Sydney seige ends in tragedy

monis His name is Man Haron Monis and he has just murdered two Australians and wounded two others in the Sydney seige He is known to police for being an accessory before and after the fact of the murder of his wife by his new girlfriend.  He has 40 charges of sexual assault against him and came to my notice for his habit of writing deplorable and offensive letters to the next of kin of diggers killed in action It has been Monis' on-going legal battle for his conviction for penning the poisonous letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers between 2007 and 2009 that has consumed him. It is understood yesterday's incident followed an unsuccessful, last-ditch attempt in the High Court on Friday to have the charges overturned. With all that is known about him I find it odd that the Magistrate considered him no threat to the public and released him on bail. Monis was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and placed on a two year good behaviour bond for the "offensive and deplorable letters" sent with the assistance of his girlfriend Amirah Droudis. They were sent to the families of  Private Luke Worsley and Lance Corporal Jason Marks, who were killed in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. He also sent a letter in 2009 to the family of the Austrade official Craig Senger, who was killed in the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2007. Monis claimed the letters were his own version of a "flower basket" or "condolence card". Bree Till, widow of Sergeant Brett Till, killed while defusing a bomb on March 12, 2009, said at the time of his conviction:

"We sat reading these letters (which) made out to be something supportive but then the juxtaposition of this man accusing my husband of being a child-killer while dictating how I should raise my children. It was scary," she said.

He fought the validity of the charges all the way to the High Court arguing they were political and only sought to persuade the families to oppose Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan.

But when he lost that battle, and had to stand trial, he pleaded guilty to all 12 charges against him in August 2013

My take on the matter is that the people are fuming about the incident and questions will be asked of the police and the state politicians.  All I saw yesterday was blue uniforms saying how they wanted the incident to be resolved peacefully which is a noble aim that flies in the face of what we know about Islamic radicals and this guy in particular. The only good reason I can think of for not killing him by sniper is that the police had intelligence that he had bombs and/or accomplices who would detonate the bombs if things didn't go his way.

If this is not the case then the question remains; why wasn't he taken out, knowing what we do of his hatred of Australians?

The TRG teams are, of course, under orders so my statement is not leveled at them.

35 comments

  • A great many issues are raised by this event, however an obvious one would be that the magistrate should be forced to face the Parliament, hostages and the families of the dead and justify why he felt this individual was not threat to the public and why he was released on bail.

    In older times a man who failed as badly in his duties as this Magistrate has would literally fall on his sword, the least we can expect is an explanation, apology and resignation. I don’t expect to get any of it.

  • The Magistrate operates within the legislation. Looking for blame is futile. Who is responsible for the current bail conditions in NSW?
    This lunatic should have been behind bars, but finger pointing from the safety and comfort of your keyboard changes nothing.
    You’re far better to work towards making sure it doesn’t happen again.
    That may happen through the Commonwealth/State inquiry, but I don’t hold out much hope as the siege will be used by the usual suspects for political wedging.
    The template has been set.
    The only good thing that has come out of this atrocity is the response to #illridewithyou, which seems to have ticked off the professional conflict entrepreneurs no end.
    Those objecting to acts of spontaneous compassion need their heads read.

    • Show me where in the legislation it defines if this man is to be considered a threat to society. it is a judgement call on the part of the magistrate and as such he should be held responsible for blowing it. re “#illridewithyou” an opportunity for narcissistic keyboard activists to puff up their own egos by accusing the rest of Australia of racism without having to offer any evidence, only a total dickhead thinks it achieves anything useful.

      If I gave a shit about twitter, I’d be far more inclined to follow the “#illhaveacoffeewithyou” hashtag in support of the actual victims of terrorism, you know the ones killed or held hostage, but then you have an unerring ability to pick the wrong side whenever a moral question arises, don’t you numbers?

  • The only good thing that has come out of this atrocity is the response to #illridewithyou, which seems to have ticked off the professional conflict entrepreneurs no end.
    Newsflash: Hashtags don’t achieve anything, they just make Lefties feel good and you know already that the idea came from a very mixed up young white-hating woman.

  • #illridewithyou is possibly the sickest, most reprehensible, racist thing I’ve seen. Mitigated only by the fact that a large component of the happy hashtaggers are just bimbos, too stupid too understand what they are doing, or how bilious it is.

  • Michael Fullilove puts it pretty well in Today’s Oz –
    And the perpetrator has failed to tear the multicultural fabric of Australian society. There may be a few who lash out in anger at Muslims. But, in the main, the response to the Martin Place siege has been compassionate, tolerant and free of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
    And that response is what so enrages the extremists, as is clear above.

  • Bottom line is that RWNJs consistently jump on any movement that seeks to unite, rather than divide. They remind me of sub-adolescents who gather around a playground stoush shouting “fight” rather that attempting to break it up before someone gets hurt.
    Unfortunately, the packaging and selling of hate and conflict is profitable. Witness the professional conflict entrepreneurs (Bolt, Jones, Hadley etc) who make a comfortable living from it.
    Then, of course, there are the amateurs, who preach fear and hate because they get their kicks from it. I’m not too sure how they should be characterised – probably somewhere between ghouls and voyeurs…….Pretty sick, which ever way you look at it.

    • ah yes, another preening narcissist pretending that throwing false accusations of racism against the general public is a movement that seeks to unite us rather than just a bunch of self important twittering windbags proclaiming their faux virtue to the world. You fit right in with that crowd numbers. Dumb as shit, but oh so earnest when proclaiming your supposed moral superiority.

  • Now that’s a twist – the Good Samaritan was a “preening narcissist”.
    Who knew?

    • Oddly enough numbers, most people of sound mind picked it. it has since been confirmed that the originator of the “#illridewithyou” made it up and I’d love to hear how many of these caring souls actually offered to ride (face to face) let alone actually rode with a Muslim.

      You see, to be a “good Samaritan” you need to do something rather than just tell the world how good you are, that is rather the point of the Priest walking past the injured traveller in the parable – someone who considers themselves virtuous, who did nothing.

      It makes the whole story more fun that the hashtag was a lie, started by a racist, for racist reasons and you, as usual, went with it.

      • I don’t know about anyone else, but one of my sons (who lives down south) tweeted an offer to escort anyone (in his words wearing religious garb) into the city on the train, and had his offer accepted. I’m proud of him.

        • Local catholic priest needed company for the journey to the child care centre?

        • Given your track record of lying to try to make a point, I don’t believe you.

          I don’t believe you have a son, that your non existent son lives down south or that they escorted anyone anywhere.

          Do you have receipts for the journey or video evidence to support the escorting, also a birth certificate to prove the familial relationship will be required.

          I call bullshit.

  • I call bullshit.
    You know something, Harry? I couldn’t give a stuff what you think (if you really exist).
    I would post a link to my son’s tweet, but the RWNJs* out there are wacky enough to target him. I’ve had a few “I know where you live” phone calls after posting to Michael Smith’s blog. It doesn’t bother me, but I won’t expose my family to this kind of crap.
    This, however, is the tweet verbatim –
    Anybody who is afraid to wear religious attire on the Adelaide train from ****** to the city tomorrow morning #illridewithyou
    Again, I’ve obliterated the suburb reference because of the nutters.
    There’s only a few of them, but they are out there.
    The bitter and spiteful reaction to a harmless twitter tag is an interesting case study into the fear and bigotry so clearly and deeply embedded in extremism, and sadly, frequently expressed here.
    Do you have receipts for the journey or video evidence to support the escorting, also a birth certificate to prove the familial relationship will be required.
    On sober reflection, the robot who posts as Harry Buttle is quite obviously automated and is employed periodically by the Q Society of Australia Inc to seed blogs with seditious content.
    A birth certificate to prove he really exists will be required.

    *Right Wing Nut Jobs

    • That is funny, the man renowned only for his lies and evasions, who has the sheer hide to badger others for answers when he himself evades, refuses to answer simple questions himself.

      Your son is a lie as are the supposed actions of this fictional son – you have lied too often to be believed on any subject without absolute proof.

      BTW, I’m still waiting for you to provide the cite from legislation that proves the magistrate had no choice but to allow bail for the terrorist. but we both know you won’t provide it, because, yet again, you made it up on the spur of the moment and are now trying to move the goalposts.

      It’s also sweet that you think you can achieve something using the hashtag for the self absorbed as a distraction. the informed know it was a lie invented by a racist, taken up by narcissists to self promote – having covered that, how are you going on that cite?

  • That is funny, the man renowned only for his lies and evasions, who has the sheer hide to badger others for answers when he himself evades, refuses to answer simple questions himself.
    The funniest aspect of this is that the person who calls himself HRT posted this on another thread – you should also be careful quoting Paul Ham as an authority. I had a long email exchange with Ham over the many errors in his book on Vietnam. If Kev will indulge me, I might one day summarise them on this blog.
    I’m still waiting for these “errors” to be posted.
    Your son is a lie as are the supposed actions of this fictional son – you have lied too often to be believed on any subject without absolute proof.
    Goodness me – I’ve been imagining my second eldest all these years…… I wonder which of my other three offspring are imaginary…the mind boggles.
    As for magistrates’ discretion – I suggest you read the NSW Bail Act – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ba201341/ with particular reference to MAKING AND VARIATION OF BAIL DECISIONS wherein the magistrate has to believe there is an unacceptable risk. This individual had not been convicted of an offence of violence prior to his bailing on the accessory to murder charge. It’s very easy to be wise after the event, but 90% of serving magistrates would have made exactly the same decision.
    It appears that the magistrate (and most of the people with whom he had contact) regarded him as an obsessed but harmless nutter.
    They were wrong, but if you read blog sites such as Larry Pickering, Michael Smith, etc, you will note that obsessed nutters are fairly thick on the ground.
    Smith continues to pursue his Quixotic pursuit of Julia Gillard despite findings in the commission that she did not commit any criminal offence. He is about as obsessed as Man Monis was.
    I wonder if he owns a shotgun?
    Some of these obsessed nutters even post here from time to time…..
    the informed know it was a lie invented by a racist, taken up by narcissists to self promote
    Irrespective of the origin of #illridewithyou, it was a reflection of something great and noble in the Australian psyche – the willingness to give everybody a fair go. the fact that it created such a furious spiteful reaction in the RWNJs is an indication that they prefer conflict to reconciliation. They will never be more than a vocal minority in this country.
    Australians are much more grounded than that, and the latest opinion polls reflect it – http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2014/12/27/newspoll-shows-abbott-govt-support-plunges.html

    • “wherein the magistrate has to believe there is an unacceptable risk. ”

      Blind Freddy could have seen that he was a risk, he was an accessory before and after the fact of the murder of his wife by his new girlfriend. He had 40 charges of sexual assault against him, considered Aust soldiers to be akin to the SS and was happy to tell the surviving relatives that, having been involved in one murder and 40 sexual assaults it is not reasonable to think that he was no risk to the community, the magistrate failed utterly in his job. he is required to exercise judgement and he failed. people died because of his failure. a resignation is the honourable move, in its absence, a sacking is the responsible one – the system cannot be improved if abject failures are retained.

      So, having finally provided the cite, we now see that the cite you provide in support of your position doesn’t support it, the magistrate had the ability and the duty to refuse bail. groundhog day.

      :Irrespective of the origin of #illridewithyou, it was a reflection of something great and noble in the Australian psyche ”

      Numbers only a racist thinks racism is noble and great, so its useful to know you think that. I had thought you were just a liar and a fool.

      RE your supposed children, until you provide proof of their existence, I’ll assume that they are just more of your lies. it is the only reasonable thing to do.

  • Concentrate 17…..

    The argument is not about the emails between Ham and me. The argument is about the reliability of Ham as a historian.

    If you read the edition I referred to and did not spot any of Ham’s errors, a lack of knowledge and curiosity on your part is indicated. If you read a later edition of the book those errors may have been corrected. If so, you can thank me for pointing them out to Ham.

    At least three of his errors were uncomplicated ones readily spotted by any reader with a knowledge of the military and those times. Your blustering indicates you did not read the edition I referred to or, missed the mistakes and for reasons known only to yourself, do not accept they exist/existed.

    All of which takes us back to the man or mouse argument. Ten cents, $100, $500 or more is the wager. If you are so convinced Ham was right and I was wrong, back your judgement and your confidence with your bet. Don’t be a gutless bastard 17… For an ex Australian Army infantryman it’s unseemly and embarrassing.

    If you aren’t brave enough to put your money where your mouth is, at least have the courage to acknowledge you don’t know as much about the topic as you thought you did. Then, cease your witless braying and shut up.

  • If indeed, the argument is about Ham’s reliability as an historian, you could set it at rest swiftly by publishing the emails you claim pointed out errors. Failing to do so shows that you’re much more schooled in bluff and bluster than you are in history. I have never claimed to be an expert on our committment in Vietnam, and lack the supreme arrogance you display in calling anyone who disagrees with your opinion a liar.
    Put up or shut up.

    The magistrate exercised the limited discretion available to him under the legislation. He lacked the capacity to see into the future. Following your line of reasoning to its absurd extreme would have seen all the cabinet ministers who supported our involvement in Vietnam forced to resign upon the fall of Saigon in 1975.

    • Another lie on your part, the magistrate had the ability (in fact the duty) to refuse bail under the legislation and anyone but an incompetent or an idiot could see that this man was a risk, he was not just an obvious danger to the community, he was a flight risk too, and either reason is good enough to refuse bail under the legislation.

