W3 Company - Service Stories
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Timeline for New Zealand military deployments to South Vietnam
3890 NZ military
personnel served in the South Vietnam theatre from 1964 to 1972,
|Apr 1963||A New Zealand civilian surgical team is based at Binh Dinh province hospital, Qui Nhon city from April 1963 until withdrawn in March 1975. Ultimately 14 strong the team treated civilian casualties of war and accident cases, and helped train Vietnamese nursing staff.|
|29 Jun 1964||NZ Army engineer construction squadron [called NEWZAD] deploy on civil construction tasks at Thu Dau Mot, Bin Duong Province.|
|May 1965||SVN Government requests NZ combat assistance [10 May 1965]. NZ Government announces decision to send artillery battery [27 May 1965]. At the same time 1RNZIR commanded by Lt Col RM Gurr RNZIR deployed from operations against Indonesian infiltrators landing in West Malaysia across to Borneo East Malaysia to start operations confronting Indonesian insurgents crossing from Kalimantan Borneo. [NZSAS had in Feb 65 deployed 1 Ranger Sqn NZSAS [approx 40-troops] while Australia deployed 3RAR (March 65), arty bty and an SASR sqn.]|
|July 1965||NEWZAD withdraws to New Zealand &
NZ national administrative HQ established in Saigon. 15 July 161 Field Battery RNZA [161 Bty] reports 'ready' at Bien Hoa as part of the
allied war effort, initially supporting the US
173 Airmobile Bde, then 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment
(1RAR) [in SVN since 10 June 1965].
Australian Government also starts planning to make a a larger contribution to the Free World forces and looks for a suitable area of operations to match national aspirations - Phuoc Tuy Province was settled on because it allowed Australia to have a clearly identifiable national force [1ATF] with its own logistic support base [1ALSG] nearby. New Zealand agrees to join the Australian force, initially with 161 Bty.
|1966||April 1966 1ATF & 1ALSG are established in Phuoc Tuy Province & commence combat operations, strength 4500 personnel [1RAR joins 1ATF briefly before returning to Australia]. In June 1966 161 Bty transfer to 1ATF & remained in Phuoc Tuy Province until withdrawn in May 1971 [drafts of personnel were replaced routinely throughout]. Initial attachment of RNZAF FAC to US air force units at Vung Tau. 18 August 1966 161 Bty fires in support of battle of Long Tan.|
|Apr 1967||NZ Services Medical Team [personnel drawn from Army, Navy & Air Force] deploy to Bong Son.|
|May 1967||initial New Zealand infantry deployment to Vietnam [V Company RNZIR]. Other New Zealand personnel are progressively attached to Allied units.|
|Jul 1967||initial deployment of RNZAF pilots to join Australian 9 Squadron RAAF [flying helicopter support to 1ATF].|
|Dec 1968||4 Troop NZSAS deploy to 1ATF. NZ force strength peaks at 543 in-country.|
|Oct 1970||1st NZ Army Training Team Vietnam [1NZATTV] deployed to Chi Lang to train South Vietnam army units.|
|10 Nov 1970||W3 Coy withdrawn without replacement, starting a steady decline in New Zealand personnel.|
|18 Aug 1971||Prime Minister Keith Holyoake announced to Parliament the decision to withdraw New Zealandís combat force from Vietnam before the end of 1971.|
|> Dec 1971||personnel serving with allied arms & services are not replaced at the end of their posting until in Dec 71 all remaining NZ combat forces are withdrawn from Vietnam service. NZ Services Medical Team also withdrawn but 1NZATTV remains.|
|Feb 1972||2nd NZ Army Training Team Vietnam [2NZATTV] deploy to Dong Ba Thin to train Cambodian army units.|
|22 Dec 1972||change of government in NZ [NZ Labour elected 25 November 1972] leads to withdrawal of both training teams and NZ National HQ before Christmas 1972. Labour led fierce opposition to the Vietnam war and were later [in 2008] to apologise for the manner in which they treated returning NZ veterans.|
|> 1975||RNZAF aircraft fly courier flights from Singapore to support the NZ Embassy and civilian surgical team in Qui Nhon, stopping just before Saigon falls in mid-1975.|
|Timeline for New Zealand infantry deployments to South Vietnam|
|13 May 1967||1RNZIR
[CO Lt Col Poananga], just returned from active service in Borneo
& in barracks in Wellington Lines as part of 28 [Commonwealth] Brigade in Terendak Camp West Malaysia, is directed to attach a
rifle company to 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) Vietnam. 1ATF has been operating from the Nui Dat task force base in
Phuoc Tuy province [east of Saigon/north of Vung Tau] since 1966. Soldiers from C & D Coy
1RNZIR with six months left in their two year tour are selected. Most have had operational service with 1RNZIR in Borneo as
part of British operations during 'Confrontation". Company is named V (for Vietnam) company (coy) with the phonetic
'victor' used & is commanded by Maj JA Mace RNZIR. V Coy joins 1ATF 13 May 1967 & comes under command of 2RAR.
