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An intimate portrait of tragedy, hope and humour in a war zone.

An intimate portrait of tragedy, hope and humour in a war zone.

Working as a journalist at the Adelaide Advertiser in 1966, Jean Debelle yearned to be involved in the biggest story of the decade - the Vietnam War. But only male journalists in Australia were being sent to cover the escalating conflict. Instead, she volunteered to work in Vietnam for the Red Cross to tend to the non-medical welfare of the sick and wounded ANZAC forces.

Jean had planned to report on the war in spare moments - but there were none. For one year she lived in the spotlight: a young Australian woman among 5,000 men. This intimate personal account is told from the rare and compassionate perspective of a young woman living close to the battlefront. Jean tells of the resilience of the soldiers in the face of daily atrocities and of the international medical personnel fighting to save lives and to rebuild shattered bodies and minds. It is also the story of the Vietnamese, struggling to maintain not just their traditions but their very lives in the face of brutal hardship.

With infectious humour, Jean tells of striving to be like a sister to the men when sex was in the very air they breathed. But she experienced stark terror when she faced a crazed gunman, had a close call in a minefield and was caught in the midst of a Vietnamese skirmish. Jean also offers an unvarnished look at the Australians' worst battle in Vietnam, Long Tan, and their worst landmine disaster. With unblinking candour, she writes of the harsh realisation that after nine months in Vietnam she had grown cold to the unrelenting horror of war. From diaries, letters and Red Cross reports, Jean Debelle Lamensdorf has researched and written a story not only of tragedy but also of hope and humour. It is a compelling adventure story - and one of love.


Sydney Morning Herald June 2006

"Her style seems a perfect vehicle for recounting a personal experience that is also a tribute to the courage and determination of the people she served with"

"This gripping account of her experiences is written with humour and profound insight. It's a marvelous book, written with great sensitivity." Good Reading May 2006

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    April 3, 2006

    Random House Australia

    320 pages

    RRP $36.99

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  • EBook


    January 2, 2012

    Random House Australia

    320 pages

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