Vietnam veterans to fly to reunion in same plane that took them to war
Andrew McRae, Veterans' Affairs Reporter
Vietnam War veterans attending a reunion in Christchurch this week are being flown there today in the same airforce C-130 Hercules (NZ 7002) they flew to Vietnam in 50 years ago.
A RNZAF C-130 Hercules. Photo: NZDF
Members of Victor Four Company went to Vietnam in May 1969.
Three thousand New Zealand military personnel served in Vietnam between 1964 and 1975.
Of those, 37 were killed and 187 were wounded.
Some of the surviving members of Victor Four Company are meeting in Christchurch to mark the anniversary on 8-9 May.
Vietnam Veterans' Association president Andy Peters, who was a member of Victor Four Company, said the company compromised of between 150-180 men.
"We had a high number of casualties."
For many of them, only aged about 19 or 20, the flight over was just the start of an adventure, he said.
"You put up then with the uncomfortable seating that they had. You are just thinking about getting there.
"You just learn to put up with it, it's part of the job."
Mr Peters said the men were issued with ear-plugs.
"There was a certain amount of noise inside."
The men sat on netting for the flight over.
"Not the comfortable ones you get in aircraft now days.
"We used blankets and jackets and whatever to make yourself comfortable," he said.
Mr Peters said arriving in Vietnam was not so much a shock, as it was more the reality of a war-zone that hit you.
"You look around and see all the equipment that America has got there.
"It was the realisation that you were now in a war-zone," he said.
The New Zealand Defence Force said that although the C-130 aircraft was more than 50 years old, it had been upgraded and modernised since.
In addition, the NZDF had deployed the Hercules aircraft on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions to the South Pacific and Southeast Asia.
The aircraft have also been deployed on logistic support missions in the Southwest Pacific, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and resupply missions to Antarctica.