The V Coy website is
1 Bn Depot Burnham Camp New Zealand conducts rifleman & support platoon specialist training & every May & November sends reinforcement drafts to 1RNZIR. 1RNZIR is responsible for the pre-deployment sub-unit training of all rifle coy deployments to Vietnam.
|Nov 1967||a replacement rifle coy (named V2 & commanded by Maj BTA Worsnop MC RNZIR) drawn from A & B Coy 1RNZIR is deployed to Vietnam for a six month tour.|
|17 Dec 1967||a second rifle coy is deployed from 1RNZIR to Vietnam & comes under command of 2RAR. Designated W Coy (next letter after V) & known by the phonetic 'whiskey' (also spelt 'whisky'), it is the first NZ rifle coy to do a 12 month tour. Officer Commanding is Maj PG Hotop RNZIR. The W Coy website is here.|
|Feb 1968||D Coy 2RAR is disbanded, reducing 2RAR to three Australian rifle coy.|
|1 Mar 1968||1st March 1968 A, B & C Coy 2RAR merge with V & W Coy 1RNZIR to form 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC), usually called the 'ANZAC Battalion'. (the ANZAC designation recognised the fighting lineage of both countries dating back to Gallipoli in 1915). All ANZAC bn have three Australian coy & two NZ coy, one coy more than the other all-Australian battalions. Mortar & assault pioneer sections from 1RNZIR are added to support the two NZ coy & appointments within the ANZAC battalion [including battalion second-in-command] are allocated to NZ officers & personnel. The first ANZAC bn 2IC is Maj RI Thorpe. NZ Component is established in Nui Dat to manage national administration of the NZ contingents within 1ATF.|
|14 May 1968||2RAR is replaced by 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC), V2 Coy is replaced with V3 Coy [commanded by Maj MJ Hall MC RNZIR] on a 12 month tour, W Coy comes under command 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC). The bn 2IC is Maj ATA Mataira MBE.|
|8 Nov 1968||W Coy is replaced by W2 Coy commanded by Maj LG Williams MC RNZIR. It is the pattern for W coy deployments to happen six months into an ANZAC bn deployment.|
|9 May 1969||4RAR is replaced by 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC), V3 Coy is replaced with V4 Coy [commanded by Maj LJ Lynch RNZIR], W2 Coy comes under command of 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC). 6RAR is on their 2nd TOD in Vietnam. The bn 2IC is Maj NA Wallace. The V4 Coy website is here.|
|14 Nov 1969||W3 Coy [commanded by Maj EJ Torrance RNZIR] deploys from 1RNZIR to replace W2 Coy as the 5th rifle coy in 6RAR/NZ (ANZAC).|
|Dec 1969||1RNZIR moves from Terendak Camp in Malaysia to Punjab Lines Nee Soon Garrison Singapore.|
|8 May 1970||6RAR is replaced by 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC), V4 Coy is replaced with V5 Coy [commanded by Maj JD McGuire RNZIR]. W3 Coy comes under command 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC). 2RAR is on their 2nd TOD in Vietnam. The bn 2IC is Maj RTV Taylor MBE. The V5 Coy website is here.|
|Oct 1970||Australia withdraws a battalion [8RAR] from 1ATF back to Australia without replacement. NZ elects to reduce the RNZIR component to one coy by not replacing W3 Coy.|
|10 Nov 1970||W3 Coy is withdrawn without replacement, rejoining 1RNZIR in Punjab Lines Nee Soon Garrison Singapore. [A summary of the W3 Coy combat record is here, a detailed timeline of their tour here]|
|8 May 1971||V5 Coy is replaced by V6 Coy [commanded by Maj BRH Monks RNZIR]. 2RAR is replaced by 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC), the last Australian battalion to leave Vietnam. [V6 would have been W4 but their deployment was delayed by the decision to reduce the infantry component]. The last ANZAC bn 2IC is Maj DS McIver.|
|8 Dec 1971||V6 Coy is withdrawn from Vietnam without replacement, rejoining 1RNZIR in Singapore. V6 was the last New Zealand combat unit in South Viet Nam, being in-country for 7 months.|
|V & W Coy retain their titles while with 1RNZIR
until December 1972 when they revert back to B & C Coy 'in the interests of unit cohesion'. The CO at the time was LtCol
JA Mace OC of the original V Coy.
