Harvest of Fear: A History of Australia's Vietnam War

Harvest of Fear: A History of Australia's Vietnam War

Harvest of Fear: A History of Australia's Vietnam War

Harvest of Fear: A History of Australia's Vietnam War

Excerpt

On a chilly evening in the middle of May 1954, the External Affairs minister addressed one of the heartlands of Australian conservatism. Richard Casey was speaking to an electoral meeting of some 250 people at the Peace Memorial hall in Toorak, the domain of Melbourne's old money. He was only recently back from Geneva, where an international conference on Indochina and Korea was brokering the end of French colonial rule in Vietnam--and, unwittingly, the beginning of the civil war of the next two decades. The French cause, only days before, had suffered its final setback when Viet Minh forces overran the fortress at Dien Bien Phu. It seemed another crisis point in the Cold War era, as Australians anxiously glanced at events in Asia.

Casey was a pragmatic man. An engineer by training, firmly Anglo-Australian and patrician in outlook, his mind was more attuned to his cherished light aircraft than to flights of ideological rhetoric. But he was not above 'agitating the electors', in a phrase Soviet foreign minister Molotov had used to him in Geneva. And when Casey did so, he brought considerable authority to the task. On this chilly evening, he warned his audience that Australia needed powerful friends to ensure its survival: 'With the black . . .

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