Williamtown RAAF hold 50th Anniversary of airmen lost in Vietnam

Commander Surveillance and Response Group, Air Commodore Barbara Courtney, AM cuts the cake with Commanding Officer No. 2 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Brown at the 50th anniversary memorial of Magpie 91 at RAAF Base Williamtown.

 

JOINING with Squadron association members and veterans, Royal Australian Air Force personnel from Number 2 Squadron held a commemorative event at RAAF Base Williamtown on 3 November 2020 to honour Australian Defence Force members who fought in the Vietnam War.

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The commemorative program acknowledged the 50th Anniversary of two Australian airmen who lost their lives during the conflict.

On 3 November 1970, a RAAF No. 2 Squadron Canberra Bomber (tail no A84-231), call sign ‘Magpie 91’, went down near the Laotian-Vietnamese border after completing a successful bombing mission in support of United States ground forces.

The aircrew were Flying Officer Michael Herbert (Pilot) and Pilot Officer Robert Carver (Navigator).

The last known radio transmission to the crew were from US ground controllers who praised their efforts by reporting ‘that was an excellent run Sirs”.

The cause of the crash remains unknown.

Following the incident, 2 Squadron and the United States Air Force searched for the pair for three days, eventually declaring Herbert and Carver as missing in action.

Their remains were eventually found and repatriated by a Defence Historical Unit on 31 August 2009 arriving back in Australia on 1 September.

The “Magpie 91” event program at RAAF Williamtown, conducted 50 years to the day of the aircraft’s downing on operations, included a memorial service and colours parade held in the Squadron hangar, acknowledging the service and sacrifice of the airmen lost.

This was followed by a No. 2 Squadron E-7A Wedgetail flypast over the event area – performed in the airmen’s honour.

Commanding Officer – No. 2 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Brown said the aircraft participating in the flypast holds great historical significance as it is adorned with commemorative nose-art completed by personnel deployed on Operation OKRA in 2020:

“The nose-art combines the 2 Squadron lightning bolt emblem with the Unit’s World War II and Vietnam War decorations that include a United States Presidential Unit Citation, a Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and a United States Air Force Outstanding Unit Commendation.

“As 2SQN has recently returned from operations in the Middle East – we remember those who have come before us and we honor their memory through our service contributions today.”

 

By Bettina MEARS

 

Commanding Officer No. 2 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Brown pays his respects at the 50th anniversary memorial of Magpie 91 at RAAF Base Williamtown.

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