Other contributions - NZ and the Vietnam War

Contributions from other forces

New Zealand added several other small units and groups of personnel, including members of both the RNZN and RNZAF, to its commitment in Vietnam during the period 1967 to 1969. The 1st New Zealand Services Medical Team was deployed in April 1967 with the role of providing medical and surgical assistance to South Vietnamese civilians and encouraging the development of indigenous capacity in this field.

Twenty-seven strong at its peak, it operated initially at Qui Nonh before moving north to Bong Son. In July 1967 an RNZAF pilot was made available to 9 Squadron RAAF, which operated Iroquois helicopters, and two more were provided in 1968. From December 1968 two forward air controllers served with the 7th US Air Force. The RNZAF also made a more general contribution, insofar as its transport aircraft supported the commitment in Vietnam throughout New Zealand's involvement. In January 1969 a 26-man Special Air Services troop arrived in Vietnam, raising the strength of New Zealand's force to its peak of 543 men. It was involved in intelligence gathering operations in Phuoc Tuy province, mounting 155 patrols in all.

Training teams

With the American shift of emphasis to 'Vietnamisation' of the war, New Zealand contributed an army training team of twenty-five personnel, which was deployed at the National Training Centre at Chi Lang in January 1971. A second one, of eighteen men (including two RNZN personnel), was provided in March 1972. Based at Dong Ba Thin, near Cam Ranh Bay, it assisted in the training of Cambodian battalions.

Gradual withdrawal

As these training teams began their work, Australian and New Zealand combat forces were gradually being withdrawn, in line with reductions in American strength in Vietnam. First to go was W Company, in November 1970, and the SAS troop and artillery battery followed in February and May 1971 respectively. With the withdrawal of 1st Australian Task Force in December 1971, New Zealand's combat involvement in Vietnam was brought to an end by the withdrawal of V Company and the services medical team.

One of the first acts of the Labour government led by Norman Kirk, which took office in December 1972, was to withdraw both training teams. By then, a total of 3890 New Zealand military personnel had served with V-Force in Vietnam; 37 of them (36 Army and 1 RNZAF) had been killed and 187 wounded. All who served were regulars, or personnel who enlisted in the Regular Force for the purpose of joining V-Force. They were volunteers in the sense that they were not compelled to serve in Vietnam, though for a proportion, especially officers, choice in the matter was largely constrained by professional demands. The size of V-Force was such that New Zealand did not have to follow its American and Australian allies by introducing conscription.

How to cite this page: 'Other contributions - NZ and the Vietnam War', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/vietnam-war/other-contributions, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012