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War Atrocity Claims Not Justified - Goff

Monday, 19 June 2006
War Atrocity Claims Not Justified - Goff

Pictured, Mr Goff accepts a signed copy of the book from war veteran Jack Blythe, of Auckland, who took part in the breakout at Minqar Qaim.

A new book defending the actions of New Zealand soliders against claims of atrocity in World War Two was launched by the Minister of Defence, Phil Goff, in Wellington today.

The book, 'Breakout: Minqar Qaim', examines a controversial battle in which New Zealand troops made a bayonet charge at night through German lines to escape encirclement and capture in the North African desert in 1942.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Goff said the attack had caught the surrounding Germans by surprise.

“In confused and ferocious close-quarter combat the New Zealanders shot and bayoneted their way through the enemy forces,” he said.

“One soldier described, in a very New Zealand metaphor, how ‘We went straight down the field through everything and everybody, like a pack of All Black forwards’.”

War crime allegations had been made after it was revealed that German medical personnel were killed during the breakout.

Mr Goff said the book demonstrated that such charges were not justified.

“All the available evidence shows that in the heat of the battle New Zealand troops were not aware the German personnel they were attacking were from a medical unit.”

The book’s publisher, Bob Anderson of Willson Scott, said although numerous accounts of the incident have been published, this was the first definitive study of the full battle from both German and Allied Forces' perspectives.

"Readers can make up their own minds about whether the soliders’ actions were justified, but there is no doubt New Zealanders should be proud of what was a remarkable war-time feat.” he said.


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