Don Tate – The War Within

Here’s a promo for a new book about a Vietnam Veteran. Great viewing

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Bernie WeiszNovember 4th, 2010 at 5:09 am

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Don Tate’s Vietnam Experience: “I didn’t Know it Then, But By Going to That War, I’d Also Taken 2 Steps Back As A Human Being!”, October 25, 2010
By Bernie Weisz “a historian specializing in the… (Pembroke Pines,Florida) – See all my reviews

This review is from: The War within (Paperback)
Don Tate’s memoir, “The War Within” is so vast that it could have made three separate books. Not only a memoir of his role as an infantryman in an extremely unpopular war, this is a story of how a man can beat the demons within, overcome the goblin’s of his past, and ultimately forgive himself for transgressions he thought unpardonable.

The oldest of eight children, he spent most of his childhood in Ellen Grove, a suburb between Brisbane and Ipswich, Australia.Bury Me with Soldiers This memoir is a soul bared to the world- a record of lifelong deeds, including those he would perhaps have preferred to forget. Don Tate readily admits that particular matters tarnish his accomplishments.

There are subjects in this book rarely touched upon in other memoirs. Most notably is his volatile relationship with his father- a man who simply could not obey laws. Although Tate’s love for his father is blatant, he is put in compromising situations rarely called upon for a youth so innocent. Vietnam: The Australian War Most of Tate’s younger years, up to the point of his joining the Australian military was juxtaposed with the sad fact that his father was incarcerated for one reason or another.

A theme that is immediately apparent is Don Tate’s readiness to fight, bred and bashed into him. He ultimately spends his life quarrelling, fighting authority, battling the Viet Cong, trying to correct perceived injustices, and even struggling to maintain his own sanity. Tate takes you on a ride that almost leaves you breathless- abused in school by a sadistic teacher, beaten up by an Australian gang banger, almost mortally wounded in action, shot in the hip by the Viet Cong, as he almost “off’s himself ” in a suicide attempt, and in countless hi jinks with the opposite sex, and most lamentably, the near erasure from the Australian record books of his military service, an inconsolable injustice that takes four decades to correct. One can’t help but observe that he is no quitter.

Four years in the writing, this incredible memoir covers subjects we are all familiar with to some extent- graphic sex and violence, friendship, revenge, remorse and regret.Life and Death in the Central Highlands: An American Sergeant in the Vietnam War, 1968-1970 (North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series) Other territories covered, but not limited to, are war, pride, patriotism, conflict, love, loss, estrangement, suicide, Christianity, God, infidelity, and especially pain (excruciating physical and unbearable mental.)

In a particularly disturbing first Part to the memoir, “Sins of the Father” Tate painfully lamented his father’s destructive, alcoholic and violent behavior towards all in his family. With his father’s frequent spells behind bars, young Tate, the oldest son of a family of eight, was forced to leave school at the age of fifteen. Compelled to fend for himself at an age where most American youths are playing sports or planning for the future, his life went in a direction he never dreamed would occur. Lacking paternal direction, socially, morally, or ethically, Tate’s life up to the age of eighteen was whimsical- a litany of near-death experiences and adventures. After almost killing himself and a carload of fellow teenagers, Tate volunteered for Vietnam instead. Of the period before his patriotic endeavor, Tate says: “It was just a time for sowing wild oats-a blur of breasts and beer and legs opened amid the sound of surf crashing on the sand.” Typical of the soldier not anointed with the reality that “war is hell”, Tate felt that the apex of masculine nobility was fighting for one’s country, vis-√†-vis with the enemy on his own turf, engaged in mortal combat. Another falsism to be to be smashed was Tate’s illusion that Australia would honor his patriotism thereafter the war, and that his Vietnam war record was a badge of honor. Although he attributes his fallacious reasoning to an immature eighteen-year old mind, he also “thought” that if he was wounded in combat, he would be properly cared for medically- a myth that is now self evident in the wake of the current “Agent Orange” medical mismanagement scandal in both the U.S. and Australia.

