When Tamworth conscript John O'Halloran returned from commanding a platoon in Vietnam, Tamworth was more interested in the footy than the bloodbath in Southeast Asia.
The 21-year-old Second Lieutenant - and draftee - recalled to the Leader one evening at the Imperial Hotel drinking with the Tamworth City rugby league club.
Nobody even asked him about Long Tan, a battle he'd fought in just a year earlier, a fight which had cost the lives of two Tamworth boys, he said.
"No-one was really concerned about Gordon Sharp or Micky Birchell, who played for Tamworth footy. They were all concerned about rugby league. He scored a good try last week and so-and-so's in this week and it was all rugby league," he said.
"I thought Australians don't give a stuff about the war."
The abuse came from inside Tamworth's RSL sub-branch - and even from the family of fellow veterans.
He remembered visiting the family of a dead digger who told him their son should be alive and him dead. Another bereaved family showed him their son's room, untouched since he left and offered him sympathy.
The conscripted Tamworth-born young man fought in the first four major battles of Australia's contribution to Vietnam, leading the 5 platoon, B company of 6 battalion Royal Australian Regiment.
A National Serviceman, he'd had just six months officer training, compared with the four years given to regular army officers. He was sent anyway, he thinks, because he was a cheaper soldier to replace if killed.
Some five decades after living the war, Mr O'Halloran has recently put his memories of Vietnam to paper. His memoirs 'the Platoon Commander', written with journalist Ric Teague, are set to be published next month.
His connections, both family and personal, with Tamworth feature heavily in the book.
Mr O'Halloran was one of the last to see fellow Tamworth boy and Platoon Commander Gordon Sharp alive, outside Delta Company, before the Battle of Long Tan.
They spent 12 years at school together at Christian Brothers' College in Tamworth. Sitting near what would soon be the Long Tan battlefield while eating baked beans, the pair could hear Col Joy and and Little Pattie practicing for their famous concert at the Australian base in Nui Dat the next day.
"We were the best of mates, Gordon and myself. He said it's alright I'm going back to listen to the music, I'm staying out here to face it," he said.
The fellow Tamworth boy was shot and killed by the North Vietnamese Army in the rubber during the bloody battle.
The Platoon Commander will be published on June 9.
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