Possums & Bird Dogs: Australian Army Aviation's 161 Reconnaissance Flight in South Vietnam

By Peter Nolan | Go to book overview

5
Vung Tau:
May 1966–March 1967

From its new location at Vung Tau, 161’s operations in support of the establishment of the task force continued around the clock. The operations were not without incident however. On 1 June, Second Lieutenant Don Cockerell’s Cessna was hit by ground fire while on a low-level mission. A bullet entered the floor of the cockpit, severed the elevator trim chain, grazed the pilot’s left calf and exited through the side of the fuselage. Unsure of the extent of the damage Cockerell carefully landed back at Vung Tau for repairs to the aircraft and his leg.

After the completion of Operation Enoggera on 5 July, the Flight supported 5RAR in Operations Sydney 1 and 2 from 8 to 23 July. These were the first operations fully under task force control. 5RAR’s task on Sydney 1 was to clear Nui Nghe, a jungle-covered hill outside the northern boundary of Line Alpha, as a preliminary to further operations aimed at restoring control of Route 2 in the northern part of the province. Reconnaissance had shown that the hill was crisscrossed with tracks and dotted with bunkers and trenches.1 There was evidence of regular occupancy.

Sydney 2 was a cordon and search of Duc My, a hamlet in the Binh Ba village complex north of Nui Dat. The complex had a long history of Viet Cong domination. These operations provided valuable experience for the battalion, and the methods used became models for

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