Ignoring the clich√© “never volunteer for anything”, Tate did exactly that. Self recruiting himself for an army infantry unit destined for the jungles of Vietnam, he would serve as a rifleman across four different Australian army units. At the seven and a half month juncture, a Viet Cong AK 47 slug to his hip would forever change his life . Endless small contacts, search and destroy missions and enemy bunker assaults are vividly encountered. As the reader will see, Tate was smart enough to bring with him a “Super 8” camera documenting parts of the action he partook in as well as different periods of his Vietnam tour of duty, an indisputable fact that some slimy detractors many years after the war tried to deny Tate’s participation in. People lie, real video clips do not. The author has sent me parts of these clips, and I was very impressed with this footage, causing this reviewer to shake his head incredulously at Tate’s detractors, foolish enough to assert the ridiculous premise that Tate was never in Vietnam or wasn’t involved in combat, and that this book is a product of his imagination. Prior to being shot, Tate thought that because he was unhurt in some very close calls, like so many other young men did, he felt he was indestructible. However, it is made clear that this nineteen year old’s illusion of war’s grandeur was about to evaporate. In This Man’s Army Tate’s reaction to battle, commonly known as “combat adrenalin” as well as life and death struggles was typical. An irreplaceable quest for excitement and exhilaration was forever ignited. Once out of Vietnam, the void left in the absence of those waves of adrenalin left a void that even today still presides. Tate correctly points out that many Vietnam veterans, in struggling to fill that void, picked up destructive drug and alcohol habits, or took on dangerous risk taking, precarious pursuits to equal that unattainable rush that only their combat experience could produce.

This book has descriptions of violence only one with a strong stomach can endure. Don Tate saw death, killed, saw his fellow “diggers” horribly wounded and maimed, and even retrieved body parts of men alive only moments before. One particularly horrible memory was where Tate at age nineteen picked up a dead Viet Cong soldier to bury him. The body broke in two, and the deceased man’s intestines landed all over Tate’s boots, causing him to instantly regurgitate. The Shake ‘n Bake Sergeant: True Story of Infantry Sergeants in Vietnam The smell of death is just as strong to Tate today as it was forty years ago. Four percent of men involved in combat in Vietnam were wounded. Tate was one of that 4%.

Without spoiling the plot, Tate was also part of an illegally created Australian platoon (the 2nd D&E Platoon) that was involved in a “sapper’s funeral” – the destruction of bodies killed in an ambush, and the stringing up of other bodies to the backs of armoured personnel carriers. In an attempt to cover-up these deeds, Tate alleges that his platoon was removed from the history books- and only reinstated in 2008 after a fierce battle with the government and the military. Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part

Tate survived the ambush in a Viet Cong bunker system some months later, and after a two year period of hospitalization, was devastated to learn that parts of his wartime service including the 2nd D&E Platoon and the unit he was wounded in, the 9th Battalion, had “mysteriously and suspiciously” been erased from his service records. Except for the fact that his colour movie footage proved his entire service history, he would have found himself in a bureaucratic `no-man’s land’. The intelligent decision to film parts of his tour provided indisputable proof of his service- unassailable by those who would argue otherwise.

But “The War Within” truly started for Don Tate once the conflict in Vietnam was over. In the hospitalization process, he endured endless infections, skin grafts, disintegrating bones, watching from a hospital bed as his schoolmates and fellow veterans went on with their lives. The only saving grace for Tate was a godsend in Carole, his wife who stuck by his side through everything and anything. The balance of this book documents Tate’s struggles to right the wrongs of his unit’s history erasure, the “2nd D & E Platoon” from the history books, a fight that is discussed in fascinating detail. In correcting this terrible injustice, Tate was accused by many ex-servicemen of lacking “espirit de corps” by insinuating that the Australian military abuses the most impressionable and vulnerable of soldiers and unfairly rewards undeserving officers of rank with “gallantry medals”, giving them immoderate and improper rides through life after the conflict. Tate took a big risk asserting his belief that the Australian military doesn’t respect or care about the Vietnam veterans that fought for their country.Cherries : A Vietnam War Novel

“The War Within” can be a synonym for an unwarrantable fact that Tate suffered a threefold alienation- fighting in an unpopular war, being wounded and permanently disabled by it, and then by attacking the warmongers that sent him there in the first place, and is now largely alienated from the veteran community that should have welcomed him with open arms.

The real gist of this book, when it is really broken down, is Tate’s dysfunctional relationship with his father affecting him in every aspect of his life, and continuing to this today. Taught by Tate Senior that one’s ability to take a punch and how many women could be “caught” was a measure of manhood, the author learns the hard way that “the sins of the father” didn’t prove anything at all. Nor did going to Vietnam. Tate now believes that after experiencing his “war within” , each man must gauge his manhood by his sense of responsibility to his wife, family, community, rising above the hand one is given and ensuring that one’s children do not repeat the sins of their father.

