Race & Relations

Race & Relations: Kiwis, cultures and getting along

I had every respect for the Viet Cong. I was the stranger in their country – they weren’t the strangers. They were struggling to survive.

Rangi Rata, Victor 4 Company

The Vietnam War was a concrete expression of New Zealand’s shift to a newly active allegiance with the United States. The move away from traditional wartime loyalties with Britain was expressed through professional and personal relationships between Kiwi and American troops. The war also saw the renaissance of combined Anzac units like the one that first fought at Gallipoli in 1915. Some New Zealanders served in Australian units, and vice versa, ‘a reflection of the easy movement between the two countries’.[1]

Kiwi personnel strove to maintain their national identity both militarily and culturally, and the high proportion of Maori within the New Zealand forces uniquely shaped their character. But, as Victor Company platoon commander Ray Beatson says, the soldiers themselves didn’t think about percentages or proportions of Maori and Pakeha: 'It was about the individuals and how they fit into the team, and how they do their job that’s important. Maori culture was one of the things that identified us as being different from the English and the Australians in the army brigade group. We were Kiwis, and proud of it.'

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[1] Ian McGibbon, New Zealand’s Vietnam War, Exisle Publishing, 2010, p. 216

How to cite this page: 'Race and Relations - No Front Line', URL: https://vietnamwar.govt.nz/race-and-relations-no-front-line, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 6-Aug-2014