Into Battle: Fear under fire
He landed on his face and half his buttocks, half his lower back and his pelvis area was blown away. He was just lying there. When I saw him I thought he had fallen asleep.George Babbington, Whiskey Company
Thirty-seven New Zealand military personnel and two civilians lost their lives the Vietnam War. Another four Kiwis died serving with Australian and American forces. In January 1969, New Zealand’s only Māori helicopter pilot was killed during pre-deployment flight training for service in South Vietnam.
Assault pioneer Hawea Grey trained for seven years to stay alive in Vietnam. His experience in the Confrontation campaign with 1RNZIR was ‘the warm-up. Vietnam was the test. If you came home alive, you passed. If I had come home in a box I would have failed my training.’
Fighting in Vietnam was at close range, in jungle terrain, negotiated inch by inch. An ever-shifting and elusive enemy demanded constant vigilance from soldiers on operations. Maintaining high levels of alertness for long periods kept the men tired and on edge. Richard Easton, who served with both the first and second Victor Companies, remembers seemingly endless waiting, punctuated by the alarm of brief, intense firefights. ‘You are in constant wet and constantly patrolling. You could go for a month and not see anything – your piano wire just gets tighter.’
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