      Why must you demonstrate your stupidity yet again numbers – the cabinet ministers in question regularly have their decisions reviewed and are routinely sacked by the electorate if their decisions are not in line with community expectations, this is not the case with judges.

  • Persevere 17…. and try your hand at the equation 2+2 = 5.

    If one accepts the answer is 4 and not 5, one might then agree any emails which point this out are of little consequence compared to the error.

    Why you insist on carrying on about private emails is mystifying. Are you a voyeur? Or, are you so dense as to believe the sentence construction etc in the emails is more important than the errors they reference? Or more likely, are you just a bloody minded and obtuse individual intent on defending the indefensible?

    Nevertheless, here is a tiny crumb for you. Regrettably, it won’t cost you $500 although, it did cost Legacy that amount due to your lack of spine.

    If you go to p524 of the edition I referenced</i) you will see an entry regarding Kent State University in the US. Now research the incident and let us know if Ham was right or wrong about the identity of the shooters.

    Having done so, don't duck, weave, obfuscate and evade 17…. Just explain why the need to see the correspondence pointing out the error out is more important than the error itself.

    It is a relatively minor error on Ham's part and I chose it because it is easily checked.

    Before you start screeching about it, keep in mind it is one of many. Don't believe me? Then put your money where your big mouth is. It will cost you just $500 a time or, $1,000 if you prefer.

    Contrast Ham's approach with the attitude of Peter Brune, author of Descent into Hell. In the foreword to this history, Dr Richards (MO with the 8th Division) wrote: "…. I was impressed by Brune's dedication and determination to search for the truth….. Brune is the kind of author who wants to make sure that even the smallest of details are correct."

    That cannot be said about Ham, and your puerile demands for emails will not change it. .

  • So Ham wrote in error – and the gunning down of four students by US police during a demonstration at Kent State University on 4 May when the students were actually shot by members of the Ohio National guard. So, in your opinion, the incorrect attribution of blame to the wrong arm of the then US establishment somehow overshadows the significance and horror of the event. It takes all kinds….
    What he did not write (but could have) was that the cold blooded murder of University students demonstrating against the debacle which by this time, Vietnam had become, was emblematic of the parlous state of democracy in the US, the same democracy that we were supposed to be fighting for in Vietnam.
    I guess you’ll next be saying he should not have mentioned My Lai. It’s interesting to read Ham’s account –
    The revelation in November 1969 of the My Lai massacre had the single most powerful influence on the Moratorium and Australian attitudes towards the war. That this should be so, demonstrated Australia’s immersion in the experience of Vietnam, and understood our ignorance of, or indifference to, the Australian soldier’s predicament. (p518)
    His “error” if you are looking for mistakes is that he didn’t call it Son My as the Vietnamese do. I believe that Vietnamese at least have the rights to name the atrocity given that it was perpetrated against their people.
    Ham was always aware of the treatment of the diggers, and his attention to that is one of the great strengths of the book. Some of us don’t have the perspective of regular soldiers. Some of us were civilians who see the conflict through a depth of human experience, and understand the two year long anomaly in our lives that was conscription. Some of us were called “baby killers” when we returned. I killed no babies in Vietnam.

    If that’s the best you can do, Ham and his comprehensive account have little to fear. Your problem is that your view is so limited by your tribalism (as evidenced for years on this blog) that you cannot tolerate the reality of the history of the war and its tragic outcome.

    To attempt to discredit Ham through pointing out what was a minor technical error which had no bearing on the historical significance of the event and it’s part in hardening public opinion against the war, is to say the least, lame.

    The President’s commission on the shootings made it all pretty clear – It concluded that the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.
    (President’s Commission on Campus Unrest – p289)

    It was less concerned with who did the shooting than the reality of the slaughter.

  • Hallelujah 17…

    You went from worshipping at the shrine of the sainted Ham, to demanding access to my personal emails to admitting your hero made a mistake. Getting to the last point was harder than picking up mercury with a fork. But, it was worth it as the edifice developed a small crack.

    However, despite my advice I was giving you a tiny crumb, you behaved badly, even saying: “……if that’s the best you can do…..” It’s far from the best I can do 17… and only you or a fool would think I or anyone else would write off Ham’s book because of that mistake. I told you why I used it, now go back and read what I wrote.

    There are many more significant and not so significant errors in Ham’s book. At least one of which would probably be libellous if Ham had put names or dates to it. Indeed, it may even be so in its present form. Go to p 249 and you will read that Neville Cullen “later excelled as a dust off pilot.” Next try p 420 where you will read a disparaging reference to 9 Squadron RAAF. Then go to p 565 where you will find another reference to Neville as a dust off pilot. Next go to note 25 on p 723 and note Neville was not a pilot but an Army medic who, Ham said : “… found that few dust off pilots were prepared to fly into combat zones”.

    So what was Ham’s authority for writing Neville “later excelled as a dust off pilot”? In fact, there was no authority as Neville was never a pilot. Ham made that up.

    I later rang Neville about Ham’s claim that according to Neville “few dust off pilots were prepared to fly into combat zones”. Neville told me he was “appalled” (his word) at what Ham had written. He went on to say the dust off pilots (ie 9 Squadron RAAF) were “bloody marvellous and would fly anywhere” (his words). The truth of the matter was that the Army medics were the ones who did not want to fly dust offs. One of their colleagues had been killed in a 9 Squadron aircraft crash, they were near the end of tour and they did not want to fly. It was Neville who got the medics back up to speed. Despite what Ham wrote, it was never the RAAF pilots who were reluctant to fly. Ham made that up too.

    There is a lot more I could reveal of Ham’s errors, bias, lack of research and resulting ignorant and demonstrably false statements and accusations. However, as everyone is probably a bit bored with it all by now, I’ll desist.

    Final words 17… Before you barge in on another topic consider that the person you are taking on may know a hell of a lot more about the subject than you do.

  • You went from worshipping (sic) at the shrine of the sainted Ham, to demanding access to my personal emails to admitting your hero made a mistake. Getting to the last point was harder than picking up mercury with a fork. But, it was worth it as the edifice developed a small crack.

    I don’t “worship” Ham – but I enjoy the depth and scope of his writing. Apparently I’m not the only one. His works include Kokoda, Vietnam: The Australian War (which won the NSW Premier’s Prize for Australian history, and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Prize for Non-Fiction). ‘Kokoda’ and ‘Vietnam’ were both shortlisted for the Walkley Award for Non-Fiction, and ‘Hiroshima Nagasaki’.
    ‘Hiroshima Nagasaki’ was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Prize for History. It has also received international critical acclaim.

    He is the most successful Australian writer of popular history alive today, but HRT is miffed at his criticisms of some in the Australian military.

    Perhaps he should take his own advice – Before you barge in on another topic consider that the person you are taking on may know a hell of a lot more about the subject than you do.

    I’d pay much more attention to the good sense of the Australian reader and the skills of the adjudicating literary panels, than I would to the biased judgement of a serial axe-grinder.

    There’s a deeper issue here. There is a belief extant in some ex-military circles that they are the only people entitled to pass judgement on writings about military conflict.

    I’ve had email exchanges with the Anzac Day commemoration committee after one of my teaching colleagues pointed out an error in a teaching module they’ve published about conscripts in Vietnam.

    Unlike HRT, I’m happy to post extracts from any email I authored, so here is some of the correspondence –

    Dear Sir/Madam

    I refer to this statement on your website “Myths and Understandings of the Vietnam War”.

    http://anzacday.org.au/education/activities/vietnam/answer2.html

    It contains this passage –

    “After their initial training all recruits were allocated to a Corps (branch of the Army, eg Infantry, Artillery) for specialised training, and were then sent to particular units. If the unit was scheduled to be sent to Vietnam, the soldiers were generally given the chance to avoid transfer elsewhere. The Army’s rationale was that in combat every man had to be able to rely totally on his mates, and any reluctant soldiers would endanger the whole group”.

    I was a Nasho who was posted to 7RAR in July 1969. I served with the battalion on its second tour of South Vietnam in 1970.

    At no stage was I ever given the option of avoiding service in Vietnam. As a young bush school teacher, I had absolutely no wish to be a soldier, and no desire to serve in what I considered an unjust war.

    I compromised my personal beliefs and values by rolling over and going along with my call-up. I made an easy rationalisation. I decided that it was better to take my chances in the army than in the magistrate’s court. I had coldly calculated the odds. At this time, most infantry battalions were losing between twenty and thirty diggers each tour. I could manage those odds.

    If I had been given an option not to serve in Vietnam, I would have taken it. Your statement on your website, rather than debunking a myth, is perpetuating it. As a retired school principal, I am offended by your organisation’s rewriting of history, and if you value truth and integrity, and the children you seek to inform, you should correct it forthwith.

    I have heard this myth of opt-out repeated to the point where it has a life of its own, and have sought to arrive at the truth by working through the AWM website to establish if any documentation of these alleged opt-out parades exist. There is nothing on unit records.

    You need to set the record straight. At the moment what is written on your website is not history, but a shabby rationalisation of one of the saddest decisions made by an Australian government – that of sending unwilling balloted conscripts to fight in a war not fully supported by the Australian people.

    You need to tell the truth about war. Creating a mythology serves no one, and seeks to perpetuate conflict. Anzac Day is about remembering those who died, and those who were damaged by conflict. The Anzac Day mythology paid a part in the loathsome treatment of Vietnam Veterans between 1972 and 1987.

    Yours etc.

    The reply (which I won’t publish here because I don’t have permission) admitted that there were some who went unwillingly – a fact which is alluded too in this extract from the website –

    But there were probably few, if any, who were actually forced to go to Vietnam.

    As one of the “few”, I object strongly to the mealy-mouthed genuflection to a myth being used to brainwash kids.

    Mark Dapin’s recent publication is closer to the truth, and when I am asked to speak at schools on Anzac Day (as I am occasionally) I don’t say that the myth is wrong – I suggest that it be questioned. I recommend a bit of research on the subject and cite Ham (and now Dapin) as references.

    514To quote Dapin – If this book establishes nothing else, it should at least put paid to the myth whose naïveté seems almost grotesque, that every conscript in Vietnam was actually a volunteer. (The Nashos’ War – Mark Dapin – Penguin – 2014 p2)

    You see, I value the capacity of students to make up their own minds, rather than accept the politically correct narrative set up by those who have skin in the game.

    • Well done 17… More goalposts shifted as part of your never ending crusade to never admit error on your part or, of one of your idols.

      Remember writing this: “Paul Ham is probably the best researched Australian author on the Vietnam war. The fact that you disagree with him simply consolidates that fact”. It was not that I disagreed with him – it was that Ham was wrong in many instances. Why is that simple and easily proven statement beyond your comprehension?

      You were given several irrefutable examples of errors and I have many more that are also irrefutable. That you cannot acknowledge I am right is bizarre. To then start yammering about access to private emails is downright weird. The errors in Ham’s book have nothing to do with the emails. Again, seek assistance if you cannot understand this.

      Nevertheless, I was delighted with your inference that the number of awards and accolades are now the criteria for a pass or fail in history. Murdoch journalists will be particularly pleased to know you now support them because of the number of awards they have won.

      It is also reassuring to learn that your current attitude is that the need for accuracy in historical works is dead and finished. I take this as a forewarning that your book may contain many errors but, they are to be ignored because either you made them or, they matter only to serial axe grinders. That may make a lot of sense 17… but God alone knows to whom.

      Your goalpost moving indicates the accolades and awards heaped on Helen Dale/Darville/Demidenko outweigh the fact that her book “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” must be judged in part as fiction. That description of her work was made by another man you would surely worship – Robert Manne. Remember we are counting accolades here 17… Accuracy is out.

      You can read Manne’s take-down of her much awarded work of fictional fact here:

      http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/demidenko/manne.1.html

      By the way, “worshipping” is the spelling preferred by Kev’s spell checker. I went with it along with several other suggestions it made for the sake of consistency. That is why your cut and paste of the word was not challenged by the checker. Happy now?

