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July 5, 2012
FORMER CO 76SQN AVM Jim
Flemming (ret'd) seems to have
a love-affair with firsts -- he
formed the first official RAAF
aerobatics team called the Me-
teorites and still has his name painted
on the first production CA-27 Sabre,
A94-901, which has been kept by the
Historical Aircraft Restoration Society
of Canberra in Illawarra.
AVM Flemming also developed the
panther's head logo used by 76SQN,
something the society is now recreat-
ing on the tail of a Macchi aircraft they
Fighter pilots shared fond memo-
ries and action-filled war stories with
AVM Flemming as they presented him
with a full-sized copy of the Black
Panthers original squadron logo on
Speaking about his involvement
with conflicts in New Guinea, Japan,
Korea and Vietnam, AVM Flemming
said what he remembered most was
"There were only moments of sleep
and booze between terror and anyone
who says different is a bloody liar,"
AVM Flemming said.
"But you became a bit immune,
because you had to get used to the fact
that you could be talking to a good guy
one day, go on a trip, then not have
him with you anymore."
But AVM Flemming also said the
squadron logo brought back wonder-
ful memories of some of the happi-
est times he spent in the Air Force. "I
really enjoyed being CO of 76SQN
-- it was a great squadron with a terrific
bunch of airmen," he said.
"We were working on a shoe-
string budget, we achieved a tremen-
dous amount, but I think the spirit and
morale of 76SQN was the highest I
have ever seen."
Born in December 1926, AVM
Flemming joined the RAAF in 1943
and graduated as a sergeant pilot in
Based in New Guinea and at
Darwin during WWII, he then served
with 78SQN and flew Mustangs dur-
ing the occupation of Japan from 1948
before flying on the first RAAF mis-
sion of the Korean War in 1950.
Commissioned in 1950, AVM
Flemming served with 3SQN in 1951
before becoming a flying instructor.
On exchange with USAF in 1958 he
was flying F-100 Super Sabres and the
F-104 Starfighter before becoming CO
AVM Flemming said he visited
the Sabre in Illawarra every couple of
"I have a touch and a feel and think
how much I would love to fly it again,"
he said. "The airmen gave me a model
of it -- it is one of my proudest posses-
In May 1967, as CO 75SQN,
AVM Flemming led the squad-
ron of 24 Dassault Mirage III fight-
ers from RAAF Base Williamtown to
Butterworth in Malaysia via Indonesia.
Black Panther honour
Known as Operation Fast Caravan,
the 11,000km flight took nine flying
hours and was completed inside two
days with two refuelling stops.
After leaving the RAAF as Chief of
Air Force Operations (1981 to 1982),
AVM Flemming was the Director of
the Australian War Memorial from
1982 to 1987.
When asked about the future of
today's Air Force, AVM Flemming
said he thought the airmen of today
were just as good as they ever were.
"They are a great bunch of people
and you just have to look at what they
achieve," he said.
Current CO 76SQN WGCDR Chris
Hake said that it was an immense hon-
our to hand over the 76SQN plaque.
"AVM Fleming flew in three wars
and operated in so many different
front-line fighters -- in today's era a
pilot would be fortunate to fly two dif-
ferent front line fighter types," he said.
"He has an amazing recollection
of the real history of the RAAF fight-
er squadrons, from New Guinea and
Korea right up to the Hornet."
From starting an aerobatics team to designing
a squadron logo, this former CO 76SQN has a
rich history, CPL Mark Doran reports.
PANTHER PRESENTATION: Above, current CO 76SQN WGCDR
Chris Hake, and previous COs AVM Jim Flemming (ret'd) and reservist
SQNLDR Phil Frawley with a full size copy of the 'Black Panthers' original
squadron logo. Right, AVM Flemming with his Sabre.
Above photo: CPL Mark Doran
-- AVM Jim Flemming (ret'd)
There were only
moments of sleep
and booze between
terror and anyone
who says different is
a bloody liar.
NUMBER 76 Squadron was formed in Queensland
in March 1942 and equipped with Kittyhawk
In July, the squadron deployed to Milne Bay as
part of the Allied force assembled there to prevent
a Japanese invasion.
During the two-week battle for Milne Bay from
late August, 76SQN Kittyhawks flew vital bombing
and strafing operations in support of the soldiers.
By September 7, the Japanese had lost the
battle and 76SQN withdrew to Australia where it
re-grouped in Western Australia and re-equipped
with new Kittyhawks in May 1943.
It returned to combat operations at
Goodenough Island, and its final wartime deploy-
ment was to Labuan in support of the invasion of
After the war, 76SQN re-equipped with
Mustangs and deployed to Japan until 1948 when
it returned to Australia and converted to Vampire
jets.It deployed to Malta in 1952 to join NATO
forces in the Mediterranean.
From 1960, it flew Sabre jets from RAAF Base
Richmond, before converting to the Mirage in
Its fighter role ended in 1989 when it replaced
its Mirages with Macchi jet trainers.
It also operated specially-equipped PC-9
aircraft in forward air control operations until this
role was passed to 77SQN.
In 2001 it re-equipped with the BAE Hawk 127.
Today, 76SQN conducts introductory fighter
training, fleet support and close air support.
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