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