      • You claim that Ham’s works contain errors. You also claim to have found (let me count them) – two. You also claim that I have not acknowledged them. Go back and read my posts carefully.
        What I have not acknowledged is that this discredits Ham’s writing. He doesn’t write for an audience of military nerds. He writes for the general Australian (and international) reader.
        Given his book sales – he has been very successful.
        The errors you cited refer to technical fact – not to the narrative of the history he is dealing with. Your problem with Ham is that he questions the politically correct line – the accepted orthodoxy. That questioning (and his fluent style) is why he’s popular.
        To make sure you understand – although it shouldn’t be necessary, let’s look at the relevance of the two (not “several”) errors you cited.
        One error allocates the blame for a campus shooting to the wrong government agency.
        Let’s have a look at that. Ham’s point was that an agency of the US government shot dead some university students protesting against the war. They were shot by the US authorities. The historical impact on the course of the war related to the shootings – not which specific agency was responsible. In that context the error was insignificant.
        The other error cited refers to identifying a chopper crewman as a pilot when he was (according to you account) a medic. This error makes no difference to Ham’s thesis in the chapter “Body Count” which is essentially about the brutality of the war, and in reference to Long Tan, how those involved were effected.
        A minor point made is that some crewman were reluctant to fly. It matters not to the civilian reader whether they were RAAF or Army. Again, the point I made in my previous post is that most of Ham’s reading audience are not ex military, and the hair splitting that you’re on about is of no interest to them.
        Incidentally, Ham is not unique in referring to critical relationships between RAAF and army. Bruce Davies refers to it –
        Rightly or wrongly, the RAAF’s control over its meagre number of Hueys established a mindset amongst the Infantry that the RAAF was reluctant to fly in harm’s way.
        (Vietnam – The Complete Story of the Australian War – Bruce Davies with Gary McKay – p202).
        The same issue gets a fleeting mention in Ekins and McNeill’s “Fighting to the Finish” –
        Despite some early difficulties in cooperation with army units, the squadron had firmly established the vital role of helicopter support for ground operations and acquired an enduring reputation with Australian soldiers. (p637).
        Put simply, Ham is a very successful popular historian. His work is comprehensive, thoughtful, and thorough. He does not have a political axe to grind, and seeks to please no one. He is not afraid to challenge the orthodox and politically correct mythology expressed by those who find their raison détre in military conflict.
        That you cannot acknowledge I am right is bizarre.
        Your original reference to Ham was this – You should also be careful quoting Paul Ham as an authority.
        You are not right. I do not claim him “as an authority”. I admire his work and enjoy reading it. I couldn’t care less that you are uncomfortable with his interpretations.
        As for Murdoch’s journalists – they are a varied bunch, but to quote the Rightist meme (often quoted about News Limited) that sales determine excellence when it comes to writing, Ham must be up there. He’s made a great deal of money as a popular historian.

        My book, incidentally, which has turned out to be a nice little post retirement earner, is my honest personal account, of my service and RTA. It is true to my memory and my letters to my parents.

        The funny thing is, when I actually did some research, I found that on occasion, the official accounts (after action reports) contained basic errors of fact. One example is a friendly fire incident on 13th March 1970, when the AAR described “overshoot”. There was no “overshoot” – just a case of mistaken identity, but that is not what the official record states.

        Should the official account be taken to task for the sake of “accuracy”?

    • “After their initial training all recruits were allocated to a Corps (branch of the Army, eg Infantry, Artillery) for specialised training, and were then sent to particular units.”……another “technical” error gone unnoticed by 1735099. All conscripts who began recruit training on 23/04/1969 at 2RTB and joined 7RAR for the second tour received no actual “corp training”…..trained in Battalion methods straight up and in time for the tour. Lack of research…..or could the omission be Ham’s way of pushing the reader into believing that we all received nothing but the best training available at the time and in accordance with SOPs….. and therefore a fictional piece? Probably not knowledge within your sphere of experience Booby.

  • One slight problem – Bob. Ham didn’t write that.
    That quote you posted is from the Anzac Day Commemoration committee’s website, not from Ham. You obviously didn’t read my post properly, or didn’t comprehend.
    I posted it to show that a great deal of rubbish is out there from politically correct sources, and to illustrate my attempt to correct it.
    You’ve gone off half cocked (as usual) and in doing so have reinforced my point.
    Thank you very much…….

    • Point taken….not Ham. You didn’t pick up on the error though or you would have added it to your incessant bleating about how you were dragged kicking and screaming onto the ferry and forced to reneg on your long held beliefs that conscription is a dastardly deed. Had you actually made some enquiries you may have been granted an audience with the C.O. and possibly been granted a transfer to “avoid” service in Vietnam, thereby relieving you of one reason to continuously complain about your subsequent mental suffering. Being an ex-headmaster must be awfully important, I guess. Apologies for my merely glossing over your post and not clicking on the link.

  • Come on 17… you are wandering. Concentrate; 1+1+1+1=4.

    You claim I pointed out two errors. You are wrong, I pointed out four – with more following. My postings are not about “Ham writing for military nerds”, “the narrative of history” (whatever that means), and how it doesn’t matter which agency of the US Government shot the students, how those involved in Long Tan were affected, or Ham’s bravery in challenging the orthodox and politically correct mythology (whatever that means), etc, etc. It is about Ham’s accuracy and reliability in his book on Vietnam. That’s it. If you can’t understand that, then it’s back to school for you.

    You are being arrogant and impertinent when you state you know who Ham was writing for and, that he was writing ” to the narrative of the history”. If Ham were writing with the intentions you claim, one might expect he would have said so in his foreword. He did not do this. You are making it up as you go along 17….

    Now to the proof of 1+1+1+1=4.

    Error 1. Ham: The students were shot by the US police. No they weren’t – they were shot by the National Guard. You then go on to excuse this error by claiming that Ham’s point was that the shootings were done by an agency of the US government. Wrong. Ham does not make this claim – only you do. But, rather than argue about it I’ll split the difference. The kids were actually shot by the US Bureau of Weights and Measures. That’s close enough.

    Error 2. Ham: Neville Cullen was a dustoff pilot. Wrong – he was a medic of the 8th Field Ambulance. The AWM says so and so does the man himself. Nevertheless, the AWM and Neville could both be wrong and and Ham right. Your comment that it is only according to my account that Neville was a medic is just dumb. Note also that your description of Neville as a “chopper crewman” was wrong. The crewman was the RAAF aircrewman who sat at the right rear of the aircraft and operated the hoist and a M60.

    Error 3. Ham: Neville later went on to excel as a dust off pilot. Wrong. He could not excel as a pilot as he was not a pilot. But then again, it’s the AWM and the man himself versus Ham. To be sure this is a difficult one and could go either way. Bet with me on this one 17… Failing that I’ll split the difference and accept Neville was actually a RAAF pilot operating under deep cover as an Army medic.

    Error 4. Ham: Few [RAAF] dustoff pilots were prepared to fly into combat zones. Wrong. Go back and read what Neville told me about the RAAF pilots. Lest you try and sneak one past Kev’s readers, Neville gave me permission to use his words in my correspondence with Ham. I did, and Ham did not acknowledge my points except the one abut Neville’s occupation.

    Note also that 9 Squadron had RNZAF and RAN pilots on strength. By criticising RAAF pilots was Ham criticising made in Australia RAAF pilots? Or, was he criticising all pilots who flew as part of 9 Squadron? There is a 9 Squadron ANZAC Day reunion in New Zealand next year hosted by the ex RNZAF pilots of 9 Squadron. If their made in Australia fellow pilots were really cowards, why they would want to be associated with them?

    Do you remember the poster that contained the words Punch a Postie on return to Australia? That poster was produced by Captain John Bullen’s survey section in Nui Dat. The problem, was that the posties were not the ones delaying the mail deliveries. The culprits were the mail sorters. But that slur was OK by Ham. He did not check who was responsible for the delays and accepted Bullen’s word for it. Justifiably, the poster upset the posties and their union.

    So by now your “comprehensive, thoughtful and thorough author” has falsely derided Australian 9 Squadron pilots, Kiwi pilots of 9 Squadron, RAN pilots of 9 Squadron, the Australian posties and the US police (whoever they may be – Ham does not say). These are errors which you consider do not matter. Except they do. It angers those on the receiving end of falsehoods, while the number of errors brings into question the reliability of Ham’s accounts.

    Have you heard the one about the RAAF pilots only agreeing to drop the ammunition to Harry Smith’s unit at Long Tan, when an Army man held a pistol to the head of one of them? I have, and that and other such stories are the result of rumours and the writings of historians who don’t do their work properly. Mud sticks 17…, and it sticks harder when a historian joins in the throwing of it.

    A dispassionate reading of Ham’s work uncovers a strong anti 9 Squadron attitude, which Ham settled on early and then maintained. One has to wonder if he deliberately avoided prime sources lest they upset his bias.

    Speaking of RAN pilots, quite a few served with the 135th Assault Helicopter based at Blackhorse a few kms north of Nui Dat. Ham makes the claim on p 595 that the 18th ARVN Division was a crack outfit. No it wasn’t. The RAN pilots of the 135th told me they welcomed a day supporting the 18th, as they suspected a no contact agreement had been reached with the enemy.

    On the other hand, I did not like supporting the 18th, as I had a grenade left on the floor of my aircraft on one occasion and on another, the crash axe was stolen. Crack units don’t behave like that.

    Ham’s response to my criticism of his claim was that “…..the 18th ARVN Division may have had poor elements, but overall they fought a better war than other ARVN units – according to my Vietnamese and American sources”. In other words, being a very average outfit in the ARVN made you into into a crack outfit; if other units were below average.

    Turn now to p 360 and read Bullen’s account of a radio conversation said to have taken place between Bullen and a RAAF helicopter pilot. Now turn to p 679 and read a transcript of an actual conversation. It is immediately clear that Bullen’s self promoting and mocking conversation is fictitious nonsense and written to ridicule the RAAF pilot. Curiously, the style matches the sneering, self promoting one used in Bullen’s book: “Captain Bullen’s War”.

    Curious too that Ham edited Bullen’s book and that Bullen, according to Ham, was critical of the RAAF. One might wonder if Ham contracted Bullen’s anti RAAF virus. Ham never denied to me that Bullen’s account of the conversation was rubbish. Nevertheless, he refused to change it, claiming it came from a personal diary written so as to be readable and entertaining. Tell me 17…, why is “readable and entertaining” treated as history?

    I smiled when I read that your version of an incident contradicted the after action report. In one of Ham’s few responses to my criticisms he told me an after action report submitted by the Army supported Ham’s claim. When I asked if he had spoken to the RAAF about the incident to get their side of the story, he did not answer. It’s clear he believed this after action report was correct. Yet, you know from your own experience an after action report can be wrong. That was a nice uppercut you just gave Ham.

    As for correcting the after action report, I thought your question was odd. If the after action account was wrong then of course it should be corrected or, an attempt made to do so. Unless of course, you have classified the error as nerdish, a technical matter or an appropriate part of the historical narrative.

    Now then 17…, go to p 399 and share Ham’s dismay over the alleged foolishness of the RAAF. Ham implies General Wilton wanted many helicopters. Wrong. Wilton actually asked for two. The RAAF refused to provide them. The reasons, and they are sensible ones, are in a very interesting paper I hope Kev will agree to publish.

    Also on p 399 read that Air Commodore Wilson said: “The RAAF policy on helicopters was a bit absurd. They told them [the pilots] don’t lose any aircraft, be safe”. I spoke to Roger and he does not deny he said it to Ham. But, he told me he said what he thought was the position. In other words it was a belief which Ham converted into fact. The problem, was that there was no such policy. Nor was there a directive or an order along these lines.

    Note too that Roger was never a helicopter pilot, a member of 9 Squadron or an air commodore. Yet, Ham put Roger forward as a prime source on the unit’s operations. Ham’s action was the equivalent of asking a captain from 1 ALSG to pronounce on your battalion’s performance.

    Another unusual source of information was Sapper Bob Coleman. He claimed the Squadron was reluctant to lift out casualties for “procedural” or “cultural” reasons. You can read about it on p 293 and in note 24 to ch 24. As Bruce Lane was a pilot during Bob Coleman’s tour, I spoke to him about this serious accusation. As expected, Bruce responded vehemently So why did Ham not speak to 9 Squadron about this serious accusation? I asked Ham but he did not respond.

    A first class prime source of information was Ray Scott. Although, Ray deserved a major voice in any account of 9 Squadron/Army operations, he does not rate a mention anywhere at all in Ham’s book. Ray formed 9 Squadron at Fairbairn and was posted out when the Squadron was up and running. He was then posted back to take the Squadron to Vietnam. He remained there as its first in country CO.

    Other prime sources not contacted by Ham were Roy Royston, Peter Reid, John Paule, “Nugget” Hibben, Peter Coy and Peter Mahood. So who were these fellows? These men were the consecutive COs of 9 in Vietnam. Ham consistently ignored these prime sources and instead, sought information from secondary and tertiary sources. That information then became “factual”. Worse, as best I can tell, all those sources bolstered Ham’s anti RAAF attitude.

    The official history of the Squadron indicates that in support of 1 ATF, the unit flew 58,768 hours, carried 4,357 casevacs/medevacs, 414,818 other persons and 12,207 tonnes of freight. Yet Ham did not once speak to one of the COs. In the period the Squadron supported 1 ATF, it seems three ATF members died while involved with the unit. One was trapped under a helicopter that had been shot down, one was killed when he raised his head when his APC was under the main rotor blades, and the third died when he fell from his rope while his SAS patrol was being extracted.

    If you travelled in a 9 Squadron helicopter in Vietnam you had an almost iron clad guarantee you would not be injured or killed. But from Ham about this very remarkable record – nothing.

    Ham was also consistently critical of the Squadron’s “reluctance” to get involved in combat. I estimate the Squadron carried out about 200 hot SAS extractions, and not once did the Squadron ever let the SAS down. We always got them out and we never lost a man. The pilots knew before they began the hoist or landed in the pad that they would be under fire – cowards would not have continued on. Yet Ham accused these same pilots of cowardice when they were operating in support of the battalions.

    I could not get Ham to see there was no logic in his argument. Why would pilots who supported the SAS so well, squib it when other units were involved? It made no sense. I invited Ham to tell the “truth” about the 9 Squadron pilots to the SAS members at one of the SAS/9 Squadron get-togethers that, nearly 50 years after the war, are still held regularly. Ham did not respond.

