Three vintage aircraft manned by Vietnam War veterans will fly a salute over Canberra’s national service marking the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the war.
Four veterans of the war will fly the two planes and one helicopter in a line formation at a height of 1000 feet over the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Friday (18 August).
The flight will coincide with a national service honouring and remembering the 60,000 Australians who served and 523 who died during Australia’s involvement in the war between 1962 and 1973.
Aircraft flying over the service include two former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou transport planes that served in Vietnam and a former Royal Australian Navy (RAN) UH-1B Iroquois ‘Huey’ helicopter. They will be manned by Caribou pilot Dick Elliott, Huey pilot Vic Battese, aircraft engineer Trevor Wallace and former RAN serviceman Howard Mitchell.
The four men all served in the Vietnam War and are also volunteers of the Illawarra’s Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Aviation Museum, which supplied the vintage aircraft.
One of the Caribou planes, number 234, was the last to depart South Vietnam in late 1972, flying for what was affectionately known by veterans as ‘Wallaby Airlines’.
The Caribou model aircraft remained in service by the RAAF until 2009 and were known for their roaring sound and ability to take off and land very quickly.
While the Huey helicopter was used to help train pilots and crew before their deployment to South Vietnam with the US Army’s 135th Helicopter Assault Company.
Once the salute concludes, the Huey will return to Nowra and the Caribou to HARS Aviation Museum at Shellharbour Airport, which holds daily guided interactive tours.
The National Commemorative Service will be held at The Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Friday 18 August. It will also be broadcast live by the ABC.
The pre-service program commences from 10 am and the official service commences from 10:30 am. The three vintage aircraft are scheduled to fly over the service at 11:25 am.