Finally, To most Americans, when the Vietnam War is mentioned, one thinks of the Tet Offensive, The My Lai Massacre, Jane Fonda, Richard Nixon and B-52 Bombing raids. However, Australians were in Vietnam as well, a fact this memoir gives testament to. In order to understand Don Tate’s amazing memoir, a brief discussion of how Australia sent it’s military to this conflict must ensue. The South East Asia Collective Defense Treaty of 1954 (called SEATO) was signed collectively by the U.S., Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Pakistan to provide for collective defensive military action to be taken in the event of an attack on any one of the aforementioned. As political change came to Australia, the possibility of communism spreading from Asia (Mao Se Tung’s “Red China” and Ho Chi Mhin’s “Viet Minh”) was regarded with increasing seriousness. In March 1954, the “Viet Minh” defeated French troops at the battle of “Dien Bien Phu” and took control of what became North Vietnam. Booby Trap Boys: A Unique Journal of the Vietnam WarThe “Domino Theory”, put forth by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, asserted that if one nation fell under communist domination, its neighbors would fall like in a line of dominoes. In 1955, Australian troops were sent to Malaya to assist the British against communist guerrilla forces. In March 1960, there were strong communist influences in the Indonesian Government giving rise to a sense of threat of communist aggression close to Australian territory.

Vietnam had been a colony of France during the nineteenth century. During this time and early twentieth century, resentment against French rule was growing. With Imperialism at it’s worst, by 1930 only 25% of Vietnamese farmers owned their own land. Similarly to China under Japanese expansionist domination, a national movement of independence and freedom from foreign rule began. As W. W. II erupted in 1941, Ho Chi Minh founded the League for Vietnamese Independence, with it’s aim being freeing Vietnam from the prostrate French (known as “Vichy France” under Adolf Hitler’s conquering hand) and the Japanese, who were taking their place. With the two big bangs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6th and 9th, 1945 respectively), the Japanese were withdrawing. Ho Chi Minh declared the free public of Vietnam. The French, restored to power by the victorious Allied forces, refused to recognize this new republic and war broke out. From 1945 to 1954 the Vietminh fought the French, finally vanquishing them. The Geneva Accords of July, 1954 were signed to conclude the Indochina War and Vietnam was temporarily partitioned, at the 17th parallel, into a Communist-ruled north, backed by the USSR and China, and non-Communist south, supported by the United States. Under this agreement, national elections were to be held by July 1956 to decide on the unification of the country. Elections were deliberately stalled by the U.S. to solidify anti communist factions, and as a consequence North Vietnamese forces and guerrillas resumed an insurgency war of terror and political indoctrination against South Vietnam.

Australia first entered the fray when in 1962 the nation sent a group of military advisors to train the South Vietnamese Army, known as “ARVN”. America’s role was magnified, as from 1955 to May 1960 the U.S. sent 300, then 685 advisors to train the South Vietnamese Army. President John F. Kennedy in 1960 increased the number of advisors to 3,200. This would peak to 543,000 troops in 1968 under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. In 1965, the first Australian infantry battalion and the warship “HMAS Sydney” was sent to Vietnam. Later in 1966, the majority of the Australian people supported the war and as a result, the number of Australian troops in South Vietnam also increased. Australia’s Vietnam War (Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series)In 1964 compulsory National Service for 20-year-old males was introduced under the Australian “National Service Act.” The selection of conscripts was based on date of birth, and conscripts were obligated to give two years’ continuous full-time service, followed by a further three years on the active reserve list. The Defense Act was amended in May 1965 to provide that National Servicemen were obligated to serve overseas (in Vietnam), a provision that had been applied only once before–during W. W. II. In March 1966, the Australian Government announced that National Servicemen would be sent to Vietnam to fight in units of the Australian Regular Army in conjunction with American forces. Men who wished to avoid National Service could join the Citizen Military Forces and serve only inside Australia, claim a student deferment, or attempt a conscientious objection application. In order to be exempted on the basis of conscientious objection, an applicant needed to demonstrate objection to ‘all’ war, not one specific war. This meant that the rate of success for conscientious objection applications was generally low. However, as the body bags started to come back to Australia, opposition to the war mounted.

