Recipients of the medals stolen from Waiouru's Army museum were counted amongst the bravest soldiers during the two world wars last century.
Nine Victoria Cross (VC) awards were among about 100 looted in a brazen heist just after 1am today.
The Defence Force said the VC was awarded to soldiers for "most conspicuous gallantry, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy or of belligerents".
Twenty-two VCs and one bar (second award) had been awarded to New Zealanders serving in the nation's forces.
The recipients whose medals were stolen were awarded the honour for the following acts of heroism:
* Corporal Leslie Wilton Andrew, 1917, for the great skill and determination he displayed in attacks on two machine gun posts at La Basses-Ville in France;
* Lance-Corporal Samuel Frickleton, 1917, won for a grenade attack during the assault on Messines in Belgium during which he destroyed two machine gun posts;
* Sergeant John Gilroy Grant, 1918, for rushing a nest of enemy machine gun posts and personally capturing two of them, near Bancourt in France;
* Sergeant Reginald Stanley Judson, 1918, destroyed four German machine gun posts and then attacked a fifth, killing two of its crew and causing the rest to flee, during battle at Bapaume in France;
* Sergeant Harry John Laurent, 1918, led a party that killed 30 of the 142 at an enemy post at Gouzeacourt Wood in France in hand-to-hand fighting;
* Sergeant John Daniel Hinton, 1941, attacked a German armoured column threatening allied troops waiting to leave Kalamai beach in Greece;
* Sergeant Clive Alfred Hulme, 1941, sought out snipers, destroyed German strongholds and took out a mortar crew during battles for Maleme airport on Crete;
* Second Lieutenant Charles Hazlitt Upham, 1941-42, the only combatant to win the VC and bar in the history of the award, for showing "coolness, great skill and dash" in a series of battles during which he was twice wounded;
* Sergeant Keith Elliott, 1942, wounded he led his company during fighting on the Ruweisat ridge that led to five machine guns and one anti-tank gun being destroyed with 130 prisoners captured;
The Victoria Cross is cast in gunmetal from guns captured from the Russian Army during the Crimean War. The metal is chemically treated to give it a dark bronze finish.