RAAF operations in Vietnam War

The Vietnam War from 1962 to 1975 was a significant conflict for the RAAF, which began when Malaysian based Dakota transport aircraft conducted flights to Saigon in 1962 to deliver essential supplies and evacuate wounded personnel.

At the request of the Vietnamese and US governments, in 1964 Australia increased its military support to South Vietnam, including deploying additional Army units and an air transport unit. The RAAF was in the process of replacing Dakota transport aircraft with the Caribou aircraft, and six of these new aircraft were stationed at Butterworth in Malaysia. There, the RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam (RTFV) was formed and deployed to Vietnam, with the first three aircraft arriving at Vung Tau on 8 August 1964.

The Caribou aircraft was designed specifically for landing on rough strips and air-dropping cargo. ‘Wallaby Airlines’, as the unit was affectionately called, operated a variety of missions ranging from daily freight runs to support of special forces units, sometimes under enemy fire. On occasions, the aircraft dropped parachute flares to illuminate the battlefield at night.

On 1 June 1966 the RTFV was renamed No 35 Squadron. The Squadron remained in Vietnam until 26 February 1972, and during that time three Caribou aircraft were destroyed, one by enemy mortar fire at That Son on 29 March 1970, and another two had to be returned to Australia for major repairs. Although several members of 35 Squadron suffered wounds in Vietnam, none were killed.

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