    The trust between the two units carried over after hours. It was not unusual for a member of the SAS (always dressed in civvies) to appear at the RAAF Officers Mess in Vung Tau. Regardless of whether he was commissioned, a trooper, corporal, sergeant or WO, he was made welcome by the Squadron’s pilots, entertained in the bar and then found a bed. I cannot prove it, but I think such a close relationship is unique in the history of the Australian forces.

    Finally, frequent references are made in Ham’s book to an order/directive or some-such which required the pilots to avoid casualties, fly safe etc (See the earlier reference to Roger Wilson). Other books written about Vietnam contain similar references. However, a copy of the order/directive has never been produced and never will be, as it never existed. Which is why Ham could not provide me with a copy when I asked for it. Moreover, as Ham stated the unit’s performance allegedly improved after 1967, that must have been because the original order was repealed or amended by a second one. But, the second order can’t be produced as it doesn’t exist either.

    There is more of course……..

    —————-

    Kev – I have a paper which Ray Scott (first CO of 9 Squadron in Vietnam) prepared some years ago. It covers the early activities in Australia and Vietnam of the unit and the Army. It is very readable and there is much interesting material in it. And, as far as I know much of it has never been published before. It would have been available to Ham had he spoken to Ray. Why he did not interview a man so central to helicopter operations involving 1 ATF is beyond my comprehension.

    Ray has given me permission to publish it on the web just as he has written it. That is, he does not require names etc to be deleted. If you would like it, please advise me by email and I will send it to you. Alternatively, I will post it as a comment.

  • As for correcting the after action report, I thought your question was odd. If the after action account was wrong then of course it should be corrected or, an attempt made to do so. Unless of course, you have classified the error as nerdish, a technical matter or an appropriate part of the historical narrative.

    I have discovered that attempting to correct an after action report is a politically incorrect activity in ex-military circles. I used the example cited above to illustrate the unreliability of official accounts on a conservative blog, and was threatened with all sorts of consequences, told I was a disgrace, and accused of dishonoring my battalion. When you get this vehemence in response to the truth, there is obviously a strong vested interested to protect. As to the desirability of correcting it, I don’t see this particular incident as having any unique significance. The phenomenon of Friendly Fire in Vietnam is well documented.

    Of more significance to me was the reason for our platoon being too close to the platoon following, a situation which I felt responsible. In my platoon, I was the digger carrying the sheep counter taped to my SLR to record paces taken. I would periodically feed this up the line to the skipper who would use this information to assist with navigation. I didn’t discover until over thirty years after the event when I interviewed my platoon commander whilst researching for my book, that the error was caused by iron in the soil affecting his compass, not my incorrect count of paces.

    Again, you post over 2000 words about alleged inaccuracies in terms of the role of 9 Squadron. It appears you have a specific axe to grind around this.

    Good luck with that – I have a similar axe to grind about “volunteering” to fight in Vietnam. I did no such thing, but have given up pointing out the truth of my experience, because it is simply denied by those who have skin in the game.

    The myth “every Nasho was a volunteer” is out there, as I have indicated above – even in the Anzac Day commemoration material used in schools – and it is a complete fabrication. I know my experience – I know I was never given an option. I know the truth. I lived it.

    The funny thing is, I am accused of “whinging” if I point out the fact. On the contrary, I am proud that I served honorably despite having no choice in the matter, as did most Nashos. There are some out there who lack the smarts to understand that the two apparently opposing concepts (being opposed to the war, but serving honorably in it) can coexist.

    I am a survivor, not a victim. I survived everything a Coalition government threw at me, and had the satisfaction of seeing them booted out in 1972, mainly as a consequence of their use of conscription, a policy that Australians have historically abhorred.

    The sad fact is that many Nashos weren’t as lucky as I was.

    Finally, frequent references are made in Ham’s book to an order/directive or some-such which required the pilots to avoid casualties, fly safe etc (See the earlier reference to Roger Wilson). Other books written about Vietnam contain similar references. However, a copy of the order/directive has never been produced and never will be, as it never existed. Which is why Ham could not provide me with a copy when I asked for it.

    Similarly, on the subject of all Nashos being volunteers, there is nothing documented at the AWM of these alleged “opt out parades”. I have searched my records from CARO for an alleged “agreement to serve overseas” form which I am assured I must have signed. No such document exists.

    You may not be happy with Ham’s account, but you will just have to live with it, just as I have to live with the bullshit published about my service being voluntary. Welcome to the club.

    And remember, Ham is the most widely read popular war historian in the country. I doubt that your nit-picking will change that.

  • Hello 17….

    Below is Ray Scott’s paper on the development of 9 Squadron, deployment to Vietnam and its early days in Vietnam. Ham knew nothing of this, and his history is completely unbalanced and error prone as a result. It is not possible to maintain a sensible defence of it.

    PART 1

    No 9 Squadron
    Some Lead-up Information and
    Its Initial Involvement In Vietnam

    1, When No 9 Squadron was formed in the latter half of 1962, it had an establishment of 8 Bell UH-1B helicopters, a primary role of search and rescue (SAR), and a secondary role of transport support for the Army. In early 1963 the role priorities were reversed and the aircraft establishment increased, initially to sixteen aircraft and subsequently to twenty four.

    2. In the Army support role the helicopter is an extension of normal fixed wing transport support (such as C130 and Caribou aircraft) or, if operating as a gunship/attack aircraft, as an extension of fixed wing close air support. Since it is purely an extension of fixed wing aircraft support, albeit with some unique flight characteristics, it follows that the main airpower principles governing the use of fixed wing transport and close air support aircraft are applicable. Unfortunately, most Army officers fail to understand this simple fact and tend to regard a helicopter as a truck or artillery substitute. They probably understand the use of trucks and artillery in a land battle, but they rarely understand the use of airpower, and therein is the potential for the misuse of air resources.

    3. When army support became the primary role two fundamental questions arose – exactly what tasks could the Squadron perform, and what tasking/control system was required? Tasks generally fell into one or two broad categories – the task was, or was not, within the capabilities of the aircraft. For instance the M2A2 howitzer could not be lifted because it was too heavy for carriage by the UH1B aircraft. The 105mm Pack Howitzer could be lifted in temperate weather conditions, but not in a tropical environment. However, it could be carried in almost any potential operational area when split into two loads. No task was rejected unless it was patently obvious that it was not a feasible operational proposition. By the time the major exercise for 1963 (Sky High) was carried out in November, the basic tasks which the Army had nominated for the Squadron were:-

    * troop lifting

    * internal/external lift of stores and equipment, i.e. logistic support

    * aeromedical evacuation.

    4. From that time, until the Squadron arrived in Vietnam in June 1966, the types of tasks for the Squadron generally remained static and were assumed and/or planned by the Army as being into and out of secure landing zones (LZs). In early 1963 the Army attached No 67 Ground Liaison (GL) Section, consisting of a major, sergeant, and private, to No9 Squadron to help coordinate the training of Army units in helicopter operations. Frequently, a detachment of one or two aircraft and crews would operate with an Army unit, and there could be several such detachments operating concurrently and at different locations. Tasking was carried out by mutual agreement between the 9 Squadron senior aircraft captain, acting as Detachment Commander, and the Army unit commander and his staff.

    For larger exercises, an Air Transport Operations Centre (ATOC) was formed by Headquarters Operational Command (HQOPCOM), usually within or adjacent to a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) at the Exercise Force Headquarters. Tasks for the Squadron were formulated within the JOC/ATOC and transmitted to the Squadron Operations Centre, co-located with the aircraft and crews, manned by a Squadron pilot and the Commander 67 GL Section. The latter was, inter alia, responsible for providing intelligence briefing material to the aircrew and participating in pre and post mission briefings.

    Generally, the system for the larger exercises worked reasonably well. The main problem was the inexperience and lack of intimate knowledge of helicopter operations of the RAAF and Army personnel manning the JOC/ATOC. The obvious answer was to place experienced Squadron pilots within the JOC/ATOC, but there were not enough to do so and cope, concurrently, with other Squadron commitments.

    When the Squadron formed there were only three pilots within the RAAF who could be classed as helicopter experienced – WgCdr Ken Robertson, Flt Lt Jim Cox, and myself. Cox and I became two of the six pilots established on the formation of the Squadron (Robertson was Commanding Officer of No 16 Army Light Aircraft Squadron). When Army support became the primary role and additional aircraft were purchased, additional crews had to be trained as helicopter pilots by the Squadron and then in the operational roles. Additionally, part of the Squadron was detached for SAR duties at Williamtown and Darwin and, ultimately, aircraft and crews were dispatched to Malaysia to form No5 Squadron. It is hardly surprising that, with a strength of one pilot and crewman per on line aircraft, the Squadron was hard pressed to cope with the initial helicopter and operational training, SAR commitments, supporting Army units throughout Australia and New Guinea, civilian mercy missions, sickness, leave etc.

    8. Initially, the small army support detachments encountered problems. Usually, the Detachment Commander was of flying officer or flight lieutenant rank, whereas the supported commander frequently was a major or lieutenant colonel. Pilots were briefed that they might encounter the ignorance and attitudes outlined in paragraph 2, and tasks which were beyond the capabilities, or a great misuse, of the aircraft. They were advised to refuse such tasks, explain why, and gently try to educate Army officers in the correct use of helicopter support. Unfortunately, some of the Detachment Commanders encountered Army officers who apparently believed rank gave them wisdom in air matters, and threats of disciplinary action were made. Although Army officers had no disciplinary powers over RAAF personnel, ultimately I had to give every detachment commander a signed operation order which specifically outlined his command chain, and which stated that he was the sole judge as to whether a task could or should be carried out. It did not make the problem disappear entirely, but as Army learned the rules and gained experience in air support the problem gradually decreased. One principle on which the Squadron insisted, and which was enforced in Vietnam, was that on accepting a task the Squadron must be the sole arbiter as to how it would be carried out. I note that LtCol Lou Brumfield insisted on the same principle when he was commander 1 RAR under U.S. Army control in Vietnam, and the principle was also endorsed, for Army, by the Chief of the General Staff, General Wilton.

    9. A related problem was the persistent Army machinations to take over the RAAF helicopter force. A brief outline of this constant problem is contained in Harry Rayner’s “Scherger” pp164-65. The problem increased after command of 161 Army Light Aircraft Squadron passed to the Army. We then began to encounter senior Army officers wearing “honorary” pilot wings, some of whom became instant experts in the use of airpower. The wings may have improved the wearer’s ego and impressed politicians and civilians in the Department of Defence, but they certainly did not improve the “honorary” pilot’s knowledge of airpower. The unfortunate result of this long, corrupt and immoral campaign is outlined in Air Marshal David Evan’s “A Fatal Rivalry” Chapter 9.

    10. The Squadron tried to educate Army in the flexibility presented to them by the use of helicopters, particularly in regard to deception and surprise. For instance, the 105mm Pack Howitzer, when carried as an external load, is easily recognized by a ground observer. We proposed the construction of some light-weight replicas which could be carried as an external load to an LZ sensitive to the enemy. On depositing the howitzers at the LZ their design would allow rapid dismantling and loading internally into the helicopter for concealed return to the original uplift point for further repeat of the procedure. We believed that the enemy could be deceived into believing that a threat, or lucrative target, presented itself at the LZ, thus forcing him to divert some of his forces and possibly presenting an opportunity to ambush those forces, The Army showed no interest in this and other similar suggestions. The RAAF was not supposed to think about matters “ground”.

    11. Whilst I was commanding 9 Squadron I was ordered to attend, as the RAAF representative, the annual Chief of the General Staff (CGS) Exercises, conducted by General Wilton. Whenever I attempted to ask a question or make a comment about the use of airpower I was deliberately ignored by the CGS. To me it appeared that the concept and conduct of the exercises were primarily aimed at influencing attending government ministers and senior public servants to aid selling future Army plans. Legitimate inputs from the RAAF representative were not about to be allowed to interfere with these plans. I reported this to Department of Air and requested more senior officers than I attend so that they would be more difficult to ignore. This was done beginning, I think, about 1967 and they met the same treatment and came to the same conclusions.

    12. Written doctrine on the operation of helicopters in a hostile environment was, virtually, non-existent. To aid our development of realistic procedures and tactics, in 1963 I requested the Squadron Engineer Officer (Keith Taylor) and I visit U.S. Army helicopter units in Vietnam to study their base structure, tactics and procedures. This was approved, but then delayed due to political unrest and the assassination of President Dieu in Vietnam. In April/May 1964 Keith Taylor and I visited Vietnam and flew, as copilots, on gunship and troop transport (slick) airborne assault missions with various U.S. Army and Marine helicopter units, and then with the RAF in Borneo during “confrontation” with Indonesia. That experience reinforced my opinion that the U.S. Army tactics in the use of helicopters left a lot to be desired (“guts but no brains”), and we should not emulate them. 9 Squadron formulated doctrine and tactics which we believed were far superior to those of the U.S. Army, would get the task done more efficiently with less loss of men and aircraft, and were in agreement with Australian land/air warfare doctrine. They were the doctrine and tactics that we used during exercises with the Australian Army, and they were the doctrine and tactics that we took to Vietnam in 1966.

