An Australian Voice in the Education Center
Americans and Australians fought side-by-side in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia and Iraq. In the great tradition of shared service, today Australians and Americans stand shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan. One expression of this historic bond between our two nations was the 2011 contribution of $3.3 million by the Australian government towards the Education Center at The Wall. In order that the Australian story be told in the Center, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund provided a place on the Center’s Content Advisory Committee for an Australian representative.
Brig. Chris Appleton, CSC (Ret.) addressed the Advisory Committee as it assembled in Washington, D.C. on March 7. Appleton served in the Australian Army from 1975 to 2008. In December 2010 he assumed his current role as Director of War Graves, a statutory appointment within Australia’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In this role he is responsible for the commemoration of over 400,000 Australians who have died in or as a result of war and for the development and maintenance of Australian memorials overseas.
“While Australians and Americans fought and died alongside one another, our respective strategic, tactical and institutional approaches to the conduct of the Vietnam War were sometimes different,” Appleton wrote. “The perspectives of each side of our partnership need to be shown, rather than hidden.”
Between 1962 and 1972 nearly 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam, most of them in the Army. In all, 521 Australian service members died during the war, and more than 3,000 were wounded. Many more have died since then of causes related to their Vietnam service.
Australian veterans have left items at The Wall since its inception 30 years ago including boomerangs, flags and distinctive Australian military headgear: the famous ‘slouch hat’ which legend has it could once be ‘exchanged’ for as much as a jeep or .50 cal.
The position of Australian advisor on the Content Committee will be filled by a rotating group of distinguished Australian historians and academic leaders.
“The Australians were our steadfast allies during the Vietnam War,” said Scruggs. “We are gratified that the Australian people feel so deeply about helping us build the Education Center at The Wall, to honor all who served and sacrificed during that war. We welcome their partnership once again in this important endeavor.”