We were irritated to read recently about an elite special military unit–consisting of both Australians and New Zealanders–whose courage, skills, and exploits have been suppressed for decades. For no good reason, it would seem.
One can understand suppression of military exploits that might expose those who participated to danger. Or, if the danger would come to those presently serving, we can understand keeping things locked in a deep, dark dungeon. All of this would appear very reasonable. But not this time.
Families of a forgotten World War II crack commando unit are calling on the New Zealand Government to officially recognise their behind-enemy-lines feats more than 70 years on. There were 22 New Zealanders who signed up to the ultra-secret Z Special Unit which caused mayhem waging a guerrilla war against the Japanese in the Pacific.
But after the war, they were silenced by 30-year secrecy agreements. Many died before they could tell anyone – even their wives and families – exactly what they did in the war. [NZ Herald]
In August, a memorial plaque recognising the unit’s remarkable feats will be unveiled at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. But families of Kiwi veterans – who are all now dead – want them to be officially recognised in New Zealand.
A similar memorial at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington or a posthumous medal would be appropriate, said Judi Millar, daughter of Sergeant Frank Wigzell who trained headhunter tribesmen in Japanese-held Borneo into a feared resistance fighter group. “My father campaigned the Government right up until the day he died only to be turned down repeatedly,” said Ms Millar, who will attend the Australian ceremony on August 1 and who has been instrumental in organising other veterans’ families.
“The Australian men were highly decorated years later but the New Zealand men were denied everything. They were given a Pacific Star and that was supposed to be sufficient. What a disgusting thing to say to someone.”
The crack unit of ANZAC soldiers worked behind the lines in Borneo.
In Mr Wigzell’s book, Blood Brotherz – The true story of a New Zealand commando in Borneo during World War II with Australia’s top secret Z Special Unit, which was published after the official secrecy had lifted, he decried the fact that neither the New Zealand Government nor the Defence Force had ever recognised the existence of his group.
But in December 2006, five surviving New Zealand veterans of Z Special Unit, including Mr Wigzell, were honoured by the Australian Government with a Certificate of Appreciation, signed off by then Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
It is said that these men and their unit forged the tactics, strategy, and military ethos that eventually became the forerunners to the NZ and Australian elite commando units, such as the SAS. So why keep it all in the dark?
Egalitarianism, dear chap. Quoth a spokesman for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage:
“Generally it is not policy to recognise individuals or groups of individuals with additional memorials on the principle of uniformity and equality of treatment in death for those who have died on war service,” he said.
“The principle of uniformity and equality of treatment”. On that basis all military decorations, medals, honours, and public recognition needs be handed back and terminated respectively. How out of touch New Zealand authorities can be! More than ever before citizens of this country want to know, want to learn, and want to hear the stories of WWI and WWII and the subsequent conflicts in which New Zealanders served.
And so they should. It’s a perverse egalitarianism which attempts to cover up so that all mey be treated as equals. Inglorious egalitarianism.
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