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on 5 January 2012
I like military history told by the tommies in this case the diggers. This is a good insight to the lesser known role of the Aussies in Vietnam, it shows in my opinion, the these fellas where some of the best foot soldiers in that war. Something about this book, in it's honesty in writing and it's no nonsense Aussie style made this a very good book. If you an ex tommy looking for some earthy stories by guys you would like to have a beer with. This is the one for you. It would have got a fifth star but you never let the Aussies know we like them really.
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on 26 December 2011
An outstanding read. A different view on the war in Vietnam from the much reported American perspective. It was an easy read, even if some of the descriptions of war were brutally honest. No cliches, no bluster; a memoir of a war that many people think only America fought against VC and NVA Forces. Read this book now!
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In 1966 Robert "Dogs" Kearney travelled to Viet Nam with the Royal Australian Regiment, a largely conscripted unit of National Servicemen ("Nashos"). The Australian Task Force was deployed in the south of the country and operated more or less independently against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. Kearney eventually joined the recconnaisance platoon and, with his mates, operated deep in the jungle in uncomfortable and frequently hair-raising conditions.

I wonder how many people realise that the Australians actually fought in this squalid, controversial war. It may well have been a small part, but they were in it from the start to (more or less) the finish and were much respected by their American allies and their Vietnamese opponents*. One particularly gutty battle (The Battle of Long Tan) between a heavily outnumbered Aussie unit and an entire NVA regiment has since passed into folklore as the diggers' version of Rorke's Drift.

Crossfire, co-written by Kearney and Peter Haran (another Viet Nam veteran) is a deeply personal account of the Australian involvement in the war. Written with honesty and candour and in the vernacular of the stereotypical Aussie soldier, it pulls no punches about the nastiness of the war - the conditions in which the diggers lived and fought and the no-holds-barred, no-prisoners-taken battles that they fought. Just as it should be, it is a view from behind the sights of an Owen gun. There is only the barest of context - each chapter begins with a short exerpt from a contemporary Intelligence Summary (INTSUM) report. Kearney and Haran describe not only the fighting, but the muddy boredom of life in a jungle forward operating base and the occasional jaunt to town to drink, whore and fight.

An absorbing account; perhaps even an important book for anyone interested in the VietNam war or the history of the Australian Army. Well worth a read.

The Kindle edition is fine but with the usual occasional proof reading failure. There are a number of b&w photos at the back which have reproduced fairly well. The map at the front is, however, illegible.

"You couldn't see mines, there was no warning. The M16 American-designed `jumping jack' ... You trod on it and heard a click -- the most horrifying sound in the world. You lifted your foot and the main charge sprang from the ground and exploded at waist height. What wonderful mind sat in some military laboratory and dreamt up that obscenity?"

* In the words of a Viet Cong soldier "The Americans style was to hit us, then call for planes and artillery. Our response was to break contact and disappear if we could...The Australians were more patient than the Americans, better guerilla fighters, better at ambushes. They liked to stay with us instead of calling in the planes. We were more afraid of their style"
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on 10 June 2012
This book successfully intermingles two stories, an ordinary bloke's war in 'Nam & the rehabilitation of Vets 30 years on.

The American experience in South-East Asia is fairly well known from numerous books and movies but that of Australia is less so. Fighting in appalling conditions with inadequate kit the diggers proved more than a match for the NVA and VC but, in the days when combat stress was little understood,the survivors were still suffering 30 years later. We've all heard the stories of soldiers blown up by mines, shot in ambushes etc but what about the returning soldier who was thrown out of his local veterans' club because his generation had "lost their war".

This book is a must have for any serious student of the Vietnam War
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 June 2012
Crossfire is an excellent account of what conditions Australian troops faced in Vietnam, together with the consequences the war has produced in many of the veterans. The author skillfully interweaves the first hand account of being a soldier in a reconnaissance unit with a veteran's walk (the Trojans' Trek) - an attempt at helping Australian Vietnam veterans deal with their experiences and traumas.

Each chapter starts with a specific issue that the soldiers have had difficulty processing after returning (such as fear of mines, the less than pleasant wildlife, ambushes...), to then progress to a real life situation in Vietnam, where one gets a first hand account of just such a situation.

This combination of an unadulterated first hand experience and working on the psychological consequences for the relatively young soldiers makes the book a fascinating read and an equally important piece of work for the veterans themselves, as well as people who just have a general interest in the conflict from an Australian perspective.

The book may not quite be of the brilliance of something like Marlantes' Matterhorn but it is still one of the most compelling books on the conflict and well worth a read.
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on 26 May 2012
I'm only onto the first half. This is a brilliant work. The literary style transposes one into patrols in the bush. The relationships in small infantry units and the attitudes of the soldiers. The professionalism of the Australian forces reminded me of my own experiences of them; tough, humourous professionals who practice and rehearse relentlessly to perform brilliantly. The juxtaposition of the veterans on a Trojan Walk today in the mountains of Australia where they relive their Vietnam experiences in a cathartic way set against the narrative of a year long tour in the mid sixties is clever and compelling. This is the real thing and an important historical record.
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on 24 December 2012
Most of the action concerned with fightingthe Vietcong and North Vietnamese regular army is presented via the experiences of "Dogs" Kearney, a Section Leader, a corporal in the elite Australian Army Reconnaisance Unit whose primary mission was to observe and gather intelligence in territory contested by the enemy. We (readers) learn of the intense emotional bonds engendered by interdependency and mutual respect, formed between "diggers" their NCOs and their commanding officer. We accompany them (vicariously) on their patrols and their firefights with enemy combatants. We learn of their comrades killed or wounded in action and of the diggers' ever-present fear of anti-personnel mines. We learn of the hardships and unpleasantness of life in the jungle: heat and humidity, leeches, insects of all kinds including scorpions, spiders and mosquitoes. "Dogs" writes of his experiences with searing honesty, without sentimentality, and with that typical down to earth "Aussie" sense of humour which I find always refreshing.
In parallel with the narrative set in Vietnam during the war years, the writers follow the progress of a group of Vietnam Veterans who have suffered for years following the end of hostilities from what was later labelled as post traumatic stress. The group has enrolled on a therapeutic programme designed to allow veterans to help themselves lay their wartime demons to rest. Fittingly "Dogs" plays a part in the success of the programme. Read the book - you will not be disappointed.
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