Support from Good Friends Down Under
By Lex Swayn
Dear Bill and family,
I hope you are all well. Everyone's okay here. While the events of the past couple of weeks have been shocking, I think they have strengthened the bonds that have grown between our two countries. I've sent the following letter to all my American friends. Bye for now, regards Lex Swayn
I've struggled for days to put appropriate words together to reach out to my American friends and let them know I care. It's all I can do at this time.
Firstly, I don't want you for a moment to harbor any concerns that you are in this alone. I believe I can speak for most Australians when I say that while we are still in shock in this time of great sorrow, this nation has expressed its deeply felt sense of outrage and is resolute in its determination to stand beside America to see these vermin exterminated.
Our Prime Minister was in Washington when the Pentagon was hit and he was the first Western leader to pledge support for the USA.
Not all the WTC victims are Americans. New York is an international city and people from at least 50 nations lost citizens, including a couple of dozen Australians in the towers and two on the hijacked planes.
But that's not the reason Australians support America.
For nearly a century, our two nations have stood together in war, and peace.
We have been allies since 1917 when the US entered World War I. There was some hesitation in the American army to train under British command in Europe, and language problems meant the option of training with the French army faced difficulties, but the untested Americans felt OK about having battle-hardened veterans from the newly independent nation of Australia take them under their wings.
American and Australian troops first went into battle together on July 4 (chosen deliberately by the Aussie commander because of its significance to the Americans) 1918 in the attack on Hamel in France, one of the most successful operations of the war. It was during this time the Aussies taught the Americans the "art of
war'." For example, on several occasions the enthusiastic but untried Americans had to be called back out of harm's way when the experienced Australians knew a certain area was about to be obliterated by shellfire. Thus began a bond between our countries that has continued ever since.
British commander Sir Douglas Haig's comment on the fresh American troops was that they were "fine, big men; reminded me of tall
Australians." An American colonel who had previously been attached to English troops commented: "The Australians appeared to be more akin to our class in that they were an independent, alert, energetic lot of men and splendid fighters. From the very first when our soldiers came in contact with them they mixed well and took kindly to each
other." An Australian war correspondent noted: "Montreuil was thick with them, fine looking men. One of their officers told us he felt as much at home amongst Australians as amongst his own
In February 1942, the same Japanese battle fleet that hit Pearl Harbor two months earlier launched an attack on Darwin in northern Australia, virtually wiping the town off the map. The city's only air defenders were some US Kitty Hawk pilots who bravely took on the numerically superior Japanese Zeros and were shot out of the skies.
Since then Australia and America have been to Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf together.
We are "mates" and when a mate is in trouble, a fair dinkum Australian helps him out.
That is not to say Australians are isolated from this terrorist issue, for the threat is worldwide.
When I am asked why I have traveled to the US so often (five times since 1977), I always say it's because I like Americans and America. It's as simple as that. And I'm proud to say so.
Last week I moved my American flag from its display in a cabinet to the window of my study at home.
It seems an insignificant deed but it's my statement of solidarity with my American friends, there for those who visit my home to see.