Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Editing history

Image above: Part of the photo of the Napalm Girl taken by Nick Ut Cong Huynh in 1972 outside the village of Trang Bang in Vietnam.

The Napalm girl (written by Cedall Slattery - teacher chaperone on the 2016 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize tour to Vietnam)

You may have seen in the news last year that the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg (along with many other leaders) accused Facebook of 'editing history' after it chose to censor the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Kim Phuc, more commonly known as 'Napalm Girl'. The image shows Kim and four other local children fleeing after a napalm bomb was dropped on her village in the south of Vietnam. As Kim is naked in the photograph, Facebook removed it in line with their Community Standards. After much debate and criticism, Facebook has now decided to allow the image to be shared, stating that 'Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed."

The photo was taken in 1972 and is considered a defining image of the realities and devastation of communities during the Vietnam War. Kim was just 9 years old at the time. Debate still occurs, however, regarding the power of this photo for strengthening the anti-war sentiments on the home front in USA and Australia. A simple Google search will leave you with various articles debating each side. 

The ABC's report of the Facebook censorship event (as well as a copy of the image itself) can be found here:

The photo is also on display at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, which is on our itinerary to visit on Day 1. It certainly inspires a lot of discussion, particularly around the circumstances in which the bomb came to be dropped on her village of Trang Bang, and the impact of the war on locals. 

I have since taken to reading about Kim's life since the attack - it is a very fascinating story. She was inspired to study medicine after the treatment she received for her burns, but her plans were halted by the government who wanted to use her as a symbol of the war. In her 20s, she sought asylum in Canada, and has since become a citizen, and now tours the world speaking about her experience. 

She works with victims who have sustained injuries through means of attack (eg. acid attacks) to help them find forgiveness and confidence. She has also established a foundation to help child victims of war. In 2008, she read her essay "Long Road to Forgiveness" on NPR's "All Things Considered" 

A very inspiring and insightful story - thanks Cendall.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Worth thinking about

Although not only on Vietnam, I really recommend you have a look at the Veterans SA fantastic Think Piece series at

The ‘Think Pieces’ are short discussion articles written by eminent South Australians, veterans, defence personnel, military historians, authors, academics, educators, journalists and other specialists who have a particular interest and/or expertise in the Anzac Centenary and in Australia’s military history. The objective of the series is to offer different perspectives on the Anzac Centenary, its significance and meaning. Have a look at the archive of the excellent articles posted - there are plenty of great stories written since 2015 when Veterans SA started the series.
Interestingly the stories in the archives have been classified in accordance with some of the Spirit of Anzac characteristics that we have talked about during this competition.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The story of Long Tan

Image above: Commemoration ceremony and dedication of memorial cross on the site of the Battle of Long Tan.

This time last year, you may remember that the Battle of Long Tan was in the news for a range of reasons. It was the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan and many Australians who travelled to the memorial site could not enter. Many of those excluded were Australian soldiers who had fought in the battle and felt somewhat disturbed that they could not commemorate their mates that fell at that spot. As always, as a contestable issue there are two sides to the story - sides that we discussed when we were in Vietnam several weeks later. As you know this is again a part of our tour and it would be great if you had some detailed background on the battle and the commemoration activities. We will be conducting a Memorial Service at the site when we visit - led by Kendal. In fact, this is the only official memorial service we participate in because there are no other memorials to Australian soldiers in Vietnam. We will however have informal moments of commemoration at nights when you present the soldier you have researched.

I recommend that you listen and/or watch the links below that provide some excellent backgrounding to the Battle of Long Tan and the controversy from last year. What do you think?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Meeting the locals

Image above: The 2016 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize students with some students from the Song Cau Primary school.

Visiting a village school and orphanage in Vietnam

As time has gone by in organising the Premier’s ANZAC Spirit School Prize it has been thought it would be a good idea to engage in some way with the Vietnamese community. To this end, during the early days of our tour we have organised visits to several village schools between Ho Chi Min City and Vang Tau. (see map below).

We will be visiting two schools:

Day 4-04 Oct : Song Cau Primary School - this is the school we visited last year.

Day 5-05 Oct : Trung Tâm Công tác Xã Hội Tỉnh BRVT Orphanage School
English name “Centre of Society Operation of BRVT”

As expected they are poor schools and any help we can give them would be greatly appreciated. Several of us are planning to do some fund raising in the office and around the place before we go – we would love the schools to be provided with some funds (or maybe a learning resource) to do something to support their teaching program when we visit. Feel free to do something in your school or community groups if you want to help out with any fund raising before we depart. There is no pressure on you to be involved on a personal level but we thought it would be good to engage with the Vietnamese community and do something positive in the community when we are there.

If I have any more information on this part of the trip I will get back to you. I have checked out the schools and been assured by the tour group who have dealt with the schools in the past that any money/resources provided will go directly to help the students. Please give me a ring if you want to discuss this initiative for the tour.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Putting into sequence

Image above: An iconic image from the Vietnam War - the important role of helicopters for troop movements, supplies and medical evacuations


Your submissions on-line 
The names of the 2017 Premier's ANZAC Spirit School Prize recipients and submissions have been posted on the South Australian Government website
You are now published and now all can look at your work from around the world - well done for producing such excellent pieces of research and documentation!!! The person from Veterans SA who did all the work for your submissions to be posted on the site has asked me to "encourage the students to share the site on their social media etc". Feel free to promote the prize and the stories you researched in any way you see as appropriate.

Veterans SA website at

Chronological sequencing of the Vietnam War

In this posting I have selected some sites that provide timelines for the Vietnam War. I plan to forward via this blog small bits of information on a regular basis (about once a week) for you to look at prior to the trip. If you do the readings/watching I direct you to in the blog over the next two months you will have a really good understanding of what you are visiting when we are in Vietnam. I know you have plenty of schoolwork to do but if we do a little bit at a time in preparation for the tour, you will certainly be well briefed on the Vietnam War and associated aspects for our visit (some postings will be about Vietnam, the place). There is no test or assessment of all this reading/watching, just a chance for you to get the most out of the tour - up to you! I know that many of you are doing your own reading in preparation - keep that going but just keep an eye out for what I post to see if it provides information that you have not covered.

Other than keeping a journal on the trip, I am not planning to provide any worksheets or a workbook for you - this blog preparation is really that! Plus, I don't want your heads buried in booklets or filling in sheets when we are traveling - I want you look around and take it all in, using the knowledge and understandings about Vietnam and the Vietnam War you gain prior to the trip.

The chronological sequencing of events is a fundamental skill in history and this blog posting provides several timelines of event (for the American involvement and the Australian involvement in the Vietnam War). Such sequencing gives you an orientation of what happened over time - it is so important to get your historical bearings on happenings with any historical event - to know what happened in order. Probably not the most exciting historical task but very important when considering cause and effect.

American involvement timelines

Australian involvement timelines