Asia Minute: Australia Honors Vietnam War Vets from New Zealand

Apr 5, 2019

The Australia and New Zealand flags at half-staff
Credit Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon / U.S. Air Force

A small piece of forgotten history is being remembered today in the Asia Pacific. It’s a story that involves New Zealanders, Australians, and the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War is often thought of in terms of American and Vietnamese forces, but it cost lives from many countries.  More than 500 Australians were killed in the Vietnam War – the government estimates 3,000 more were wounded.

Australian military members served in Vietnam for more than a decade — starting in 1962.

At the peak of their participation in 1965, nearly 8,000 Australian troops were on the ground in Vietnam. It was the country’s largest contribution of forces to an overseas conflict since World War Two.

New Zealand had a much smaller presence in the Vietnam War — but according to government figures, 37 were killed and nearly 200 more were wounded. A total of about 3,000 New Zealanders served in Vietnam. And this week, some of them are being recognized.

The 161 Battery of the Royal New Zealand Artillery fought as part of an Australian-led task force. In 1968, it was part of a series of protracted battles outside Saigon.

Today, 14 surviving members of that unit and two next of kin will receive the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry.

Radio New Zealand says it is the first time that a New Zealand military unit has received such a citation from the Australian government.