Helicopter Flight Vietnam gets Unit Citation for Gallantry

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Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam (HFV) will be recognised by the Unit Citation for Gallantry.

FILE PHOTORAN UH-1 Iroquois helicopter operating in Vietnam.

Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester made the announcement today.

He said the outstanding service of the pilots and the maintenance and support personnel during RANHFV’s deployment in South Vietnam from October 1967 to June 1971 was worthy of the Citation.

“In 1967, a detachment of the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm was integrated with the US Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company,” Mr Chester said.

“The newly established RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam flew helicopters in both utility and gunship configurations.

“In addition to their usual duties, a significant number of the maintenance and support personnel also worked as aircrew and door-gunners, and ensured the security of their bases.

“RANHFV did extraordinarily dangerous work and spent most days flying combat assault missions, with the expectation of coming under fire on every second sortie.”

The recommendation for the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam to be awarded the Unit Citation for Gallantry was accepted by Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove following an inquiry by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal.

Veterans of the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam are encouraged to apply for the Unit Citation for Gallantry through a Department of Defence Medals on-line application form  here – though this announcement isn’t actually listed at time of publication.

Family members of deceased veterans are also encouraged to apply to receive the insignia.

An event will be held later in the year for recipients to receive their awards.

The ubiquitous Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter is still arguably the most instantly recognisable symbol of the Vietnam War. Images of the ‘helicopter war’ feature prominently in books, films and documentaries.

Not so widely known is the role that was played by personnel of the RAN’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA), in a war that was heavily dependent on tactical air movement of combat troops, supplies and equipment in what were eventually called air-mobile operations.

Between 1967 and 1971 the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam (RANHFV), was fully integrated with the US Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company (AHC) flying Iroquois helicopters in both the utility and gun-ship configurations.

As a result of this unique relationship between the RAN and the US Army, the unit was officially designated ‘EMU’, for Experimental Military Unit. This was fitting, given that the EMU is a native Australian bird, yet amusing at the same time because of the Emu’s inability to fly. The unit later designed its own unique badge and adopted the unofficial motto ‘get the bloody job done’. In keeping with Australian Naval tradition many of the aviators also grew beards to distinguish themselves as sailors in a predominantly army environment.

The 135th AHC was initially based at Vung Tau and comprised two troop lift platoons, each with eleven UH-1Ds, a gun-ship platoon with eight UH-1Cs, a maintenance platoon with a single UH-1D and a headquarters platoon. Six of the gun-ships were equipped with mini guns, rockets and machine guns. The remaining two were fitted with the XM-5 40mm grenade-launcher system, rockets and machine guns.

The role of 135th AHC was to provide tactical air movement of combat troops, supplies and equipment in air-mobile operations. This included augmentation of army medical services, search and rescue and the provision of a command and control aircraft capability.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

8 thoughts on “Helicopter Flight Vietnam gets Unit Citation for Gallantry

  • 13/08/2018 at 8:28 pm
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    The Unit Citation for Gallantry agreed that ALL our people had been frequently involved in Combat at one time or another, going out into the field to fix downed helicopters as well as leading convoys of trucks through the odd ambush. It was not for the aircrew who flew into danger every day but acknowledges the extraordinary gallantry of ALL who served in this very front line unit for close on four years. Read the report of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal to get a good look at the story.

    Reply
  • 24/06/2018 at 2:09 pm
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    It’s amazing that ALL Administrative & Support Personnel of RANAFV became entitled to the Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) whereas, in the case of Army for its Coral/Balmoral Citation ONLY became awarded to those of 1 ATF (Fwd) who were deployed on ‘direct combat involvement’ or ‘support’ at the actual Battle Area of Operation (AO) rather than members of ‘Rear Echelons’ of Administration & Support!
    Any Army member ‘NOT’ deployed to the AO did not become nominated for the Citation; especially in the case of members of CSqn 1 Armd Regt & it’s ‘supporting Elements who were either NOT present within the AO of the Battles or bacame ‘Left Out of Battle’ (LOOB!)
    Different Services, different Entitlement Standards I gather!
    Diminishes from the ‘significance’ to those awarded the Citation I reckon!
    Just saying!!😩🇦🇺😫

    Reply
  • 04/06/2018 at 11:07 pm
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    Hey Brian,
    The file pic of the Huey is one of the UH1 Bs operating out of HMAS Albatross where they trained, they operated UH1 H and Bs with US Army colours in Vietnam.

    Regards,
    Blue Quinn

    Reply
    • 05/06/2018 at 12:11 pm
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      The official ADF caption says it is in Vietnam.
      Official ADF captions aren’t alway right – but that’s what it says.
      Brian Hartigan
      CONTACT Editor

      Reply
  • 04/06/2018 at 1:44 pm
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    Hi BRIAN
    I am still around and kicking!
    I think I may have had a flight in one of these December 1970?
    I am positive it was an Aussie crew that responded to our DUSTOFF call?
    Out side of Brigid, near Lang Phoc Hai. (IED)

    Reply
    • 04/06/2018 at 2:28 pm
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      Hi Tony.
      Nice to hear from you.
      And thanks for the memory.
      Brian

      Reply
  • 01/06/2018 at 3:44 pm
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    Hi mate, these guys are awesome and well deserved, why does it take the Australian Govt 50 plus years to recognise what these legends did. Absolutely entitled but so appalling to take this long for the recognition, hope you are well.

    Reply
    • 01/06/2018 at 8:19 pm
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      Why indeed, Andy. Why indeed.
      I’m well. How you doooin?

      Reply

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