Anzac Day 2019: Vietnam War through a young Digger’s eyes

THEY are the images of war never before made public: candid snaps of young men behind enemy lines, ­captured by one of their own… raw, intimate and devastating.

These photographs, taken by Vietnam War veteran Allan Beer, himself just 20 years old when he was conscripted into national service, offer a rare behind-the-scenes look at conflict told through a young man’s eyes.

They tell of mateship and youthful optimism, of sons and brothers doing their best. These are not the elite soldiers of today.

Just barely into their adult years, a ragtag group of six men pose outside a Vietnam War camp.

They’re snapped aboard a chopper flying low, taking a break atop a roadside convoy and shirtless watching a naval ship pass by.

There are cheeky shoeshine boys sneaking a cigarette and live performances for a sea of soldiers in green.

The pictures, detailing a group of Australian troop’s moments before their first operation, today made public for the first time will be celebrated at a special exhibition at Howard Smith Wharves as part of an Anzac Day service.

The commemoration coincides with Mr Beer’s 50th anniversary of service and the collection includes photographs of the artist himself, snapped by a friend, looking every bit of his youth, crouched beside a rifle and some ammunition.

Another photo captures him as he wades through mud and water, clutching a gun, while on patrol.

The 70-year-old said that from a young age he was passionate about photography, and carried a camera in his pack that would later capture roughly 300 photos during his time in Vietnam.

“It puts me back there, (the photos) because you can write a book about something, but one photograph can explain a lot to you – more than the written word can,” he said.

“It really captures the moment, and a lot of photos accidentally capture a mood and it’s a bit of a magical thing when you take photos that do that.”

Mr Beer said that he could ­remember every moment behind each picture he captured – and that he ­particularly remembers two ­mischievous Vietnamese shoeshiners.

“These little kids, they were opportunists of course, making a living and they were cheeky little kids, I think that photograph really captured them well,” he said.

He said the photos had been sitting in a box all these years, but would be exhibited for the first time, as he believes younger people are showing a greater interest of what life was like in the Vietnam War.

“I really wish I had of taken more, but of course, there was ­always something going on; there was never a dull moment really,” he said.

“It was all a bit of an adventure; we are all pretty young and it was a bit of an unreal situation.”

Mr Beer told The Courier-Mail that he was lucky to have the opportunity to capture candid shots in a surreal environment.

“A lot of the shots depended on where I was at the time, hanging out on the side of a helicopter – a lot of people never get to experience that, so when they see the photo it is a ‘wow’ moment,” he said.

Sophie Chirgwin, The Courier-Mail April 25, 2019

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RARA QLD – eNews 2/2019 April

RARA Queensland’s eNews replaces the previously printed Newsletter “The Spirit”. This is the second quarterly edition.

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Military death logos and symbols get the chop

Gun-toting grim reapers and cartoon phantoms are among more than 20 images the military has scrapped under its new ban on soldiers’ use of death-style logos.

Examples of the banned imagery that had been used by sub-units on items such as patches and T-shirts was revealed in an answer to questions on notice from a Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Senate Standing Committee hearing.

The questions were on which logos were banned, what had been used to replace them, how much was the cost of replacement and which units had been affected.

Defence said no unit logos, emblems or badges had been removed but that some imagery associated with sub-units had been scrapped.

Defence provided examples of logos that had been scrapped but declined to provide the full list. Among the examples that also appeared to fall under the ban was some memorabilia in the form of a Spartan helmet and a shield.

Defence declined to provide a detailed costing of any buyback of stock featuring the banned ­imagery, but it did reveal that in one case, $2490 of non-public moneys derived from unit canteen sales was allocated to Delta Company of 4/3 Royal NSW Regiment’s soldiers club to help them with a new sub-unit logo.

The most common imagery scrapped appeared to be the grim reaper and Spartan-style logos. Among those affected were a sub-unit of 1st Brigade, which lost its gun-toting, grinning black reaper on a red background.

One sub-unit from 3rd Brigade had to replace its armed phantom cartoon character. A grim reaper from 3 Squadron, 2 Cavalry was also canned.

A sub-unit of the army’s 6th Brigade was forced to remove an armed phantom and concerns appear to have been raised about a gold Spartan helmet that looked to be part of unit memorabilia.

Soldiers from 7th brigade had to remove a skull imposed over crossed rifles; a mortar platoon scrapped a ram’s skull with the caption “Death Down Range” and 5 Aviation Regiment lost a skull wearing a bandana imposed over a hammer and spanner.

A 6th Aviation regiment sub-unit lost a Viking image with the caption Berserkers and one from HQ 2nd Division had spartan imagery featuring a spartan helmet removed.

The Royal Military College Australia’s army recruit training centre had a masked Phantom head dropped. The Combined Arms Training Centre lost its “grim reaper rising from a World War I tank” and a punisher badge showing a skull.

Questions about the unit logs had been asked by Liberal senator James McGrath and independent senator Fraser Anning at the hearing in February.

The ban had been introduced in April last year by then chief of army, now Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Angus Campbell. General Campbell, in ordering the ban, said that such symbols were at odds with army values. “Such symbology is never presented as ill-intentioned and plays to much of modern culture,’’ he said. “But it is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inculcation of a hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession, the legitimate and discriminate taking of life.”

Officers were ordered to take immediate action to remove symbols within their command.

Medal of Gallantry recipient Justin Huggett, a former soldier, panned the decision in a social media post directed at General Campbell.

In the post Mr Huggett, decorated for action against the Taliban in Afghanistan, said the decision denigrated the morale of the enlisted and combat power.

RORY CALLINAN The Australian APRIL 3, 2019

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RARA QLD – E News – August 2018

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Book – Leadership Secrets of the Australian Army

Good training makes good leaders.
Australia’s military consistently punches above its weight, and its approach to leadership is the key to its success. Nicholas Jans identifies the distinctive egalitarian leadership principles behind its effectiveness, and shows how they can be applied in any organisation at any level.
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