Eighty-two men died in the collision between the destroyer HMAS Voyager and aircraft carrier Melbourne on a beautiful moonlit night in the summer of 1964. Jim Price only survived because of his mate Charlie, but Charlie didn't make it. Was it just negligence on the part of Voyager's captain, known throughout the Navy as Drunken Duncan, or did the rot go deeper? The suicide of Charlie’s widow, Nola, worsens the tragedy and Jim’s bitterness over what he sees as criminal negligence by Drunken Duncan.
Jim falls in love with Nola’s friend Jenny, whose brother, Paul, is threatened with conscription into the Army. Her mother, Shirley, founds an organisation called Save Our Sons campaigning against conscription and the Vietnam War. Jim commences officer training at about the time a Royal Commission into the disaster releases its findings, which are seen as a whitewash by Jim and his mates. What is justice? Jim wants to know. He joins several of his fellow survivors in a class action against the Navy and the Government but they meet with opposition from the authorities.
The escalating war in Vietnam sees Jim posted aboard his nemesis, Melbourne, at a time when street protests against the war are on the increase. They are stirred along by Shirley. Jim's experience in Vietnam is even more traumatic than aboard Voyager and he returns home in bad shape to find the anti-war protests have escalated. He resigns from the Navy suffering from what we now call PTSD, although he doesn't know it. Only Jenny’s love and forgiveness can rescue him from deep depression but when he enrolls at Sydney University he is thrust into the midst of student demonstrations.
Paul lost his fight to stay out of the Army and was sent to Vietnam but is discharged medically unfit due to a drug addiction. Back in Sydney, he absconds from his rehab program and disappears. In search of him, Jenny volunteers as a counsellor at the Wayside Chapel providing support to addicts in King’s Cross. Sydney has been invaded by American servicemen on R&R from Vietnam. Jenny’s father, Richard, separated from Shirley, is a wealthy property developer. At Jenny’s suggestion he employs Jim as skipper of his corporate cruiser, Alcyone, offering harbour cruises for American soldiers and others. One of her passengers, a Vietnam veteran and also an addict and a client of the Wayside Chapel, claims to have seen Jenny’s brother. He exposes a CIA plot to smuggle heroin from Laos to the USA via Sydney. The CIA also plans to establish a bank in Sydney to launder their drug money and trade weapons throughout Asia and other parts of the world.
A second whitewash Royal Commission into the sinking of Voyager and her alcoholic captain enrages Jim and his former shipmates. When Paul’s corpse is found in a state of decay in an old house slated for demolition and development by Richard, it’s the last straw for Jim. The ghastly discovery is enough to bring the family back together but Jim is even more determined to avenge his mate, and it’s going to turn out badly for someone.
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Whisky Tango Foxtrot...Copy?
by John Regan
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Whisky Tango Foxtrot...Copy?
by John Regan
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by on October 23, 2016
- John Regan, May 2016
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