Government plea to 'missing' Vietnam War veterans

The Government is pleading for members of an Air Force Squadron sent to the Vietnam War to come forward and claim their medals.

An admin error after the war saw all records chucked out for ground crews from 41 Squadron.

Declined his own medals, it spurred Vietnam War Vet Doug "Scotty" Wingfield to spend the next decade of his life finding evidence of their service.

"I thought this can't be true, this can't be right. I was abused when I came back to New Zealand as a Vietnam veteran and I thought on top of that now I can't even get some recognition for it," Mr Wingfield says.

He spent more than 7000 hours looking for traces of 41 Squadron across the world. Page by page, he searched through Unit Histories. Contacting RNZAF pilots, he tracked down flight authorisation books, manifestos, passenger lists and records of ground crew air movements.

"Scattered amongst them there are ground crew names, and I've found 137 of them," Mr Wingfield says.

Dubbed Scotty's List, it's now an official reference point for the Defence Force - records dating back from the first flight into Vietnam in December 1962, to the last flight out on March 21, 1975.

One-hundred-and-thirty-seven names of Kiwi service records that were lost are now found.

The 34th and latest airman to be ticked off that list is 81-year-old Tony Batchelor. Twenty-three years of his life were dedicated to the Air Force.

"I loved the Air Force. There was never a day I didn't want to go to work. My other claim is there was never a day I rung in sick. That doesn't mean to say I wasn't sick but I'd go to work," Mr Batchelor says.

He was based in Singapore as a loadmaster for 41 Squadron flying in and out of Vietnam from September 1964 to December 1966.

"I actually don't consider myself to be a real war veteran, not like the Army that were on the ground for months at a time and in the jungle, and fearful for their lives every day. We had it pretty easy I think."

It hasn't been easy flying. Tony was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014 - an official medical condition recognised by the Defence Force for serving in Vietnam.

Initially declined his veteran status, it's a battle he has been fighting on his own.

Using Scotty's research, the pair have been able to sign off a statutory declaration proving his service.

"That's really sad that somebody has to go to this much trouble."

A medal arrived in the post this week.

More importantly, he's now declared a Vietnam War veteran, meaning he's entitled to Government support.

"One never knows what help one might need as time goes on, so I'm certainly going to be recorded as a prostate sufferer and through my Vietnam medal I'm entitled to be on that list," Mr Batchelor says.

Mr Wingfield says it's now beyond his resources to track down the men, and he thinks the Crown should step.

"They've missed out on getting their service recognised; they missed out on getting their apology from the Government; they missed out on their families being able to be proud of the affect their father served in Vietnam," he says.

"I've done all the legwork to get the research done and its actually independently verifiable. I don't have to prove anything else; the evidence is there all we've got to do is find them."

Minister for Veteran Affairs Ron Mark says the Defence Force is doing its level best.

"I think it will be a collaborative effort between the veterans, Scotty and the Defence Force."

The minister is urging families to contact Veteran Affairs if they think a loved one may have even landed in Vietnam while serving in the Defence Force. He wants these men to receive what they're entitled to and says it's important they're recognised.

"We actually need these families to go on to the website to check it out.

"I think it's time that people check themselves; that would be helpful."

The minister says he is incredibly appreciative and thankful to Mr Wingfield for what he has done.

If you think you or a loved one could be on Scotty's List or served in 41 Squadron contact:

  • Personnel Archives & Medals, Private Bag 905, Upper Hutt 5140, New Zealand
    Phone: (04) 527 5280, email:
  • Scotty Wingfield, PO Box 33 134, Barrington, Christchurch 8244, New Zealand
    Phone: (03) 3373 644