Editor's note: Australian Army Captain John Bullen (b. 1936) served 1968-69 as Officer Commanding 1 Topographical Survey Troop, making maps at Nui Dat. His droll, unflustered diaries offer a rare - and, perhaps, unique - glimpse into a topographer's war.
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'From the cliffs of Gallipoli, through the jungles of Vietnam, to the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia's short history is a story of war.
'The battlefield has shaped the way we define ourselves - the Australian values of mateship, courage under fire, larrikinism - but few of us have witnessed these scenes firsthand. Soldiers writing from the front and journalists on the ground have formed the way we think about war and so formed the way we think about ourselves.
'In The Penguin Book of Australian War Writing, author and journalist Mark Dapin has gathered together the finest of these accounts. Starting with Watkin Tench's observations of an Aboriginal war party, we see the terror, confusion and occasional heroics of the front line through the eyes of some of our best writers, including AB Paterson, Martin Boyd, Patrick White, Alan Moorehead, Kenneth Slessor, Peter Cundall and Barry Heard.
'These remarkable letters, diaries, memoirs and reports remind us of our history, and of our responsibility in recording and remembering what happens in the wars we send our soldiers to fight. (From the publisher's website.)
'Captain Bullen's War combines the irreverent humour of M*A*S*H* with the sharp satire of Catch 22 in portraying one man's extraordinary experiences of the war in Vietnam in 1968, the bloodiest year of the conflict.
The difference is that neither Captain John Bullen nor his experiences are fictional.Nor was he a reluctant soldier.A graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and a career soldier in the Australian Army, Bullen commanded the vital map-producing section of the Australian Task Force at Nui Dat. Alert to the possibility of humour in the bleakest circumstances, he decided to chronicle the events around him.What emerges is one of the most darkly funny and lacerating accounts of the Vietnam War ever written.
Strewn with wonderful character sketches and hilarious anecdotes, Captain Bullen's War is more than just one man's insightful accounts of the absurdity of war. Bullen perceives with unsparing clarity the nature and enormity of the conflict around him.A thoughtful, decent man, Bullen's is a voice of sanity in a world gone mad.' (Publisher's Blurb)