A total of 521 Australian service personnel died as a result of the Vietnam War (496 Australian Army; 17 RAAF; eight RAN), as well as seven Australian civilians. This number includes six servicemen who, by the end of the war, were classified "missing in action – presumed dead" in four separate incidents. The remains of all six have now been located and repatriated to Australia.
Lance Corporal Richard Harold John (“Tiny”) PARKER (pictured left), 24, of St Leonards, NSW, and Private Peter Raymond GILLSON (pictured right and below), 20, of Holsworthy, were both regular army soldiers with 1 RAR. On 8 November 1965, during Operation Hump in Bien Hoa province, both soldiers were observed by their comrades to be hit repeatedly by enemy automatic weapons fire at close range. Despite brave attempts by other soldiers, their bodies could not be recovered, owing to heavy enemy fire that pinned down their company. The remains of Gillson and Parker were located in May 2007 and were repatriated to Australia in June 2007.
Private David John Elkington FISHER (pictured left), 23, was a national serviceman from Balgowlah Heights, NSW. He served with No. 3 Squadron, SAS. On 27 September 1969, Fisher was a member of an SAS patrol that had contacts with parties of Viet Cong in south-eastern Long Khanh province, about 30 kilometres northeast of the 1st Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat. During a "hot extraction" by helicopter Fisher fell about 60 metres into dense jungle from a rope attached to the helicopter. He was believed killed but searches over six days failed to recover his body. Fisher’s remains were located in southern Vietnam in August 2008 and were repatriated to Australia in October that year.
Pilot Officer Robert Charles CARVER (below right, first left), 24, of Toowoomba, Qld, and Flying Officer Michael Patrick John HERBERT (below right, right hand side), 24, of Glenelg, SA, were both career air force officers in No. 2 Squadron, RAAF. On 3 November 1970 their Canberra bomber disappeared from a radar screen while returning from a night bombing mission in the northern I Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam. An extensive aerial search of the area failed to find any trace of the aircraft or crew and was called off after three days. In April 2009 the wreckage of the Canberra bomber was located in thick jungle in Quang Nam Province near the Laotian border. Human remains discovered near the site were identified in July 2009 as those of Carver and Herbert and were repatriated to Australia on 31 August 2009 for burial in separate military funerals.
Lance Corporal John Francis GILLESPIE (pictured left), 24, of Carnegie, Vic., was serving as a helicopter medic with 8 Field Ambulance. On 17 April 1971, during a "dustoff" (medical evacuation) operation in the Long Hai hills in Phuoc Tuy province, Gillespie's helicopter was hit by enemy ground fire and crashed. His body could not be recovered from the burning wreckage. The crash site was located in February 2004. In December 2007 human remains discovered at the site were positively identified as those of Gillespie and were repatriated to Australia for burial.
I would like to thank the Vietnamese and Australian Government, and all private parties who contributed towards the successful return of the above mentioned Australian Defence Personnel. At last they are all home. Finally, a special thank you to Mr Jim Bourke, founder of the group Operations Aussies Home.