The Legacy of K.M. Smith – “The Irish Girl Whose Name Lives on in Queensland” – Article written by Dot Whittington
The following texts have been added to our online library:
A4-173 not having the best of days at Ba To, South Vietnam, Aug 66
Photo Details: The aftermath of the accident pictured above left is described in “The RAAF in Vietnam” by Chris Coulthard-Clark (Australian War Memorial 1995), pp 117-119.
“A party of ground staff was immediately flown in under Wing Commander Melchert, the Commanding Officer, to make an attempt at recovery – an undertaking of considerable urgency since the camp was under direct threat of Viet Cong attack, including from mortar fire. To make A4-173 flyable it was necessary for the team to repair or change the wing, flaps and aileron, engine, propeller and undercarriage, as well as the nose. The essential spares for this work were not available through normal logistic channels, but Sergeant E.G. Allen (an equipment assistant back at Vung Tau) managed to ensure that the replacement parts were obtained; the resourcefulness and initiative shown by this airman were to earn him a mention in despatches.
Ten days later the aircraft was able to be flown back to base by the Commanding Officer, albeit with its undercarriage chained into position. The perils of this flight were to win Melchert the Distinguished Flying Cross, although – as events proved – the greater perils lay in the aircraft remaining longer at Ba To. Several clashes had taken place while the RAAF technicians were at the camp (eight enemy being killed during one night), but an attack on the airfield later in the day of A4-173’s departure would have seen its certain destruction. Return to Vung Tau marked the beginning of six months of hard work by the unit’s engineering staff to get the Caribou fully serviceable again. One of Melchert’s last official duties before handing over command to Squadron Leader A.J. Fookes in March 1967 was to test fly A4-173 after its restoration.”
A4-173 at the Queensland Air Museum, Oct 16
On this day, Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies announced an order for 18 de Havilland Canada DHC-4/Caribou to replace the DC-3/C-47 in RAAF service. Originally 12 aircraft were ordered with the intention of buying a number of Chinook helicopters; however, when the Chinooks were not going to be available for some years, the Caribou order was increased to 18 and, later, increased again to 29. Under the purchase contract, the de Havilland company provided training for the first crews at at its airfield in Toronto, Canada after which No 38 Squadron at RAAF Richmond assumed responsibility. No 38 Squadron’s first CO, WGCDR T.S. Fairbairn, flew the RAAF’s first Caribou familiarisation sortie on 18 February 1964 and, five weeks later, the first three aircraft departed Toronto for Richmond via Gander (Newfoundland), Lajes (Portugal), Gibraltar, Luqa (Malta), Al Adem (Libya), Khartoum, Aden, Al Masirah (Trucial Coast), Karachi, Calcutta, Butterworth, Jakarta, Darwin and Alice Springs. Some later deliveries were diverted to Vietnam; as an example of the flight duration, A4-173 flew from Toronto to Vung Tau (via a similar route described) during the period 23 July – 29 August 1964, accruing a total flight time of 89 hours and 20 minutes.
A copy of the Prime Minister’s speech is available here: http://pmtranscripts.pmc.gov.au/release/transcript-748
We have been contacted by Wayne Buser from USA. He has asked for some help from 35 Squadron.
He has a web site about the de Havilland Caribou and Buffalo aircraft www.dhc4and5.org. And also a section on the RAAF Caribous – have a look when you get a chance: http://www.dhc4and5.org/http://www.dhc4and5.org/Caribou_Photos.html
Wayne has added 11 photos of a RAAF Caribou he took at the 1999 Downunder Airshow in Avalon and that started his RAAF section. Over the years many people from Australia have sent him photos and data.
Some of you may have info about the RTV/35 Squadron time in Vietnam. Wayne is redoing the RAAF section and hope to do a section on the RTV/35Squadron. He has also made a time line for the Caribous in Vietnam (attached PDF file). If you have time to contribute please verify the data the Wayne has entered. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE PDF RAAF Caribous in Vietnam PDF
If you know of any members of the RTV/35 Squadron who may have photos of data I would like to get in contact. I am happy to credit them for the photo or data.
