Australian servicemen listed as missing in action in Vietnam

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, 24, of St Leonards, NSW, and Private Peter Raymond GILLSON, 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, 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, 24, of Toowoomba, Qld, and Flying Officer Michael Patrick John HERBERT, 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, 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.

Further Information

    • Ashley Ekins, "Australian MIAs of the Vietnam War – "missing in action" or "no known grave"?", Wartime 23, July 2003, pp. 14-18
    • On 1RAR soldiers, Lance Corporal R.H.J. Parker and Private P.R. Gillson: see Ian McNeill, To Long Tan: the Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1950–1966, Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, Sydney, 1993, chapter 7; and Bob Breen, First to fight: Australian diggers, NZ kiwis and US paratroopers in Vietnam, 1965–66,  Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1988, chapter 5
    • On SAS soldier, Private D.J.E. Fisher: see David Horner, SAS: phantoms of war: a history of the Australian Special Air Service, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2002, chapter 19 (previously published in 1989 as SAS: phantoms of the jungle)
    • On RAAF Canberra bomber crew, Pilot Officer R.C. Carver and Flying Officer M.P.Herbert: see Chris Coulthard-Clark, The RAAF in Vietnam: Australian air involvement in the Vietnam War 1962–1975, Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, Sydney, 1995, chapter 9
    • On 8 Field Ambulance medic, Lance Corporal J.F. Gillespie: see Ian McNeill, The team: Australian Army advisers in Vietnam 1962–1972, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1984, chapter 16
    • Australia's Vietnam War: exploring the combat actions of the 1st Australian Task Force
      Database and website developed by the University of New South Wales Canberra which combines combat data with mapping and graphing software to produce an interactive battle map of the campaign in Vietnam. Incorporates maps from both the present day and the Vietnam War era to display details of combat incidents involving Australian and New Zealand troops from the 1st Australian Task Force in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

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