Health, Hygiene & Light Relief

Health, Hygiene & Light Relief: Keeping well, staying sane

For single guys, the priority for rest in country was a woman, a meal and getting drunk. For married men it was a meal, getting drunk and then a woman. They had to lose their inhibitions first.

Hawea Grey, Victor Company

Constant vigilance in a jungle conflict, coupled with constant heat and humidity, put Kiwi soldiers in a pressure cooker. In comparison with previous wars, New Zealand infantry and artillery spent much more time in the field, with little rest and recreation.[1] Tropical warfare meant sweltering temperatures, bugs, sticky red dirt and a shortage of drinking water.  Skin diseases flared quickly. Many of the men suffered stomach upsets and dysentery, most likely resulting from contaminated food and water. Simply keeping their feet healthy posed significant challenges on jungle operations, particularly during the monsoon season.

Early infantry companies received scant leave. For most, rest and recreation in country equated to few hours enjoying a concert, or a few days in Vung Tau shopping, bar hopping or socialising at allied service clubs. Paying for sex with Vietnamese women afforded many Kiwi servicemen a welcome relief and release from the rigours of combat.

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Want to find out more about what New Zealanders did for rest and recreation in Vietnam? Click on the images below to access related written, audio, and video content:

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[1] Ian McGibbon, New Zealand’s Vietnam War, Exisle Publishing, 2010, p. 277

How to cite this page: 'Health, Hygiene & Light Relief - No Front Line', URL: https://vietnamwar.govt.nz/health-hygiene-light-relief-no-front-line, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Aug-2014