A Bloody Job Well Done
The History of the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam 1967-1971.
Available from HMAS Cerberus 03 59315750. rrp $29.95
Reviewed by Steve Eather
One of the least remembered – but most distinguished – Australian combat units to serve in the Vietnam War has had a new history published to commemorate its extraordinary service.
The Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight – Vietnam (RANHFV), comprising detachments of Navy pilots, observers, maintainers and support staff were integrated with the American 135th Assault Helicopter Company and for four years flew the full gamut of US Army style combat missions in South Vietnam.
Due to the operating methods of the United States Army Aviation Corps, this meant that the RANHFV became Australia’s hardest fought aviation unit in the Vietnam War. It lost the first Australian pilot of any service to be killed in Vietnam and suffered a casualty rate several times higher than its closest comparable Australian aviation unit in Vietnam – the RAAF’s No 9 Iroquois Helicopter Squadron. The RANHFV’s total of around 200 personnel suffered more combat casualties than the crews of the nine RAN destroyer rotations and all other Navy Vietnam commitments – combined!
This 437 page book tells the story of the four separate contingents of Navy personnel who served with the RANHFV and provides excellent contextual information on the background for the decisions to deploy them in the first place and of the RAN in the 1960s. This is no dry as dust history: the editors have gathered the stories of as many veterans as possible and these reflections give the reader the feeling of being there in Vietnam with the helicopter crews and maintainers. A series of appendices provide nominal roles, honour roles and a list of awards and recommendations. This is a well researched and comprehensive history.
This book is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in aviation and military history.