Vietnam Veterans Day marked in Christchurch

((picture caption: Peter Skidmore (Medical Services, left) and Stioux Rankin (ceremony convener) with Minh))

New Zealand involvement in Vietnam war started in June 1964, and ended in December 1972. Within a period of eight years a total of 3780 Kiwis were sent to Vietnam. These included infantry, artillery, engineers, the Navy, medical services, nursing sisters, the Air Force, as well as cooks and other support people. New Zealand was one of the seven Allies countries participating in the war in Vietnam. NZ joined the US-led campaign to curb the spread of communism in South East Asia. 

On 18 August 1966, D Coy from 6 Battalion Royal Regiment and a Kiwi Forward Observation party attached from 161 Battery encountered and overcame a combined North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force estimated at 1500 – 2000 strong in Long Tan rubber plantation, five kilometres east of Nui Dat, where the ANZAC base was. With artillery support from 161 Battery and two Australian batteries, one US battery, ANZAC force held off repeated attacks. Some 245 bodies of the attackers were found on the battlefield the next day. 

Vietnam veterans in the parade

Vietnam veterans in the parade

This was the fiercest battle in which NZ troops were involved during the Vietnam war in terms of fatalities and casualties. August 18, is now the date that all Australian and Kiwi soldiers honour all who served. A total of 37 kiwis died and 187 were wounded in the Vietnam war.

This years Vietnam Veterans Day was held on Saturday, August 18, in the Papanui RSA club with about fifty members and guests attended. The ceremony started with the parade of Vietnam veterans. The Piper played while representatives of various sections of NZ troops laid the wreaths. This was followed by other participants laying poppies. The bugler played “The Last Post”. I gave a speech, presenting the view of a Vietnamese who had lived through Vietnam war

Vietnam war was one of the most controversial wars in recent history. Vietnam war veterans were treated badly after their return home. However from the view point of the Vietnamese people, Kiwi soldiers were sent to Vietnam to carry out their duties. They went through difficult time and risking their lives like any other soldiers on the front line. They deserved better recognition for their service. 

The Vietnamese understood the pain inflicted by the war on the soldiers, their families and friends, since almost every family in Vietnam either lost a father or a son, a relative or a friend in that war. They share the feeling of the pain, sorrow and losses with those affected by the war. 

Speaking as a member of the Vietnamese Society of Christchurch, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to those New Zealand servicemen and women for their service in Vietnam during the war. The sacrifice of 37 lives in addition to 187 wounded is not, and will never be forgotten.

According to Stioux Rankin, the convener of the ceremony, the Kiwi Contingent is smaller now with the death of Capt. Morrie Stanley. The survivors are Murray Broomhall and Willie Walker.

- by Minh Lengoc, The Vietnamese Society of Christchurch