35 Squadron RAAF – Vietnam

No. 35 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) transport unit. Formed in 1942, No. 35 Squadron operated during World War II, transporting cargo and passengers around Australia, New Guinea and the Netherlands East Indies, equipped with a variety of aircraft including the Douglas Dakota. It was disbanded after the war, but was re-raised in the 1960s for service during the Vietnam War, flying transportation and resupply operations with DHC-4 Caribous in support of Australian and US forces. The squadron was subsequently augmented with rotary-wing aircraft, operating UH-1 Iroquois in both the transportation and gunship roles. In the late 1980s, the squadron returned to a solely fixed-wing transport role. It ceased operations in 2000, but was re-raised in January 2013. It began re-equipping with C-27 Spartan transports in 2015.

Vietnam War

On 1 June 1966, the RAAF Transport Flight Vietnam (RTFV), which had been formed for operations in Vietnam in July 1964, was redesignated No. 35 Squadron at Vung Tau in South Vietnam. Assigned to the 834th Air DivisionSeventh Air Force, and operating DHC-4 Caribous, the re-formed squadron flew cargo, passenger and medevac flights throughout South Vietnam in support of Australian, South Vietnamese and United States forces. During its time in Vietnam the squadron was nicknamed “Wallaby Airlines”, in reference to its callsign “Wallaby”. Despite not being employed in an offensive role, the squadron’s aircraft were regularly called upon to fly into dangerous areas of the conflict zone, often at low level, and on several occasions the Caribous were fired upon and aircrew wounded.

By June 1971, the squadron’s complement of aircraft was reduced from seven to four as a part of the drawdown of Australia’s forces in Vietnam; as a result of requirements for maintenance, however, only two aircraft were operational at any one time after this. No. 35 Squadron flew its last mission on 13 February 1972 and departed South Vietnam for RAAF Base Richmond in Australia on 19 February 1972; it was the last RAAF unit to leave following the decision to withdraw. During the five years that it was deployed, the squadron lost two aircraft destroyed in accidents, the result of poor weather and the difficult nature of some of the landing grounds that the Caribous were required to use when supporting isolated garrisons. Another aircraft was destroyed from Viet Cong mortar fire, struck while conducting a resupply mission at Thất Sơn in 1970.

Although its work was not glamorous, the squadron developed a good reputation among the US air commanders as an efficient and effective unit, achieving a record that prompted US commanders to send personnel to the squadron to study their techniques. For their involvement in operations in Vietnam, members of the squadron received several honours and decorations including two appointments to the Member of the Order of British Empire, eight Distinguished Flying Crosses, one Distinguished Flying Medal, one British Empire Medal, and 36 Mentions in Despatches.


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