The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (R56859) Petty Officer Aircrewman O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips, Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam, Vietnam War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.230
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 18 August 2018
Access Open
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (R56859) Petty Officer Aircrewman O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips, Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam, Vietnam War.

Speech transcript

R56859 Petty Officer Aircrewman O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips, Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam
Helicopter crash 21 August 1968
Story delivered 18 August 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Petty Officer Aircrewman O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips.

O’Brian Phillips was born on 18 June 1936 in Patna, India. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1960 and became a petty officer in 1965. He served as a sonar operator in Wessex anti-submarine helicopters flying from HMAS Melbourne. In 1967, he joined the first contingent of the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam.

The Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam was created in July 1967 in response to a need for more helicopter pilots to support US and Republic of Vietnam ground forces. The Australians integrated fully into the US Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company to become the only such integrated US-Australian unit in the Vietnam War. Known as the EMU – Experimental Military Unit – the unit quickly took on the large flightless bird as an ironic mascot and call sign. The motto of the company also had an Australian ring to it: “Get the bloody job done”.

Pilots of the 135th flew US Army Iroquois “Huey” helicopters in two configurations: the gunship, and the troop transport, or “slick”. Phillips flew on board a gunship helicopter as the senior gun platoon non-commissioned officer. In this role, he was responsible for a crew of men that maintained and fired the weaponry of the gunship.

In December 1967, the 135th moved from the increasingly crowded base at Vung Tau to the American fire support base Black Horse near Xuan Loc. As the second-in-command of the working party that expanded Black Horse to fit the EMUs, Phillips showed his ingenuity. Building material was hard to find, so Phillips’ efforts to make the camp as comfortable as possible won him the respect of the soldiers and sailors in the 135th. While in Vietnam, Phillips also served as a pathfinder attached to Australian Army infantry units. He participated in enough patrols to entitle him to the Army’s Infantry Combat Badge, a unique honour among the naval aviators in Vietnam.

From Black Horse base, the unit flew troop lift, combat assault, and support missions in Phuoc Tuy province and the Mekong Delta. It was involved in the insertion and extraction of US, Australian, and Republic of Vietnam soldiers into and out of battle, with the helicopters and crews often coming under heavy ground fire.

On 21 August 1968, Phillips was a door gunner in the lead helicopter of a light fire team of gunships. Flying at tree-top level from Black Horse to Nui Dat, the helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed in a clearing. Phillips, the pilot, fellow Australian Lieutenant Anthony Casadio, and the two American crew members were killed on impact.

The loss of the four men was keenly felt among the close-knit EMU contingent at Black Horse. A memorial service was held at the base in the days after the incident. Phillips was 32 old, survived by his wife, Margaret. He is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth.

Petty Officer Aircrewman O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, one of 521 Australians who died while serving in the Vietnam War.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Petty Officer Aircrewman O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (R56859) Petty Officer Aircrewman O’Brian Cedric Ignatious Phillips, Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam, Vietnam War. (video)