Unit notes - Vietnam Veterans Roll
This page provides introductory notes about the units listed on New Zealand's Vietnam veterans roll (The Vietnam List). Click on the unit names below for more information. Contributions from ex-members of these units are welcomed for this introduction. Please email your views about what should be recorded here to email@example.com.
NEWZAD was the first formed unit sent to Vietnam. An Engineer unit, it was deployed on 29 June 1964. On the same day, a small headquarters unit of three led by Lieutenant Colonel W.C.T. Foley was established in Saigon.
The roll of NEWZAD personnel in the Vietnam List is solely the Engineers who operated out in the field. All those persons who served in the New Zealand V Force (Vietnam Force) headquarters in a staff or permanently based role are listed under the heading of HQ V Force.
This unit had three separate titles:
- From deployment on 29 June 1964 to 1 July 1965 it was called HQ NEWZAD
- After 161 Battery arrived in Vietnam in on 2 July 1965 its title was changed to HQ NZ V Force. This remained the title for most of time the NZ troops were committed in Vietnam
- On 21 December 1972 when the last combat troops were withdrawn, it became HQ NZATGV (HQ NZ Army Training Group Vietnam)
We have not acknowledged these changes in titles in the list.
All persons who served in the ‘Saigon HQ' during the dates 1964 to 1972 inclusive are listed here under the title of HQ V Force. This list also includes:
- Persons who were based in Saigon, but were then attached to units at Long Binh and hence were not strictly posted to HQ V Force.
- Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) personnel who were posted to HQ V Force and worked primarily in Saigon in a range of liaison duties. For this reason they are listed here rather than in the RNZAF list.
- Personnel posted to the "Chancellory Guard". These personnel guarded the HQ V Force and at times, the residences occupied by HQ V Force - depending on the risk presented. There was considerable variation in how they were employed over the time they were attached
When 161 Bty was first deployed to Vietnam on 1 June 1965 under command of the Battery Commander (BC) Major Don Kenning, it was attached to 173rd Airborne Brigade at Bien Hoa. This Battery earned the right to wear the US Presidential Unit Citation awarded to 173rd Airborne Brigade. Members of the ‘Kenning Battery" have the right to wear the citation for life. Subsequent members of 161 Bty are entitled to wear the Citation ONLY as a dress embellishment while posted to the Unit. Many 161 Bty veterans ignore this rule.
When the Australians expanded their commitments and the ANZAC elements combined to move into Phuoc Tuy Province, 161 Bty moved to Nui Dat on 16 May 1966. The first BC solely based in Nui Dat was Major Harry Honnor. It was during his time as BC that the Battle for Long Tan took place (23 April 1967).
161 Bty was withdrawn from Vietnam by the National Government (under Keith Holyoake) and returned to Papakura camp in May 1971 under command of Major John Masters, M.C.
The Battery Commanders (BC) in sequence were:
- Maj Don Kenning MBE 1 June 1965 – 15 July 1966
- Maj Harry Honnor 15 July 1966 – 13 May 1967
- Maj Tom Martin MBE 13 May 1967 – 17 Apr 1968
- Maj Geoff Hitchings MBE 17 Apr 1968 – 18 Mar 1969
- Maj John Horsford 18 Mar 1969 – 3 Oct 1969
- Maj Ray Andrews 3 Oct 1969 – 6 Sep 1970
- Maj John Masters MC 6 Sep 1970 – 17 Jul 1971
There were many men who completed more than one Tour of Duty (TOD), not all of these were recorded.
When 161 Bty was first deployed to Vietnam in June 1965 a special unit was attached in order to undertake certain servicing and logistical tasks for the Battery. This unit was known as the Logistic Support Element (LSE). In 1966, when the Australians expanded their force and the ANZAC's moved to Phuoc Tuy Province, the LSE was detached from the battery and established within the 1st Australian Logistic Support Group (1 ALSG) at Vung Tau.
The Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RNZEME) personnel who had been in the LSE were taken for the most part into the Light Aid Detachment (LAD) of the Australian Artillery Field Regiment (of which 161 Bty was a part).
RNZEME continued to provide personnel to both the LAD and posted directly into 161 Bty. It goes without saying that certain persons listed under the LSE ‘overlap' into the LAD. A number of RNZEME personnel moved within theatre to and from units on a range of attachments - these have been ignored as it became too complex to track from the ‘in-theatre' records available to us.
NZSMT was a military surgical team deployed to Binh Dinh Province on 31 March 1967. It was a separate team from the New Zealand Civilian Surgical Team which operated in Qui Nohn Province under the Colombo Scheme.
The Unit Commanders were:
- Surg Lt Cdr A Green 31 Mar 1967 – 27 Sep 1967
- Surg Cdr JSW Frew 27 Sep 1967 – 27 Jun 1968
- Surg Lt Cdr GM Gordon 27 Jun 1968 – 30 Aug 1968
- Maj RT Moloney 30 Aug 1968 – 15 Sep 1968
- Lt Col JA McLeod 15 Sep 1968 – 14 Dec 1968
- Lt Col WD Meldrum 14 Dec 1968 – 20 Mar 1969
- Col JW Ardagh 20 Mar 1969 – 9 Jun 1969
- Wg Cdr C Swanson 9 Jun 1969 – 27 Aug 1969
- Wg Cdr AN White 27 Aug 1969 – 4 Feb 1970
- Wg Cdr LJ Thompson 4 Feb 1970 – 4 Mar 1970
- Sqn Ldr NLS Bourchier 4 Mar 1970 – 24 May 1970
- Maj AR Bean 24 May 1970 – 28 Sep 1970
- Col JS Rea 28 Sep 1970 – 14 Apr 1971
- Maj RD Scott 17 Apr 1971 – 26 Jul 1971
- Lt Col JF Moodie 26 Jul 1971 – 20 Sep 1971
- Col JW Ardagh 20 Sep 1971 – 10 Dec 1971
Over the New Zealand summers from November 1968 to February 1971, Otago University sent a team from its Territorial Force Medical Company (OUMC) as work experience for medical students. The Medical Students were used in both teams in Qui Nohn on a range of duties.
There was an enormous amount of movement between Rifle Companies. Most of the men were deployed from 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR) mainly from Terendak, Malaysia and latterly from Dieppe Barracks in Singapore. Most reinforcements came from 1RNZIR so there was minimal paperwork for some of the deployments made at high speed in response to a call from Vietnam for replacements for sick, wounded and killed personnel.
Men were wounded, or killed, or Returned to New Zealand (RTNZ) for compassionate and disciplinary reasons. Some men were also deployed initially in one job and ended up doing another. All this meant that many men began their tour of duty with one Company, and then transferred to another Company or Unit before their deployment was completed. The intent was that all men stayed in theatre for at least six months - many completed tours from one month up to 12 months.
There was no way of tracking the names of all persons who served in the Australian Reinforcement Unit. The movement through this unit was rapid and unpredictable so all names have been recorded as if they were posted into one of the Rifle Companies as soon as they arrived in theatre. We acknowledge that this was not the case for all but the records are so poor that it simply not worth the effort to track names.
As far as it was recorded, we have noted the Mortar and Assault Pioneer men separately in each Company. Although members of the Company involved have checked the lists for accuracy, memories fade and the lists of the Mortar and Assault Pioneers was in most cases, incomplete. There are bound to be errors - please advise us of any errors and omissions.
The pay records team tried hard at the time to track this constant movement of soldiers, but some of the transfers may have been missed or incorrectly recorded. Many of these errors have since been corrected as a result of our cross verification of records. However we acknowledge that there may still be some errors.
Finally, the ranks shown in the lists are as recorded by the pay section. These generally were the rank on posting into theatre. Many were promoted and paid at a higher rate and some left Vietnam and returned for second tours and their old pay cards' were re-used - and did not always show their new rank. There were also personnel who wore acting rank but were paid at the substantive rank - the pay records ignored the acting rank. Some veterans get upset by this error, but it is not possible to track accurately all the rank changes in theatre.
