Home' Air Force News : September 17th 2009 Contents AIR FORCE September 17, 2009
Operation Magpies Return
By CPL Corinne Boer
IT'S said that time heals all
wounds -- but clearly the
expression had little relevance
for the friends and families of
airmen FLGOFF Michael Herbert
and PLTOFF Robert Carver. Nearly
39 years after losing their loved ones
their grief was still as strong as the
day the tragedy occurred.
The burden carried by Mr John
Bird was especially strong. Mr Bird
knew FLGOFF Herbert and PLTOFF
Carver while serving in Vietnam and
he was supposed to be on that fateful
"It changed my life totally," Mr
"I didn't realise how much it would
affect me until I was due to come
home. "[Mike] was supposed to be
on the same flight and then he wasn't
Mr Bird met FLGOFF Herbert's
sister in Canberra in 1992 at the
unveiling of the Vietnam memorial.
"I said 'I'm John Bird I should
have been with your brother' and I
burst into tears."
Mr Bird travelled to Vietnam with
the airmen's families and friends in
August to bring the crew of Magpie
91 home. He explored Hanoi's Old
Quarter, a maze of narrow streets
swarming with tooting motorbikes.
He haggled at markets and passed by
make-shift restaurants that spilled on
to the footpaths with squatting custom-
ers slurping fragrant noodle soup.
While Mr Bird bartered and
indulged himself in the local delica-
cies, there was an overarching sensa-
tion of anticipation. The moment he
and many others have waited so long
for would soon arrive.
A complex mix of emotions was
felt at the ramp ceremonies in Hanoi
and Richmond. The discovery of the
two airmen and the subsequent repa-
triation may provide some closure.
Closure may not lessen their pain but it
may start the healing process.
"I haven't been able to talk about
it until now without crying," Mr Bird
said. "I just hope it gives everyone
some closure on this."
Some family members had given
up hope of ever finding the airmen.
Mr Adam Carver, PLTOFF Carver's
nephew, said it was almost a foregone
conclusion that the day would never
The pain was evident as Mr Shane
Herbert crouched beside his brother's
casket. Mr Herbert was only 11 when
FLGOFF Herbert disappeared. He said
his family had spent many years deal-
ing with it.
"This passage is very important,"
Mr Herbert said.
"The finding of the wreckage was
the first significant step."
HEALING PROCESS: FLGOFF Michael Herbert's sister Kerryn Herbert
and brother Shane Herbert during his funeral service at St Francis Xavier's
Cathedral in Adelaide.
Photos: ABPH Jo Dilorenzo
FAMILY GRIEF: From left, Adam
Carver, Bill Carver and Susanna
Carver, family of PLTOFF Robert
Carver, during the funeral service
at St Luke's Anglican Church
TOUR TINGED WITH SADNESS:
Right, family members and
comrades of FLGOFF Michael
Herbert and PLTOFF Robert Carver
on a tour of Hanoi, Vietnam.
I didn't realise how
much it would
affect me until I
was due to come
home. Mike was
supposed to be
on the same flight
and then he wasn't
Links Archive September 3rd 2009 October 1st 2009 Navigation Previous Page Next Page