Wallaby AIRLINES

RAAF Vietnam Lifeline

One transport squadron was the RAAF’s first in and last out during Australia’s seven-and-a-half year involvement in Vietnam. The vital role it played in the country’s longest war has long been overshadowed, as Andrew Thomas reveals 

RIGHT CO SQN LDR CHARLES SMITHIES IN A4-234 LEADS FLT LT M B VINK IN A4-173, FLT LT P J JUDGES IN A4-179 AND FG OFF D INNES IN A4-208 DURING A HOMECOMING FLYPAST ABOVE SYDNEY 
FAIRFAX MEDIA/GETTY
LEFT THE SQUADRON CO WELCOMES A US OFFICER ABOARD A 35 SQUADRON CARIBOU RAAF

When the Australian government committed additional forces to South Vietnam in June 1964, an air transport element was deployed to support the escalation. The RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam (RTFV) was formed at Vũng Tàu in Phước Tuy province on July 21, under the command of Squadron Leader Chris Sugden.

At the time, the RAAF was taking delivery of a batch of DHC-4 Caribou short take-off and landing (STOL) tactical transports from Canada, with three of them, A4-171, A4-179 and A4-185, diverted to Vietnam. These arrived at Vũng Tàu on August 8 with another trio arriving by the end of the month.

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