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  1. New Zealand writer and historian, Deborah Challinor, includes a new chapter in her second edition release of Grey Ghosts: New Zealand Vietnam Veterans Talk About Their War that discusses the handling of the New Zealand Vietnam Veterans' claims, including the Reeves, McLeod and Health Committee reports, and the reconciliation/welcome parade on ...

  2. New Zealand's Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was our longest and most contentious military experience of the twentieth century. Over 3000 New Zealanders served in South Vietnam from 1963 to 1975. Back home, the Vietnam War led to enormous political and public debate about New Zealand's foreign policy and place in the world.

    • Indo-China War
    • Cold War Politics
    • Sending The Troops
    • ‘Vietnamisation’ and Withdrawal
    • The War Back Home
    • Vietnam’s Legacy
    • Further Information

    During the first Indo-China War (1946-1954) between the communist-dominated Viet Minh and France, New Zealand accepted the British-American view that Vietnam was a crucial point on the front line against communist expansion in Asia. New Zealand joined its major allies in recognising the French-sponsored Bao Dai regime in 1950, but remained unsure about the strength and legitimacy of the non-communist forces in Vietnam. The end of this conflict coincided with a significant change in New Zealand’s approach to regional security. Following the French withdrawal and the Geneva conference’s ‘temporary’ division of Vietnam at the 17th Parallel, it became a founding member of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), a regional alliance against the spread of communism sponsored by the British and (especially) the Americans. New Zealand focused its defence strategy on ‘forward defence’ in Asia – an attempt to keep communism as far away from its shores as possible. The second Indo-Chin...

    The struggle in Vietnam was part of a broader Cold War between the communist bloc headed by the Soviet Union and its former wartime allies in the West. New Zealand certainly saw the fighting in Cold War terms. While firmly committed to the Western Allies' policy of containing the Soviets, it was reluctant to become involved in Vietnam. Officials and politicians in Wellington had doubts about the prospects of success in defending South Vietnam. With substantial forces stationed in Malaysia (in Confrontation with Indonesia from 1963), New Zealand had few military resources to spare for Vietnam without introducing conscription. Despite its misgivings, the New Zealand government feared that a failure to contribute to the escalating conflict in Vietnam would compromise its 1951 ANZUS defence pact with the United States and Australia, an alliance on which New Zealand’s long-term security was seen to depend.

    In May 1965, Prime Minister Keith Holyoake announced that New Zealand would send a combat unit to join the United States-led coalition in Vietnam. Up until then, New Zealand’s contribution to the conflict had been restricted to humanitarian aid and development assistance: a civilian surgical team treating civilian casualties of war in Qui Nhon (1963-1975) and a 25-strong non-combatant engineer unit (NEWZAD) working on reconstruction projects in Binh Duong province (1964-1965). The first New Zealand troops into action were the gunners of 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery. On 16 July 1965, they fired their first shells near Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). Following the end of the Indonesia–Malaysia Confrontation, New Zealand came under renewed pressure from Washington to expand its commitment in Vietnam. In 1967, it sent two infantry companies – V and W – from the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment in Malaysia, along with a tri-service medical team – 1st New Zeal...

    With the American shift of emphasis to 'Vietnamisation' of the war, New Zealand contributed a 25-strong army training team, which deployed to Chi Lang in January 1971. A second, 18-strong team arrived in March 1972. Based at Dong Ba Thin, near Cam Ranh Bay, it helped train Cambodian battalions. (The Vietnam War had spilled over into neighbouring Cambodia in 1970.) As the training teams began their work, New Zealand progressively withdrew its combat forces, in line with reductions in American strength in Vietnam. All were gone by the end of 1971. In December 1972, Norman Kirk’s newly elected Labour government withdrew both training teams. By then, more than 3000 military personnel had served with New Zealand’s Vietnam (V) Force in Vietnam. All who served were regulars, or personnel who enlisted in the Regular Force in order to join V Force. Its small size meant that New Zealand, unlike its American and Australian allies, did not have to introduce conscription .

    Despite New Zealand’s modest military involvement in the Vietnam War, the conflict created enormous political and public debate at home about New Zealand’s foreign policy and place in the world. From the mid-1960s, an organised anti-Vietnam War movement challenged the whole philosophy underlying New Zealand’s national security policies, and the benefits and consequences of its alliances. The anti-war movement grew during the closing stages of the Vietnam War. 'Mobilisations' in the early 1970s saw thousands in major centres march in protest against the war. All New Zealand troops in Vietnam were volunteer regular personnel, so the protest movement did not have an anti-conscription edge, as it did in Australia and the United States. By the latter stages of the war, the anti-war movement had merged with other major causes – women's rights, the anti-apartheid movement – to spawn what some termed the ‘Vietnam Generation’. While the anti-war movement had little impact on New Zealand fore...

    The Vietnam War marked a turning point in the evolution of New Zealand's post-war foreign and security policies. In terms of national security, our combat involvement represented the culmination of a line of official thinking based on the ANZUS alliance, the perceived dangers of Asian communism, and the commitment to forward defence in South-East Asia. The outcome of the war prompted New Zealand to re-evaluate its alliance policy – most notably the forward defence strategy. The Vietnam experience was also important as a test of the country's relationship with the United States. The National government's policy avoided any confrontation with Washington – in stark contrast to New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance in the 1980s. To that extent, the Holyoake government attained the central objective of its Vietnam policy: the alliance with the United States remained intact at the end of the war. But by then this alliance was less firmly rooted on a popular level, with significant numbers of...

    This web feature was originally adapted from Roberto Rabel's entry in The Oxford companion to New Zealand military history and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team. In 2014 it was revised by Gareth Phipps.

    • Overview
    • Initial contributions
    • Military assistance

    New Zealand involvement in the Vietnam War Part of the Vietnam War New Zealand artillerymen carry out a fire mission DateJune 1964 – December 1972 LocationRepublic of Vietnam Result All New Zealand military personnel withdrawn by 1973. Commanders and leaders Keith Holyoake Strength New Zealand: 3,890 In-country peak: 543 January 1969 Casualties and losses 187 wounded 37 dead

    New Zealand's initial response was carefully considered and characterised by Prime Minister Keith Holyoake's cautiousness towards the entire Vietnam question. While it was recognised that New Zealand should support Vietnam, as Holyoake simply put it; "Whose will is to prevail in South Vietnam? The imposed will of the North Vietnamese communists and their agents, or the freely expressed will of the people of South Vietnam?" The government preferred minimal involvement, with other South East Asian...

    American pressure continued for New Zealand to contribute military assistance, as the United States would be deploying combat units (as opposed to merely advisors) itself soon, as would Australia. Holyoake justified New Zealand's lack of assistance by pointing to its military contribution to the Indonesia-Malaysian Confrontation, but eventually the government decided to contribute It was seen as in the nation's best interests to do so—failure to contribute even a token force to the effort ......

    • June 1964-December 1972
    • Republic of Vietnam
  3. The Vietnam War was New Zealand's longest and most controversial overseas military experience. Although this country's troop commitment and casualties were modest, the conflict aroused widespread protest and condemnation. And for those who fought in Vietnam, it was a tough homecoming.

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  5. Aug 31, 2021 · The government wanted to maintain solidarity with the United States, but was unsure about the likely outcome of external military intervention in Vietnam. Prime Minister Keith Holyoake decided to keep New Zealand involvement in Vietnam at the minimum level deemed necessary to meet allied expectations.

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