    13. Peacetime establishments for personnel and equipment rarely reflect what would be required in a wartime situation. The Squadron had two “bare base” locations under SEATO and Confrontation plans – Mukdahan on the Thai/Laos border, and Green River in Papua New Guinea. RAAF units involved in these plans were directed to assess all domestic, maintenance and operational spares/equipment necessary to get the bare bases up and running to conduct their operational role. The estimated cost of covering 9 Squadron’s requirements was staggering and, to my knowledge, little was done to cater for any unit’s needs in time of war. The so called warning time of 15 years, so beloved of government strategic assessors, was supposed to cater for expansion before hostilities commence. Unfortunately, 9 Squadron received only 6 weeks warning to deploy to Vietnam. Shortages of personnel and equipment were inevitable.

    14. Apart from transfers to No 5 Squadron in Malaysia and SAR detachments at Williamtown and Darwin, Department of Air posted only two pilots (one at my request) from the Squadron during the period June 1962 to December 1965. This was a wise decision as it allowed the Squadron to gain and retain experience in a new field. It had a down side in that experience was retained within the Squadron rather than spread to other appropriate areas of the RAAF but, as in most new fields of endeavour, lead times for recruiting and training additional personnel does restrain rapid expansion.

    15. As for few in the RAAF understanding the requirements for helicopters, I found this to be a two edged sword. There were no mentors experienced in helicopter operations to whom I could turn. Nevertheless, because of this lack of knowledge at the higher levels, I could argue my case with few fears of legitimate counter arguments. On balance, I believe I would have had a more difficult task getting the Squadron up to a finely honed operational standard had there been helicopter experienced officers within the crucial RAAF staff positions.

    16. In December 1965 I handed over command of the Squadron to WgCdr Roy Royston on posting to Department of Air as Operational Requirements (Helicopter) –
    (OR (H)). At that time the Squadron had a small number of pilots and crewmen who were very experienced and capable, a further few who were consolidating operational training, and a small number undergoing initial helicopter training; an excellent team of maintenance personnel, mobile maintenance equipment developed within the Squadron that could cater for limited field operations, and tactical doctrine that had been developed, tested and proven during field exercises. I was satisfied that the Squadron was on a firm footing to continue its planned expansion. .

    17. On 8 March 1966, to the complete surprise of all in the Operational Requirements Branch, the Prime Minister announced that a Task Force, including 9 Squadron, would be deployed to Vietnam by early June1966. Frantic planning to cater for this unexpected deployment began immediately. Four days later I departed with the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (AVM Frank Headlam) to discuss the RAAF deployment with various people at Butterworth and in Vietnam. A RAAF team also arrived in Vietnam and joined an Army team in discussions, which I attended. It transpired that Army had been planning the Task Force deployment without RAAF input for at least nine months, and the discussions were pure window dressing and a farce. It became obvious that the subsequent organization, deployment and operation of the Task Force were to be “all Army”. It was also clear that inter-service problems loomed.

    18. On return from Vietnam frenzied planning took place in an endeavour to meet the almost impossible deployment date. The lack of adequate warning and prior planning permeated every aspect, and in particular:-

    * peacetime crewing of the aircraft with one pilot and one crewman was inadequate for Vietnam, and there were insufficient experienced crews within the RAAF to cope with this increase and still retain adequate numbers within Australia to expand training of replacements and continue normal commitments of SAR and Army support;

    * maintenance personnel were in a similar situation to the aircrew;

    * items unique to the Australian forces were to be obtained from national sources rather than supplied, on a per capita basis, by the U.S. logistic facilities. In country spares of unique items were totally inadequate to support 5 Squadron and combat operations by 9 Squadron. However, the capabilities of the maintenance personnel were such that no operations in Vietnam were jeopardized for lack of spares for unique components.

    * armoured seats, and pintle mounts for aircraft door guns were a necessity, but were not in the RAAF inventory due to no established peacetime requirement, All new production of these items was earmarked as priority for U.S. forces.

    19. The aircrew and maintenance shortfalls were attacked by a crash training expansion. Crewman numbers were a problem, and the Squadron eventually deployed to Vietnam with one crewman per aircraft. It was hoped that aircraft could operate in pairs with a left side right side crewman combination to give sufficient protective suppressive fire (door gunners were not established at that time). This proved to be unworkable. Until door gunners were established and the shortfall overcome by the training system, door gunners were recruited from U.S. airfield defence guards at Vung Tau. The guards were delighted to be trained and operate as door gunners during time off from their normal duties as they anticipated having to serve second tours in Vietnam and preferred to do so as door gunners rather than airfield guards. Their flying experience with the Squadron was recorded in RAAF Flying Log Books with the usual certification.

    20. Armoured seats and pintle gun mounts were ordered through the RAAF logistic system, hopefully for delivery to the Squadron when it arrived in Vietnam.

    21. As OR(H) I was directed to draft command, control and function sections to be included in a Department of Air Organization Directive (DAOD) covering the administrative arrangements for the reformation of No 9 Squadron and its deployment to Vietnam. I was aware that operational control of all elements of the Task Force would be vested in the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), and that body would issue an operational directive at a later date. In drafting my sections of the DAOD I unashamedly admit that I tried to influence the contents of the projected COSC operational directive.

    22. In recognition of the problems outlined in paras 8 and 9 I believed it necessary to provide some protection to the, as yet unchosen, 9 Squadron commanding officer in Vietnam. I firmly believed a squadron with only six on-line aircraft, and no organic gunship support, should have some protection against airborne assault tasks and, in particular, should avoid being thrust into a situation where it became attached to a mindless U.S.Army airborne assault mission similar to those I had experienced in 1964. My draft contained the following:-

    * No 9 Squadron would operate in direct support of the Task Force (this arrangement was contained in AP1300 Operations Manual which was current at that time);

    * command and operational control was vested in the Task Force Air Commander (TFAC),

    * functions were similar to those agreed by Army and carried out during the preceding three years of joint exercises, namely:-

    * the lift of troops from a secure staging area to a landing zone that is relatively secure and enemy resistance is not expected i.e. troop positioning,

    * the lift of troops from an operational area to a secure staging area when enemy resistance is anticipated on the last lift from the LZ i.e. troop extraction,

    * logistic support, and

    * aeromedical evacuation.

    23. The command, control and functions were approved at Chiefs of Staff level with one exception – operational control was vested in the Commander 1 ATF with the proviso
    “….which he will exercise through the Task Force Air Commander…” or some similar wording to that effect. I was not entirely comfortable with this change as I could foresee it was open to interpretation and might place the TFAC in a very difficult position. However, as it had been approved by the Chiefs of Staff it had to be accepted.

    24. In early April I was advised that I would again take over command of 9 Squadron with effect from 13 April 1966. The basic plan was that No 5 Squadron Butterworth would be disbanded and withdrawn to 9 Squadron at RAAF Base Fairbairn. This composite unit would then be split into two – No 5 Squadron to remain at Fairbairn and No9 Squadron to deploy to Vietnam. Splitting of the Squadrons proceeded reasonably smoothly, but 9 Squadron aircraft had to be withdrawn from service for maintenance so that they arrived in Vietnam in top condition, and their brown gloss finish had to be changed to a matt finish to aid concealment. The result was that little training could be carried out before the aircraft were flown aboard HMAS Sydney on 24 May 1966 for deployment to Vietnam.

    25. On 2 May 66 Keith Taylor and I were dispatched to Vung Tau as the advance party to check airfield, administrative and domestic facilities, and the arrangements for the arrival of the Squadron aircraft and accompanying personnel aboard HMAS Sydney on 6 June. RAAF Transport Flight (later renamed No 35 Squadron) had been operating Caribou aircraft from Vung Tau for some twenty months, and was leasing two villas for officer/airman accommodation. Villa Anna was a relatively small rat and bat infested, three level building very much in need of repair, but was sufficient to enable most of the RAAF Transport Flight officers to each have a separate room. The RAAF team that visited Vung Tau in March decided that all RAAF officers at Vung Tau were to be accommodated at Villa Anna. To do so up to seven officers had to be crammed into rooms normally designed for, at the most, two people. Needless to say the new arrivals were not popular with the original Transport Flight officers.

    26. The other villa, Ngoc Hong, located about three hundred metres from Villa Anna, accommodated the RAAF Transport Flight SNCOs and airmen, but was full to overflowing. Consequently, 9 Squadron and Base Support Flight SNCOs and airmen had to be accommodated in tents on the airfield in an area that was subject to torrential flooding during the monsoon season. Neither villa had adequate kitchen facilities, so a centralized mobile kitchen and kingstrand hut messing facilities were erected on the Ngoc Hong site. Shortly after my arrival the Commanding Officer Base Support Flight (SqnLdr Bill Kilsby) and an advance party arrived to take over responsibility for accommodation/messing functions etc.

    27. Whilst awaiting the arrival of Squadron aircraft and the main party, I took the opportunity to fly on operations with the 68th U.S. Aviation Company, which was based at Vung Tau, to become familiar with the area and to recheck U.S. Army helicopter tactics. Tactics had changed little from those I had experienced in 1964. U.S. pilots advised that issue flak jackets were almost useless, and strongly recommended the wearing of laminated boron chest armour (chicken plates), with which U.S. units were being equipped as supplies became available. A requisition for chest armour was added to the previous orders for pintle gun mounts and armoured seats, which the U.S. logistic system had, as yet, been unable to supply.

    28. As the senior RAAF officer in country at that time, I met Air Commodore Dowling (COMRAAFV) on his arrival at Tan Son Nhut airport, and accompanied him to the Free World Headquarters to meet MajGen Mackay (COMAFV) whom I had met previously. Towards the end of their discussions Dowling made the remark “I suppose our first task will be to get down to some serious planning”. Mackay immediately retorted “Army has done all the planning necessary”. It was a blunt and ominous message that Headquarters AFV would be a joint headquarters in name only, and the RAAF was regarded as not even a junior partner, but purely an unrecognized appendage to the Army Component. Clearly, Dowling and the RAAF in general were going to have a difficult time.

    29. HMAS Sydney arrived at Vung Tau on 6 June 1966, and the aircraft were brought on deck, reassembled, and flown off to the airfield on 7 June. The small maintenance party then set about the task of trying to locate all the Squadron stores which had also arrived aboard the Sydney and had been offloaded by 1 Australia Logistic Support Group (ALSG). It was a complete shambles. All Squadron stores had been delivered to Navy for onloading in a boxed and palletized state, with each box colour coded and numbered so that it was easy to identify what each pallet contained without opening individual boxes. Navy had discarded the pallets and individual boxes had been loaded aboard Sydney wherever they would fit. The result was stores destined for various Army and RAAF units were hopelessly mixed. This was further aggravated by ALSG when they dumped truck loads of stores throughout their sand dune area without any plan. The effort required to locate Squadron stores was enormous, and some stores were never located. No doubt Navy utilized “domestic” loading rather than “tactical” loading because space aboard HMAS Sydney was at a premium. ALSG personnel were, largely, inexperienced, and the terrain in their lodgement area was extremely difficult, consisting of shifting sand dunes.

    30. When the Squadron main party arrived by air on 12 June, some semblance of order had been achieved. The mobile workshops and maintenance tents had been positioned, stores which had been located were placed in tents under guard (theft, particularly of flying clothing by U.S.Army personnel had been rampant before guards were mounted), tentage had been erected for NCO/airman accommodation, and servicing of the aircraft was underway. Additionally, armoured seats had arrived for two aircraft, and these were fitted immediately. However, the stores shambles had prevented any possibility of aircrew training flights.

    31. On 13 June, one day after the unit had assembled in country as a full squadron, an urgent request was received from the Task Force Headquarters for all the small arms ammunition the Squadron could spare. Apparently 5 RAR had found itself embarrassingly short of ammunition. Each Squadron member kept two magazines for his personal weapon, and the balance of the Squadron holdings was flown to 5 RAR in the two aircraft fitted with armoured seats. This was the Squadron’s first operational mission in Vietnam. From thereon, missions were flown on a daily basis, increasing in number as armoured seats became available.

    32. Except for several selected safety of flight instructions, peacetime flying orders were deleted from the Flying Order Book. For instance the design gross weight for the UH-1B (and UH-1H) helicopter was 6,600 pounds. Bell Helicopter Company did not warrant aerodynamic safety, performance, component life, or component fatigue criteria if the aircraft was operated above this gross weight. However, the U.S. Army made provisions in their Flight Manual for restricted flight operations above the design gross weight up to a maximum of 8,500 pounds. Standard “tactical” gross weight for Squadron aircraft operating in Vietnam was set at 7,600 pounds as this gross weight could be used in almost any situation. For special operations requiring heavier gross weights a power check was made at the hover, and if sufficient power was available and the aircraft controllable, the flight proceeded.

    33. Pintle gun mounts remained a problem as the U.S. logistic system had been unable to supply any to the Squadron. As a temporary measure, door guns were suspended from the top of the door frame by bungee cords. This was a dangerous procedure as there were no built in traverse stops to prevent the gunner shooting into the aircraft structure or, as in a U.S. Army case, into the back of the aircraft pilot. Near the end of June one of the crewmen advised that he was friendly with a U.S. crewchief based at Tan Son Nhut who believed he could get some unserviceable pintle mounts. With the crewman in question I flew an aircraft to Tan Son Nhut, and left the crewman with the aircraft for about an hour. When I returned the back of the aircraft was filled with some very battered pintle mounts. On return to Vung Tau Squadron maintenance personnel completely overhauled the mounts and fitted them to the aircraft within a few days.