Australians who supported the war put forth that if South Vietnam fell to communism, then one Asian country after another would continue to fall, another example of the “Domino Theory.” The crux of the matter was what was known as the “Cold War”. After W. W. II a great struggle developed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union where America supported anti- communist governments in many nations, and the Soviet Union obviously supported Communist governments. Using surrogate countries to fight, superpowers didn’t confront each other directly. With the specter of nuclear annihilation, they fought through supporting countries, which came to be known as the “Cold War.” To strengthen Australia’s defensive alliance, the nation forged a military allegiance to the U.S., thinking that by doing this,
Australia’s security would be guaranteed by allying itself with the world’s greatest superpower. Australia had also done this from 1950 to 1953, as the Korean War had also been a big step in securing a firm alliance between the two democracies. Australia was also obliged to step into the conflict, as the SEATO alliance treaty of 1954 promised Australia’s protection of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos under the treaty’s security arrangements. Prior to the SEATO agreement, in 1951, the “ANZUS Agreement” was inked, whereupon Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. vowed to come to one another’s aid in the event of an attack. These two treaties gave a good reason for Australia to support its allies in Vietnam to thwart communism. Australia’s involvement in Vietnam was a gradual process of escalating commitment which took place over a period of several years against a background of Cold War concerns with regional security and fear of Communist expansion. Following the “Cuban Missile Crisis”, the primary Australian feature of defense against communist attack was called “Forward Defense.” This was an Australian concept that complemented America’s espousal of Communist containment in S.E. Asia and embraced the nation’s obligations under the SEATO pact.

The bottom line, which Don Tate and many other volunteers felt, was that Australia went into Vietnam to show the U.S. that Australia was a good ally, and to stop the spread of communism getting any closer to Australia’s shores. Similar to the situation in the U.S., most Australians didn’t question the war.What Are They Going To Do, Send Me To Vietnam? They either unilaterally supported it or saw that Australia was doing its duty to support the war effort. However, as the death toll mounted, many questioned Australia’s role there. Like what happened at both the tragedy at both Kent and Jackson State Universities, the war split Australia’s people and provoked violent confrontations. The Vietnam War was Australia’s longest war, and the only war in which it fought on the losing side. It was also the continent’s only `unofficial’ war, where Australia nor neighboring New Zealand didn’t declare war on the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese. Ultimately, it split Australia, but strengthened it’s strong alliance with the U.S.

It would be impossible to understand Mr. Tate’s memoir without the aforementioned information. Here are the final figures. From 1962 to 1973, Australia sent 49,968 troops to the Vietnam war. 520 died and 2,400 were wounded- Don Tate being one of them. 9,087,000 American military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975. 2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam. Incredibly, Vietnam Veterans represented 9.7% of their generation. 58,148 were killed in Vietnam, 75,000 were severely disabled. 23,214 were 100% disabled and 5,283 lost limbs. 1,081 sustained multiple amputations. Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21 and 11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old. Finally, of those killed, 17,539 were married. The average age of men killed: 23.1 years, and five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old. Although this is heavily disputed, as of January 15, 2004, there are supposedly 1,875 Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. 97% of Vietnam Veterans were honorably discharged and 91% of Vietnam Veterans say they are glad they served. 74% say they would serve again, even knowing the outcome. Vietnam veterans have a lower unemployment rate than the same non-vet age groups. 85% of American Vietnam Veterans made successful transitions to civilian life.

In Don Tate’s “The War Within, Americans are treated to a rare trip through Vietnam’s jungles though an Australian’s eye. Tate covers everything from parental, sexual and physical abuse, war and it’s atrocities, unscrupulousness corruption of history and spiritual identification. Although this memoir is a colorful, and cerebral dissertation, a final comment Tate made echoes innumerable American accounts of grunts attempting to make sense of their Vietnam tour of duty in hell.Not The Second Tour Lamenting on a sole midnight sentry shift in the jungle, Tate writes: “The jungle, with it’s vines and creepers and thick, umbrella canopy, had an awful, claustrophobic edge to it at times. I couldn’t help but feel a wave of loneliness sweep over me as I peered into it. I mean, I was thousands of miles from home, fighting in a country I’d never seen marked on a map, and doing it for vague philosophical reasons, and doubtful political ones, and it was as dangerous a thing as anyone could imagine. And while I wasn’t prone to sentimentality or reflection, that night I got to pondering about where I’d come from to after all this time. Staring at the dark can do that. I mean, I was in a war, and all, but so what? And what did it mean to me?”

I thoroughly recommend this book. It is memorable, significant, exceptionally meaningful, and historic!

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