Victory for Vietnam vets: Agent Orange finally to be added to official history of Vietnam War

In some great news for the Vietnam vets, it has been announced that a new official medical history of the Vietnam War is to be written to correct the record Agent Orange and its horrible consequences.

After a long campaign by veterans, the council of the Australian War Memorial has decided to alter the official record to show the harmfulness of Agent Orange.

This is a big win for the veterans, Jim Wain, the national president of the Vietnam Veterans Federation of Australia, said to Fairfax.

He said that Professor Barry Smith’s account was “fatally flawed” and “unjustly insults” the veterans over their “years of campaigning” to have the repatriation system acknowledge Agent Orange’s harmfulness.


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Mr Wain said that Professor Smith’s history “goes so far as to accuse the campaigning veterans of dishonesty and greed [because the] veterans turned out to be right about the harmfulness of Agent Orange”

He also said the vets’ behaviour, was far from being dishonest and motivated by greed, and was a fine example of the Anzac tradition of veterans looking after their comrades-in-arms.

Brendan O’Keefe, the main author of the 1994 volume Medicine at War: Medical aspects of Australia’s involvement in Southeast Asia 1950-1972, that included Professor Smith’s chapters on Agent Orange, did not wish to comment but had previously encouraged the prospect of writing in the actual history of the event.

For the Vietnam vets in our readership, they will know just how important this win is for those who fought in the war, because they have simply wanted two key findings in the royal commission into the effects of Agent Orange on Australians in Vietnam to be included in the history books.

The omitted findings were “under the standard of proof prescribed by Repatriation law, there were two categories of cancer attributable to exposure to Agent Orange” and “the Department of Veterans’ Affairs purposely disobeyed Repatriation law in not allowing veterans the prescribed ‘benefit of the doubt'”.

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Now, finally, the War Memorial council has appointed Dr Peter Yule, History Department Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, to complete a volume entitled Medical Legacies of South East Asian Conflicts – Vietnam War by 2019. It will also cover other medical issues such as post traumatic stress disorder, which many will know was not considered a legitimate mental condition until relatively recently.

Graham Walker, AM, who was an infantry company commander in Vietnam said to Fairfax, “Of course the veterans’ campaign has been vindicated. The official war history must now tell the true story and restore the reputations of those fine Vietnam veterans”.


Tell us, did you or someone you know serve in the Vietnam war? Are you glad to hear that the history books will be rewritten?