Ironically LtGen JA Mace [CDF retired] presented the theatre honour 'South Vietnam 1967-1970' to 1RNZIR on 5 May 1992, the same day that B and C Coy were renamed back to V and W Coy. The theatre honour with incorrect date was then altered to read '1971' and rededicated at Tribute08.
V & W Coy are today sub-units of 1RNZIR at Wellington Lines Linton Camp New Zealand, operating in a motorised company role. They have seen operational service in Bosnia, Afghanistan, East Timor and other Pacific hot-spots.
1RNZIR in the dismounted role [NZ Army website]
NZ LAV as operated by 1RNZIR [NZ Army website]
click map to link to NZ Government official Vietnam War website
|Early Australian Deployments -
[sourced from Wikipedia & Australian websites & edited]
Australia sent the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam [AATTV] [30, later 83 army personnel] to SVN in 1962 to train SVN Government forces. When AATTV withdrew 13 years later it was the longest serving Australian unit in a combat zone. AATTV won all four Victoria Crosses for gallantry [two posthumously] awarded to Australians during the SVN conflict.
The Australian Government on 10 November 1964 passed the National Service (Conscription) Act to reintroduce national service. Whilst not specifically related to the Vietnam War, the war was a large factor in enlarging the Australian forces: men conscripted for two years were liable to be sent to SVN as well as other locations. The first ballot for National Service was drawn in March 1965, with the first intake beginning recruit training in June.
804,000 Australian males registered for National Service & 63,000 were conscripted. 18,000 National Servicemen served in SVN, 200 were killed, 1,279 were wounded. At least one source suggested that 'nasho's' posted to units in Vietnam, while initially conscripted later volunteered for active service and many were decorated for bravery [see Last Out, 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion's Second Tour in Vietnam' by Jerry Taylor.]
early troop deployment from Nui Dat [webandofbrothers.tripod.com]
In 1965, the Australian Government dispatched an infantry battalion to SVN, the lead troops of 1RAR landing in Saigon 3 June 1965 & the remainder delivered by the converted aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney to Vung Tau on 8 June 1965. 1RAR, the only infantry battalion deployed to Vietnam manned wholly by regular troops was then deployed to Bien Hoa as part of the US Army 173rd Airborne Brigade. 1RAR was expanded to a battalion group with artillery, armoured personnel carriers, army aviation & logistic support units added. The battalion group was involved in heavy fighting & had 23 killed during its 1-year TOD. 1RAR was to assist 1ATF secure Nui Dat prior to finishing their operational tour.
The RAAF deployed three units: 2Sqn RAAF with Canberra bombers; 9Sqn RAAF with Iroquois helicopters; and 35Sqn RAAF with Caribou aircraft. Additional ground units providing logistical support & for construction and maintenance of airfields were deployed & a number of Australian pilots were attached to US squadrons as FAC.
The RAN deployed warships with the US fleet off the coast of SVN & ran regular maritime resupply & troop transport missions from Australia. From 1967 until 1971 the RAN also supplied helicopter crews and maintenance personnel [called RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam] to augment the US Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company using Iroquois helicopters to support units from the ARVN.
