RAAF Vietnam Veterans Association


The Repatriation of
Flying Officer Mike Herbert and Pilot Officer Bob Carver

FLGOFF Mike Herbert (Pilot)PLTOFF Bob Carver (Navigator)2 Squadron RAAF Crest

Overview and Photographs

Closure of Bracelents: 31 August 2009

After all Australian combat forces were withdrawn from South Vietnam in 1972, four Army and two RAAF remained behind; officially listed as “Missing in Action” (MIA).

I believe it is fair to say that most Vietnam Veterans and the families of the MIAs thought our missing comrades would never be found and returned home. While the task seemed so daunting and almost hopeless we hadn’t counted on the enthusiasm and dedication of LTCOL Jim Bourke AM MG and his team of “Operation Aussie Home” (OAH). As recounted in an address by Bob Elworthy, Victorian State President of the Vietnam Veterans Association, Jim’s team, initially without any major support, certainly not from the Government of the time, painstakingly but steadfastly pushed ahead in their quest to find our six colleagues. Later, the team was supplemented by Government funded specialists and support personnel.

In April 2007, with the assistance of the Vietnam Government and local villagers (in some instances former enemies) the OAH team had its first success when the remains of LCPL Richard Parker and PVT Peter Gillson, former members of 1RAR, were located on the battlefield where they had lost their lives on 8th November 1965. Brought home in June 2007 they were each accorded a ceremonial “Welcome Home” and burial with military honours they so richly deserved. Unknown to most, on the arrival of the aircraft bearing their caskets; the first pair of Bracelets at the Museum were closed.

FLGOFF Mike Herbert’s Bracelet
FLGOFF Mike Herbert’s Bracelet
On a chilly August 31st 2009 morning, Gary Parker, the President of the National Vietnam Veterans Museum at Phillip Island, in a voice full of emotion, explained to a gathering of some 150 the symbolism of the two beautifully carved bracelets, each nestling in a small open silk-lined box, centrally placed between four other identical, but closed, boxes. The boxes, one for each of the six Australians MIA, were intended to be both a visible yet spiritual symbol that even though the six were missing, they were not forgotten.

Unlike the US practice, where a near relative of the MIA agreed to wear the bracelet until either the MIA was accounted for or death intervened, the National Vietnam Veterans Museum elected to retain all six bracelets at what is for many Vietnam Veterans, their spiritual home.

By the end of 2008, only the crew of Canberra bomber Magpie 91, FLGOFF Mike Herbert (Pilot) and PLTOFF Bob Carver (Navigator), remained unaccounted for. Only two bracelets remained open!

My mobile phone signalled an incoming SMS. Opening it I saw it was from RAAF Base Richmond with the words that I and some 150 other RAAF and Army Veterans, guests and friends, gathered at the National Vietnam Veterans Museum, were waiting for:

“Nick, the boys are home! Close the Bracelets!” Dave Gardner (Director RAAF Museum)”.

Gary Parker gave the command!

WGCDR Warren Madsen, from the RAAF Museum and SQNLDR Graham Henry (Retd), the Victorian State President of No 2 Squadron RAAF Association, stepped forward in unison and gently closed the last two bracelet boxes.

Thanks to the initial efforts of Jim Bourke (and all of those who later supported his endeavour) and despite almost overwhelming odds, the mortal remains of Mike Herbert and Bob Carver were finally home.

Following the recital of “The Ode”, Padre Laurie Dawson, himself a Vietnam Veteran, noted, in an eloquent and most appropriate address,

“… The immediate sharp grief that we may have felt on the loss of our Missing in Action personnel is long gone, to be replaced with a sad acceptance of reality. They, like us, have long since been consigned to the historical records by the population at large.

But, to their credit, many have kept alive their memory through the maintenance of these memorial bracelets.

Today, closure is achieved on another aspect of our Vietnam experience. The bracelets are all closed. The mission is successfully concluded.

… There is something special about coming home to Australia. We owe our deceased nothing less than their own special homecoming…”

Later, Mike and Bob were deservedly accorded funerals with full military honours within the care of their extended families.

We Did Remember Them
Will Not Forget Them

Click on the above graphic to view the vicdeo clip. The clip is a 6:55 minute sample of the video taken at the Closing of the Bracelets Ceremony of August 31, 2009. A DVD presentation containing the full video and photographs of the ceremony is currently being produced for sale through the RAAFVVA and Vietnam Veterans Museum

On behalf of the RAAF Vietnam Veterans Association (Vic), we salute LTCOL Jim Bourke AM MG, as instigator and leader of “Operation Aussies Home”, and all those who have worked so hard and with such dedication and diligence to bring all our colleagues home; and extend to Gary Parker and his team at the National Vietnam Veterans Museum our sincere appreciation for the manner in which they conducted the final “Closing of The Bracelets” ceremony. You did us all proud!!!!

Nick LeRay-Meyer AM
RAAF Vietnam Veterans Association (Vic)
and Mike Herbert’s No 1 AFTS initial Vampire flying instructor