RANHFV Roll of Honour



Five members of the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam lost their lives in action, and many more were wounded.  This page remembers them.

Any further information or photographs of those lost or wounded in Vietnam would be appreciated. 

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Lieutenant Anthony Austin Casadio, RAN  21 August 1968

Casadio1O2361 Lieutenant Anthony Austin Casadio, Age 22

DOB: Dec 30 1945

Port Lincoln, SA

Lieutenant Casadio was a member of the Air Training Corps for 2 ½ years and was a flight Sergeant. In January, 1963, he topped the ATC senior NCO course at Edinburgh Airfield.Lieutenant Casadio passed his final test on Vampire jet aircraft at the Advanced Flying Training School at the RAAF Base, Pearce, WA. His graduation ceremony was on March 3, 1966. Shortly afterwards he was promoted to Acting Sub-Lieutenant. Early in 1967 he was posted from Nowra Naval Air Station to HMAS Melbourne as a pilot. He was next posted to HMAS Sydney and trained as a helicopter pilot.

An extract from the Detachment Commander’s Report of Proceedings for that day is as follows:
” On August 21, a UH-IC gunship leading a light fire team was downed whilst en route to Nui Dat. The aircraft was flown by Lieutenant Casadio and the crew included PO Phillips, the Platoon Sergeant of the Gun Platoon. The aircraft was at low level on the tree tops as the cloud base was low and tree-top flying under these circumstances reduces the chances of being hit by groundfire. At a position about 6m south of Blackhorse, the wingman reported that a sheet of flame exited from the jet pipe of the lead a/c and it immediately flared and sank into the trees with rotor RPM slowing down rapidly. The aircraft crashed heavily into a ditch, broke up and began to burn. An aircraft flown by SBLT Dalgleish landed within a short time of the impact, to extract crew etc., but the force of the impact had killed the crew and exploding ammunition prevented attempts to stop the fire. An accident investigation has been appointed (not from the Company but the Battalion) and laboratory examination of the wreckage is at present underway in an attempt to establish the cause of the tragedy. The possibility of enemy fire is as likely a cause as any.
An eyewitness report was also provided by Terry Brooks, who was a gunner in a second aircraft as follows:

“On that particular day, I was in the chopper astern…just the two gunnies setting out for Nui Dat re a standby (though I have recorded 7 hours flight for the day). I was sitting with M60 cradled at my midriff, right foot on the rocket pods, with my eyes fixed on those two white stripes going in circles on the top of Casadio’s blades, when I noticed the blades start to slow down and the chopper start to descend. We were slightly higher than Casadio’s chopper and astern at a distance of some two or three cricket pitches. There was a clear space to the right [in] which Casadio attempted to set down.  To me, the whole area wasn’t much bigger than a football field and there were some trees, though they were sparse. The cry “Mayday” I heard several times before the crash. I do not recall any trees being struck by the craft during the time I watched. I am probably wrong here, but I still believe the craft ended upside down in an old bomb crater.  Shortly after flames erupted and explosions occurred. That’s how it appeared to me while I witnessed the event.”

Advice was also received from Jeff McIntyre, who was in the crew of a rescue helicopter that attended the crash site. He agreed that the downed chopper, side number 125, had struck a few sparse trees on its descent and came to rest on the edge of a bomb crater. He believed that it would have appeared upside down from a high vantage point as the tail and part of the fuselage was bent back under the main body. In fact it had come to rest on the edge of the crater, and fire and exploding ammunition made any approach impossible. The rescue aircraft took off soon after to refuel and returned later to retrieve the remains of those who had been lost.
Whilst the cause of the tragedy cannot be determined with absolute certainty,  the weight of opinion is that Casadio’s Huey was struck in the engine by an enemy Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) fired at short range from the trees below.  As there was no explosion it is possible that the projectile didn’t have time to arm before impact, but its weight and trajectory was enough to destroy the engine.  Casadio’s low altitude and the absence of any suitable ground for a forced landing resulted in the subsequent catastrophic crash and fire. 
Lieutenant Casadio was decorated four times during his ten months active service in Vietnam.He was awarded a DFC by the US in November, 1967, when he landed his damaged helicopter and saved the aircraft and the lives of other crew members. His action was termed “heroism beyond the call of duty”.
Information on the aircraft can be found here.
Mention in Dispatches: See Gazette here.
A short video of his life can be seen here, in which he is posthumously granted the “Shining Light” award.
His remains were buried on 10 September 1968 in the Carinya Gardens Cemetery, Mount Gambier.  Section Cyprus 1, Row E, Allotment 33-1.


Acting Sub-Lieutenant Antony Jeffrey Huelin, RAN  3 January 1969

1969 commenced badly for the 135th when, on 3 January, a helicopter captained by SBLT Antony Huelin, RAN crashed after striking power lines near Saigon. The mission involved flying from Bearcat to the Seven Mountains area, Chau Doc Province, a distance of about 140 miles. Low cloud and fog conditions were prevailing at the time, but because of the importance of the mission SBLT Huelin was unwilling to abandon it. He took off on the long flight early in the morning and, dogged by thick cloud, hit the power lines just before dawn. Those killed in this tragedy included SBLT Huelin RAN, WO William Childers (USA), Specialist 4 Ernest Dodson (USA) and Specialist 4 Larry McPherson (USA).

SBLT Huelin’s remains are interred at the Queensland Garden of Remembrance, Pinnaroo Cemetery and Crematorium, Bridgeman Downs, Brisbane, Queensland.

Roll of Honour

Wounded in Action

On January 12 1968 the RANHFV suffered its first casualties when LS Kevin French and Naval Airman Keith Wardle of the maintenance platoon were injured when the gunship in which they were travelling was forced down in jungle some miles north of Baria, Phuoc Tuy province. The men scrambled clear as the wreck caught fire, detonating ammunition and rockets. A RAAF helicopter from 9 Squadron was soon on the scene and the downed aviators were winched from the jungle and evacuated to hospital. LS French soon recovered from this ordeal but AB Wardle suffered very severe injuries necessitating his evacuation to Australia.