1st Australian Task Force [1ATF]
1ATF was established at Nui Dat between April & June 1966, suffering its first battle death on 24 May 1966 during operations to secure the area when Private Noack of 5RAR died of wounds: he was also the first 'Nasho' to die on active service. In the same period 1ALSG established the Australian logistics base on the coast at Vung Tau.
In August 1966 the only big battle near the 1ATF base was fought when D Coy 6RAR near Xa Long Tan advanced into a large enemy force moving against Nui Dat. In heavy fighting & monsoon rain D Coy supported by field artillery held for several hours until a relief force from Nui Dat reached them. The Australians lost 18 men KIA & 24 WIA but inflicted at least 245 KIA on the NVA & VC force. The Australian presence in the province was not seriously challenged again, but control of Phuoc Tuy required constant and determined operations by 1ATF both inside the Province & sometimes in neighbouring Provinces, especially in 1968 during the enemyís Tet & other offensives. While big battles such as Long Tan & later FSPB Coral/Balmoral in May 1968, Binh Ba in June 1969 and Nui Le in September 1971 made the headlines, for the most part troops of 1ATF extensively patrolled or conducted cordon-and-search operations, & clashes were of a smaller scale as expected in counter-insurgency warfare.
The brunt of operations & casualties was borne by the nine infantry battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment that served on rotation in SVN: 1RAR through to 7RAR doing two tours each, and 8RAR & 9RAR doing one tour. Some supporting units also served 1-year rotations, while other units were deployed to Vietnam for several years, with the personnel rotated through on deployments of up to one year.
Aussie diggers in the field [webandofbrothers.tripod.com]
Over 59,000 Australians served in SVN, 508 were killed, 3,100 wounded. Australian troop deployment in theatre peaked at 8,400 personnel.
HQ Coy 1ATF
Field Sqn (engineers)
APC Sqn (M113)
Armoured Sqn (Centurion tanks)
Special Air Service Sqn (Aust and NZ)
Force Signals Sqn
Reconnaissance Flight [light observation helicopters]
9Sqn RAAF [UH-1 Iroquois helicopters]
US Army units also supported 1ATF where required
Withdrawal of Forces
The aim of this article is to explain the enemy confronting W3 Coy [& 1ATF in general] in 1969. Generally speaking from 1966 1ATF confined its attention to enemy within or in close proximity to Phuoc Tuy Province. The forces involved were a blend of conventional military groups, guerrillas and political cadres operating from within the confines of the civilian populace. This wide spectrum of enemy types required great flexibility on the part of 1ATF to adjust its tactical doctrines to changing situations.
All armies have a command structure, and to certain levels, a degree of political control over them. The SVN Liberation Army (SVNLA), the generic term for all North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and VC troops in SVN, was no exception. In accordance with communist doctrines, political control was continued to the lowest levels of the SVNLA military structure. Command in a communist army implies political and military control. The enemy's command commenced in Hanoi which issued policies and directives to the SVNLA HQ. Known as the Central Office for SVN (COSVN), this HQ was located on the SVN border about 100 kilometres North of Saigon. For ease of command and co-ordination COSVN had divided the land mass of SVN into areas termed military regions. The region that was of direct concern to 1ATF was known as Military Region T7 (MR T7). MR T7 controlled and coordinated the military and political activities within its area by the issue of directives to the subordinate VC military area HQ's of Sub Region 4, U-1 Province, Binh Thuan Province and Ba Long Province. In addition it exercised direct command over main force units allotted to it.
Main Force units are those forces that have been designated by COSVN as front line conventional troops. Near Phuoc Tuy were firstly, 274 (VC) Regiment. The Regiment consisted of a headquarters and three battalions. The battalion's each had a HQ, three rifle companies and a heavy weapons company. In addition the regimental HQ had eight supporting companies involving heavy weapons (82 mm mortars, 12.7 mm heavy machine guns and 75 mm recoilless rifles) and communications, transport, medical and engineer companies. The regiment had an authorised strength of 1500 men, nearly all of whom were NVA. The battalions were however never much more than 150 strong, a result of the continual pressure against them by allied operations. The regiment rarely conducted offensive operations, but remained dispersed in its jungle hides in an attempt to avoid contact with allied forces.
