Two RAAF aircraft maintenance technicians in the Middle East have found a creative way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of RAAF No. 2 Squadron Canberra bomber A84-231 “Magpie 91” that crashed in jungle near the Laotian-Vietnamese border during the Vietnam War.
Sergeant Nathan Bradford and Leading Aircraftsman Sam Chan designed nose art for a No. 2 Squadron E-7A Wedgetail that recently returned from Operation Okra in the Middle East.
The pair said the artwork honoured the two “Magpie 91” aircrew killed in the November 3, 1970, crash after their successful bombing mission in support of US ground forces.
“The Canberra bomber aircrew were Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver," Sergeant Bradford said.
"It’s not known what caused the pair to crash but their last known radio transmission was with the US ground controllers who reported to them that ‘that was an excellent run sir’.”
No. 2 Squadron and the US Air Force searched for the pair for three days eventually declaring the men missing in action.
Leading Aircraftman Chan said their remains were eventually found and repatriated by a Defence Historical Unit on August 31, 2009.
“For me it was important for the pilots' families and the No. 2 Squadron Association that we acknowledge the anniversary,” Leading Aircraftman Chan said.
“We really wanted to get the artwork done in time for us to return to Australia with it in place.
“I think it’s special that we can take them back to Australia with us as they were never able to fly home themselves.”
The nose art combines the No. 2 Squadron lightning bolt emblem with the unit’s World War II and Vietnam War decorations that include a US Presidential Unit Citation, a Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and a US Air Force Outstanding Unit Commendation.
No. 2 Squadron returned to Australia from Vietnam on June 4, 1971, after four years and two months of operations.
The Squadron flew more than 11,900 combat missions, losing two aircraft.