When the Australian and New Zealand politicians accepted the ANZAC Battalion idea, it was passed to the respective Army General Staff's to implement it. They decided that they would do more than just attach one or two New Zealand rifle companies to an Australian battalion. Efforts were made to integrate personnel across all parts of the Battalion's infrastructure. An example of this was having the ANZAC Battalion Second in Command (2IC) appointment filled by a senior New Zealand Major.
This senior officer had the disciplinary powers of a Commanding Officer under New Zealand Military Law – this allowed New Zealand subordinate commanders to ‘send up' serious disciplinary cases for soldiers and NCOs (Non-commissioned Officers) to a New Zealand "Commanding Officer" within Nui Dat.
The New Zealand Rifle Company Tours of Duty (TOD) did not coincide with those of the Australian Battalion they worked with. It was therefore not uncommon for New Zealand personnel to serve in two ANZAC Battalions.
To ease this confusion, we have listed the names under the Battalion that was in theatre on their posting into the Vietnam theatre.
So these men can be recognised and used as a reference point, here are the Battalion 2IC and Officer Commanding (OC) for the NZ Component listing:
- Maj RI Thorpe 19 Feb 1968 – 23 Sep 1968
- Maj ATA Mataira 23 Sep 1968 – 19 May 1969
- Maj NA Wallace 19 May 1969 – 15 may 1970
- Maj RTV Taylor 16 May 1970 – 25 May 1971
- Maj DS McIver 26 May 1971 – 10 Dec 1971
New Zealanders served in various capacities within the headquarters of 1 ATF in Nui Dat. The majority of the names recorded on the Vietnam List are those of the ‘Watch keepers' – officers (generally captains) who worked in the Command Post (CP). We believe there are some postings to 1 ATF that were not recorded by the Pay Section staff.
Persons who worked with units such as 176 Air Dispatch Company or the Pearson Recreation Centre are listed under the NZ Component list.
New Zealand Army Air Corps pilots flew Sioux helicopters with the Australian 161 Recce Flt. They spent much of their airtime in close support of 161 Bty, the Rifle Companies and 4 Troop NZSAS. They had a very close relationship with these Unit Commanders with whom they spent long periods in the air flying over operational areas, normally at tree top level.
The skill and daring shown by these pilots is reflected in the two Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC's) awarded to New Zealand pilots. All of the Army Air Corps Pilots were highly regarded by all who worked with them.
As far as we can establish, there were no New Zealand ground crew posted to 161 Rec Flight.
The Chaplains (or Padres) are a special breed of men who are universally held in high regard by all soldiers who serve with them. This bypasses religious beliefs and a commitment to a specific faith – they all ran non-denominational ‘open to all' services.
Most of the Padres were deployed from the 1RNZIR Battalion in Terendak and later from Dieppe Barracks in Singapore, but all were attached to HQ 1 ATF. Prior to 1967 they were attached to 161 Bty – the main manpower force in theatre at that time.
As usual with Padres, they were a law unto themselves and attached themselves to whomever seemed to be having the most need at the time and they never viewed themselves as having a narrow responsibility to any one unit. They journeyed across all units and terrain, as they were needed. They had the ability to turn up when least expected and then ‘vanish amongst the men'. We have therefore listed them here in a special group of their own.
The simple non-denominational services these Padres conducted ‘in the field' are still the subject of great emotion by those soldiers present at them. This was especially so after the adrenalin stopped running following a contact or operation and the realisation hit home that some of their mates were wounded, or worse, killed in action.
These men will always have a special place in heaven amongst their fellow Vietnam veterans.
For those families of Vietnam veterans reading these notes – talk to your veteran about their experiences with ‘the Padres' They will all tell you wonderful stories with tears being a normal sideline. The Padres evoked great emotions and were all patient and compassionate men.