RPG7 shoulder fired rocket launcher with rockets which were shoved into muzzle before firing [internet]
The only other infantry regiment in MR T7 of similar size and composition to 274 Regiment was 33 NVA Regiment. This Regiment ventured only once into Phuoc Tuy Province during the summer of 1969 (May-July) and then withdrew to the La Nga and War Zone D Base areas [it returned briefly in September 1971 but after encountering 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) near Courtney Rubber again withdrew north out of the province].
As in all military formations, MR T7 was complete with the VC version of artillery support supplied by 74 (NVA) Artillery (Rocket) Regiment. The Regiment consisted of three battalions and had both mortar and rocket capabilities. It employed quite sophisticated survey equipment and complex mathematical calculations, particularly in target acquisition for its 107mm and 122mm rockets. The Regiment's 2nd Battalion was responsible for the rocket attacks on the 1ATF Base at Nui Dat in May and June 1969.
soldiers of D445 VC Bn [webandofbrothers.tripod.com/vcphotos.htm ]
There were two engineer sapper battalions known as 067 and 0525, these eventually amalgamated and were called 065. This unit was under strength and confined itself to mining tasks on Route 15 in the West of Phuoc Tuy, operating from a base area North of the Nui Thi Vai Mountains.
A sub-division of MR T7 and one of vital interest to 1ATF was Ba Long Province, the VC combination of Long Khanh and Phuoc Tuy Provinces. Operating from a predominantly politically staffed Headquarters in South Eastern Long Khanh Province, Ba Long was responsible for the political and military activities of all local force and guerrilla units within its boundaries. To complement its activities, Ba Long maintained two provincial battalions, D445 and D440, both of whom operated almost exclusively in Phuoc Tuy Province.
soldiers of D445 VC Bn [webandofbrothers.tripod.com/vcphotos.htm ]
D445 Battalion could well be considered 'Phuoc Tuy's Own' as it was raised, reinforced and succoured by local inhabitants of the Province. The Battalion in theory had a HQ, three rifle companies and a support company armed with 82mm mortars, 12.7mm heavy machine guns, 75mm and 57mm recoilless rifles and had a total establishment for 500 soldiers. In reality however, it could only raise about 200 men. Perhaps D445's most notable achievement was its ability to remain out of contact with 1ATF forces. This came as no surprise as the Battalion had been operating in Phuoc Tuy Province since 1965, had a high proportion of locals in its ranks, and had intimate knowledge of the ground over which it operated. The Battalion spent a great deal of its time based in the VC Minh Dam Secret Zone, a series of underground base camps in the Long Hai Hills. When it did venture from this base area on resupply or offensive missions, it was invariably tracked down and sent scuttling back.
D445's sister battalion, D440, was of similar size and composition and relied more on NVA soldiers to fill its ranks. Except for occasional forays against Route 2 villages, this battalion was also content to spend most of its time hiding in jungle base. These two battalions were the main military strength of Ba Long Province and in theory were able to give military and morale backing to VC district organisations and guerrilla units.
VC Ba Long Province was divided into three VC Districts; Chau Duc, Xuyen Moc and Long Dat. Each District was responsible for maintaining political and military control over the civilian population located in their areas of responsibility. To perform these tasks they were staffed with political, financial, supply, proselytizing and civil affairs cadres and a Local Force Company. The real power in the Districts lay in the communist party chapter. These were committees which in fact were the executive heads of the District Headquarters. The Local Force Companies termed respectively C41 (Chau Duc), C25 (Long Dat) and C70 (Xuyen Moc) were given tasks in accordance with District Headquarters policies. Besides these companies the districts had village guerrillas, on the basis of a squad per village, and VC infrastructure (VCI) groups to provide a direct physical link with the civilian people. Often living in the villages, it was through these groups that the VC attempted to gain the support of the people. The VC by establishing underground cells in the villages were able to propagandize the people and gather, by extortion, taxes in the form of finance and food. They also attempted to indoctrinate juveniles into the Communist Party in order to obtain recruits for the Local Force Battalions and Companies.
soldiers of D445 VC Bn [webandofbrothers.tripod.com/vcphotos.htm ]
The enemy troops involved in supply and maintenance were called Rear Service troops. A major source for finance and food supplies was the civilian population. These items collected under District supervision would be passed to Ba Long Province Rear Services either by direct pick up using Provincial forces as carriers and escorts, or by pre-positioning in the jungle edges of the areas in which civilians were allowed access during daylight hours.
