Shortlist year: 2008

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: HarperCollins

Seen as the last 'hot' frontline of the Cold War, the ten-year struggle in the rice paddies and jungles of South Vietnam unleashed devastating firepower on the Vietnamese nation and visited terrible harm on civilians and soldiers. Yet the Australian forces applied tactics that were very different from those of the Americans. Guided by their commanders' experience of jungle combat, Australian troops operated with stealth, deception and restraint in pursuing a 'better war'.

Drawing on hundreds of accounts by soldiers, politicians, aid workers, entertainers and Vietnamese citizens, Paul Ham reconstructs the full history of our longest military campaign.

About the author

Paul Ham

Paul Ham is the author of the highly acclaimed Kokoda (2004), Hiroshima Nagasaki (2011) Sandakan (2012), 1914 (2014) and Passchendaele (2016). A former Sunday Times correspondent, he holds a Master’s degree in Economic History from the London School of Economics and lives in Paris and Sydney with his family.

Vietnam won the New South Wales Premier’s Prize for Australian History. Kokoda was shortlisted for the Walkley Award for Non-Fiction and the New South Wales Premier’s Prize for Non-Fiction.

Judges’ comments

This history of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war is an extraordinary piece of work. It uncovers the often disturbing story of the political context of Australia’s participation in Vietnam.

The book is both an articulate and objective account of the Australian experience, but has a power that is much more than the sum of its parts.

The book presents a meticulous history and also resonates on an emotional level through its depth and searing honesty.