The NZ Component was set up in Nui Dat late in 1967 to administer the growing numbers of New Zealand troops working within the 1 ATF area. It also served as a kind of home for ‘homeless waifs', taking under its wing all persons who could not be easily adopted by other units. This included technical support personnel deployed to complete a task for a number of units for a specified project or time.
We have tried to separate from this list all those people employed elsewhere in the ANZAC Bn, leaving only those who can properly be said to have ‘belonged to the Component' or been attached to it for a reasonable tour of duty.
The personnel in this unit completed a huge range of tasks and in many cases were required to complete duties never envisaged when they were deployed. Note that they did not merely carry out ‘administrative duties', they were required to complete sentry duties, local patrolling duties (called TAOR Patrols), provide manpower for vehicle convoy escorts. This was not a safe base job.
1 ALSG began life as ALSC (Australian Logistic Support Company) and as in the case of HQ V Force; we have not separated the two titles. From its earliest days, New Zealanders of all ranks, corps and services served in 1 ALSG in every conceivable role.
As with the NZ Component in Nui Dat, the personnel completed a huge range of tasks and in many cases were required to complete duties never envisaged when they were deployed. They did not merely carry out ‘administrative and logistic duties'. Many visitors to Vietnam were looked after by 1 ALSG and they had barrack accommodation to handle them. They were also required to complete sentry duties, local patrolling duties and provide manpower and vehicles for vehicle convoy escorts. Again, this was not a safe base job.
Included in the 1 ALSG list are the Nursing Sisters and the Military Police Provost teams.
These angels of mercy cared for the sick, injured and ill personnel who could not be handled in the Nui Dat Regimental Aid Posts and were sent to the 1st Australian Field Hospital at Vung Tau. They all coped with the sudden arrival of helicopters bearing soldiers with a wide range of accidental injuries and the wounds and trauma resulting from gun battles.
These women were often the first vision Kiwi soldiers saw as they came out of general anaesthetic. They provided the shoulders that many men cried on when they found their mate was not going to survive. It was a very caring (but no nonsense) service that was much appreciated. The soldiers always noticed their perfume and the clean smell after coming in from the field in often very dirty conditions. Many soldiers were washed in bed by these women as part of their general clean up after being wounded.
Watch the response of the Vietnam Veterans to these women at reunions – they are truly loved and treated as ‘sisters'. They are always the recipients of many hugs and kisses from men who owe their lives to their care.
These women will always have a special place in heaven amongst their fellow Vietnam veterans. For those families of Vietnam veterans reading these notes – talk to your veteran about their experiences with ‘the Nurses at Vung Tau' They will all tell you wonderful stories of caring women looking after men who needed their care at that time. The Nurses evoked great emotions and were all jealously protected from the Australian troops stupid enough to say or do anything that was viewed as inappropriate.
We have included in this listing the two Red Cross women (Avis Wilkes and Isabel Beaumont) who were based at Vung Tau, but travelled through all units as the opportunity presented itself. They were able to get to Nui Dat and many of the Fire Bases that generally the Nursing Sisters had very little opportunity to do.
Royal New Zealand Provost
These men were deployed with the Australian Provost units into Saigon, Nui Dat and Vung Tau and covered a wide range of duties. They dealt extensively with the Australian, South Vietnamese and US Military Police and at times the South Vietnamese civilian Police.
They were extensively involved in investigations for breaches of ‘The Rules' and assisted their Allied peers with maintaining the rule of law. This was not always appreciated by soldiers out to let off some steam!
They were able to ‘rescue' Kiwi soldiers who fell foul of their Australian and US Military colleagues and were often able to handle them with less aggressive reaction (and therefore less disciplinary charges) than their Allied peers.
Many Kiwi soldiers arrested while drunk were ‘saved' by the NZ Provost staff before they really got into serious trouble. We are advised that the NZ Military Police were constantly being told by their Australian MP peers that they were ‘too soft' on their soldiers.