    34. Contrary to well established Land/Air Warfare Doctrine no Joint Operations Centre was formed at the Task Force Headquarters (TFHQ). During my tour only once was I invited to the Task Force Commander’s daily conference. Operational plans were formulated by the individual battalion commanders, without RAAF input, for approval by the Task Force Commander. An Air Transport Operational Centre (ATOC), under the command of SqnLdr Rex Ramsey, was located at the TFHQ for tasking of supporting aircraft. Ramsey had served as Chief Flying Instructor with 16 Army light Aircraft Squadron (16 ALA) and was well versed in Army procedures and tactics. However, neither he nor any of his staff were familiar with 9 Squadron procedures and tactics. This was a serious omission, but it could not be avoided due to the shortage of UH-1B helicopter trained pilots within the RAAF. It should be noted that the ATOC was not part of 9 Squadron, and I had no control over ATOC personnel, procedures or actions.

    35. Ramsey maintained that the first he knew of an impending operation was when the approved operation order was placed on his desk. Ramsey should have been working closely with the Task Force Operations Officer, Major Richard Hannigan. I suspect their relationship was less than harmonious. Whether there was unfinished business from Ramsey’s time as CFI of 16 ALA I do not know. At times Ramsey could be dogmatic. Because of some experience on the staff of Headquarters 173 U.S. Airborne Brigade Hannigan regarded himself as an air operations expert, and attempted to change 9 Squadron doctrine and tactics to those employed by the U.S. Army. He and Ramsey were bound to clash – and they did.

    36. In contrast to Hannigan’s attitude, when I first met the Commanding Officer 6 RAR, LtCol Colin Townsend, he said “I’m an expert in operating infantry and you’re an expert in operating helicopters. If you don’t interfere with my area of expertise I won’t interfere with yours”. We shook hands on that. Major John Murphy, Commanding Officer of 3 SAS Squadron had a similar attitude. I believe 9 Squadron had an excellent relationship with all the combat elements of the Task Force. To the best of my knowledge, unlike some Task Force Headquarters staff officers, no officer or soldier we were supporting in combat operations ever tried to tell me or other members of the Squadron how to do our task, or raise a complaint . There was mutual confidence in each others professional competence.

    37. Except for extraction of a small patrol in the Bulolo area of New Guinea, the Squadron had never operated with the SAS. When a task was received to insert a patrol into the Nui Dinh hills on 23 July 1966 neither Squadron was familiar with the other’s requirements or capabilities. Although joint training was carried out after this mission, insertion/extraction techniques left a lot to be desired, and it became obvious that the Squadron would have to devise better techniques if the SAS and aircrew were to survive this type of operation. An infiltration technique, which had been utilized in an embryo state by the Squadron in 1965, was modified, practiced, and incorporated into SOPs immediately. I understand that these basic procedures remained with the Squadron for many years, and were copied by the U.S Air Force Forward Air Controllers, in modified form, for the insertion/extraction of special forces in Laos.

    38. A further problem encountered in the early SAS missions was the inadequacy, or total lack of, armed escort. As the Squadron had no organic helicopter gunships, the TFHQ arranged armed escort by VNAF fixed wing aircraft or U.S. Army helicopter gunships. VNAF escort was almost useless due to language problems and the inability of the VNAF crews to operate in weather conditions which we considered routine. Initially, U.S. Army gunship crews had difficulties locating rendezvous points. During many early hot extractions (i.e. under fire), to avoid SAS patrols being overrun the Squadron could not wait for the arrival of escorts and had to complete the missions unescorted. On several occasions, in desperation, I sought the help of the armed Chinook “Guns A Go-Go” unit – a special experimental helicopter unit co-located with the Squadron at Vung Tau. Their reaction was immediate and the escorting absolutely first class.

    39. The Chinooks were very heavily armed with 2.75 inch rockets, miniguns or 30 mm cannons, 40 mm grenade launchers, and two side and one rear ramp .50 calibre machine guns. If they had ammunition left after escorting us the TFHQ gave them ground attack missions. The unit was delighted with these arrangements as they encountered some very lucrative targets, and sought to remain co-located with 9 Squadron. Unfortunately, they were moved to 1 Corps area. Guns A Go-Go hand picked crews rated 9 Squadron pilots as the best they had encountered. We assessed them as the best escorts we ever had. We were very sorry to see them depart.

    40. Shortly after beginning operational missions a large radio pack arrived at the Squadron with the instruction to fit it to an aircraft so that the Commander 1 ATF could have a command and control aircraft at his disposal. The pack had been obtained from U.S. Army sources by the TFHQ and every individual radio was pure junk and unserviceable. Putting the radios into a serviceable condition took excessive time which should have been applied to more essential tasks. Additionally, the pack was designed to run off the aircraft’s electrical and antenna system through a series of connecting plugs. The problem was that these systems in the RAAF aircraft differed from that of U.S. Army. The pack had to be hard wired into Squadron aircraft on an individual basis, and this took about two days. Removal of the pack also took considerable time.

    41. The Squadron advised TFHQ that the difficulties of fitting and removing the pack were such that the aircraft, virtually, became a permanent command and control aircraft, and this would decrease the on line aircraft for other tasks from six to five. The reply was that this did not matter. I believed the decision to fit the pack was absurd, and that only time would bring whoever was responsible at TFHQ to their senses. It did, and the aircraft was returned to its original condition and role.

    42. Shortly after we arrived in country, the TFAC (GpCapt Peter Raw) requested I attend a meeting with LtCol Rouse, Commander 1 ALSG, to discuss helicopter logistic support. Rouse, accompanied by all his officers, opened the meeting by stating that his task was to supply the Task Force, but there were a number of bridges between ALSG and the TFHQ, the blowing of which would immediately cut off road supply to the Task Force. Consequently, he required 9 Squadron to have eight aircraft on permanent twenty-four hour standby to resupply the Task Force.

    43. I couldn’t believe that an officer of his rank and position could be so out of touch with reality. I pointed out that the Squadron was under the operational control of the TFHQ, and it decided tasking and priorities. After persisting with his original “requirement” and getting the same answer, Rouse decided that there was no point continuing the meeting. As I departed some of his officers intercepted me, apologized for their commander’s ignorance of air transport support, and requested I leave it to them to educate Rouse. The subject was never raised with me again.

    44. The Squadron Engineer Officer, Keith Taylor, had been delegated airworthiness authority over the Army 161 Recce Flight by Department of Air. Shortly after we arrived at Vung Tau he was advised by RAAF maintenance personnel seconded to the Flight that the Commanding Officer, Major Paul Lipscombe, was overruling essential maintenance on the aircraft, and several were in a dangerous condition. In company with 9 Squadron SNCO experts he inspected 161 Recce Flight aircraft, and confirmed the dangerous state of most of the aircraft (one Sioux helicopter had no balls in the stabilizer bar bearings – they had been so worn they were ejected from the bearings during flight). Additionally, he found unauthorized modifications (including fitting white phosphorous and HE rockets) had been made to some of the aircraft. He grounded the majority of the aircraft until they were brought up to an airworthy state. There is little doubt that Taylor’s actions were correct, and that he probably prevented several fatal accidents. However, it did not endear the RAAF to the Commanding Officer 161 Recce Flight (Major Lipscombe) and his cohorts, and they became most uncooperative.

    Notes

    1. Ian McNeill – To Long Tan pp98 and 240.

    2. From about mid August 1966 the first TFAC Gp Capt Peter Raw lived at the TFHQ 5 days per week and could filter tasks to a certain extent. When his replacement (Gp Capt “Spike” Marsh) arrived to live at the TFHQ in April 1967 he was told by the Task Force Commander “You are not wanted here. Piss off back to your piddling command at Vung Tau”.
    AirCdre H.D. Marsh (retd) discussion with author December 1975.

    PART 2

    CRITICISM OF THE RAAF/ 9 SQUADRON

    What is history after all? History is facts that become lies in the end;
    Legends are lies which become history in the end.
    Jean Cocteau

    45. In several books published in the last few years I have read many severe criticisms of 9 Squadron’s attitude and conduct of operations in Vietnam, and these criticisms were used very effectively by Army to undermine RAAF ownership of the short range helicopter transport support force. I had difficulty understanding the basis of Army complaints simply because I had no knowledge of them until confronted with them in the various books.

    46. During my tour, I received from the TFHQ only two direct and one indirect complaint about Squadron operations. These are discussed in later paragraphs. I received no complaints from the forces we were supporting in the field. With additional information contained in Ian McNeill’s To Long Tan, it now appears that in many cases the originator or interpreter of the criticism has not, or cannot, distinguish between 9 Squadron and other elements of the RAAF. Some of the criticisms are very general. Some have appeared in early publications and have been accepted as factual and repeated by subsequent authors. To correct some previous misconceptions, or at least offer a different perspective, the following criticisms are direct quotes, or a précis, from various references, and my position on the subject matter.

    47. For brevity, quotes from the following books will be referenced by a shortened version of the title, followed by the relevant page number(s):-

    The Battle of Long Tan Lex McAuley Ref: BLT

    SAS Phantoms of the Jungle D.M. Horner Ref: SASPJ

    Australian Higher Command in the Vietnam War D.M. Horner Ref: AHC

    To Long Tan Ian McNeill Ref: TLT

    48. The three complaints I received from TFHQ (para 46) were:-

    * disregard of a directive to dispense with crewman/door gunners for an operation;

    * disregard of a directive to position an aircraft at TFHQ (Kangaroo LZ) before first light; and

    * not producing the support the Commander 1 ATF required.

    49. On 26 July 1966 a task was received to lift a company of 6 RAR from an LZ near the village of Long Tan back to the Battalion base at Nui Dat. The tasking signal stated that the Squadron was to dispense with crewman/gunners as “there are no VC in the area”. I refused to comply, firstly because no one could say with certainty where the VC were (except perhaps the VC). This was particularly so at that stage of the Task Force’s intelligence knowledge. Three weeks later the VC successfully concealed an augmented regiment size force near the uplift LZ area, resulting in the battle of Long Tan. Secondly, the order was a direct interference in my command and control of Squadron operations. And thirdly, crewman/gunners are an essential part of the aircraft crew in an operational area. BLT p18 indicates that my refusal to dispense with door gunners was justified when fire was received in the target area. I cannot recall receiving enemy fire, but my crew observed one armed VC crossing the Suoi Da Bang creek between the uplift LZ and the 6 RAR base.

    50. On receipt of the task to position an aircraft at TFHQ before first light I instructed the Operations Duty Officer to inform TFHQ that the aircraft would be unable to land before first light unless TFHQ lifted the ban on the use of landing lights between last and first light, or provided some form of lighting at Kangaroo LZ. The ban was not lifted, and lighting at the LZ was refused. The aircraft’s landing was delayed until the light was sufficient to land safely without the aid of landing lights, i.e. first light. The TFHQ ban on the use of landing lights appears to have been directed selectively at 9 Squadron, as no such ban applied to 161 Recce Flight nor to the U.S. Army dustoff aircraft.

    51. The complaint that the Squadron was not supplying the support the Commander 1 ATF required was made to the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Marshal Murdoch during a visit to the TFHQ on 14 August 1966. On CAS’s arrival at Vung Tau later that day I was called to a meeting with CAS and Gp Capt Raw and advised of the complaint. Both Raw and I advised that this was the first indication we had of the complaint, and queried whether the complaint related to any particular mission or area of our operations. CAS had no specifics – just the generalization, and that the Commander 1 ATF wanted the unit to be based at the TFHQ (Kangaroo LZ) during daylight hours to decrease reaction time. We assumed from this that the complaint related to aircraft apparently arriving late for the requested time on target. I advised the CAS that we could have aircraft at the TFHQ within ten minutes of receipt of a task request, I was not aware that any operation had been affected adversely by slow reaction of Squadron aircraft, Kangaroo LZ was a bare clearing with no facilities whatsoever, and that refueling and maintenance could not be carried out at the LZ. At that point we were advised that a critical situation had developed with a SAS patrol. CAS immediately excused me from the meeting to deal with it.

    52. After returning from extracting the SAS patrol GpCapt Raw advised me that CAS had departed for Saigon. I was concerned that CAS had been denied the benefit of a full discussion of the Commander 1ATF complaint. Consequently, I wrote a letter to GpCapt Raw regarding the complaint (see BLT pp 166-170). I also attached a copy to my Commanding Officer’s Report for August 1966. This was to ensure that it would be drawn to CAS’s attention by staff at Department of Air, and also to give notice to the Commander 1 ATF and his staff, COMAFV and the Army in general that I would not remain silent regarding unfounded criticism of 9 Squadron. During the remainder of my tour no lack of support complaints were received from the TFHQ.

    53. One significant result of the CAS visit was that GpCapt Raw thereafter lived at the TFHQ about five days per week. He was then in a position to ensure that the Task Force Commander’s operational control of 9 Squadron was exercised through him. Additionally, I believe his presence (and rank) helped to minimize the in-fighting which, apparently, had developed between a senior member of the ATOC and the Army Operations Officer. Also see Endnote 2 to Part 1.

