Letters – Issue 105

Vote of thanks

Writers get the kudos; editors very little. Jane Westaway deserves a huge vote of thanks from New Zealand writers for her years of stalwart service as co-editor of New Zealand Books. As they would say here in Mexico, Muchisimas gracias, Jane!

John Parkyn,
Michoacan, Mexico

Friendly Fire returned

I am a right-centre supporter who favours a real naval capability (say, six Holland class OPVs), a small-strike airforce, Orions, and support of Israel and the United States. However, I agree with Nicky Hager’s contempt for Gerald Hensley’s Friendly Fire (NZB, Spring 2013) as an irrelevant and outdated defence of his and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s [MFAT’s] campaign against the Lange/Pope/Clark nuclear-free New Zealand. In reality, the Royal Navy and United States Navy escorts all had some nuclear capability in 1984 and were the second line of the western nuclear deterrent. The Falklands War exposed the fact that modern Royal Navy warships, carriers and Type 42 and Type 22s were forced to offload nuclear weapons and nuclear a/s depth charges, their only effective a/s weapon. After that, the denial that many United States warships were nuclear-armed held no credibility. New Zealand had no need to admit nuclear subs to its ports, but could not pick and choose which frigate classes it would accept.

Much of the issue was about nuclear power and nuclear-powered ships. Many of the New Zealand public believed nuclear power was the future, and MFAT diplomats were strongly supportive of the French position  (France being dependent on nuclear power for energy), because good relations with Europe were the key to good trade access for New Zealand at the time. However, in the United States, civilian nuclear power was pretty much discredited by the 1979 Three Mile Island melt-down, and the subsequent Rickover report identified the key problems with civilian nuclear power based on a nuclear model only really suitable for nuclear submarines. Nuclear power is immensely expensive and requires large workforces of highly intelligent and trained staff both for the nuclear and integrated steam systems, making it impractical and even more unaffordable.

Muldoon had pretty much wrecked New Zealand’s once professional armed forces by 1984, and only the Orions were still useful. His provocative and dangerous determination to divert to our ports four United States Navy nuclear subs, which were definitely armed with nuclear Subroc and were priority nuclear targets, was irresponsible. His offer to the British of the frigate Canterbury in the Falklands was unbelievable, given that it lacked chaff missile decoys and modern target indicator radar with close to real time updates on operations room screens. The Canterbury would have been sunk by the second Exocet which Glasgow and Yarmouth managed to detect and decoy in time. The fact that Hensley served Muldoon loyally gives him no more credibility than, say, Sue Wood.

Robert Miles

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