Damaged boot

Squadron Leader James Cox

A Company of the 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, was patrolling across the Suoi Chau Pha River as part of Operation Ballarat on 6 August 1967. After coming into contact with a large Viet Cong force, the group fought at close quarters for over two hours, with neither side able to gain an advantage. While the Viet Cong eventually withdrew under the pressure of Australian artillery, five Australians were killed and 21 were wounded, one of whom later died of his wounds.

Dust-off helicopters from 9 Squadron, RAAF attempted to evacuate the wounded while the battle was still raging. Restricted to lifting casualties by winch due to the thick foliage, the helicopters were put at considerable risk.

The first dust-off helicopter to arrive at the scene was flown by Squadron Leader James Henry Cox. Before the helicopter could lower its winch, it was hit by a burst of machine-gun fire. The winch and radio were put out of action, a medical orderly was wounded, and a bullet went through Cox’s left boot. In spite of his wound, Cox was able to fly the helicopter back to base. Cox was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Vietnam.