Taking a stand on the politics of the Vietnam War

Like many others, I initially assumed the conscription scheme had been introduced as a response to the Malaysia-Indonesia confrontation.  My January 19 words ‘You can have a trip to Malaysia with a bayonet on your hip’ were evidence of this.

Sometime in April 1965 my friend Bruce Boxall and I visited left-wing folksingers Barbara Lloyd and Neville Lloyd at their home in Warrandyte.  The meaning of ‘Vietnam’ was explained to me for the first time.  Neville’s warning impacted me deeply – ‘you need to start thinking about Vietnam because you could finish up dying there.  This is what conscription’s been introduced for. You need to start reading about Vietnam’. Songs about war and peace in the abstract no longer sufficed.  One had to take a stand on Vietnam:

Oh out in the dew of the morning mother I was singing with the birds
Among the notes that passed through my mind a cannon could be heard
‘Yes I can hear that too my son but nothing we can do
Can help the Vietnamese to see their trouble through’
Oh out in the dew of the morning mother our time is filled with wars
Yet even he that holds the gun is doubtful of the cause
And still the curses rumble mother and still the cannons roll
As little children stumble down to add to Death’s cruel toll12

The war escalated significantly in April 1965.  The Americans began their full-scale aerial bombing of North Vietnam and the large-scale commitment of combat troops to the South.   On April 29, 1965 Prime Minister Menzies told Parliament that Australia would send an infantry battalion to Vietnam.  My disgusted response was immediate:

We’re sending our brave servicemen to fight in Vietnam
It seems to me that Cabot Lodge has twisted Menzies arm
While Johnson in the White House can ring his hands in glee
To think that he controls us all from Washington DC
Sir Robert has committed us to fight a war again
If the cause is so important why just send 600 men13

In at least one instance I made use of sarcasm.  In response to the visit to Port Melbourne of the American warship, the USS Vancouver, I wrote

Soon she will be floating across the Southern Ocean
Heading due north for troubled Vietnam
And still us folks down under cannot help but wonder
Whatever would we do without good old Uncle Sam14