This 26 all ranks unit served as ‘Number 4 Troop' in the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment Squadrons deployed into Nui Dat. There were three detachments that were replaced each November:
- Detachment One – Capt T N (Terry) Culley 12 Dec 1968 – 12 Dec 1969
- Detachment Two – Capt D G (Graye) Shattky 12 Dec 1969 – 9 Oct 1970
- Detachment Three – Lt J S (Jack) Hayes 9 Oct 1970 – 28 Feb 1971
A number of the troopers and NCO's deployed with the first detachment returned for a second tour of duty with the third detachment. There were also a good number of infantry and artillery personnel that returned for a second tour of duty in Vietnam with 4 Tp NZSAS in the second and third detachments.
Although under operational command of the Australian SAS Squadron Commander when deployed into the field on operations, 4 Tp NZSAS was an independent command and self-sufficient. The OC had the powers of Subordinate Commander under NZ Military Law. The ANZAC Battalion 2IC (a New Zealand Officer) was the ‘Commanding Officer' for disciplinary matters.
Many New Zealanders spent periods of time attached to a wide range of American (and Thai and Korean) units. These were not always formal postings as such. Some of these attachments were planned as part of officers' career planning by Defence Headquarters; others were opportunity attachments through contact with Allied commanders at many levels.
There is little information recorded on these attachments. Many were one man at a time and the range of experiences are untapped stories and generally not well known.
Most people are aware of the two New Zealand Army Training Teams Vietnam (1 and 2 NZATTV) deployed to Chi Lang and Dong Ba Thin. Few people however, are aware of the third Army Training team sent to Vietnam attached to the Australian Army Training Team (AATV). As the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam was first deployed into Vietnam 3 August 1962, they get precedence in the list.
The Training Team Commanders were:
- Maj DL Ogilvy 3 Dec 1970 – 31 Jul 1971
- Maj BP Martin 31 Jul 1971 – 7 Nov 1971
- Maj LH Pilling 7 Nov 1971 – 18 Aug 1972
- Maj AR Kiwi 18 Aug 1972 – 5 Dec 1972
- Maj TD MacFarlane 5 Dec 1972 – 13 Dec 1972
- Maj JG Daniell 15 Feb 1972 – 14 Nov 1972
- Maj PJ Skogstad 14 Nov 1972 – 21 Dec 1972
The Royal NZ Air Force (RNZAF) sent two main groups of flying teams to Vietnam:
- Forward Air Controllers (FAC's) who served with a variety of US Air Force units
- Iroquois pilots and crewmen who served with 9 Sqn RAAF based in Vung Tau.
The number of DFC awards (5 out of 15 pilots) is testament to the skill and daring of these men while flying in close support of the men on the ground.
There were also RNZAF officers and NCO's who served with the Services Medical Team, in both NZATTV teams, HQ V Force and 1 ALSG. Their names are recorded with the units they served with.
The 40 Sqn (C-130 Hercules) and 41 Sqn (Bristol Freighters) RNZAF pilots who flew virtually all New Zealand veterans into and out of Vietnam have only been recorded when they qualified for the award of the Vietnam medal or the New Zealand General Service Medal (Vietnam). We know there are many more RNZAF aircrew (especially those other ranks down the back of the aircraft) out there that have not been recorded.
We are told that flying Bristol Freighters in and out of Tan Son Nhut (Saigon) and the other major USAF airfields was an experience and always attracted lots of attention. Many United States personnel thought that these aircraft had to be part of Air America or some form of Special Forces units, especially after they were painted in camouflage paint.
Operation ‘Hot Pot' was the RNZAF support for the 161 Battery's shake down operation on initial deployment in 1965.
On each major occasion the New Zealand military contribution to South Vietnam was increased, a work party of RNZE Engineers was sent to assist in preparing the site for them.
When 161 Battery was committed, the engineers of NEWZAD spent their last few weeks in country preparing the Bien Hoa site. When the Battery moved to Nui Dat in September 1966, a RNZE detachment worked on the site from September to December 1966.
When Victor One Company was deployed to Nui Dat in November 1967, another engineer detachment was deployed from early November to December 1967.
