New Zealand soldiers who were part of an Australian Task Force deployed in Vietnam are to receive recognition for their gallantry during the conflict.
This is the first Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry offered to a New Zealand military unit.
In 2018 the Australian Government awarded the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) in recognition of the “extraordinary gallantry” the Australian units provided during the battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral between 12 May and 6 June 1968.
The award has also been offered to members of 161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA), who participated in the battles while integrated into the Australian Task Force.
Surviving members of the unit and families of non-surviving members will be presented with the award at a parade at Linton Military Camp on 5 April.
161 Battery, Royal New Zealand Artillery, deployed to Vietnam near Bien Hoa in July 1965. They moved to Nui Dat in the neighbouring Phuoc Tuy province as part of the newly formed 1st Australian Task Force on 23 May, 1966, and provided continuous fire support to Australian and New Zealand battalions from that date until withdrawn in May 1971.
One of the first big operations for the 1st Australian Task Force was to deploy 120 kilometres from their Nui Dat base to an area in Bien Hoa Province designated “Area of Operation Surfers”. This was an area important to the North Vietnamese Army offensive operations being conducted against Saigon in 1968. The Task Force established Fire Support Bases named Coral and Balmoral.
The battles that followed were among the largest and most protracted fought by the Australian Task Force in the Vietnam War. The gunners of 161 Battery received high praise for the accuracy and volume of fire support they provided at critical stages of attacks on the Australian battalion positions.
This is the first Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry offered to a New Zealand military unit. In 2010, approval was given for three New Zealand Army personnel who were attached to D Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment at the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam in 1966 to accept and wear the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry awarded to D Company.
The insignia for this award are worn only by the veterans of these battles and their families if deceased.