    54. The desire to base the Squadron at the TFHQ LZ is interesting. The Squadron already located aircraft at the LZ during daylight hours, but these aircraft had to return to base periodically for refueling and maintenance. This was similar to the U.S. Army procedures. For instance, the 68th U.S. Army Aviation Company, which supported U.S. Army and ARVN units in the 3 Corps area and which the TFHQ used for large scale operations beyond the capacity of 9 Squadron, was co-located with 9 Squadron at Vung Tau – not with a unit in the field. However, the main reasons against permanent deployment to Nui Dat were the vulnerability of the aircraft to mortar attack (similar to that experienced the night before the Battle of Long Tan), inability to service aircraft at Kangaroo LZ, and the enormous logistic problem of supplying, storing and securing fuel for the aircraft. Additionally, unlike U.S. Army units, the Squadron carried out all major servicing of the aircraft. This could not be carried out in the primitive conditions prevailing at Nui Dat, and Squadron personnel manning would not allow splitting the maintenance force between two locations.

    55. “Despite Mackay’s request, the helicopters had arrived without armoured seats for the pilots and machine guns to provide suppressive fire, and the RAAF insisted that Air Board Regulations, framed for peacetime flying should apply in Vietnam. Mackay stated that if the regulations were not changed and if the helicopters could not provide suppressive fire then the Army would use American rather than Australian helicopters. In the meantime he grounded the Australian helicopters” ( Ref: AHC p19).

    56. If para 55 is a correct quote from Major General Mackay, then of all the criticisms of the RAAF/9 Squadron this is probably the most ill informed and absurd I have read. The facts are:-

    * armoured seats and pintle gun mounts were not in the RAAF inventory, and all production of these items was earmarked for U.S. forces. Seats and mounts were requisitioned immediately the RAAF became aware that 9 Squadron would be deployed to Vietnam. From thereon we were in the hands of the U.S. Army logistic system, and no amount of “requests” by Mackay could overcome the supply difficulties -largely caused by the RAAF not being included in planning for the Task Force deployment (see paras 17 and 18 ).

    * the Squadron arrived in Vietnam equipped with M60 machine guns, but not pintle gun mounts. Until pintle mounts became available, the M60 guns were suspended by bungee cords in the aircraft doorways to provide suppressive fire capability. However, the helicopters were not close air support aircraft (gunships), nor was that role approved by the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Chiefs of Staff Directive to the Commander Australian Force Vietnam states “No 9 Squadron – under the operational control of COMATF to provide SRT (short range transport) support to the Australian Task Force” (Ref: AHC p80). Mackay appears to be confused between the term suppressive fire and the close air support role, and ignores the directive to him by the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

    * other than certain safety of flight orders, no “peacetime” regulations were mandatory in the Squadron operating procedures in Vietnam (para 32). Mackay probably is referring to the Squadron’s “functions” as outlined in the Department of Air Organization Directive (para 22). If that is correct the following is relevant:-

    * operational control of the Task Force and its elements was vested in the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and it was the only body at departmental level with the authority to issue operational directives;

    * the Department of Air Organization Directive (DAOD) was in compliance with its title – it was an organization directive NOT an operational directive. The Department of Air could not, and did not, issue operational directives to the RAAF elements of the Task Force;

    * the “INTENTION” section of the DAOD was quite clearly stated as “To outline the administrative (my emphasis) arrangements for the reformation and subsequent deployment to Vietnam of No 9 Squadron”. When deployment of the Squadron had taken place action required by the DAOD was complete and the DAOD then became redundant;

    * secure receiving LZs certainly were desirable, but were not mandatory for any Squadron missions. If there are doubts then consider SAS insertions that began six weeks after the Squadron arrived in Vietnam. They were almost a daily occurrence, and all were into insecure LZs.

    * 9 Squadron was never grounded during my tour. The first operational mission was flown the day after the Squadron assembled at Vung Tau, and missions were flown every day from thereon. Mackay’s claim is pure nonsense and records, such as the Flight Authorization Book, show that to be so.

    57. “….the RAAF high command shunned an early opportunity to develop helicopter techniques jointly with the Army in Vietnam….Wilton suggested the RAAF deploy two helicopters ….Wilton was angered by the reply…expressed his failure to understand how U.S. tactical helicopter operations were suspect when they were the leaders in the field…Trial helicopters were not sent. RAAF-Army co-operation in Vietnam the following year took months to stabilize…it is not surprising that the generals looked wistfully at the American arrangements where helicopters belonged to the ground forces… ” (Ref: TLT PP432-33).

    58. The full text of the quotes in para 57 is a good example of lack of knowledge and judgement by high ranking Army officers in the requirements and application of airpower. I was unaware of the approach by Wilton, but fully support Air Marshal Murdoch’s rejection of the proposal as:-

    * Wilton apparently believed that the only way to train for war was to participate in a war. The years of joint RAAF-Army helicopter exercises in which doctrine and tactics were developed apparently counted for nothing in his view;

    * if two aircraft had been deployed, only one on-line aircraft per day could be reasonably guaranteed. If this lone aircraft had been attached to 1 RAR for what tasks would it have been used? From previous experience with Army I would confidently predict that it would have been used as a taxi and command aircraft for the 1 RAR commander. Had it operated as part of a U.S. Army helicopter company it would have had to comply with American plans, doctrine and tactics. In neither of these situations would there have been opportunity to develop worthwhile joint RAAF-Army procedures additional to those which the Squadron had already developed;

    * a two aircraft detachment would have been commanded by a flying officer or junior flight lieutenant. Did Wilton seriously expect the equivalent to a platoon commander capable of developing joint RAAF-Army procedures? Later events tend to the conclusion that his proposal had a more sinister aim; and I know that from his experience as AOC Operational Command Air Marshal Murdoch was sufficiently aware of Army perfidy to anticipate that possibility. Certainly, from a professional point of view it was nonsensical;

    * Wilton obviously was unaware that the RAAF had had first hand experience of American helicopter tactics and procedures in Vietnam (para 12 and Appendix A), and there were many compelling and documented reasons why the RAAF believed U.S. Army operations were suspect;

    * anyone who believes the U.S.Army were the leaders in the helicopter field should take a course in airpower studies and read Robert Mason’s “Chickenhawk”. The force was tied to U.S Army ground operations that usually proved to be non- productive against an enemy who retained the initiative as to when and where he would stand and fight. .Professional aviators within the U.S. Army were in the minority, and most of the aircrew were “short termers” who had been massed produced within the U.S. flight training system. They were almost totally ignorant in the correct use of airpower, and were under the control and direction of non-aviators. U.S. helicopter operations certainly were large, but that did not make them the leaders in the field. As an interesting comparison to Wilton’s views, in November 1966 the Squadron was visited by a U.S. Army team to investigate why the Squadron aircraft serviceability and successful mission completion were so high, and aircraft operational and accident losses were so low. The team assessed the Squadron as the most efficient helicopter unit in Vietnam, and openly stated that the U.S. Army could never achieve similar standards;

    * Wilton’s apparent admiration for U.S. helicopter operations contrasts remarkably with his views of U.S. ground operations, of which he was ” wary”, and which he variously described as “meat grinder tactics”, and “slog it out”; he continued to “distrust the heavy fighting”, and apparently feared “the small voiceless battalion group being cut to pieces while executing some grand American design”; he had “a desire to practice Australian doctrine”. (Ref: TLT pp 98,118,122,174,200). Wilton didn’t want Australian troops operating under American doctrine, concepts and procedures, but apparently had no such inhibitions about placing RAAF personnel under those very conditions. A case of double standards;

    * 9 Squadron was not a party to the alleged lack of RAAF cooperation. The apparent problem was between some members of the respective staffs of the ATOC and the TFHQ Operations centre. Attachment of two helicopters to 1 RAR would not have prevented the problem. Squadron aircrew ignored the alleged lack of cooperation between the staff officers, and got on with the task that mattered – support of the fighting troops in the field;

    * the generals may have looked wistfully at American ownership but, usually, generals are not the people who shed blood in battle. Had Army owned the helicopter force in Vietnam the Army non-aviator “instant experts” would have been in control. The results would have been disastrous.

    59. “The commander and senior staff officers on the task force headquarters and logistic support group were bitter in their condemnation of what they regarded as the low level of support provided by 9 Squadron…”
    “Hannigan believed the difficulty of dealing with the helicopter squadron was the greatest problem faced by the headquarters staff. He attributed the reason to the inability of the RAAF to appreciate what the ground forces required from them…”
    “…relationship between the headquarters and the air staff officers as one of conflict, friction, antagonism, ill will, lack of cooperation…”
    “…believed the RAAF element was grossly overstaffed…” ( Ref TLT pp430-31).

    60. The quote regarding low level of support by 9 Squadron I find difficult to understand. It is possible that we did carry out missions not in accordance with the views of the “instant expert” staff officers at the TFHQ Operations Centre, as we insisted that when given a task we would decide what procedures/tactics we would use to achieve the aim (para 8). I cannot recall any occasion when we failed to carry out a mission tasked by the ATOC to the complete satisfaction of the troops being supported. The aircraft captains had up to three years experience operating with all types of Army units, and understood Army requirements far better that Army understood airpower and its application.

    61. The Squadron had no direct dealings with Hannigan or the Logistic Group. Tasking was the province of the ATOC, and the Squadron merely carried out support in conformity with missions received from the ATOC. Tasks for the Logistic Group were reasonably rare. Perhaps the ALSG comment refers to the lack of agreement by the RAAF to have eight aircraft on twenty four hour standby in case road bridges to the TFHQ were blown – paras 42-43 and TLT p550 note 103 refer.

    62. The other criticisms in para 59 have nothing to do with 9 Squadron as they refer to the relationship between Army Operations and ATOC staffs which, apparently, carried on a feud in their safe havens whilst the Army field elements and 9 Squadron got on with the task of battling the real enemy. In my opinion, almost all criticism of 9 Squadron stems from the authors and historians inability to distinguish between 9 Squadron operations and the Operations /ATOC staff’s alleged disagreements. I believe no accurate and balanced view of RAAF/Army relations at the TFHQ will be forthcoming until the officer commanding the ATOC (SqnLdr Rex Ramsey) is interviewed by a capable historian. Ramsey also probably could throw some light on the overstaffing comment. Perhaps, when assessing personnel requirements, Department of Air assumed that, in accordance with normal Land/Air Warfare doctrine, a joint operations Centre would be formed and to which I referred in my letter to GpCapt Raw. (Ref BLT p 168).

    63. “…Jackson had reached the stage of threatening to court-martial the next airman who disobeyed his orders “.

    64. I have no knowledge of others who disobeyed the 1 ATF Commander’s orders. I am certain that other members of 9 Squadron were not involved. Consequently I assume that the threat was directed to members of the ATOC. Nor was I aware that Jackson had made the threat mentioned in para 63. Nevertheless, when I refused the orders mentioned in para 49-50 I was fully aware that a court martial could result. I was quite prepared to accept that possibility as the principles involved demanded confronting the problem head on. If common sense did not prevail at the TFHQ then a court martial (which would have been a RAAF court conducted in accordance with the RAAF disciplinary code and procedures) was the best method of having the problem fully aired. I confronted the Commander 1 ATF and outlined my objections to the orders in question. He agreed with my views, and common sense prevailed.

    65. “….the accommodation of pilots at a hotel in Vung Tau…the initial lack of necessary equipment on helicopters such as armour and door guns, the officers on the task force headquarters believed the RAAF had a quaint notion of the war they were
    in…”. ( Ref: TLT p431).
    “…The Army made disparaging remarks about the RAAF personnel living in comfort at Vung Tau….”. ( Ref BLT p18).

    66. Criticism of the Squadron for lack of necessary equipment is a nonsense as explained in para 56. The Squadron began combat operations one day after it assembled at Vung Tau – no Army unit was able to match that response. Perhaps Army would have done better to concentrate on their own deficiencies, such as APC gun shields and internal radio communications (TLT p331 and 552), machine guns (TLT p 301), wire and mines (TLT p413), and various SAS items (SAS PJ p181).

    67. The other criticisms in para 65 are also wide of the mark. Villa Anna was not luxury accommodation. Certainly it was better than living in a tent, but it was rat and bat infested which defied all efforts to eradicate, was badly in need of repair which the owner refused to sanction, grossly overcrowded, and was far from comfortable. The critics probably are unaware that occupation of Villa Anna by the RAAF was a long standing arrangement- the RAAF Transport Flight having leased the Villa from November 1964. It is also pertinent that virtually all hotels and most “villas” in Vung Tau were occupied by U.S. Army officers and NCOs. Until 9 Squadron aircrew strength was increased later in 1966, Squadron aircrew were on standby up to 16 hours per day, and also carried out operational missions on a daily basis for up to twenty one days before having a rest day. On most missions crews could expect to be the target of enemy fire. Their understanding of the war they were in was very intimate, real, and far from quaint. The criticisms appear to be based on ignorance and envy. It is significant that, apparently, they all stem from that well known source “officers on the task force headquarters” -none of whom was engaged in direct combat action against the enemy.

    68. “Brigadier Jackson…had arguments with RAAF pilots about flying where he wanted to go but they did not, for fear of endangering the aircraft…”
    “There are numerous anecdotes and examples quoted of RAAF reluctance to expose the aircraft to ground fire, generally by way of comparison with US Army units…” (BLT p16).

    69. The first quote in para 68 refers to the command and control aircraft (paras 40-41), and indicates a different approach to air operations. Army, generally, did not appreciate that whilst the UH-1 helicopter is, in many ways, a rugged aircraft it has many essential for flight components that are very vulnerable to small arms fire. Because of their enormous helicopter losses in Vietnam the U.S. Army, in writing the specification for the UH-1 replacement (Sikorsky Blackhawk), specified that essential flight components, where possible, must be shielded from ground fire by other non-essential components, armour plated, and/or duplicated or triplicated.