Wayne is a Vietnam Vet who serviced in Vietnam in 1963 and 65. He is also the historian for the Army Otter and Caribou Association.
In the later 90’s Wayne worked in Canberra for the Hughes Aircraft Company.
Again, any help provided would be much appreciated.
Thank you for sending that report to me. It makes for interesting reading. It also records, (rightfully so) that the last 12 to 18 months were probably the most difficult for the squadron and its maintenance. It was in early October 1971 that the squadron moved out of the “Kanga Pad” and back to Vung Tau for its daily operations.
Yet, it was in late October, when all four Gunships were scrambled to cover an Army Pilatus Porta which had been shot down in the Long Hai Hills. The scramble started just after lunch, (probably about 1330) and finally stopped about 1800. In that time four armourers, myself plus three, had been re-arming gunships one at a time, then refilling the hopper bins, while they continually covered the target. When it stopped, we realized that they had cleaned us out of 7.62mm (1-in4) belted ammunition. They had fired 107,000 rounds of minigun ammunition in that day – it was a squadron record.
Also, there is a book titled “Shockwave” written by an Australian Army soldier which describes the life and flying of three of 9 Squadron aircrew. They were FLTLT Norm Goodall (Pilot), CPL Neville Sinkinson (AFFITT – Crewman), and Gary – – – (ADG – Gunner). It is an outstanding book, and describes the era of the squadron during the last 18 months of the squadron in Vietnam. After obtained a copy from our local library, I wrote a review of it and sent it to the library. I have attached a copy of the review.
Once again, thank you for sending that report.
By Peter Haran.
There have been a myriad of books dealing with the Australian involvement in Vietnam in one way or another – but this book, “Shockwave” is long overdue. The very fact that an infantry soldier is writing about the RAAF’s helicopter support is a huge compliment to those pilots and crews of No 9 Squadron who supported our soldiers in Vietnam.
Peter Haran, who served two tours of Vietnam, the first with 2RAR in 1967-68, and the second with 3RAR in 1971, has written an account of the lives, difficulties, stresses, and some very personal accounts. Peter has followed the lives of one of the pilots, a Crewman and a Gunner, describing their typical days, which also included several other members of the squadron during periods of intense operations. Peter was also able to follow the lives of a few of our soldiers and how they related to the helicopter crews.
The period of time he chose to write about, 1970 – 1971, was probably one of the most difficult for the squadron. No 9 Squadron served with distinction in Vietnam from June 1966 until December 1971, including some brilliant support of our soldiers during the Long Tan operation in 1966, and the Tet Offensive in 1968, and many others, yet the squadron had more aircraft shot down and more lives lost during the last 18 months than any other period in its Vietnam Service.
As a Vietnam Veteran myself, I served with No 9 Squadron right through this period (December 1970 until December 1971), and I knew most of the men he was talking about. The manner in which he described the RAAF Helicopter Gunships, and the manner of their operations, and the way the crews communicated with and cooperated with the soldiers on the ground, Medical evacuations, as well as describing the intensity of the operations by the troops on the ground was raw, personal, accurate, and very descriptive. In my case, each time he began to describe a particular incident or operation, I remembered those men who died on such operations and his description of these brought back some raw memories.
During the intensity of many of these operations, he also paid tribute to the Maintenance men who, through dedicated and long hours of work, managed to provide 15 serviceable aircraft out of a total of 16 aircraft on most days. On some days, when preparing for a big operation, Operations asked for 100% aircraft serviceability, (i.e., all 16 aircraft), then the maintenance crews would work right through the previous night.
This book is mandatory reading for those who wish to know the real level of cooperation which existed between our valiant soldiers and the airmen of No 9 Squadron.