For the first time, the Australian government is offering a citation to the veterans of a Kiwi artillery unit for their actions in the Vietnam War.
Last year, the Australian government awarded the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry for “extraordinary gallantry” to the Australian units who fought to keep the North Vietnamese forces out of Saigon in a three-month series of battles in 1968.
Now, the Australians are extending the same honour to the men of the 161 Battery of the Royal New Zealand who fought alongside them.
The surviving members and the families of the fallen members of the Kiwi unit will be presented with the award at a parade held at Linton Military Camp, near Palmerston North, on Friday.
The 161 Battery deployed to Vietnam in July 1965, before linking up with the newly formed 1st Australian Task Force a year later and fighting alongside them until Australia and New Zealand pulled out in 1971.
The Kiwi unit’s first big operation with the task force was to set up and defend two fire support bases, named Coral and Balmoral, in the Area of Operation Surfers – a piece of land critical to the advance of the North Vietnamese Army.
They were in for a three-month-long series of some of the largest and most protracted battles of the task force’s war as the North Vietnamese pushed for Saigon in 1968.
The gunners of the 161 Battery received high praise for the accuracy and volume of barrages they laid down in support of the Australian battalions’ positions at critical stages of the defence.
Although a New Zealand unit has never before received a citation from the Australian government, three New Zealand veterans have previously shared such an honour.
They were attached to D Company of the 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment during the battle of Long Tan in 1966. The Kiwi soldiers were given special approval in 2010 to accept and wear the citation for gallantry D Company earned in that battle.
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