Greg Lockhart: Strong reaction to his charge that Vietnam minefield cost lives of Allies

Historians in the News

Stan Maizey remembers the day in 1967 when Australian forces in Vietnam decided to build a controversial minefield around their base in Phuoc Tuy.

His troops stretched thin on the ground, First Australian Taskforce commander Brigadier Stuart Graham deemed the minefield necessary to protect his soldiers.

Now Colonel Maizey and his fellow Vietnam veterans are fighting a rearguard action to protect their former commander's reputation after an explosive new history branded the decision as an act of "strategic self-destruction".

Historian Greg Lockhart made the claim in The Canberra Times this month, after detailing research which found that the minefield caused as many as 500 Allied casualties throughout the war.

Without adequate personnel to properly patrol the minefield, Vietnamese guerrillas were able to lift the US M16 mines and redeploy them against Australian and New Zealand troops.

Colonel Maizey was the senior operations officer of the First Australian Taskforce in 1967 and wrote the "Military Appreciation" plan, which recommended that Australian forces build the minefield.

He rejected Mr Lockhart's claim that Brigadier Graham acted against the advice of senior army personnel, who warned that the mines could be lifted.

"Brigadier Graham discussed the plan with those who would be required to execute it," he said.

"There were about 10 people present; I was one of them".

"At no time did anyone object to the plan, nor did any of the officers then present, raise any concerns or objections with me afterwards.

"To insinuate that Brigadier Graham made the decision unilaterally and against all advice is rubbish and, had he been alive, defamatory."

While Colonel Maizey said Australians had died as a result of the minefield, he maintained that the casualty list would have been much higher if it had not been built....

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