RAAF IN VIETNAM 1964 - 1972 On 1 June 1966, the RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam (RTFV), which had been formed for operations in Vietnam in July 1964, was redesignated No. 35 Squadron at Vung Tau in South Vietnam. Assigned to the 834 Air Division, Seventh Air Force, and operating DHC - 4 Caribous, the reformed squadron operated cargo, passenger and medevac flights throughout South Vietnam in support of Australian, South Vietnamese and United States forces. During its time in Vietnam the squadron was nicknamed "Wallaby Airlines", in reference to its callsign "Wallaby". Despite not being employed in an offensive role, the squadron's aircraft were regularly called upon to fly into dangerous areas of the conflict zone, often at low level, and on a number of occasions the Caribous were fired upon and aircrew wounded. On 6 June 1966 eight Iroquois helicopters from 9 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), landed at the Vung Tau airbase, Vietnam. The Bell UH-1B Iroquois or “Huey” for the next five and a half years 9 Squadron’s Hueys supported the 1st Australian Task Force. 9 Squadron had performed maritime operations during the Second World War. In 1962 the squadron was reformed and was based at Fairbairn air base, outside Canberra. 9 Squadron was one of the RAAF’s two helicopter squadrons. It was later announced that 9 Squadron would go to Vietnam as a whole unit On 12 April 9 Squadron was renumbered 5 Squadron. Then, not having existed for even one day, 9 Squadron was reformed on 13 April with eight Iroquois from 5 Squadron. 9 Squadron left Australia by ship and air; the helicopters and crews were transported to Vietnam aboard the HMAS Sydney, while the other personnel were flown aboard a Qantas charter flight. 9 Squadron supported 1ATF by transporting troops and resupplying units in the field with ammunition, water, and food. When the road from Vung Tau to 1ATF base at Nui Dat was cut or threatened by the Viet Cong (VC), the squadron worked with 35 Squadron in resupplying the base. The squadron carried out a number of different types of missions: inserting and extracting Special Air Service patrols, evacuating wounded troops, spraying herbicides and pesticides, dropping leaflets, and flying “olfactory reconnaissance” or “people sniffer” missions. 9 Squadron flew 237,424 missions between July 1967 and November 1971. 9 Squadron achieved a high reputation and worked closely with the Army. However in the first few months of its deployment there was some tension between the squadron and the Army due to the air force not meeting the army’s expectations. Relations improved after the Battle of Long Tan in August, when two of the squadron’s helicopters flew through heavy rain at treetop height to deliver ammunition to the Australian troops. In 1968 the squadron’s size was increased to 16 Iroquois helicopters. Four of the squadron’s Iroquois were subsequently modified into gunships. These “Bushranger” gunship were able to cover troop-carrying helicopters approaching “hot” landing zones and provide fire support. 9 Squadron flew its last mission in Vietnam on 19 November 1971. In December the squadron’s 16 Iroquois took off from Vung Tau for the last time and landed on the deck of the Sydney for the return trip back to Australia. Decorations awarded to members are: 4 DSO 2 MBE 26 DFC 1 CGM 1 GM 9 DFM 3 BEM 34 MID 1 FOREIGN AWARD
2 Squadron was dispatched with eight Canberras to South Vietnam in April 1967 as part of Australia’s commimtment to the War. Based at Phan Rang Air Base in Ninh Thuan Province, the unit became part of the United States Air Force 35th Tactical Fighter Wing and between April 1967 and June 1971, the Canberras flew approximately 12,000 sorties. Although the squadron initially undertook high level night-time attacks, the majority of its operations were low-level daylight attacks. The Squadron achieved a high success rate, accounting for 16 percent of 35 TFW's assessed bomb damage despite flying only five percent of its missions, while maintaining a 97–98 percent serviceability rate. It dropped 76,389 bombs and was credited with 786 enemy personnel confirmed killed and a further 3,390 estimated killed; with 8,637 structures, 15,568 bunkers, 1,267 sampans and 74 bridges destroyed. Five crew members were killed during the war, and two Canberras were shot down in 1970 and 1971. One was brought down by a Surface to Air Missile from which the crewmen – one of whom was the squadron commander, Wing Commander Frank Downing – safely ejected and were rescued via helicopter, and another was lost during a bombing run around Da Nang. The crew of the latter aircraft were not recovered during the war and were posted as "missing in action"; however the wreckage of their Canberra was finally located in April 2009 and their remains returned to Australia. The squadron was awarded the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation and a United States Air Force Outstansding Unit Commendation for its service in Vietnam. During the deployment, the squadron's aircraft used the callsign "Magpie" in recognition of the squadron's emblem.
Number 1 Airfield Operations Support Squadron was originally formed on 14 May 1966 as Base Support Flight (BASUPFLT), and the main body departed Sydney on 12 June 1966, via civil air, to Vietnam and Vung Tau where it operated in direct support to Number 35 Squadron. On 19 September 1968, the unit was renamed No 1 Operational Support Unit. On return to Australia in 1972 the unit was disbanded only to be reformed 12 years later at RAAF Richmond, then relocated to share facilities with No. 7 Stores Depot in Toowoomba, before eventually relocating in 1992 to new faciities at RAAF Townsville