In writing any history, the immediate issue facing the research/author is that of information sources. At first glance, this may seem a relatively straight forward thing in this instance when many of the participants are still alive and may be consulted along with official records. What Gerard Windsor amply demonstrates here is that this is anything but straight forward. The problem of memory is a real inhibitor – different accounts because of different memories of specific events even comes into play with accounts written very shortly after the event, let alone some forty years later.
Despite this issue of conflicting accounts and memories, Windsor has compiled a detailed and very interesting account of the actions of the men from C Company, Seventh Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR) in Operation Coburg.
Australian ‘memory’ of the fighting in the Tet Offensive in 1968 is heavily influenced by US sources such as film. Yet Australian infantry and artillery units on the ground also played roles. Operation Coburg saw the men of C Company in assault a North Vietnamese bunker complex. This was no fleeting contact in the jungle or a rain-obscured contact and rescue as at Long Tan, but a concentrated assault over three days. It was in fact arguably the longest attack by Australian troops during the Vietnam War. Yet the events were barely recorded in the media at the time and recognised little better by the military itself.
I found the book something of an eye-opener as it told the story of an event that has gone strangely unnoticed. Windsor has gone to considerable effort to relate as much of the account as possible to the individual soldiers taking part, which gives the book a greater human dimension than may otherwise have been the case.
This account should interest not just those with an interest in Australian military history, but also those with a broader interest in Australian history in general.