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A Unique Account of the Australian Experience of Vietnam
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.