This clip chosen to be PG
Vietnam veterans Rowan Marsh and Peter Stainthorpe recollect the anti-Vietnam demonstrations with ambivalence. They explain that when unions put a go-slow on mail delivery to soldiers in Vietnam as part of the protest, that was too much and the 'punch a postie’ campaign was born. Peter’s mother, Kath, was annoyed with the protestors at the time but comments that she would take a different view of conscription now.
This clip features interviews with two Australian Vietnam War veterans, Rowan Marsh and Peter Stainthorpe, about their response to the anti-Vietnam War movement in Australia and in particular the ‘Punch a postie’ campaign. The interviews are intercut with footage showing anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Australia, and photographs and Super-8 footage taken by the men while serving in Vietnam. Peter’s mother is also interviewed and describes her feelings of annoyance towards the anti-War movement.
Educational value points
- This clip records the sense of betrayal, hurt and shame felt by some Australian Vietnam veterans as a result of the anti-War movement during the 1960s and 70s. Both veterans express their anger at protesters who were safe at home ‘having the luxury of being able to protest’ while they were in Vietnam doing their jobs and risking their lives. About 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam, of whom 521 were killed and more than 3,000 wounded.
- This footage reveals the effect that the growing anti-War sentiment in Australia in the 1960s had on the morale of some Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam. By 1970 large anti-War moratoriums were sweeping Australian cities, calling for an end to Australia’s involvement in the War. In this climate of opposition, returning servicemen and women often felt shunned. It was 1987 before the Vietnam veterans were recognised in the national Welcome Home Parade.
- The anti-War movement became increasingly bitter when sections of the Australian union movement joined it. The waterside workers were one of the first unions to actively oppose the War and went on strike in 1969, delaying the loading of supplies for Vietnam on the merchant ship HMAS Jeparit. The postal unions blocked mail to troops in Vietnam and in response the ground troops in Vietnam ran their own ‘Punch a postie’ and ‘Wallop a wharfie’ campaigns.
- The clip reveals the extent of the enormous divisions the Vietnam War caused, not only in Australian society but also within the anti-War movement itself. As Rowan Marsh recalls bitterly in the clip, activists from the Monash University Labor Club collected money in 1967 for the National Liberation Front, Australia’s enemy in the conflict. This was controversial even to left-wing ideologues opposed to the War, further dividing the Australian community.
- The interviews indicate very clearly the ambivalence felt by the veterans about the anti-War movement as many of them believed in the right to protest and considered that the anti-War demonstrations played a key role in ending Australia’s involvement in the War. Peter’s mother goes so far as to suggest that were she young again she might feel differently about her son ‘going to the War’.
- The filmmakers use photographs and Super-8 footage from the war front as well as interviews with the veterans to reveal the experiences of Australian troops in Vietnam. The photographs and Super-8 footage were shot by the soldiers themselves and depict living conditions at the army camps, and troop movements through Vietnam. The ‘talking heads’ style of interview, in which subjects speak directly to camera, gives the audience an emotional engagement with the speakers.
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