The Road to Vietnam

Introduction: The road to Vietnam

The politics didn’t come into it, I don’t think so. We'd signed on the dotted line, accepted the Queen's shilling or whatever, you know, and we had a job to do, we'd get out and give it our best shot.

Ray Beatson, Victor Company

New Zealand’s part in the Vietnam War could be considered small beer when compared with the might – and losses – of the other allies, the United States, Australia, Korea and Thailand, but numbers alone belie the personal and political significance of the littlest brother’s stand in New Zealand’s most unpopular war. Many of those directly involved, either as civilian or military personnel, took the view that New Zealand’s commitment was both proportionate, and undervalued.[1] They certainly did not consider themselves underdogs or underlings. 

Although a few were influenced by the prevailing Cold War-inspired fear of communism, politics rarely featured as a personal reason for entering the fray: doing the job for which they were trained, or gaining a ticket out of New Zealand, were the most common motivations. As Victor Company Platoon Commander Ray (Red) Beatson puts it, ‘The politics didn’t come into it. We’d signed on the dotted line, accepted the Queen’s shilling and we had a job to do. We would get out and give it our best shot.’ As in previous wars, many of those who enlisted were attracted by the prospect of adventure or of an overseas trip at the government’s expense. Others set out to test their military training in combat. Non-military medics and humanitarian workers wanted to help the war’s civilian casualties.

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[1] Roberto Rabel, New Zealand and the Vietnam War: Politics and diplomacy, Auckland University Press, 2005, p. 221

How to cite this page: 'The Road to Vietnam - No Front Line', URL: https://vietnamwar.govt.nz/road-vietnam-no-front-line, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 6-Aug-2014