To supplement supplies obtained from civilian sources, Ba Long Province had organised groups of Production Cells which were VC farmers who cultivated food in jungle hides. The Binh Chau area in the far East of Phuoc Tuy was one such area where thousands of acres of rice and vegetables were farmed. Besides supplying its own forces, Ba Long Province also had a commitment to supply food and finances to MR T7 for subsequent distribution to Main Force Units. To accomplish this mission Ba Long Rear Services would deliver supplies to the Main Force Rear Service organisation which was called 84 Rear Service Group (RSG). The Group, under operational control of HQ MR T7, was a complex administrative organisation and combined all the logistic functions that one would normally find in a western army.
Until July 1969, 84 RSG operated from bases on the Northern Border of Phuoc Tuy Province, but after that time, moved deep into bases in War Zone D. The group however maintained forward supply points known as Entry/Exit points through which all types of supplies were received for distribution. It was at these points that Ba Long Rear Services often delivered their supplies.
Naturally there were many commodities not available in SVN, the most prominent being munitions, weapons, communications equipment and to a degree medical supplies. These were imported from North Vietnam via the 'Ho Chi Minh Trail' through Laos and Cambodia. Stores destined for 84 Rear Services Group were picked up from transfer terminals in War Zone D and then delivered to main force units. In addition to the supply of material, 84 Rear Services Group also operated workshop and hospital facilities. The May Tao base area was the site of a major hospital called K76A capable of undertaking considerable surgical treatment. Located near the hospital were workshops capable of producing mines, grenades, clothing and facilities for the repair of weapons.
soldiers of D445 VC Bn [webandofbrothers.tripod.com/vcphotos.htm ]
A postal system was operated by 84 RSG which linked the province and district systems. Known as commo-liaison systems, both personal and official mail was transported by couriers through a network of jungle trails that also doubled as supply routes. It was not difficult to pinpoint these routes and many enemy lost their lives when undertaking one of these hazardous journeys.
Even considering the Asian's inherent capacity to exist under difficult conditions the enemy soldier was subjected to extreme hardships and privations. Hunted and harassed, he had no single base and could neither rest nor properly tend his sick and wounded. He was kept continually on the move, living where he could in not always hospitable jungle hides. The bulk of his ranks were filled by North Vietnamese conscripts who were not always accepted by the VC and became disillusioned with the lack of assistance given him in a strange and hostile land. The NVA soldier had no means of communication with his family and friends as there was no postal system operating out of SVN. Continually short of food and medical supplies it was not surprising that so many rallied to the SVN government under the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) programme.
The conditions of the local guerrilla forces were not much better. The stark realism of Dat Do guerrillas eating bracken roots only 10 kilometres from their home town, and Ngai Giao Production Cell members starving 5 kilometres from their village was typical of the plight these people found themselves in. Lacking the military sophistication of the NVA, the local forces needed constant and explicit directions. When this was not forthcoming, disintegration within their ranks was rapid.
example of VC in tunnel system, with SKS rifle [internet]
6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) was fortunate during its tour in that it was able to observe positive signs of disintegration of the enemy's command and logistic systems. By the Spring of 1970, the enemy was in a desperate situation and, apart from small scale attacks, could do nothing to prevent its gradual starvation and destruction by allied forces. There were two reasons for the VC persistence under these arduous conditions; fears of retaliation from his fanatical communist leaders, and a natural desire for survival. The enemy was committed to a conflict of arms and had to fight to avoid his own destruction. Although prevented from conducting conventional warfare, the enemy always had the potential of waging guerrilla warfare. To this end he had many advantages and used them frequently with a good deal of resourcefulness. He proved to be a cruel and elusive enemy who suffered many casualties in the coming conflicts with 6 RAR/NZ.
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