219th Aviation Company (Reconnaissance) US Army badge : Yvonne Barrett, Australian civilian entertainer South Vietnam

Place Asia: Vietnam, South Vietnam
Accession Number REL44769
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Badge
Physical description Enamel, Metal
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1965-1968
Conflict Vietnam, 1962-1975

Enamelled circular metal badge featuring an armed flying Cessna O-1 'Bird Dog' liaison and observation aircraft with the words 'COMBAT SURVEILLANCE / 219th' above and below the aircraft. Under the left wing of the O-1 are a pair of rockets and on the tail of the aircraft are the letters 'TH'. The aircraft features black paint on top of the cowling immediately in front of the cockpit, with yellow and green markings on the fuselage. The undersurfaces of the aircraft are medium blue. The badge has a dark blue enamelled background representing the sky. At the bottom of the badge is a pair of US Army pilot wings. The back of the badge has a pair of vertically aligned pins.

History / Summary

This item was presented to Yvonne Barrett during one of her two tours of Vietnam.

Yvonne Frances Barrett, born 1946, was an Australian performer and resident of Braybrook, Victoria. By the age of ten she was already appearing in pantomimes and TV dance shows in Melbourne, as well as stage shows such as 'The Sound Of Music' and 'Carnival'. When she spoke to the 'Australian Women's Weekly' in July 1964, she expressed a keenness to develop herself as a musical-comedy star. Barrett became a regular on TV's Go! Show and signed to Go! Records, achieving chart success in 1965-66 with singles such as 'You're the One' and 'Send her Away.'
Barrett undertook two tours of Vietnam as an entertainer. Her first tour was also the first to be sponsored by the Australian Government, designed to provide Christmas entertainment for Australian troops in Vietnam and Thailand. The group chosen included entertainer and celebrity Tommy Hanlon Junior, singer/guitarist Ian Turpie, and fellow Go! Show singer Pat Carroll. It was inspired by a successful tour conducted at their own expense by Lucky Starr and the Rajahs.

As this was the first official tour of its type to Vietnam, the group was accompanied by liaison officer Lieutenant Colonel E D Hirst (RAA) from Army Headquarters Canberra, whose job it was to also assess the success of the venture. He delivered a 17 page report on the organisation, the selection of artists, medical and security arrangements and an assessment of the performances (see file AWM98, R66/1/3/3). The approach adopted by Hirst set the pattern for future tours by entertainers.

The group arrived in Saigon on 23 December 1965, and performed an average of two shows a day at twelve venues until 1 January. Their Christmas Show was for 1 Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, at Bien Hoa. They also gave three shows at the RAAF base at Ubon in Thailand before returning to Australia on 5 January. Hirst estimated that over 3,800 troops had attended in total. Hirst reported that the shows were 'a free flowing succession of acts which lasted for an hour and a quarter.' Hanlon's comedy act interspersed each act where, 'Barrett sang three songs in which she danced ... Carroll sang and danced ... Turpie sang numbers from the Beatles and Tommy Steele, and Hanlon and the girls sang numbers together' accompanied by Ian Turpie on guitar. After each show, the artists were photographed and 'posed with the soldiers and then visited in turn the solders', Sergeants' and Officers' Messes. This was appreciated by the troops and accepted willingly by the artists.'

During these post-performance sessions, and her subsequent tour in August 1968, Yvonne Barrett was presented with souvenirs from the servicemen she entertained and amassed quite a collection. This badge is one of those souvenirs.

Barrett continued on a successful music career until the 1980s, when she moved from Perth to Sydney. Here, in early September 1985, she met up with her enstranged husband, Hoang Van Truong, a Vietnam veteran, one evening; she was found dead in her unit the next morning. Truong was convicted of her murder.