Barry Heard. Author

Notes for English - History or Social Studies in Highschools

For Teaching of English.

Quotes from letters and contacts to the author-

Richard Fidler from Qld ABC radio in his introduction to an interview with the author stated:

“...Last week I read a powerful moving book, it might be the most beautifully written war memoirs I have ever read…”

Kathy Bedford, Vic. ABC radio drive program:

“… It is a really moving and at times disturbing read…everyone should read this book…”

A year eleven student:

“…Thankyou, Mr Heard, I never knew... it is the best book I have ever read. Thankyou…”

A 92-year-old war widow (WWII)

“…It is the first book I have read that truly let me understand what it was like for my husband to go to war…thankyou for your honesty” (She lost her husband on the Kakoda trail.)

  

Quote from a teacher
'F
ew students will hedge from reading this book or using it for research...I know every student in my class has read the book...that's says something!'


Teachers notes for lesson plans

# It offers a good example of the value of a journal or diary.

# The therapeutic value of writing and expressing inner feelings or emotions are demonstrated in a positive and very powerful way.

# The theme of brutal training…war…and the aftermath within a soldiers mind are succinctly explained.

# It highlights the varying perceptions of war from the Media, politicians and the public at a turbulent time of cultural change and moral dilemmas.
   This  is a valuable insight as it often clashes with the soldier’s own experience.

            At this point the general role of the media or politicians in any conflict can be investigated.

 

Specific objectives

# Both culturally and morally it covers three distinct themes.

a)      Firstly

The political naivety of youth of the 1950’s and early 1960’s; young people, who were generally uneducated, grew up in an era exposed only to conservative governance and where religion was a predominant part of their parents’ life.

b)      Secondly

Illustrated with both humour and bewilderment is the brutal training and blunt requirements to become a soldier: a man – whilst filtered throughout the same experience are other norms such as heavy drinking, swearing and good times; subtly condoned by the army. This all leads to the resultant bond of mateship that emerges from both the army and then the war.

c)      Third

The book explains a typical reception that most Vietnam Veterans received on returning to Australia. It highlights the hostility from some sections of the public as well as the rejection the veterans received from the Returned Services League (RSL) and ongoing governments.

The resultant struggle by the young veteran to accept rejection, alienation and a purpose or direction in life after the war is a very powerful read. The bond of mateship mentioned above tends to dissipate or falter as many follow the path of alcoholics, workaholics and living the life of a loner. Never admit to being a veteran or discuss the war were a hard and fast rule with most veterans. Finally, the sad realization of what the soldier has been a part of…a war that is in time not only considered pointless but a waste…                        

 

            All of this leads into a talking point that will encourage reflection and question a student’s own opinion in this area.

 

Written in the first person, it allows students to not only identify, it also confronts the reader with the issue of how would they react if they found themselves in a similar situation.

Is there a connection with today’s conflicts, the part of the government and the media? Are they relevant or can parallels be draw to the author’s own experience?

 

 

The book is available in audio: both the unabridged and edited versions.


For History or Social studies.
This book offers

# It offers a first hand account of the Vietnam conflict and associated issues of that period. Its accuracy and honesty is a good example of the value of a journal or diary.

# The themes of – eager youth- to a patriotic duty – is an emotional read far removed from hype and the glory associated with that war.

# The events of…the brutal training…war…and the aftermath within a soldiers mind are succinctly explained.

# It highlights the varying perceptions of war from the media, politicians and the public at a turbulent time of cultural change and moral dilemmas. This is a valuable insight as it often clashes with the author’s own experience.

#At this point the general role of the media or politicians in any conflict can be investigated. The parallels of post Vietnam war; with WWI and WWII are interesting as the Vietnam Veterans came home as ‘defeated veterans.’  

 
Specific objectives

 

# Culturally, historically and morally this book covers three distinct themes.

a)      Firstly

The political naivety of youth of the 1950’s and early 1960’s- young people, who were generally uneducated, grew up in an era exposed only to conservative governance and where religion was a predominant part of their parents’ life.

For discussion: It reflects an era that had been in place since the birth of Australia as a Nation and before.

 

b)      Secondly

Illustrated with both humour and bewilderment is the brutal training and blunt requirements to become a soldier: a man – whilst filtered throughout the same experience are other norms such as heavy drinking, swearing and good times; subtly condoned by the army. This all leads to the resultant bond of mateship that emerges from both the army and then the war.

For discussion: The initial training received by the 1960’s conscript has fundamentally never changed since WWI. What are the main objectives of the initial training and why are they still used?

 

c)      Third

The book explains a typical reception that most Vietnam Veterans received on returning to Australia. It highlights the hostility from some sections of the public as well as the rejection the veterans received from the Returned Services League (RSL) and ongoing governments.

The resultant struggle by the young veteran to accept rejection, alienation and a purpose or direction in life after the war is a very powerful read. The bond of mateship mentioned above tends to dissipate or falter as many follow the path of alcoholics, workaholics and living the life of a loner- never admit to being a veteran or discuss the war were a hard and fast rule for most veterans.

Finally, the sad realisation of what the soldier has been a part of…a war that is in time not only considered pointless but a waste…                        

For discussion: All of this leads into a talking point that will encourage reflection and question a student’s own opinion in this area. Why did they (the protestors) blame the soldiers? 

 

Written in the first person, it allows students to not only identify, it also confronts the reader with the issue of how would they react if they found themselves in a similar situation.

General History

There are numerous issues and some parallels with conflicts both prior and after Vietnam that can be raised. However, most people relate to that time through the predominant images- as seen on television screens- of the horror of war from that era. Then, the press were often freelancing, and rarely came across restricted filming or censorship.

 The author mentions on many occasions the confronting images he saw on returning home that took him back to that war. The visual representations he found too true to life and powerful. The first time he acknowledges this to a fellow veteran- he finds that veteran has the identical problem. Is there an argument that could suggest the media played a part in the conclusion to this conflict?

Today, more than ever before, the media, particularly television are the provider of both news and opinion; do they offer this in the bland, confronting way as suggested by Heard? Do today’s public have access to a balanced media?

 

1.      Is there a connection with today’s conflicts, the part of the government and the media? Are they relevant or can parallels be draw to the reasons for the war in Vietnam?

2.      The Vietnam conflict was the first war that brought the war into peoples lounge rooms. It has been argued that this, more than any other information medium, was the reason for the public outcry and protests that represents the outpouring of dissent in the 1960’s, yet Heard offers mixed opinions of their role. How do today’s young people react to the youth of that era?

3.      Are the public still being presented with the full- reality of the Iraq conflict? What are the perceived public opinions?

4.      Media ownership in the last two decades has been an ongoing political argument. Has concentrated ownership produced filtered reporting as argued by those opposed to this concept?

5.      Has the training and preparation for war changed? Do soldiers come home to counselling and better rehabilitation?

 

 

The book is available in audio: both the unabridged and edited versions.