The final detachment was sent to assist the 1 NZATTV establish themselves in Chi Lang in November 1970. This detachment stayed in South Vietnam until February 1971.
Lumped together under this heading is a mixed bag of people who were not posted to serve on the posted strength of units in South Vietnam, but spent periods of time there.
The list is incomplete as it relied upon pay records and the NZ Component Visitors Book.
Obviously, not all visitors were paid in Vietnam and so their names never appeared on the pay lists. The NZ Component maintained a visitor's book for most of its time in theatre and this has provided some names and dates but again, not all visitors went into NZ Component lines and so their names and dates of deployment were not captured.
Not all visits were planned well in advance with the result that the NZ Component team (including the Pay Section) were not always aware that these people had arrived, worked and then departed. Even when they were expected, not all details were recorded – for example not all visitors had their rank and regimental number recorded.
Not included in the Visitors lists are the large number of civilian band members and entertainers who came to South Vietnam for shows. These included many New Zealand show business personalities and artists of the time, but they were contracted to the Australian Army PR team and so were not recorded as New Zealand visitors.
This list should be taken only as an indicator of the enormous number of people who took the opportunity to visit an active service area. Transport was almost solely with the RNZAF C-130 or Bristol Freighters who always endeavoured to fly in and out of Vietnam with full loads.
Although many of these people accumulated enough days in theatre (28 days) to qualify for the award of Vietnam medals, by no means did all of these visitors qualify.
Wherever it was recorded, the date/s of the visit/s is included.
Many of these people came to South Vietnam very frequently. The Commanders of NEWZARM (HQ FARELF) based in Singapore, the Chief of General Staff (CGS) and the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) at the time and the current Commanding Officer (CO) of 1 RNZIR were all regular and welcome visitors as they were usually able to produce support to solve problems of the day for commanders in the field.
The legal staff officers (LSO), dental officers, paymasters and a wide range of other support staff based in 1 RNZIR all made regular trips in line with their professional specialties. A long stream of officers and soldiers of all ranks and trade specialties from 1 RNZIR flew in and out on a range of tasks with duration from 24 hours to some months. Many of these ‘visitors' were not recorded as they continued to be posted to and paid from 1 RNZIR or HQ FARELF.
The 1 RNZIR Band paid their only official visit as a unit to Nui Dat in October 1967, which is worthy of special acknowledgement as it was a very welcome visit and did much to raise morale.
Again, this list is incomplete and it is now unlikely it will ever be fully corrected as time has now well and truly marched past the point where memories could reliably fill the gaps. We welcome any additions to this list, especially if you have supporting evidence of your time there.
We also believe there are personnel on this List who could qualify for the NZGSM 1992 (Warlike) Vietnam medal and the NZ Operational Service Medal – they perhaps would not have qualified for the original Vietnam medal.
- Maj-Gen Sir Stephen Weir (non-Resident, based in Thailand) 19 Sep 1962
- Mr P K Edmonds (Resident in Saigon) 27 Apr 1968
- Lt Gen Sir Leonard Thornton 8 Jan 1972
- Mr NV Farrell 7 Jun 1974
This was a civilian surgical team deployed to Qui Nhon as part of the New Zealand Government aid programme. It deployed before any military units were deployed and was the last New Zealand Government agency to withdraw.
Surgeon Leaders were:
- Dr ME Shackleton Mar 1963 – Dec 1963
- Dr CH Maclaurin Dec 1963 – Dec 1964
- Dr PF Howden Dec 1964 – Mar 1966
- Dr DP Short Mar 1966 – Mar 1967
- Dr PH Eccles-Smith Mar 1967 – Feb 1968
- Dr AD Hodge Feb 1968 – Nov 1968
- Dr JG Power Dec 1968 – Dec 1969
- Dr JJ Enwright Dec 1969 – Apr 1975
Contributions from ex-members of the units above are welcomed for this introduction. Please email your views about what should be recorded here to firstname.lastname@example.org.