Home' Air Force News : September 17th 2009 Contents AIR FORCE September 17, 2009
Operation Magpies Return
BITTER-SWEET DISCOVERY -- PAGE 14-15 FINALLY, THE CHANCE TO SAY GOODBYE -- PAGE 16
target at 8.22pm and was headed back
to Phan Rang Air Base. About 70 sec-
onds later the aircraft disappeared off
A comprehensive search was
conducted over three days, with all
available aircraft from 2SQN as well
as all available aircraft from the US
Air Force and US Marine Corps -- Air
The search was hampered by thick
tree canopies which prevented observ-
ers from spotting any crash remnants.
They searched for obvious crash sites,
parachutes and emergency radio bea-
A ground search was not possible
due to heavy flooding and the presence
of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA)
in the area.
PLTOFF Carver's sister-in-law,
Mrs Susanna Carver, said not knowing
for all those years devastated the fam-
ily. She said the service at Richmond
was very emotional.
It was a moving day for veteran
WGCDR Alan Curr, a close friend of
He said the day was extremely
fulfilling. "We never thought this day
would happen, it closes a chapter and
it just so happens that our two boys are
the last two, and that's no less or more
important than anybody else."
Defence Personnel Materiel and
Science Minister Greg Combet said the
repatriation was the "end of an era".
"After all of the tumult of the
Vietnam War, a conflict which helped
to shape a generation in this country,
Australia can now close this chapter of
its history," he said.
From an early age FLGOFF
Herbert took an interest in aviation.
At 16 he gained his civil pilot's
licence. FLGOFF Herbert served in
the Air Training Corps and in 1964
he enlisted in the Air Force. He was
posted to 2SQN as a pilot on Canberra
Mr Des Hyde flew several mis-
sions with FLGOFF Herbert and he
was PLTOFF Carver's room-mate in
He said FLGOFF Herbert was
an extremely competent pilot and a
Before PLTOFF Carver joined the
Air Force as a navigator, he worked as
a radiographer. He thought he wanted
to make more of his life and make a
difference in the world.
Mr Hyde said PLTOFF Carver was
a quiet person who liked to keep to
himself, though when he had some-
thing to say it was meaningful.
By CPL Corinne Boer and
FLGOFF Michael Herbert
had flown 198 missions and
was due to return to Aus-
tralia within weeks; PLTOFF
Robert Carver had been in Vietnam
only eight weeks when their Can-
berra bomber crashed in the remote
Vietnamese jungle in 1970.
On August 31, nearly 39 years
later, they finally got home. Family,
friends and servicemen stood in trib-
ute at RAAF Base Richmond as their
remains were carried in coffins from a
C-130 that had flown in from Hanoi.
It was the culmination of Operation
Magpies Return, in which an Air
Force-led team went to Vietnam to find
and retrieve the remains.
On April 21 this year, an ADF team
found the aircraft's crash site in rugged
terrain near the Laotion border.
The Magpies Return team, headed
by Officer in Charge WGCDR Michael
Warby, left Australia on July 8 and
arrived in the area on July 12. After
five days of exhaustive digging, they
found the first remains.
The team also comprised SQNLDR
John Cotterell, forensic odontologists
SQNLDRs Paul Taylor and Alain
Middleton, principal investigator MAJ
Jack Thurgar, forensic pathologist
SQNLDR Malcolm Dodd, archaeolo-
gist SQNLDR Tony Lowe, air crash
investigator SQNLDR William Savill,
explosive ordnance technician FSGT
Rodney Amos, photographer LACW
Shannon Urie and an engineer, Mr
WGCDR Warby said it had been an
honour to have been involved.
"I feel very privileged to have been
part of the team that not only recov-
ered FLGOFF Herbert and PLTOFF
Carver, but brought them home to their
families," he said.
"The support we received from the
Vietnamese government was outstand-
ing and the Vietnamese MIA organisa-
tion could not do enough to help us."
The cause of the Canberra bomb-
er's accident remains unknown.
FLGOFF Herbert and PLTOFF
Carver took off at 7.10pm from Phan
Rang Air Base on November 3, 1970.
No thunderstorms were reported in the
The aircraft, A84-231, callsign
Magpie 91, dropped its bombs on the
AT REST: PLTOFF Robert Carver was buried in Toowoomba on September 3 and FLGOFF Michael Herbert
was buried in Adelaide on September 7.
Photo: LAC Aaron Curran
FUNERAL TRIBUTE: An Air Force
Bearer Party carries FLGOFF
Michael Herbert's coffin from St
Francis Xavier's Cathedral to the
hearse after the funeral service.
SOLEMN FAREWELL: An Air
Force Bearer Party carries PLTOFF
Robert Carver's coffin from St
Luke's Anglican Church after the
funeral in Toowoomba.
CLOSURE: Chief of Air Force
AIRMSHL Mark Binskin speaks at
RAAF Base Richmond.
Links Archive September 3rd 2009 October 1st 2009 Navigation Previous Page Next Page