    70. Brigadiers, helicopter crews and aircraft were in short supply within the Task Force, and 9 Squadron was determined to lose none of these through shoddy planning, tactics and flight procedures. Known enemy anti-aircraft defences were avoided as far as possible, or tactics used to minimize aircraft exposure. Army was not prepared to accept the huge troop losses experienced by the U.S. forces, but apparently was unaware that U.S tactics and procedures also resulted in enormous helicopter losses. 9 Squadron was not about to repeat U.S.Army mistakes. Squadron crews certainly did not lack courage, but courage must be applied intelligently. There are ample comments in Ref SAS PJ indicating that crews did not avoid coming under fire when operations demanded it.

    71. “…Jackson….asked for helicopters to deliver the ammunition. Raw demurred…
    Raw had been asked to commit…helicopters into a perilous flying situation, in complete breach of the intention of the instructions from the Department of Air …(Ref TLT p 322).

    “…Group Captain Raw rapidly assessed the situation and offer, and accepted the latter without clearing it with Wing Commander Scott…” (Ref BLT p 68).

    72. Para 71 refers to the ammunition resupply during the battle of Long Tan on 18 Aug 1966. I was not present during the above referenced discussions and cannot offer first hand comment. I discussed the resupply mission with GpCapt Raw the day after the event, and he indicated there had been some reluctance to accept the task. At that time I appreciated his reluctance as the weather during the battle was the worst I experienced during my Vietnam tour. On the publication of Lex McAulay’s book, “The Battle of Long Tan”, some twenty years after the event I became aware that factors, other than the weather, might have influenced Raw’s reluctance.

    73. Quotes by Bob Grandin (Ref BLT p 68), who was a junior co-pilot on the resupply mission, are disputed by other more senior members. Unfortunately, two of the main principals involved are deceased (GpCapt Raw and FltLt Riley), and I understand that another senior officer present (Sqn Ldr Rex Ramsey) has refused interviews with historians. Some of Grandin’s comments are nonsense, but indicate that he, and perhaps others, genuinely but erroneously believed that they would be breaching “orders” if they flew the mission. No such orders existed. During recent (July 2006) attempts to clarify Grandin’s comments he stated “…The issue is that a discussion took place in which orders based upon an “air staff directive” were raised as a reason we should not go. The fact that there was no such directive is not the real issue…”

    74. There is little doubt that Raw, Ramsey, and some of the aircrew involved had a discussion during which so called “orders” dictated by an ‘air staff directive” were raised. Who raised this issue is still a mystery to me, but it indicates that some of those involved were under the erroneous belief that the Department of Air Organisation Directive, mentioned in paras 21-23 and 56, was pertinent. How this belief occurred escapes me. I can understand non-staff trained officers might not distinguish the finer points between an organization and operational directive, or the redundancy of the DAOD in question. However, GpCapt Raw was a graduate and an ex directing staff member of the RAAF Staff College, and certainly should have recognized that the DAOD had no bearing on operational missions. Perhaps the criticality of the situation affected judgement.

    75. Tasks could be received via the Squadron Operations Room, directly by crews at the TFHQ, and by radio to airborne aircraft. Although I kept a close eye on tasks whenever possible, they were never referred to me for prior approval. I could not be in all places or in direct communication at all times. It was also unnecessary, as I had faith in the judgement of the experienced aircraft captains. However, in this case, it is unfortunate that Peter Raw did not contact me regarding his reluctance to accept the task. I would have reminded him that the DAOD was redundant and had no authority over operational matters. Additionally I could have supplied more experienced crews to carry out the task in the prevailing atrocious weather conditions. In hindsight the latter would have been unnecessary as the crews involved did an exceptional job in extremely adverse conditions.

    76. “…The following six RAAF dustoff, unaccustomed to the conditions and flying without lights as ordered, took longer….” (Ref TLT p341).

    “…The Australians were a little more he

  • The paper was cut by Kev’s software at para 76. The balance is below

    76. “…The following six RAAF dustoff, unaccustomed to the conditions and flying without lights as ordered, took longer….” (Ref TLT p341).

    “…The Australians were a little more hesitant, they were not used to this sort of thing…” (Ref BLT p 124).

    77. Para 76 refers to the medical evacuation (dustoff) of casualties after the Long Tan battle and, in particular, to the slow landing rate of the 9 Squadron aircraft in comparison to that of the U.S. Army helicopter which landed first into the evacuation LZ. There is no question that there were delays between Squadron aircraft landings, but there is a simple explanation.- unlike the U.S. aircraft the Squadron was denied permission to use landing lights during the approach and landing at the evacuation LZ

    78. During the battle the Squadron had seven helicopters positioned at the Kangaroo LZ awaiting tasks for over six hours. About midnight GpCapt Raw arrived at the LZ and advised that we were to evacuate the D Company casualties and, because the enemy situation and intentions were unknown, Army would not sanction the use of landing lights. Instead, an APC on the LZ would have its lights on. I was satisfied with this as the APC lights would be far superior to the primitive lighting normally experienced during field operations e.g. a single torch or flame from a “zippo” cigarette lighter.

    79. I got airborne shortly after the U.S. Army helicopter. Visibility was very poor due to low cloud, and the aftermath of the battle in the form of thick drifting smoke. On nearing the uplift LZ I noticed it had a bright light showing. However, almost immediately this was extinguished. I then realised that the light had been that of the U.S. dustoff aircraft landing light which had been used contrary to instructions we had received. I had great difficulty re-locating the LZ, as the only semblance of light was a small red/purple glow which wavered and frequently disappeared due to the poor visibility.

    80. Ref BLT p122 quotes the commander of the APC Squadron as having “…positioned the M113s so that they formed a big square, and I had this idea of leaving the lights on inside the carriers, so that from the air you’d see the squares of light making a big rectangle, and I’d stand out in the middle, with a couple of torches, guiding the helicopters in…”. Although the intention was laudable, under the prevailing atmospheric conditions it was almost a disaster. Slant range visibility was so poor that at no stage during my approach to the LZ did I sight more than an occasional faint wavering glow from the APC interior lights. Nor did I sight torchlight until after touchdown. The only reference was the one hazy glow which gave no depth perception whatsoever. Following aircraft captains, who were called in as the preceding aircraft departed the LZ, had similar problems. Whether the U.S. Army dustoff pilot received a “no landing light” instruction but chose to ignore it, or once again 9 Squadron was singled out for this restriction I do not know. The fact that Squadron pilots successfully, albeit slowly, managed to land without landing lights in the prevailing conditions speaks volumes for their training and capabilities.

    81. “…At 5.20 pm Smith asked Townsend for reinforcements by heliborne assault. But such a move with even a company was out of the question because of the weather, visibility, time of day, lack of suitable landing zone. “Totally impossible” said Townsend…”.
    “…Jackson reiterated that the weather made a fly-in “quite impossible”…. (Ref TLT p325 and Endnote 107 p550).

    82. The quotes in para 81 are not criticisms of 9 Squadron, but I believe they raise interesting points. Jackson judged that a fly-in was impossible due to weather but, apparently, he was not so reticent in attacking Raw’s “demurral” (para 71) in relation to the ammunition resupply. Nevertheless, I agree that an airborne assault was not a feasible proposition. 9 Squadron could have transported about two platoons of infantry per lift into an LZ close to the battle position, but landing lights would have had to be used. I believe these troops would have been very rapidly isolated by an alerted enemy before they could have linked up with D Company 6 RAR. The U.S. Army had almost unlimited resources, but the formation they used and the general capabilities of most of their pilots probably would have prohibited any attempt at a successful airborne assault in the prevailing weather conditions.

    83, “…Lieutenant Colonel Warr considered that the RAAF were wrong in retaining the power of ultimate decision when carrying troops…”. (Ref TLT p432).

    84. The prime aim when carrying troops is to transport them safely to their destination so that, on landing, they have the best possible chance of carrying out their mission. The tactics used and the decisions which have to be made en-route to achieve that aim, quite clearly, are outside the province of non-aviators. It is the old adage “give me the task but don’t tell me how to carry it out”. However, if unanticipated circumstances arise en-route then the troop commander should be consulted and, if necessary and possible, the tactics/plan altered to suit the changed circumstances. Sometimes during SAS insertions enemy fire was received during the approach to the LZ. In these instances, the aircraft captain discussed alternatives with the SAS leader and a decision made either to use an alternative LZ or abort the mission.

    85. I note that a similar question of control of APCs arose during the Long Tan battle, and the APC commander insisted that he had control during movement (Ref TLT pp336-7). I also note that by 1969 1 ATF SOPs stated that “…The armoured commander will normally command the move as it will be necessary for him to use his tactics and formations in getting from the start point to the objective…” (Ref TLT p554 Endnote 34).

    SUMMARY

    86. In analyzing complaints about 9 Squadron which I have read in the quoted publications, I believe two significant points stand out:-

    * virtually all complaints stem from “staff officers at the Task Force Headquarters”, but never from the troops in the field; and

    * these same staff officers could not, or would not, distinguish between actions by the ATOC staff and members of 9 Squadron.

    87. During my many visits to the TFHQ Army officers had ample opportunity to bring to my attention any criticisms they had of 9 Squadron operations. They failed to do so. The Commander 1 ATF was always courteous and friendly to me, accepted my explanations as to why I disobeyed two orders supposedly emanating from him, and offered no criticisms to me directly. In fact in early 1967, during a presentation to high ranking government and Defence personnel in Canberra, he referred to the “magnificent support provided by 9 Squadron”.

    88. The capabilities and efficiency of 9 Squadron were superior to that of any other UH-1 unit in Vietnam, and this was verified by the U.S. Army assessment in November 1966. It provided first class support to the troops in the field, and from whom no complaints arose. The SAS would not use any other helicopter unit for their insertions/extractions. The question then arises as to why certain staff officers were so vocal in their condemnation of the Squadron years after the event.

    89. I believe the fundamental reasons for the unsatisfactory relationship between elements of the RAAF and the Army staff officers in Vietnam stem from two main areas:-

    * Army total disregard for the principle of joint planning, both prior to and during Australia’s involvement in Vietnam; and

    * Army machinations to gain control of the RAAF helicopter force.

    90. These Army shortcomings were evident in the sharp differences of opinion between General Wilton and Air Marshal Murdoch (paras 57-58); exclusion of the RAAF from planning for the formation and deployment of the Task Force to Vietnam; General Mackay’s rebuff to AirCdre Dowling on joint plans (para 28) and his subsequent indefensible denigration of Dowling’s capabilities (Chris Coulthard Clark “The RAAF in Vietnam” pp 82-83); the total lack of joint planning at the TFHQ; and the attempt, on spurious grounds, to base 9 Squadron at the TFHQ LZ (para 51) where it would have been far more difficult to resist Army total control over Squadron operations.

    91. I suspect that most of the criticisms of the Squadron by the staff officers, and those in the Commander’s Diary, were instigated by the Task Force Operations Officer- Major Hannigan. He failed to acknowledge the shortcomings of the U.S. Army helicopter force, and was totally ignorant of 9 Squadron’s experience, tactics, and doctrine. Had joint planning been undertaken he, and his staff officers, may have become aware that 9 Squadron’s tactics and techniques were far superior to those of their U.S. counterparts. In addition, the apparent personal animosity between him and the ATOC Commander might have been alleviated. However, I doubt that this would have been sufficient to overcome the real and driving malevolence -Army’s unrelenting and immoral assault on RAAF ownership of the helicopter force.

    92. Regardless of the difficulties imposed on them by the unhealthy attitude of some Army staff officers, I believe 9 Squadron personnel carried out their tasks in a dignified and competent manner, unsurpassed by any other helicopter unit in Vietnam. They can be proud of their record and achievements.

    R. Scott
    AirCdre (Retd)
    7 May 1994

    ADDENDUM

    93. As requested in the letter covering the original of this paper the recipient, Doctor Alan Stephens, deposited a copy in the RAAF Historical Centre Canberra. Subsequently, some historians have used the paper to correct some of the more damaging myths surrounding 9 Squadron operations. Unfortunately, as most people who are interviewed and/or submit information for an historical work ultimately realize, frequently their comments are subject to interpretation by the historians which can lead to distortion. The original of this paper is no exception.

    94. In the years following the withdrawal from Vietnam, the Army lies and deceitful myths regarding the RAAF and 9 Squadron continued to circulate and grow. In 1986, due to treacherous collusion at Chiefs of Staff level, a weak and vacillating Minister for Defence (who, reportedly, took a vote of his staff including typists, to decide the issue) and despite strong warnings and protests by many RAAF veteran helicopter officers Army, ultimately, achieved ownership of the helicopter force. See Air Marshal David Evan’s “A Fatal Rivalry” for an expanded expose. Following this unsavoury act, as predicted, Army were not aware of or ignored many fundamental principles of airpower and aircraft operations. They reaped the whirlwind in an aircraft serviceability rate as low as 5 % and, in 1996 , through sheer stupidity and ignorance, the totally unnecessary loss of two Blackhawk helicopters and the lives of eighteen soldiers – the same number suffered by D Company 6 RAR in the Battle of Long Tan thirty years earlier.

    RS Oct 2006

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